The intersection of religion and politics in Egypt has been characterized by both gradual change and revolutionary rupture. Islam arrived in the 7th century CE, and Egypt emerged as a center of politics and culture in the Muslim world. British control during the late 19th and early 20th centuries allowed local and European intellectual traditions to mingle, contributing to the establishment of a nationalist, secular regime in the 1952 Revolution. Though Islam became the official state religion in 1971, Egyptian presidents largely continued to rule as they saw fit. In 2011, a popular revolution involving secular and religious actors ended 30 years of rule by Hosni Mubarak (1981-2011). The Muslim Brotherhood, which had previously been banned as a political party, won a majority of seats in the post-Revolution parliamentary elections, and the group’s political leader, Mohamed Morsi, was elected president. The Constitution grants freedom of religion, but authorities often restrict it in practice. Among those most directly affected are Coptic Christians, approximately 10% of the population.
June 30, 2011
The principality of Liechtenstein, with its small population (35,000) and its gift of great wealth, is an exemplar and a supporter of the idea of self determination.
June 10, 2011
The Fes Festival faced pouring rain early this week but that did not dampen the spirits of the tens of thousands of people who mill around this beautiful old city in search of beauty and the inspiration that comes from a rich menu of sacred music. In a world where interfaith dialogue rarely makes headlines and provokes not a few cynical asides, it is heartening to see both large audiences and a forest of cameras and recorders at the Festival's "idea" segment, the Fes Forum. Why? The notion of...
April 29, 2011
Alexa West is a sophomore in the Edmund. A Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University. She is majoring in Culture and Politics with a specialization in International Security, and is receiving a certificate in the Program for Jewish Civilization. She currently serves as a producer for The God Vote.
February 23, 2011
This week, The God Vote co-hosts Jacques Berlinerblau and Sally Quinn
turned their gaze abroad and discussed the religious implications of the current unrest in Syria and Egypt.
Dean K. Lieberman is a student in the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University. He serves as the Scripting Director for The God Vote.
February 14, 2011
One of most prominent questions facing international commentators today: are Egypt, Tunisia, and Libya (if Qaddafi falls) going to become the new Irans? Professor Samer Shehata
, this week's guest on The God Vote
with Sally Quinn and Jacques Berlinerblau, asserts Egypt is not going the way of theocracy. The year 1979, he says, is a false analogy to...
February 8, 2011
A group of American Christians, most of them evangelicals, met for four days last weekend with a distinguished group of Moroccans at Eastern Mennonite University, concluding with a public session Monday at Georgetown University's Berkley Center. To an outsider, the point of the conclave was not easy to fathom. It opened with a showing of a terrifying film about nuclear threats: Countdown to Zero
, and concluded with heartfelt statements of shared interests and values. What was it all about?...
The rapid-fire events in Tunisia and Egypt have caught people everywhere by surprise. That's especially true in the neighborhood (North Africa and the Middle East). As I headed for Morocco for a weekend conference, I hoped to emerge with a far clearer understanding, both of what sparked these popular upheavals now, and what might lie ahead. What I found were people torn between a euphoric hope, especially at the unleashing of freedom of speech, and uncertainty laced with fear for the future....
December 9, 2010
أكد الدكتور أحمد نظيف، رئيس مجلس الوزراء، أن نجاح وزراء فى الجولة الأولى من الانتخابات البرلمانية دليل على وجود قاعدة شعبية مؤيدة للحكومة فى الدوائر الانتخابية، مضيفاً أن نجاح الوزراء كان «بتفوق شديد واكتساح».
October 23, 2010
Well, you heard it here first folks. According to Egypt's Prime Minister, Dr. Ahmed Nazif, the country's recent elections, and in particular the victory of 9 ministers in the first round, clearly indicate a "popular base of support for the regime" that is nothing less than "sweeping."...
July 7, 2010
The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, which describes itself as "a nonpartisan 'fact tank,'" has recently garnered immense media and popular attention with its "U.S. Religious Knowledge Survey
In the 20th century, crackdowns against civil society frequently occurred under the guise of ideology. Since the demise of Communism, most crackdowns seem to be motivated... by sheer power politics. But behind these actions, there is an idea, an alternative conception of how societies should be organized. And it is an idea that democracies must challenge.
