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Politics in Egypt Essay

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Updated: Dec 10th, 2019

Failure of Secular Political Movements

In most cases, secular political movements fail because of lack of organization and the spontaneous nature of these groups. These groups often arise spontaneously without proper organization.

The movements are, therefore, often not identified with a particular leader. The lack of predefined leadership agendas dents the movement’s strength as rivalries arise from the different groups constituting the movement.

The movement, thus, has to handle challenges of institutionalizing their diverse interests. With time, various governance issues such as qualification of the leaders, the people to spearhead constitution making, what the constitution should entail, and scheduling of elations arise.

Leadership wrangles are also dominant in absence of well defined succession plans. Despite the popularity of the secular movements, internal rivalries are common.

This was the cause of divisions in the Muslim brotherhood in the 1980s and 1990s where the group split along key personalities (Rutherford 89).

Generational disparities also contribute to the failure of political movements. Internal divisions may arise due to reluctance to integrate the agendas of the different age groups, especially the young generation, into decision making organs.

Conflict of interest across the generation and reluctance of leaders to give the young people the opportunity to utilize their skills can cause rivalry.

Ideological differences may also come out across the generation, whereby the young generation may be willing to accommodate new concepts and ideas while the older generation of leaders is rigid.

This was witnessed in the breakup of Muslim brotherhood in 1996 when the old generation of leaders refused to support the youth’s propositions of incorporating other groups into their organization (Rutherford 90).

This caused the youths to split from the main organization and formed their political party, though not successful.

Evolution of other organizations which are autonomous and financially well endowed threatens the political movements. This may be so when the emerging groups do not have commitment to the movement’s common goal, in spite of the groups being sympathizers of the movement.

The movement, therefore, remains as an umbrella body for the different parties having divergent purposes and ideologies. The regime of the day may also impose repressive measures against the movement, often leading to disintegration of the movement.

Threats, detention and imprisonment of the members of the movement often put the organizational structure of the movement into disarray, thus weakening it. The repressive measures can create leadership crises, impacting on the hold of the movement in the population.

This is exemplified by the repression activities of the government in 1970s and 1980s that affected the organizational structure of the Muslim brotherhood. This reduced its influence among the different Islamic activists.

The government also elevated the generational differences across this group by cracking down on young members, whereas the older members who were the leaders did not respond to these sufferings (Rutherford 91).

The movement may often appeal to the masses, spanning across social, religious, ideologies and all age differences. It can, therefore, be made up of people from all walks of life, including those in the economy, military, youth activists and politicians.

Sectarian groups may take advantage of lack of proper leadership mechanisms and pursue their interests once they have attained power, contributing to failure of the movement.

For instance, the military may exercise too much power and attempt to exert regulations on the pace and type of change to be implemented.

The military may often rule with decrees and such rule is not overseen by anybody, for example parliament or opposition. Thus, the military rules without consulting the general public on major issues (International Crisis Group 2).

Common values of Islamists and Secularists

Islamists and secularists share various dimensions of constitutionalism, among them being the, “rule of law, constraints on state power, protection of civil and political rights and public participation in politics” (Rutherford 101).

In the rule of law, the Islamists and secularists have agreements on shar’ia as the basis of governance. Shari’a must be derived from the Qur’an or the Sunnah obtained from reliable sources.

Shari’a defines the ethical and spiritual ways that the believer must follow to live a moral life in accordance with God’s ways. Thus, every believer is obliged to follow shar’ia.

Shar’ia also establishes the legal and moral principles for a spiritually enriched society. Through demonstration of the expected moral values to be adhered to, shar’ia promotes harmony and stability in the nation.

The Shar’ia teachings also stipulate that to lead a spiritual life, one must meditate and interact with fellow believers and practice the teachings. It is, thus, the responsibility of the state to steer the people to have good morals by enforcing shar’ia.

These topics have no contention and are not subject to discussion, thus the Islamism and secularists have an accord.

Issues that are not available in the Qur’an and Sunnah require formulation of laws that are in agreement with Shari’a. These laws must be generated through governance in different political, social, cultural, and economic settings.

The man-made laws are established based on fundamental pillars of Shar’ia in relation to governance. These principles include, ”to establish justice, to rule through consultation (shura), to govern in a manner accountable to the citizenry, to derive laws from the Islamic Shar’ia, and to respect the people’s rights” (Rutherford 103).

Governance is, therefore, aimed at employing the central pillars of Shari’a to formulate laws. The people designing these laws must consider the expectation of the community while upholding the Shar’ia principles.

The laws do not contradict Shar’ia if they address the needs of the community and are geared towards addressing the interests of the citizens. In addition, the formulated laws must cater for the expectations of the community and the unique nature of the demands at that time.

