WHAT’S THE NEW YEAR LIKE IN EGYPT?

            The constitution drafted by an Islamist-dominated assemble has now been approved. While many of the opposition refused to vote, other opponents voted for the document to end at least one stage of the chaos. Turnout was low in Egypt’s 150 diplomatic missions, which opened their doors for a half million Egyptian expatriates. Most of Egypt’s judges refused to oversee the nationwide referendum.  At this point, the military has taken the role of being a guarantor of Egypt’s interests and traditions. However, approval ended little of the chaos in the country.

President Mursi and his colleagues believe the constitution is vital for the establishment of democracy in Egypt, nearly two years after the overthrow of the Mubarak government. They suggest a fragile economy will be further stabilized. The opponents argue the constitution is far from an inclusive document and will only further creating a legal Shar’i Moslem society. The issues don’t point toward a peaceful transition.

As the year 2012 ended, gunmen drove into Cairo’s Tahrir Square before dawn and fired on the protestors. One of the anti-government leaders who had been jailed and tortured by police was seriously wounded. Nineteen-year old Activist Muhanad Samir was left battling for his life with bullet fragments in his skull. Witnesses identified the assailants as security agents dressed as civilians. One of the attackers collected bullet casings to remove all evidence. Activists who have battled police abuse during the two-year period know the scene well. They report that little has changed in what the security forces are capable of doing.

Recriminations continue within Egypt over the validity of both the constitution and the voting procedures. The entire judiciary remains in an upheaval. The 85 million Coptic Christians remain apprehensive. These Orthodox Christians just elected a new leader. Pope Tawadros II knows his people face the problem of radical Islamists who might charge them with insulting Islam or threatening their life style.

President Mohammed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood have endured surprising well during these past few months of struggle. They have proven to be the  surprisingly dominant political force in Egypt. There is little reason to believe this situation will change. The issue before them will be whether they treat minorities such as the Christian Coptics and women with positive regard. The suspicion is that they will continue to push the country toward a society run more like Iran.

This moment is the first time in millenniums that Egypt has attempted a rule by the people. We can not expect them to act with precision and without error. Because the Brotherhood is motivated by faith, it will have a resiliency that exceeds a civil spirit. The issue within the Brotherhood is whether they will remain univocal and dominant or become more accepting of diversity in the country. The jury is still out.

Another issue will be how Egypt responds to Israel. Currently, the peace treaty is holding and that has been good for both sides. It will become one of the major factors in determining what Egypt as a nation is to become.

These are not minor issues or academic interests. Much of the future of the entire Middle East region will depend on which direction the country takes.

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Filed under Egypt, middle east, Muslims

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