June 20, 2010
--Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, Speech before the Community of Democracies, July 3, 2010
I couldn't agree more with our...
Two hands cradling a tender young plant provided the visual image for an ambitious conference last week in Alexandria, Egypt. The image aptly illustrated the underlying question: have the new beginnings that President Obama promised one year ago, in his speech to the world's Muslim communities at Cairo University, taken root? Not surprisingly, those of us who attended the conference heard a wide range of answers.
May 6, 2010
January 13, 2010
The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (IRF) has come down hard on the Obama administration for its failure to promote international religious liberty. "U.S. foreign policy on religious freedom," said Commission chairman Leonard Leo, "is missing the mark
THE Islamic Republic of Iran is not about to implode. Nevertheless, the misguided idea that it may do so is becoming enshrined as conventional wisdom in Washington.
November 12, 2009
-- Flynt and Hillary Leverett, New York Times
, January 5, 2010.
Egypt, a country of some 82 million people, once was the intellectual, strategic and political hub of the Arab world. But today, Egypt is adrift. Cairo seems more crowded, more polluted and more chaotic than ever. The country is suffocating under a cloud of political ineptitude, apathy and cynicism, the likes of which I have never seen in Egypt.
November 4, 2009
Octavio Gonzalez, a graduate of Georgetown University, would be picking corn and raising a few cattle in El Teul de Gonzalez, Mexico, if his father had not illegally trekked across the hills at the U.S.-Mexico border near San Ysidro, California, in 1969.
October 23, 2009
Columnists and bloggers toil to put words and thoughts in good order. We deliver our pieces (often late!) to anxious editors with our name and reputation on the line. And then we watch helplessly while anonymous commenters hijack threads and launch screed upon hateful screed in every direction.
August 5, 2009
Last Sunday, the Scripture readings in Catholic churches had in common that the people wanted something for themselves but God wanted more for them.
May 19, 2009
In the first reading from Exodus, the Israelites wanted food. They were hungry. They were even willing to give up their freedom and go back to Egypt to ease their hunger. They were willing to sacrifice their long-term good for a short-term gain. Having been slaves all their lives, they didn't know better. God saves them once again by sending...
Q: There are a lot of Muslims who look at the leadership of Egypt warily...Is...this is a bad selection (for President Obama's speech to the Muslim world)?
May 1, 2009
Press Secretary GIBBS: (Egypt)...is the heart of Arab world...This is a speech to many, many people and a continuing effort by this President ...to demonstrate how we can work together to ensure the safety and security and the future well-being....of the Muslim world.
Q: I guess my only point is there are a lot of Muslims who think of......
April 19, 2009
"We remind Hosni Mubarak that we are all Egyptians. Where does he want us to go?" Gergis Faris, a 46-year-old pig farmer in Cairo who collects garbage to feed his animals, told the Associated Press
. "We are uneducated people, just living day by day... and now if our pigs are taken from us without compensation, how are we supposed to live?"
In the past two days Egyptian authorities have slaughtered some 300,000 pigs. Never mind that health officials from Atlanta to Melbourne have asserted...
Yesterday, someone called on the Egyptian people to take to the streets...This person also called on the Egyptian Armed Forces...The Egyptian Armed Forces are there to defend Egypt. If need be, they will also protect Egypt against people like you.
December 29, 2008
-- Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmad Abu al-Gheit
December 29, 2008.
Abu al-Gheit issued the above warning to Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hizbollah, as Israel was pounding Gaza. Assailing Egypt's effort to stem the flow of weapons to Hamas, ...
Every other year I fly to Oklahoma to spend Christmas with my in-laws. In their small rural town, where churches and barbeque are plentiful, I ponder the interplay of different religious holidays. Hanukkah celebrates a purported miracle that occurred in 165 BCE, when Jewish rebels revolted against Hellenistic idolatry, while Christmas marks the wondrous birth -some 160 years later-- of a charismatic rabbi whose disciples founded a new religion. Totally unrelated, these two holidays - some...
October 27, 2008
June 6, 2008
A remarkable woman died this week - Soeur Emmanuelle, an indomitable nun who topped surveys time and again as France's most admired woman. Nora Boustany wrote a wonderful obituary in Friday's Washington Post. If you want to know what Faith in Action is about, look at her life and work.
