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.