Civil Society Instead of Confessionalism: Relations between Christians and Muslims in the New Egypt

Analysis, posted 08.22.2011, from Egypt, in:
Civil Society Instead of Confessionalism: Relations between Christians and Muslims in the New Egypt (Photo: DW/B Marx)

Observers worldwide followed events with a great deal of sympathy and amazement as courageous and committed young Arabs mobilized in support of civil society and democracy to sweep away the corrupt, authoritarian regimes in Tunisia and Egypt.

Most remarkable about this largest mass mobilization in recent Arab history was the peacefulness and tenacious patience of the mostly politically inexperienced demonstrators in Tunis and Cairo. Such impressive perseverance forced Ben Ali, Tunisia's longstanding dictator, to flee the country into exile in Saudi Arabia. And only 18 days later, Egypt's authoritarian "eternal president", Hosni Mubarak, had to relinquish office.

An event of historical dimensions took place in Egypt, the most important geopolitical "anchor state" in the Middle East and the largest Arab country. With slogans such as "The people want the regime to fall", "No violence!", "For freedom and social justice," and "Religion is for God, the homeland is for all", the people on the Nile celebrated their liberation from paternalistic state repression and thereby laid the foundation for a new Egypt and perhaps even for a new world order.

First a constitution and then the elections

Of course, Egypt's young and diverse movement for democracy must come to terms with the difficult burden left behind by authoritarian rule, which had driven the country into poverty and misery. In addition to facing economic challenges, especially the fight against poverty, corruption, patronage, and rampant unemployment in this problematic post-revolutionary phase, the democratic movement must address a pan-Egyptian concern, namely, providing a new legal foundation for the coexistence of the country's Muslims and Christians. Ideally, this would take place within the framework of a civil constitution drawn up by a constituent national assembly with the participation of all groups and forces in society.

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By Loay Mudhoon

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