Soeur Emmanuelle was a beacon at interfaith meetings, especially the annual Prayer for Peace that the Community of Sant'Egidio organizes each year (the next in Cyprus November 16-18). There, among somber and...
May 27, 2008
I participated as a panelist (theme, cultural dialogue and media roles) in a large international conference in Fes, Morocco that ran June 3-6. It involved a lively and sometimes quite fractious debate about the proposed new Union, and was a lead up to the planned meeting of Mediterranean heads of state in Paris on July 13. The meeting was timed to conclude just on the eve of the opening of the Fes Festival of Global Sacred Music, now in its 14th year, and a substantial draw. However, there...
May 20, 2008
The disconnects among different worlds come through powerfully at World Economic Forum (WEF) meetings. Bringing everyone together under one tent is a feat all by itself, but once they get there they can talk quite different languages.
May 5, 2008
The World Economic Forum (WEF) holds its principal, and best known, meeting at Davos each January but regional meetings in different parts of the world are taking on increasing importance. The annual Middle East meeting, which has for the past few years alternated between the Dead Sea complex in Jordan and Sharm El Sheikh, in Egypt, took place this year at Sharm El Sheikh, from May 18-20. As part of this large gathering (some 1300 participants plus staff), a series of private meetings about...
March 31, 2008
Music is a well known path for crossing wide cultural divides. Music speaks without words. It can epitomize a mood as well as a culture. And it can stir up emotions and preconceptions. There's a fascinating venture afoot in Fes, Morocco, to use those very qualities to bridge divides between the Muslim world and western cultures and faiths. The idea is that people can, through their love of music, explore new realms and appreciate the world's wonderful diversity. But even more, the hope is...
Last week, Iraq's Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki issued a 72-hour ultimatum to Shi'ite militants in the port city of Basra to surrender their weapons. When they called his bluff, he extended the offer by a full week, underscoring the great risk that Maliki had undertaken in pursuing a military solution to the conflict with the fiery cleric Muqtada Sadr and his 'Mahdi Army'. In today's Iraq, political clout ultimately flows from the barrel of many guns. Thus Sadr's thousands of loyal followers...
March 1, 2008
Recently I agreed to become a regular contributor to washingtonpost.com's provocative blog on religion and politics: 'On Faith'. My mission: to elucidate the intricate mysteries of Islamist politics. Something about my reputation for scholarly honesty and objectivity-- I was told--bolstered by my work with Arab democratic activists, suggested that I could make a compelling addition to the On Faith team! Who was I to argue?
February 20, 2008
From videos left behind by suicide bombers to movies like Syriana, Americans have become quite familiar with radicalized Muslim youth. But last week, a remarkable Egyptian evangelist, whose influence reaches across much of the Muslim world, offered a different vision: young Muslims driven by both hope and faith. At the U.S.-Islamic World Forum that just wrapped up in Doha, Amr Khaled was everywhere with his message that faith is a powerful force and motivator for young people in the Middle...
January 28, 2007
December 17, 2006
The Executive Group of the Council of 100 met as part of the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos; the C100, briefly, is a WEF initiative (rather atypical among WEF activities) that aims to further dialogue and understanding between "the Islamic World" and "the West". At present the group includes some 86 people, and the intent is that they be drawn from both the Islamic world and western societies, and from five major sectors: business, politics, religion, media, and civil society....
November 26, 2006
In accordance with the TORs dated Oct. 27, 2006, I participated on behalf of the Bank, as a panelist and speaker at two events in Geneva commemorating the 20th Anniversary of the Declaration on the Right to Development (RTD). Both events were co-sponsored by the Frederich Ebert Foundation and the UN. The first was held as a parallel event to the third session of the UN Human Rights Council and included participants from country delegations and NGOs accredited to the Council (some 70...
The World Economic Forum's annual Europe regional meeting was held in Istanbul for two days earlier this week. It was (as appears to be traditional for WEF regional meetings) heavily focused on Turkey, the host country, though ostensibly it covered all Europe. I was there because the Core Group (now renamed Executive Committee) of the WEF's Council of 100 Leaders on West Islamic Dialogue met as part of the meeting. But I was also part of a panel on education challenges for Turkey, and then...