Civil society, Islam, and authoritarianism

Material Information

Civil society, Islam, and authoritarianism an examination of Egypt state-society relations
Sayed, Rami H
Publication Date:
Physical Description:
vi, 116 leaves : ; 28 cm

Thesis/Dissertation Information

Master's ( Master of Arts)
Degree Grantor:
University of Colorado Denver
Degree Divisions:
Department of Political Science, CU Denver
Degree Disciplines:
Political Science
Committee Chair:
Kazak, Amin M.
Committee Co-Chair:
McGuffey, Lucy C.
Committee Members:
Robinson, Anthony R.


Subjects / Keywords:
Since 1981 ( fast )
Civil society -- Egypt ( lcsh )
Authoritarianism -- Egypt ( lcsh )
Islam -- Egypt ( lcsh )
Authoritarianism ( fast )
Civil society ( fast )
Islam ( fast )
Politics and government ( fast )
Politics and government -- Egypt -- 1981- ( lcsh )
Egypt ( fast )
bibliography ( marcgt )
theses ( marcgt )
non-fiction ( marcgt )


Includes bibliographical references (leaves 106-116).
General Note:
Department of Political Science
Statement of Responsibility:
by Rami H. Sayed.

Record Information

Source Institution:
|University of Colorado Denver
Holding Location:
|Auraria Library
Rights Management:
All applicable rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier:
747820280 ( OCLC )
LD1193.L54 2011m S39 ( lcc )

Full Text
B.A., University of Colorado Boulder, 2007
A thesis submitted to the
University of Colorado Denver
in partial fulfillment
of the requirements for the degree of
Master of Arts
Political Science

This thesis for the Master of Arts
degree by
Rami H Sayed
has been approved
Amin M. Kazak
Lucy C. McGuffey
Anthony R. Robinson

Sayed, Rami H (B.A. International Affairs)
Civil Society, Islam, and Authoritarianism: An Examination of Egyptian State-Society Relations
Thesis directed by Senior Instructor Amin M. Kazak
This paper will argue that the theoretical claim that civil society activism3 will lead to democratization
is not necessarily valid in Egypt and that the authoritarian regime had used various mechanisms and
institutions to make civil society an instrument of state and social control in an effort to maintain
regime survival. The Egyptian case demonstrates that civil society activism in authoritarian contexts
might in fact lead to a reinforcement of authoritarian practices rather than to the development of
Six decades of authoritarianism in Egypt depended on the states ability to ensure that civil society
organizations (CSOs) were unable to cooperate with one another to challenge/and or topple the regime.
Furthermore, civil society activism had not been a viable democratizing presence, but I reject the
notion that a dominant Islamic presence in civil society is to blame. 4 Civil societies inability to be a
tool for democratization has to do with the authoritarian context for which it is placed.
This abstract accurately represents the content of the candidates thesis. I recommend its
Amin M. Kazak

1 .Introduction.................................................................1
1.1 Introduction................................................................1
1.2 Methodology.................................................................6
1.3 Islamists Considered.......................................................10
1.4 Defining Al-Ikhwan al-Muslimun as a Civil Society Organization.............10
1.5 Organization of Thesis.....................................................11
2. Conceptualizing Civil Society...............................................13
2.1 Introduction...............................................................13
2.2 Civil society and its perceived positive role in processes of democratization.13
2.3 Civil society in the Middle East and North Africa region......................21
3. Civil Society Dynamics in Authoritarian Contexts ..............................25
3.1 Civil society in authoritarian contexts....................................25
3.2 Islamic Civil Society......................................................32
4. Between Civil Society, Islamists, and the State.............................42
4.1 Development of civil society in Egypt......................................42
4.2 Islamist civil society in Egypt............................................49
4.3 State Retreat from social responsibility and the de-liberalization of Egyptian
5. The Muslim Brotherhood and al-Azhar.........................................58