The laws are also formulated by building consensus concerning the issue at hand, in accordance to shar’ia principles and reflecting diverse knowledge and opinions.

The Shar’ia, thus, allows for application of non-Muslim ideologies to handle situations in life as long as the ideologies do not contradict the shar’ia. The laws should mirror the values and sense of justice.

The Islamists and secularists believe that Muslims have to reinterpret religion to correspond with issues in the contemporary world.

Governance by Shar’ia is reaffirmed when the citizens and state demonstrate honest attempts to behave as pertains to Islam and not just oriented towards the particular legislative outcome. Shari’a is based on protecting, “religion, rationality, property and wealthy” (Rutherford 122).

This means that it is enforced to promote justice, fairness, and compassion, and thus laws that stratify these ethical issues are compliant with shar’ia. The process of formulating laws is important in reinforcing Shar’ia.

This requires careful consideration of challenges facing the Egyptians and evaluating the possible laws that can help while reflecting Shari’a principles. The role of religious leaders is secondary to drafting the law and interpreting shar’ia.

In constraints of state power, exercising state power is confined under Shari’a, hence the people can ignore or even impeach a leader whose conduct and rule contradicts Shari’a.

The people have the freedom of expressing allegiance to the state that is founded on Shar’ia, and which responds to the community’s will. The leader is, thus, elected by the citizens and is responsible to them.

The leader as a human being can make mistakes as he is not divine, hence he should always engage his subjects on major issues.

The state must also be subjected to checks and balances, hence the essence of decentralizing powers to other governance organs and empowering civil societies (Rutherford 112).

In protection of civil and political rights, Islamists and secularists have common values in upholding individual rights and freedom. All the citizens have rights to, “better living standards, life, dignity, and property” (Rutherford 113).

Ideal governance is based on, “consultation, justice, freedom, equality and the accountability of the ruler” (Rutherford 113). Freedom to express one’s self, to think and inquire is essential in practicing Islam faith. Islamists and secularists also believe in public participation in politics.

The people are, therefore, supposed to be involved in electing their leaders. By consulting the people, the state gives the citizens a chance to participate in determining governance.

Status of Shar’ia under Mubarak and Current Discussions

Shari’a is the main source of legislation in Egypt, under article 2 of the constitution. This means that all the legislations must be derived from the principles of Shari’a. In interpretation of the article, the court in 1985 ruled that the principles of shar’ia must be applied into positive state law.

The Shari’a has two principles; those which are express and cannot be debated, and those which can be applied in relation to different contexts. These relative principles are subject to interpretations while adhering to Shari’a.

In Mubarak’s regime, two constitutional amendments were carried out but all of them left article 2 intact. Regarding family and personal status laws, the laws were ramified in accordance to shari’a; though this ramification was not comprehensive.

Family conflicts such as divorce and alimony were put together to form one case in 2004 so that they can be heard by one court. Personal status laws are enacted by the parliament.

The legislation of laws was often followed by some explanations to demonstrate how the laws were adopted and backing literature to justify the legislation (ISLAMOPEDIA para 1).

Current discussions

Having ascended to power, Muslim brotherhood is advocating for consultative governance according to Islam. Muslim brotherhood perceives public engagement in politics as essential in governance.

This can be promoted by carrying out free and fair elections in order to choose leaders who demonstrate accountability.

This approach is, however, not shared by some scholars who see perceive embedded problems in mass politics, such as enactment of legislation that is not established on ethical principles of Islam (ISLAMOPEDIA para 1).

Instead, these scholars are of the view that the state should put organs that can maintain checks and balances, for example a constitutional court that makes sure the formulated legislative measures are in accordance to Shari’a.

After the ouster of Mubarak and subsequent entry of the new regime, constitutional plans to amend the constitution were initiated. The main discussions in the amendment of the constitution gravitated around article 2 which invokes shar’ia as the major source of laws.

People opposed to this article cite it as being biased and the article does not address those people having divergent religious views.

Those against the proposals to change article 2 were concerned that changing it was likely to cause sectarian rivalry (ISLAMOPEDIA para 2). However, as the secular groups are minorities, most people are opposed to amending the article.

Works Cited

International Crisis Group. “Popular protest in North Africa and the Middle East (1): Egypt Victorious?” Middle East/North Africa Report No. 101. 2012. Web.

ISLAMOPEDIA. Islam and the state of post Mubarak era 2012. Web.

Rutherford, Bruce K. Egypt after Mubarak: Liberalism, Islam, and democracy in the Arab world. Oxford: Princeton Studies in Muslim Politics, 2012. Print.

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