Egypt is taking its first step towards democracy. The spirit is high among Egyptians who for the first time feel ownership and responsibility for the future of their country and its development.
It was predicted that the Islamists will have a substantial say in the new Egyptian Parliament. With the forecast of the first round of elections, it is clear that the religious tone in the political life in Egypt will dominate the discourse. How do Egyptians feel about this trend? Of course this is the first step towards democracy and the majority of people have “spoken”. The Islamists were after all well trained in campaigning and doing a good work at the grass root level by using Islam as a tool to reach to people’s minds but also by conducting widespread charity work in the poor areas. The question raised by many is; will the Islamic dominance in politics result in reforms that will rob women of their achieved rights? Many women are afraid of that. Under the Mubarak regime civil society worked hard to achieve progress for human rights, in particular women’s rights. Under the auspices of the former first lady a few accomplishments were made in the area of personal status laws and family law. However these achievements have not been recognized for what they are but rather for who was behind them. During the campaign many of the Islamists have said to be for women’s rights and their participation in politics and public life, however many believe that this has just been a propaganda tool. It is yet to be seen how the Islamic dominance in politics will shape Egypt the coming years.
We spoke to people on the streets to hear their views. Many believe the Islamists to play a vital role in the new constitutional process. Islamists will make sure that the second paragraph in the current constitution is retained and preserved. The second paragraph refers to the principles of Shari’a as the main reference for legislation. Others fear that the Islamists have a long term plan and seek to create an Islamic state. This is of course a main concern for the minority of Egyptians who are Christians.
Some fear that human rights will be lost at the expense of democracy. Randa a woman activists said that: “Women’s representation in Parliament will be a tragedy and the lowest in the world”. But in general people are optimistic. Mohammad who voted for the Freedom and Justice Party said “This is the first step towards democracy, if the Islamists will not prove themselves; we will bring them down in the next elections”