Secular-Islamist Teamwork: Questions for Rabab El Mahdi

Source: The Century Foundation

Author(s): Rabab El-Mahdi

Original Link:

Thanassis Cambanis: Your experience in the Egyptian presidential campaign of 2012 seems like it’s still relevant today, because it’s one of the only examples in contemporary politics where leftists and Communists partnered up with a former Muslim Brotherhood politician. They formed a political party which endorsed, among many other things, a secular government and the separation of religion from state. How did you bridge those two very different political cultures, and who were the people that responded to that political call?

Rabab El Mahdi: In my mind, the most similar example would be the social democratic experience in Europe. In that sense, we’re not talking about merging two independent political ideas, but, rather, developing something different. We were bringing together ideals of social justice, gender parity, and pluralism, and putting them in a grassroots, indigenous language. We were also trying to bridge the gaps between the “authentic” and the “modern” in politics, which is an artificially constructed binary. We did this by focusing on issues and moving away from ideologies. By that, I mean bringing on people who had worked on certain grassroots initiatives, and providing them with the political and theoretical ammunition to help them speak in terms of social justice, and deliver on such terms. These people—many of whom were former Muslim Brotherhood members—wanted to bring about social justice, but there is nothing that the Islamists have to say that will actually bring about social justice.

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