Linking Islam and citizenship, according to the NY Times, is a fear

In an article dated June 25, 2012 in the New York Times, titled, “Challenges Multiply for Presidential Winner in Egypt,” the author asserts that among the 48% that voted for Shafiq, along with the majority of Egyptians who did not vote, there exists a fear that Morsi’s true goal is “to bind the notion of citizenship itself more closely to Islam.”

The reality is that, a. This is not a fear. I’m pretty sure those who did not vote have a litany of other, more important fears on their plate, b. Theoretically and even practically, binding the two concepts – within Egypt’s context – is actually a good thing.

Keep in mind that the majority of Egypt’s population is Muslim, ridden with poverty, and poorly educated. Linking the concept of citizenship, a relatively foreign one for most MENA countries, to something as familiar to the people as Islam, will only help Egyptians in the short and long term.

Democracy and citizenship, labels we use to identify concepts that are materialized by the (predominantly) “western” world, are far from being foreign to Islam as a faith. Thus, while it could be risky, linking citizenship to Islam could help democratize Egypt gradually but permanently. It may provide a shift of focus, Islamically speaking, within the haram-halal spectrum. Rather than argue about nail polish and how much skin a woman is not allowed to show, Muslims can begin debating the merits of cleaning up a neighborhood, voting, and other things that hold more societal weight.


2 responses to “Linking Islam and citizenship, according to the NY Times, is a fear

  1. Permettez-moi tout d’abord de dire que c’est un grand plaisir de lire une telle analyse, très méthodique et structurée.
    Personnellement, je crois que le grand thème qui doit être ouvert est le rapport entre l’Etat et ses citoyens, qui revêt d’une grande importance dans les sociétés arabe post-révolutionnaire (tel que la Tunisie, l’Egypte, La Libye et le Yémen) du fait de la divergence des point de vue sur la question. D’où la nécessité de réexaminer le concept même de l’Etat et de le confronter aux réalités des faits quotidien.

  2. I like this different perspective! The idea of citizenship being rights AND responsibilities is something people everywhere struggle with. In the NYT they’re sort of stuck on rights of minorities, which are important of course, but they’re missing the forest for the trees.

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