The Current Polarization in Egypt

Ali Hussein Bakir

Egypt is witnessing an internal disturbance within the background of attempting to find the best road through which to build a democratic regime and develop a constitution for the country. The conflicting views and perspectives lead the various components of the Egyptian revolution to divide deeply, and we started to see skirmishes and polarization between them.
Although the revolutionary forces belong to different trends, they showed a high degree of cohesion and tended to work together at first as they had one common goal—toppling the regime. After managing to achieve that goal, the growing differences between them are snowballing into an avalanche that might push Egypt into a cycle of instability, and thus toward an uncertain future.
It is understandable that such temporary chaos comes after 40 years of suppression and dictatorships, but this situation shouldn't dominate the current and future scene.
Unfortunately, the gap between Islamists and secularists is becoming wider and deeper. The polarization is no longer secret to any one, and the relation between them changed from cooperation to struggle. The competition for the parliamentary elections and the relatively short time available to prepare for these elections may be another factor fuelling the struggle between these forces.
Moreover, some of the foreign powers are trying to take advantage of this polarization and play on it. Some U.S. think tanks for instance called openly for the support of secular groups against Islamists in Egypt.
Both Islamists and secularists bear responsibility for what is happening right now. Secular groups refuse to allow any other group to impose its ideas on them, but at the same time, they want to impose what they believe in on the majority. They are provoking the Islamists, discriminating against them, attacking them intentionally, and portraying them as a big unified monster in order to use the "fear" of them as a tool to rally all other groups to their side, knowing that this is very dangerous road to take.
Moreover, secularists are feeding the misconception that "Egypt is on the brink of theocracy," knowing that even the biggest and most effective Islamic groups in Egypt don't want such thing. The Iranian model inspires no one and has no popularity in the Arab world at all; the main discussions right now are about the civil state with Islamic, Arab, and Egyptian characteristics.
Islamists in Egypt are not one block, they are diverse, different, and mainly divided into three big groups (Muslim Brotherhood, Salafi, Sufi), and inside each of these groups are differences regarding many issues including the political process, religious ideas, and the general perspective toward Egypt.
There are good signs in that some groups showed responsibility and changed the tune and content of their speeches and became more moderate. Unfortunately, they are still heavily dependent on slogans rather than work, and they can be easily provoked by secularists which drive them to be more aggressive.
Islamists should act wisely, they should not show off their strength, and they must understand the critical situation and what it takes and needs to help the country recover and stand on its feet again. They should understand the fears of minorities, protect their rights, and try to make concessions, otherwise, Egypt will witness no stability and things will be out of control.
All players on the political stage in the country should be more responsible about the current situation, work slowly but steadily to reach goals, and keep in mind that it is a long journey. If they think that they can achieve their ultimate goals within a short time, they will achieve nothing and they will fail. They should seek common ground and let the democratic process take its place smoothly, of course after putting it on the right track. Ali Hussein Bakeer is a Researcher in International Affairs at International Strategic Research Organization (USAK)
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