“Since the establishment of Egypt’s first republic in 1952, the country’s foreign policy has never been clearly sectarian, with neither a Sunni nor Shiite identity taking precedence,” says a prominent analyst. But following the election of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohammed Morsi as President in June 2012, the regime “has appeared to preach sectarian ideology,” writes Mohamed Elmenshawy, a scholar at the Middle East Institute in Washington, D.C.
“Morsi’s decision to attend the 16th Summit of the Non-Aligned Movement, which was hosted by Iran in August 2012, was touted as a revolutionary revamping of Egyptian foreign policy,” he observes.
But while he declared that the al-Assad regime “had lost all legitimacy,” the Egyptian leader “intentionally did not mention the struggle of the Shiites in Bahrain for equal rights and basic democratic principles, implicitly showing his support for Bahrain’s Sunni regime,” notes Elmenshawy.
“Indeed, in the same month, Maryam al-Khawaja (above), the acting president of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights,* was refused entry to Cairo by airport security officials for security reasons. Her denial of entry sent another message of solidarity to the Bahraini regime,” he observes.
Morsi perhaps ascertained that introducing sectarianism into Egypt’s foreign policy would be well received by his political base, especially by the large number of Salafi groups that consider Shiite Islam a danger to the religion and to traditional Sunni practices. ….Morsi’s insistence on incorporating Islamic sectarianism into Egyptian foreign policy may provide Cairo with leverage in its difficult relations with Arab Gulf countries by emphasizing their common Sunni identities, leading to enhanced political relations and stability.
However, Morsi’s sectarianism has repercussions.
First, it emphasizes religious preference over national security interests, calling into question whether Morsi is putting his religious agenda above his top priority as president. Second, it could lead to similar tensions witnessed in Arab countries such as Iraq and Saudi Arabia. Finally, it adds to 10 million Egyptian Copts’ state of fear and distress regarding their religious identity and ability to live undiscriminated against among their fellow Muslim citizens.
Next Thursday, the American Islamic Congress will mark the two year anniversary of the Tahrir Square Revolution with the panel event and discussion.
The ascent of the Muslim Brotherhood in Parliament and the election of President Mohammed Morsi have given rise to a fierce political battle between Islamists and the mostly secular and liberal opposition. In the wake of the 2011 Revolution, Egyptians and observers worldwide are closely following the increasingly influential role that Islam has had on Egyptian politics as many wonder how this will affect the democratic process. Join us as we discuss democratization and current religious freedom issues in Egypt. Click here to register now.
Panelists Eric Trager and Dwight Bashir will offer expert insight into the current situation in Egypt regarding the role of religion in Egyptian politics and religious freedom issues. In addition, Congressman Frank Wolf’s office will analyze the impact of the recently introduced H.R. 301, which calls for a Special Envoy to monitor religious freedom in the Near East and Southeast Asia.
Eric Trager, Next Generation Fellow, Washington Institute for Near East Policy
Dwight Bashir, Deputy Director for Policy and Research, U.S. Commission for International Religious Freedom
Dr. Safei-Eldin Hamed, Co-Founder, Alliance of Egyptian Americans
The event is free, but advance registration is appreciated
Two Years After Tahrir: A panel event and discussion Thursday, March 28, 2013 Registration 12:00pm | Panel 12:15pm Rayburn Congressional Office Building Room B339 Washington, DC 20515
*The National Endowment for Democracy supports the Bahrain Center for Human Rights in its efforts to develop the technical skills of activists on monitoring and documenting rights abuses, and its capacity building program of hands-on training in developing and exhibiting documentaries on rights abuses in Bahrain.