Islam is the second largest religion by number of followers and also the fastest growing in the world. The followers of Islam believe in one God who is incomparable. In a survey conducted by Pew Research Center in 2010, it has been said that there are about 50 Islamic countries in the world; Muslims or followers of Islam are in majority in these countries. Apart from this, other countries of the world also have Muslim population, though in minority. Muslims or followers of Islam are divided into two sects Shia and Sunni.
Islam is an old term which advocates the concepts of peace, unity and wholeness. In religious context, the term is often used to preach the followers to submit themselves to the God. Islam is a monotheist religion and rejects the concept of polytheism. Quran Sharif is the holy book of Islam religion.
Islam around the world is not just a religion, but has political implications as well. In politics this term is used widely to influence the minds of the people. Politics in many countries is based on religion and Islam being the second largest religion in the world has its own significance. In this report, role of Islam in the politics of Egypt is discussed which can demonstrate the role it played in the history of the Egypt and also, its position in shaping up the present and future politics of the country.
Islam in Egypt
Egypt is a transcontinental country, situated in the northeastern domain of Africa and southwestern sphere of Asia. It is a Muslim dominated nation where more than 94% people follow Islam. This fact is noteworthy as it confirms the place/relevance of Islam across the country. The population of Egypt is above 89 million and among them over 83 million people follow Islam. Majority of which are Sunni followers and Shia are in minority. It is pertinent to mention here that Islam has been acknowledged as the religion of the country since 1980.
Islam not only holds a significant place in the religious sphere in Egypt but its impact on the politics of the country cannot be ignored. There were several political groups in Egypt, who based their identity on the ideologies of Islam, started as soon as the First World War ended. Egypt has over 30 political parties which are currently operating here and though forming parties on the basis of religion and class is not permitted by the constitution of Egypt, still most of the active parties are based on Islamic orientation though they do not do it directly. In 2014, a law was passed to this effect which was similar to the laws passed earlier in 2011 and 2012 which restricted the parties based on religion. However, these restrictions are not enough to ban parties with Islamic traditions to contest elections. The main agenda of all these parties is to institute Islamic Sharia Laws in the constitution of Egypt. It is not that all the parties are based on Islamic traditions only there are many parties who are successful in striking a good balance between Liberalism along with Islamism. Knight of Egypt Party, Egyptian Hope Party and Bread and Freedom Party are among those who believe in liberalism and equality and work with the same agenda for the betterment of the people of Egypt.
There is no doubt to question the presence of Islamic influence on the politics of Egypt and in my opinion, religion and politics should be kept away from each other as it only create hassles and religion based politics is not only affect the development of a country but also affects its people. Politics in Egypt is discussed in the next section to have a deeper understanding of the subject.
Politics in Egypt
Egypt has witnessed many political events in the past Egyptian Revolution of 2011 is the most recent and prominent among all. Egyptian Revolution which started on 25th of January 2011 to change the political system of the country involved protests both violent and non-violent, demonstrations, strikes etc. This revolution was started against the unfair political practices where religion was above everything and some corrupt leaders of the country used religion as a puppet to manipulate the people of Egypt. The impact of the revolution was that the then president of Egypt, Hosni Mubarak had to vacate his chair. In this revolution, Islamists also protested against those who were using the cloak of religion to fulfill their personal/political desires.
Till 2011, there was an emergency like situation in Egypt, where the then president, Hosni Mubarak was acting as the ruler and taking all the decisions for the country. For almost 31 years, Egypt witnessed emergency, but soon after the Egyptian Revolution Mubarak had been prosecuted along with his other Ministers. The constitution of the country was resuscitated and the parliament was dissolved. This revolution of 2011 has changed the face of Egypt politically as well as nationally. Mohammed Morsi, an Islamist was elected as the president of the country in 2012. His party Muslim brotherhood came to the power. The working style of Muslim brotherhood party was soon questioned by the secularists soon after their coming to power in 2013 and in June 2014, secularist leader and minister of Defense, General A F El-Sisi declared himself as the elected president of Egypt who is still holding the post.
Beside this major internal political unrest, Egyptian politics has faced many such turbulent situations nationally which had a long lasting impact. This revolution received mixed responses from other countries and they asked for peace and stability within Egypt. Also, many countries sent their forces to evacuate their citizens from Egypt as their lives were in danger due to political turmoil in the country.
The current president of Egypt, General A F El-Sisi is a learned man and belongs to Muslim brotherhood party. His ideas are liberating and secular. Though is a true Islamist, he doesn’t force his choices over others and is successful in keeping religion and politics away from each other so far. Throughout his life El-Sisi is accepted by people of Egypt in all the roles he played for the development of Egypt. His policies are secular and his acceptance is judged by the fact that as soon as he was declared the president of the country people across the country celebrated his victory and a public holiday was announced and whole of the Egypt witnessed festival like celebrations. El-Sisi is the face of change that has brought hopes for the people of Egypt who have always dreamt of a developed and peaceful Egypt.
Amalgamation of Politics and Religion in Egypt
It is clear that Egyptian political movements have left a mark on the history of the country and also, religion has played a prominent role in the same. Now, we will discuss the politics of Egypt in context of Islam. I would like to mention a major incident which became the headlines, where seven Egyptian Christians were sentenced to death by the Egyptian Court on the charges of presenting/making anti-Islam movie which hurt the feelings of Islam followers in the country. I mean taking way the lives of people just because they showed something against a religion is not only inhumane but displayed the callousness of the leaders who to justify their stand killed people and eventually killed their right to express their views. A convict, Terry Jones, in an interview conducted over telephone in America, said “We can speak here in America. That freedom means that we criticize government leadership, religion even at times. Islam is not a religion that tolerates any type of criticism.” This statement made by him, showed the influence of religion in politics of a country where religion was projected above everything and the lives of people was taken away when they raised their voice against those who portrayed themselves as the protector of Islam religion.
The constitution of Egypt has provided freedom to practice any religion, but actually the government restricts the people from doing so as they have made Islam their official religion. Christians and Jews are allowed to practice their respective religions as they are not so different from Islam but other minority religions which are not recognized by the constitution may face problems while practicing their religion. Every Egyptian leader has tried to include Islamic Sharia Law in the legal system of the country and this shows their political aspirations which are largely influenced by the religion.
Not only the political parties in the countries, extremists groups in Arab countries have also demanded a prominent role of Islam in the politics of these countries and have threatened that if their demands are not met the results would be disastrous and have showed the same as well. This forceful imposition is a threat to the autonomy of the country’s politics and the public at large.