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Studies 17 April, 2012

The Role of Religion in the Public Domain in Egypt After the January 25 Revolution

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Khalil Al Anani

Dr. Khalil al-Anani is an Associate Professor of Politics and International Relations at the Doha Institute for Graduate Studies. He has previously taught at Johns Hopkins University, Georgetown University, George Washington University, and George Mason University. He also served as a Senior Scholar at the Middle East Institute and a Visiting Fellow at the Brookings Institute in Washington, DC. His research interests include Authoritarianism and Democratization, State Violence, Religion and Politics, Islamism, Egyptian Politics, and Middle East Politics.

Prof. al-Anani published several books (in English and Arabic) including "Inside the Muslim Brotherhood: Religion, Identity, and Politics" (Oxford University Press, 2016), "Elections and Democratization in the Middle East" (co-editor, Palgrave MacMillan, 2014), and "The Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt: Gerontocracy Fighting against Time?" (Cairo: Shorouk Press, 2007). He also published several peer-reviewed papers in leading research and academic journals such as Politics and Religion, Democratization, The Middle East Journal, Sociology of Islam, Digest of Middle East Studies, etc. He also published policy papers and op-ed pieces in leading newspapers and news outlets including The Washington Post, Foreign Affairs, Foreign Policy, CNN, Al-Jazeera, and Al-Monitor, and Al-Araby Al-Jadeed. Prof. al-Anani holds Ph.D. in Political Science and International Relations from Durham University (UK), Master’s and Bachelor in Political Science from Cairo University.


Abstract

The role of religion in the public domain represents one of the main features of the Egyptian post-revolutionary phase. This aroused some concern, not only because it has led to disagreement and tension between Islamic groups and the liberal and secular groups, but also because some view it as a setback, undermining the gains made by the civil revolution, which expected an increase in secularity at the expense of the religious in the political and social spheres. According to some, this may disrupt the process of democratization in Egypt. Others believe that the fall of former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak's regime and the end of the dominance of his ruling party, the National Democratic Party (NDP), have led to the emergence of greater diversity in the political life of Egypt and the influence of players. Since Mubarak stepped down, many new political parties and forces that belong to differing intellectual and ideological movements have appeared. The most prominent shift was represented by the fragmentation that affected the Islamic movements and parties' map after the revolution. The number of political parties that were based on religious tenets exceeded fifteen, with the possibility of this number increasing if the current state of political openness continues.

This study argues that religion will have an important role in determining the form and nature of the democratic transition in Egypt during its next phase. It also demonstrates that there is no longer a dominant Islamic force in the public domain. Instead, some kind of fragmentation has occurred within the Islamic movement. The study shows that the more Egypt moves toward democracy, the more there is a shift in the rhetoric of new and old Islamic parties and movements, and diversity in their ideologies and practices.

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