The future of Egyptian democracy

Few countries in the Middle East are as closely covered as Egypt—unsurprising, given its status as the most populous and historically influential Arab country. The aftermath of the Arab Spring has been a tumultuous ride for Egypt, beginning with the election of Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohamed Morsi in June 2012. The short-lived Morsi government did little to ease tensions along Egypt’s traditional fault lines—civilian and military, Islamist and secular, democratic and authoritarian—and ultimately culminated in a military coup d’état led by general Abdel Fattah el-Sisi in July 2013.

Since a military-backed caretaker regime was installed, Egypt has experienced the trial of Morsi; the systematic imprisonment of Brotherhood leadership; the unlawful and often brutal suppression of Brotherhood activists by state security forces; the designation of the organization as a terrorist group; and a draft constitutional prohibition on political parties “formed on the basis of religion, gender, race or geography.” Meanwhile, with the passage of a sweeping new protest law and the jailing of liberal activists, many see a state reconsolidating its power and control over civil society and the public sphere. The context of the proposed constitutional referendum and subsequent elections lends fresh urgency to questions about the possibility of accommodation or reconciliation between the military and the Brotherhood, the purported linkage between inclusion in democratic politics and ideological moderation, and the future of religious politics in the country more broadly.

We have invited scholars to discuss these and related issues, in order to shed some light on the complex situation unfolding in Egypt and to help illuminate potential paths forward. As part of a joint project between The Immanent Frame and Religion Dispatches made possible by the Henry Luce Foundation, Religion Dispatches contributing editor Austin Dacey has written a series posts on Egypt and secularism here.