5.1 Introduction
5.2 Egyptian state containment of The Muslim Brotherhood.....................62
5.3 Limited Informal Toleration...............................................65
5.4 Politicization of Islam...................................................69
6. Authoritarianism, Democratization and the role of civil society in Egypt..84
6.1 Civil society and democratization .......................................84
6.2 Civil society, authoritarianism and Egypt ...............................86
6.3 Islamist civil society organization in authoritarian Egypt...............88
6.4 Analysis..................................................................88
6.4.1 Pratt and Egypt..........................................................88
6.4.2 Jamals Analysis and Egypt...............................................91
6.4.3 Janine Clark and Egypt...................................................93
6.4.4 A link between civil society and democratization?.......................95
6.4.5 Islamic activism as a natural vehicle for political discontent..........95
7. Concluding Analysis........................................................98
7.1 Answering the research question............................................98
7.2 Preliminary Conclusions...................................................98
7.3 Policy implications......................................................102

Table 5
1 Trends in state and private mosque building

1. Introduction
So deep has the authoritarianism in us become that any challenge to it is seen as little
short of devilish and therefore unacceptable (Said, 2001). This quote by Edward
Said reflects the challenge that many citizens in the Arab world face when it comes to
overcoming the authoritarian structures that they have all been under. The Middle
East and North African (MENA) region remains one of the worlds remaining bastions
of robust authoritarianism. It permeates the region, and until very recently, it has been
unchallenged. Today many regimes are witnessing uprisings against the existing
authoritarian regimes in Egypt, Syria, Libya, Tunisia, Yemen, Bahrain, and to a lesser
extent Saudi Arabia, Algeria, and Jordan. The present challenges to the authoritarian
state of Egypt in particular has provided a critical opportunity and a case study for
scholars to examine how these regimes have survived for so long.
1.1 Introduction
Civil society in Egypt is robust, dominated mostly by Islamists organizations, and
heavily restricted by the regime. The main source of civil society activism has been
spearheaded by Islamists organizations, and the Muslim Brotherhood is seemingly the
most influential. Although civil society exists and is popular and pervasive, the onset
of democracy has not taken effect, and furthermore, repression by the state has not led
to a revolt by the people or the Islamists. What accounts for this? How is it possible
that the Egyptian government became increasingly authoritarian yet still maintained
legitimacy amongst the majority of Egyptians? I posit that the Egyptian regime, most
notably during the Mubarak presidency, had used certain mechanisms of control to

ensure that civil society was not able to produce a viable democratic political
movement. The regime used multiple methods to control: First, the government has
used blatant coercion; when the demands of civil society violated the states threshold
of comfort, the regime clamped down with targeted arrests, harassment, and other
forms of legal coercion against opposition groups. Second, the government utilized
systematic policies of legal constriction that defuse civic activism long before it
becomes threatening. Lastly, the government institutionalized religion, for purposes
of legitimacy, in order to dilute and manipulate opposition forces which drives the
civic sector towards dependency on the state.
Sean Yom (2005) states that nearly two decades of escalating activity from
the civic sector should indicate that Arab authoritarian political systems are moving
closer towards regime change. After all, this is the central prediction of civil society
literature. During the past decade alone, regimes across the region have instituted
remarkable acts that appeared to set the MENA region on a course toward real
democracy. Egypt held its first ever competitive presidential elections in 2005 and
opposition parties made great gains in these elections. Yet these liberalization
measures were not benevolent acts by the regime interested in increasing the political
rights and civil liberties of their citizens, but rather a conscious strategy to satisfy the
masses, while maintaining a hold on power. As Robert Bianchi wrote, Fearful of the
social unrest and political opposition that such [democratizing and liberalizing]
choices would inevitably provoke, Egypts rulers have tried to promote a live-and-let-
live attitude among antagonistic interests and ideologies without relinquishing power

