At a juice bar in Cairo, two men posed by a photograph of Gen. Abdul-Fattah el-Sisi. The general has become a popular figure among many Egyptians; Narciso Contreras for The New York Times
The future of Egyptian democracy: Islamism beyond the Muslim Brotherhood
by Yasmin Moll, The Immanent Flame, August 29
A few weeks after the ouster of Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi in 2013, the New York Times ran this headline: “Egyptian Liberals Embrace the Military, Brooking No Dissent.” The accompanying photograph showed a man with a full beard and shaved moustache in the Salafi style, a prominent prayer mark (a “raisin” in the Egyptian vernacular) on his forehead. Behind the man is a wallpaper of Muslim pilgrims circumambulating the Kaaba in Mecca. A framed portrait of then-general and coup master Abdel Fattah el-Sisi leans against beige tiles stickered with several Qur’anic verses. The headline limits the military’s support base to (secular) liberals, while the image shows us it actually extends beyond this narrow stratum.
With some exceptions, such as analyses published in this series, most scholarly accounts dovetail with media framings of Egypt’s fraught political scene since the 2011 revolution as primarily a struggle between secularism and Islamism. But the “secularism versus Islamism” narrative is a political one—it performs important legitimizing labor for a plethora of social actors in Egypt, from the Brotherhood to deposed dictator Hosni Mubarak’s allies and both liberal and leftist activists alike. It is, however, of very limited analytical utility in making critical sense of what is actually at stake in the current impasse for the many Egyptians who do not subscribe to a secularized conception of government, yet whose religiosity cannot be conflated with the Islamism of the Muslim Brotherhood. (more…)