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Egypt's Political EconomyPower Relations in Development$
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Nadia Ramsis Farah

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9789774162176

Published to Cairo Scholarship Online: September 2011

DOI: 10.5743/cairo/9789774162176.001.0001

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Politicized Religion, Conflict, and Development: The Islamists and the State

Politicized Religion, Conflict, and Development: The Islamists and the State

(p.87) 3 Politicized Religion, Conflict, and Development: The Islamists and the State
Egypt's Political Economy

Nadia Ramsis Farah

American University in Cairo Press

This chapter deals with the relationship between development and religion. A renewed interest in religion has spurred a spate of research that tries to establish a causal relationship between the two phenomena. In the case of Egypt, which was once ruled by the caliphate on a religious-political basis, the separation between religion and state has always been tenuous. Since the emergence of the modern state in the early 19th century, all political regimes in Egypt have used religion either as a dominant ideology and source for legislation or as a sub-ideology in periods when more secular regimes emerged. Egypt seems to be unable to decide which ideology and which form of state it should have. The vacillation between semi-secular and semi-religious state has been and still is a dominant characteristic of the Egyptian polity, although dominant power relations and the struggle between different factions of elites mostly determine this vacillation. The last thirty-five years have been marked by a strident religious ideology designed to justify the abolition of the Nasserist system and the reintegration of Egypt into the international economic system. The alliances between the state and Islamist political groups during the 1970s created the conditions for the disappearance of the secular nationalist trend that emerged with the 'Urabi revolt in the 1880s. During the last few years the regime has been attempting to curb the power of the Islamist groups, but still maintains religion as a political ideology in the face of mounting pressures from within and without to liberalize the political system. As long as the state is unable to steer the political ideology to secularism, the crisis between the state and the Islamists will continue, with dire consequences for the country as a whole.

Keywords:   development, religion, political ideology, secularism, Islamist groups

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