to any of them.1 The surges of associational activity had signaled not an inexorable
process towards democratization, but rather the states enduring fierceness in
maintaining autocratic control.
Civil society is important to understand because of the prevailing belief
that a strong, autonomous presence of civic activism can be key to any transition to
democracy. Associational life, the argument goes, not only promotes and consolidates
democracies but also makes democratic institutions stronger and more effective.
Discourse on civil society has focused on it as a feature of democracy and a means of
challenging authoritarian governments. Many argue that civil society helps to hold
states accountable, represent citizen interests, channel and mediate mass concerns,
thus bolstering an environment of pluralism and trust, and socialize members to the
behavior required for successful democracies.2
It is precisely the democratizing nature of civil society that provided the
authoritarian regime in Egypt with a reason to manipulate it and control it. The
perceived threat of Islamist CSOs, particularly the Muslim Brotherhood, as well as
the fear of their eventual grip over the state and consequently on the legislative and
judicial institutions, pushed other potential democratizing forces in the country to
adopt a cautious position towards democratization. This left the Islamist CSOs as the
main force pushing for democratization, but suspected by the authoritarian and
secular/liberal elites who seem intent on a gradual upgrading of authoritarianism
1 Robert Bianchi, Unruly Corporatism: Associational Life in Twentieth-Century Egypt (New York:
Oxford University Press, 1989), 9.
2 Jamal, Barriers to Democracy; Ottaway and Carothers, Funding Virtue; Hoogh and Stolle,
Generating Social Capital

without significant democratization (A. Jamal, 2009: 1157). In defending itself
against a perceived Islamic revolution, the Egyptian state became significantly more
religious in orientation. The state elite, whom are mainly secular, utilized Islamic
symbols in order to prevent civil society from aiding democratic transition.
This paper will argue that the theoretical claim that civil society activism3
will lead to democratization is not necessarily valid in Egypt and that the
authoritarian regime had used various mechanisms and institutions to make civil
society an instrument of state and social control in an effort to maintain regime
survival. The Egyptian case demonstrated that civil society activism in authoritarian
contexts might in fact lead to a reinforcement of authoritarian practices rather than to
the development of democracy.
Today, protests in Egypt have given hope to the once disenfranchised and
forgotten masses who have been neglected for so long by the Egyptian regime,
particularly under Husni Mubarak. Institutional changes in the regime may or may
not happen, yet the mass protests of January 25th, 2011, and the atmosphere of
revolution has injected life into a usually apathetic population and may have long-
term implications for Egypt. Socio-economic conditions, coupled with unsurpassed
corruption, rising food and housing prices, and a disenchanted youth, have provided
the perfect storm for a populist movement intent on creating change in Egyptian
society. However, I would argue the uprising has manifested itself under the umbrella
3 Civil Society: Civil society is generally seen as the constellation of associational forms that occupy
the terrain between individuals and the state. It is viewed as a mechanism of collective empowerment
that enhances the ability of citizens to protect their interests and rights from arbitrary or capricious state
power (Wiktorowicz 2000, p. 42)

of the military, which is an extension of the authoritarian regime. Since the uprising
began, the army has been the main actor in the revolution.
Six decades of authoritarianism in Egypt had depended on the states
ability to ensure that civil society organizations (CSOs) were unable to cooperate with
one another to challenge/and or topple the regime. Furthermore, civil society activism
had not been a viable democratizing presence, but I reject the notion that a dominant
Islamic presence in civil society is to blame.4 Civil societys inability to be a tool for
democratization has to do with the authoritarian context for which it is placed.
There are too many variables that can prevent civil society from being
successful. There is a tendency to over-emphasize the successful role that CSOs
played in toppling authoritarian regimes in both Latin American and Eastern Europe
and to surmise that this will occur in the Middle East. The Egyptian autocracy had
kept their will and capacity to rule intact by harnessing civil society as part of a wider
strategy of survival, manipulating the rules of the game to keep the prize of political
change constantly out of reach. The regime leveraged there coercive machinery to
trounce any threat from below despite the growth of associational life, an out come
that the civil society thesis fails to predict (Yom 2005). The goal therefore should not
be to ask how civil society can facilitate a democratic transition, but rather to try and
understand how civil society played a role in strengthening an authoritarian regime.
Regardless of the outcome of events within Egypt today, examining how the
government had utilized resources to control civic spheres will be important.
4 Sheri Berman argues that Egyptian institutions are weak and have led to civil societys take over by
Islam. Furthermore, she believes that Islamists will use civil society to slowly Islamize the Egyptian

