Islam and the Egyptian Uprising

Alexander Hanna is a PhD student in Sociology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He studies social movements in the Middle East and political uses of social media. He is currently in Cairo.

Mainstream news outlets have been making a lot of noise about the Muslim Brotherhood and  the possible Islamist threat coming from the impending downfall of President Mubarak’s 30 year-old regime. This point is generally overstressed — although the Muslim Brotherhood is a large opposition group and has been supporting the protests in the past few days, they were not the progenitors of the uprising and are not the current leaders of it.

Video: Alexander Hanna


Much more ubiquitous and important for the protests, however, has been the regular sort of Islamic practice and worship to which Egyptians are generally accustomed. For every member of the Muslim Brotherhood protesting in Tahrir Square, there’s surely over a thousand more Egyptians who are nonpartisan worshippers.  They are in the middle of the square, praying en masse, or sitting under the Army’s tanks, making sure they don’t move to force protesters out.

Tahrir Square has become a microcosm of Egyptian life, and accordingly, it has all the “publicality” of Islam, with calls to prayer on megaphones and large groups of men kneeling together, on prayer mats or Egyptian flags.

Islam is extremely public here, the merging of the sacred and the mundane, the unexpected and the carnavalesque, which Tahrir has become.

2 thoughts on “Islam and the Egyptian Uprising

  1. The prayers are as normal as always, and there is nothing “dangerous” in that. Egypt is the biggest Muslim country in Africa, and praying wherever you can is normal too.
    The paranoia about The Muslim Brotherhood is a tactic from the ancient government and foreign countries like Israel to discourage the people to rebel, which they fortunately ignored.

  2. What’s the big deal?
    Egypt is one of the biggest Islamic countries, praying is very normal there.
    And in case you didn’t know, Christian Egyptians were surrounding them to protect them while they were prayin’!
    It seems that the two communities respect each others beliefs, Why can’t you?
    If practising Islam in an Arabic country isn’t tolerated anymore, then what else?