Panel 1F

Egypt After the Revolution

10.45 – 12.45
Chair: Hendrik Kraetzschmar, University of Leeds

The Struggle for Power and the ‘Secular-Islamist’ Binary in Post-Mubarak Egypt

Hendrik Kraetzschmar, University of Leeds

When mass demonstrations in Egypt swept Mubarak from power in 2011, there were as yet few signs that the months following his ouster and the election of a new parliament and president in 2011-2012 would produce the deep socio-political divisions that have since marred the country. Indeed, the Egyptian uprising was marked not only by the hope of millions of citizens that decades of authoritarianism would make way for a just and democratic order, but by a spirit of unity and respect amongst the different oppositional forces. As we now know, this unity of purpose was short-lived, and quickly unravelled into growing conflict and animosity between the various forces vying for power in the ‘new’ Egypt, most notably of course between the Muslim Brotherhood and its affiliate, the Freedom and Justice Party and the so called ‘secular’ opposition, comprising both old and new forces on the party political scene. Much commentary has been passed on this ‘secular-Islamist polarisation’ in post-Mubarak Egypt by experts from within and outside academic community.  Whilst acknowledging the fiercely partisan nature of this political/power struggle in the 2011-2013 period, this paper seeks to deconstruct the ‘polarisation narrative’ and its reductionist positioning of political forces along ‘Islamist-secular’ and/or ‘Islamist-liberal’ lines. Drawing on a range of interviews conducted with representatives of Egypt’s main parties, it reveals instead 1) that based on their policy positions, the designation of  political forces as ‘secular’ and/or ‘liberal’ is often flawed and cannot be sustained, 2) that the so called ‘secular’ opposition was/is astutely aware of the negative connotations associated with the term and at great pains at dissociating itself from it for the purpose of appealing to the conservative median voter and 3) that both conflict parties in the lead-up to the 2013 military coup instrumentally deployed the polarisation discourse to delegitimise/demonise their adversaries.

Political Crossroads: the Nour Party and Rabaa Square

Maha Ghalwash and Lawrie Phillips, British University in Egypt

This paper examines the response of the Nour party to the establishment and the subsequent dispersal of the demonstration camp in Rabaa Square.  With the downfall of President Mubarak in February 2011 and the rapid political ascendance of the Islamists, the representatives of moderate and Ultraconservative Islamism found common cause in their interest to Islamicize Egyptian society, which in turn led to the emergence of the Islamist bloc in post-revolutionary Egyptian politics.  Its primary actors can be identified as the Muslim Brethren, the main representative of moderate Islamism, and the Nour party, the key representative of the Ultraconservative (Salafi) element. Thus when the Nour party declared its acceptance of the ouster of the Islamist president, Muhammad Morsi, and followed this with the refusal to participate in the Rabaa Square protests, a significant number of Islamist supporters denounced this as a betrayal. Such charges intensified at the time of the forcible dispersal of the Rabaa demonstration camp. At this juncture, the Nour party selected to face its critics by presenting itself as a patriotic mediator and as the defender of moderate, true Islam. Our examination of this development relies on frame theory, where we use the insights of frame extension, which focuses on the modification of original ideas so that these extend beyond primary concerns to include issues that resonate with potential supporters.

Download Paper (Ghalwash and Phillips)

From Ikhwanophobia to Islamophobia: Post-Colonial Cultural Nationalism in Post-Revolution Egypt

May Kosba, Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California

Since the January 25, 2011 revolution in Egypt, a fear of the Muslim Brotherhood (al-Ikhwan) has emerged. This fear has been generated by the government and its allies in the media and religious institutions, and has taken on Islamophobic language, policies and actions familiar to the West.  This thesis examines narratives of Islamophobia in the form of a widespread Ikhwanophobia which has replaced the spirit for democratic reform with a hegemonic cultural nationalism. This development occurs more deeply and vastly as post-colonial societies internalize Western Orientalism and Islamophobia.