1.2 Methodology
The research method for which I use in this thesis is the testing of theories
on a single case study. The selection of one case study to make general inferences
about a theoretical framework is considered problematic.5 This study will accept that
there are important limitations to the examination of only one case, but the in-depth
investigation of Egypt can highlight trends that can be generalized to other similar
cases, and there is today a substantial scholarship that defends a methodology based
on a single case study.6 Exceptions from the accepted paradigm generate the need for
alternative approaches since the exception indicates that the paradigm does not have
full explanatory capacity.
One important advantage of using the single case study method is that the
research can explore this case very thoroughly and go into details (Verschuren and
Doorewaard 2007: 184) Because the case that is chosen can be studied thoroughly,
the research can produce less general conclusions about the theories tested, compared
to the situation where multiple cases are used. Also, when working on a single case
study its important that many different sources are used. By using a variety of
sources, the chances of an accurate idea of the real situation are much greater
compared to a situation where only a couple of sources are used. This can help to
reduce any biases that may arise.
5 Gary King, Robert Keohane and Sidney Verba Designing Social Inquiry. Scientific Inference in
Qualitative Research (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1994)
6 Bent Flyvberg, Making Social Science Matter. Why Social Inquiry Fails and How it can Succeed
Again (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001)

A second aspect of the single case study method that is important for my
research is that qualitative information will be the most important source of
information (ibid, 184) For the purposes of my research, the empirical materials
consist mainly of secondary sources, with some complementing primary sources.
Secondary literature will be the most important source of information. Sources that
are use in this research are mostly written sources like books, journals, and articles
Constraints are abundant when studying authoritarianism in Egypt and for
that matter much of the Arab world. This is due to largely to the fact that the political
systems are secretive and often unwilling to publish information that may aid in
understanding their existence. Printed material in Arabic regarding civil society and
its relationship to authoritarianism is limited. Most Arab social scientists prefer to
stay away from studies of authoritarianism while other more regime-aligned analysts
tend to write more ideological and pro-government works on how the incremental
nature of reform is being conducted. Works that do not uphold the government line
exist, yet in very small numbers. Furthermore, much of the indigenous literature that I
came across outrightly suggested that the governments strength over civil society is
purely due to exogenous reasons. Both opposition and pro-govemment writers use
cultural and sectarian arguments, which are misleading.
This was a difficult task to get around because I have been more interested
in the internal reasons for the regimes ability to survive. Also, it was difficult to find
a large amount of academic research that highlights other civil society organizations,
besides the Muslim Brotherhood, that were engaged in anti-regime movements.

Accumulating printed material was a continuous process throughout my year of
research. I gathered academic books, journal articles, newspaper articles, and
statistics on my case study. I also made sure to read material on similar countries,
such as Jordan, Tunisia and Morocco, to see what converging trends appeared in the
region. I accumulated printed material from many sources including the foreign press,
periodicals, NGO reports, and academic books.
I used specific keys words and phrases that were vital for my search for
academic journals. The databases I utilized included Jstor, Google Scholar, and a
variety of other poltiical science databases found on the University of Colorado
Denver, Auraria libraries online database. The following keys words and phrases were
used: Islamism, Egypt, civil society, democratization, Egyptian civil society, Muslim
Brotherhood, al-azhar, ulema, authoritarianism, institutionalization, religion in the
middle east, & MENA democracy. It should be noted that the terms civil society, civil
society organizations and CSOs are used interchangeably. Also, the Muslim
Brotherhood, MB, the Brothers are also used interchangeably throughout the thesis.
A third aspect of the single case study method is that the choice of the case
is strategic instead of random (ibid.). I have chosen to use Egypt as my single case
study because it is arguably the most important country politically, socially, and
economically in the Middle East and North African region. Events that occur in Egypt
often reverberate through the rest of the region. The presence of civil society in the
country is robust and Islamist civil society organizations play an important role. As
well, Islamic institutions in Egypt are some of the oldest and most influential

