Democracy and Islam deteriorated after the Egyptian revolution

Mohamed Nosseir , Monday 7 Jan 2013

Whereas a true understanding of each was sorely needed, democracy and Islam suffered at the hands of political factions, and principally the ruling military, after the January 25 Revolution

There is no doubt that if Egyptians apply genuine democracy and true Islamic values we will become a better and more productive society.

Advocates of democracy do not really want to abide by the full application of democracy, while citizens who defend Islam are certainly far removed from the true moral values of Islam. Furthermore, the latter know nothing about true democracy, and have no interest in it; they simply use it to strengthen Egypt as an Islamic state.

Revolution can bring out either the best or the worst in any given society! Both scenarios occurred during the Egyptian revolution.

The advent of the revolution brought out the best in each Egyptian citizen. Although nothing had been planned in advance, organisation in Tahrir Square was perfect, with each protestor willing to contribute to the good of the country and to the common goal of obtaining freedom, dignity and justice for all Egyptians.

The ego was diminished in Tahrir Square; our national needs were much more important than our personal interests were. During those days, the revolution managed to bring out the best in the people, to the extent that protestors named Tahrir Square, "Utopia City."

A few months later, the revolution began to take a turn. With time, the united attitude of Egyptians declined, until society was eventually split between citizens who promoted the principles of Islam and others who advocated for democracy, each group convinced that its mission would survive and flourish in Egypt.

However, in my opinion, both groups failed to add value to the genuine principles of Islam and the true mechanisms of democracy; on the contrary, both ideals were harmed. The credit for this unhappy development goes to SCAF (the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces), which was ruling Egypt during the transitional period.   

Prior to the revolution, democracy was a dream for the majority of Egyptians. They did not know what democracy was all about! However, people felt that since the advanced countries are applying democracy, then Egypt, by following the same path, would see all its economic problems resolved.

In addition, since Islam was not that deeply involved in politics — at least its political involvement was not as widespread as it is now — people enjoyed practicing their beliefs in various faiths, without involving Islam in the political struggle.  

Egyptians who want to establish a civil state based on pure democratic principles should fully recognise the legitimacy of President Morsi, and accept the fact that he will continue to be the president of Egypt for a full term of four years. On the other hand, President Morsi must work within the framework of his legitimate mandate. Extending his power beyond the voted constitutional declaration or the new constitution will lead to questioning the legitimacy of his authority and resolutions.

Democracy, in essence, is a mechanism of "checks and balances" that helps nations to prosper and citizens to express their freedom. Numerous democratic structures are applied in various countries, all with the common aim of applying genuine democracy. Most of these structures were established based on political history, cultural dynamics, perhaps past political conflicts, as well as other factors. The means often vary, but the end is the same, in most countries. Egypt needs to develop its own structure, one that is based on our influential factors.

Islam is known for the moral values it promotes, such as equality, forgiveness, justice, tolerance, trustworthiness, and others. Nevertheless, political Islamists are far removed from this basic Islamic compassion.

In their attempt to involve Islam in the political scene, political Islamists tend to apply values that oppose those of Islam: gender and religion discrimination, lying regularly for political gain, conveying a message of hatred towards those who oppose them and untrustworthiness when it comes to honouring their agreements and accords.

It is also known that Islam as a religion encourages leadership by people who posses merit and who are reliable and trustworthy; it does not endorse blind obedience to a leader’s instructions, as is the case of the current ruling party.

Moreover, the violence that has taken place since the start of revolution and up until the present, resulting in the loss of hundreds of Egyptian lives, has threatened democracy in Egypt. In principle, the democratic process should not conclude in violence and a widespread, bloody struggle among different parties. In addition, bringing the political debate and struggle into the mosques has negatively affected Islam.

This practice has led to the outbreak of a number of fights among Muslims following Friday prayers, and an Islamic preacher was even held hostage by his opponents for over 12 hours after he used the Friday sermon to mobilise for a certain political direction. This kind of political involvement inside mosques has had an adverse effect on Islam.

Egyptian authorities and politicians have their own way of defining the democratic mechanism and Islamic values, a definition designed to enhance their political status and serve their political interests rather to abide to the genuine principles of both democracy and Islam. Since Egypt is still building the pillars of its democracy, each politician has, in order to obtain personal gains, attempted to impose his individual political understanding on the entire society.

The correct application of democracy and Islam requires a well-educated and politically mature society. This will evolve with time, and not by force. Egyptian society is in dire need of a functional democracy and genuine Islamic values, based on a correct understanding of the dynamics of each, and a complete separation between the two. Egypt will progress faster and better standing on two legs (democracy and Islam). By crossing our legs, however, we are certain to fall down.

The writer is member of the political bureau of the Free Egyptians Party

Short link: