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The Middle East has traditionally been important for the world economy. The Middle East situation today has an impact on all aspects of life in America and much of the world.

Only by understanding the motivations of the various factions in the Middle East can we hope to understand how to promote peace and national security for Middle Eastern nations, Europe, and the United States.

Mar 30, 2011

Politicizing Religion in the Ratification Process

During the months of January and February 2011 we were in Cairo and witnessed the glorious turn of events of the young generation’s 25th of January revolution, which led to the collapse of the most corrupt regime in the history of modern Egypt. The High Council of the Egyptian military forces assumed responsibility during the transitional period and until the election of parliament and Shura council. A committee was appointed to draft new articles and eliminate a few in the constitution to allow voting for a new parliament. The voting on the new articles took place March 18th and more than 41% of the eligible voters cast their votes. More than 18 million people exercised their rights for the first time in their lives. Also 59% of the eligible voters did not participate in the voting to ratify the constitution.

During the previous two to three weeks, the media did not do a good job in terms of briefing the voters on the proposed yes or no of the constitution ratification and its political implications.

After leaving Egypt in early March, some of my friends contacted me through the Internet to provide them with information regarding the yes and no of the proposed ratification. Those who requested the information are college graduates who were seeking more information to enable them to exercise their voting rights.

In my judgment, 40-50% of those who participated in the voting were not briefed on the consequences of voting yes or no. Many people in this group were influenced by those who used religion as a rationale to urge them to vote yes. I would say that this group tends to be around 20-30% of those who participated in ratifying the constitution and the majority of them belong to the Muslim Brotherhood and/or supporters of the group. This group was aware of the fact that the only effective political groups who will play a dominant role in the upcoming election will be the Muslim brotherhood and the National Democratic Party, which used to be the ruling party of the previous corrupt regime. This party should have been dissolved, but it still exists and is supported by many in the business sector of Egyptian society. The implication of voting “yes”, as was advocated by some members of the Muslim brotherhood and others, is that it will speed up the election that is already set for September 2011. The short period will put the Muslim Brotherhood party at an advantageous position by comparison to the young people who initiated the revolution.

Six months is not enough time to create new political organized parties and publicize their political objectives to the voters in such a short time. Furthermore, the other traditional political parties whose members exceed 20 have been marginalized by the previous regime and have lost their political effectiveness with voters during the past four decades. In addition, these political parties are headed by an older generation that has lost contact with the real world around them. This will lead to the conclusion, in my judgment, to a projected expectation that the Muslim Brotherhood party will secure a comfortable percentage in the upcoming parliament elections. Furthermore, it is also unfortunate that members of the Muslim brotherhood and their supporters have used Islam to mislead the potential voters. The Egyptian press reported that they used Islam to urge the public to vote yes to prevent the election of a Copt president. They also claimed that voting yes would keep the second article in the constitution, which says, “Islam is the religion of the state”. Such misleading statements were not part of what some imams said in mosques all over Egypt. These misleading statements politicized religion and influenced the outcome of the vote to ratify the constitution.

It was also reported that Egyptian Copts have been urged to vote no so that the Muslim Brotherhood would not emerge as the major winners in the parliament election. The third group (whose numbers I estimate to be between 20-30% of voters) consists of the liberal, highly educated members of the upper middle class, in addition to the younger generation. This group voted “NO’ in order to delay the election and have time to organize different political parties for hoping for the rise of a secular government where citizenship is primordial, irrespective of individual religions, ethnic affiliation or social status in society. People will be viewed as equal citizens enjoying equal rights in the society where they live.


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