Egypt’s lesson for political Islam: politics comes first

July 8, 2013

(Fireworks explode over protesters who are against deposed Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi holding Egypt flags and shouting slogans at Tahrir square in Cairo July 7, 2013. REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh)

When the Muslim Brotherhood won power it seemed Egypt’s nascent democracy would allow the movement to realise its dream of making Islam the guiding principle in politics.

The Arab Spring revolts had opened the door to full Islamist participation in politics after decades of oppression or exile.

A year later, Egypt’s first Islamist president, Mohamed Mursi, has been forced out, illustrating the Islamists’ dilemma as they champion faith while newly empowered citizens look more for effective pluralist governance.

“Islamism has always been more of a sentiment than a coherent political ideology,” said Husain Haqqani, a former Pakistani ambassador to the United States. “Islamism is by definition not inclusive, but they need to be inclusive now.”

The main political divide elected Islamists face is often not over religion, French Islam expert Olivier Roy said.

“Look at all the veiled women who were protesting against Mursi. They’re not against sharia. They’re against incompetence and nepotism,” he said.

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