throughout the region. There are three typical reasons for choosing Egypt. First, most
literature on democratic transitions has neglected to speak about the Middle East and
North Africa (MENA) region. The tendency of authors is to view the MENA region
as simply exceptional to theories on transition, authoritarianism, and civil society.
Second, Egypt seemed to be on its way to democracy, where liberalization was taking
place and democratic changes were occurring. Yet, in the last decade, many of those
reforms had been reversed and Egypt was to be labeled a liberalized autocracy, by
scholars such as Brumberg (2002). Explaining failure can contribute to the
understanding of the process of democratization just as a successful case can.7 It can
also highlight how autocrats can survive and the strategies which they use to do so.
Finally, Egypt is a paradigmatic case in terms of the relationship that exists between
political liberalization, Islamic opposition, and international acceptance of such
movements. The rise of Islamist parties during transitions in the Arab world has
important repercussions for the West-dominated international community both at
policy-making and normative levels.8
While researching this thesis, Egypt was undergoing radical change, which
implied that the authoritarian government might fall and democracy may be
implemented. This will be discussed in the latter chapters of my thesis because the
authoritarian regime seemingly fell as I finished writing. These events demonstrate
that the subject of this research is up-to-date and relevant for the present
7 Darren Hawkins, Democratization Theory and Non-transitions: Insights from Cuba, Comparative
Politics, Vol. 34, No. 4, (2001), pp.441-461
8 The basis for my study was inspired by Francesco Cavatortas extensive look at failed
democratization in Morocco and Islamist civil societies role.

developments in the country. Therefore the research and its results are important at
this particular moment.
1.3 What is considered an Islamist?
Throughout my thesis the term Islamist is mentioned. It is important that I provide a
clear understanding of what I define as Islamist. Islamist groups are sociopolitical
movements which base and justify their political principles, ideologies, behaviors,
and objectives on their understanding of Islam or on their understanding of a certain
past interpretation of Islam (Ashour 2007: p.597). I recognize that there are extremist
groups in Islam, and I differentiate them as radicals, fundamentalist or violent
organizations. I use a definition that reflects the moderate organizations, the Muslim
Brotherhood, and others that are now committed to nonviolence. Islamists are a part
of a movement that ideologically accepts, at a minimum, electoral democracy 9 as well
as political and ideological pluralism, and aims for gradual social, political and
economic changes {ibid, p.598). They accept the principle of working within the
established state institutions, regardless of their perceived legitimacy, and shun
violent methods to achieve their goals.
1.4 Defining Al-Ikhwan A1 Muslimun as a Civil Society Organization
There is a substantial amount of focus placed on the role of the Muslim Brotherhood
in Egypt within my thesis. For this reason it may be helpful to define what the
Muslim Brotherhood is. When describing the Muslim Brotherhoods role it is
necessary to see them as a complex social and political actor. The common view in
9 Electoral democracy, or the institutional arrangements for arriving at political decisions in which
individuals acquire the power to decide by means of a competitive struggle for the peoples vote (See
Joseph Schumpeter, Capitalism, Socialism, and Democracy (New York: Harper, 1950).

the West of the Muslim Brotherhood is it is an Islamic organization that is dedicated
to the overthrow of the Egyptian government in favor of a theocratic one. I believe
this view to be untrue as it does not incapsulate properly the ambitions of the
It is true that the Muslim Brotherhood is a political organization seeking a
voice within the parliament and legislation, but they are also a viable civil society
organization dedicated to the social welfare of the people. It is also true that before
the 1952 Free Officers coup and shortly afterward, the Muslim Brotherhood was
locked in a battle, often very violent, with the ruling regime. Those tactics proved
inefficient and the Brotherhood changed their methods. During the 1980s the
Brotherhood further developed themselves as a welfare organization.
I focus on the Muslim Brotherhood as a civil society organization. The
reason for this is that the Muslim Brotherhood is very well organized and is perhaps
the most important civil society organization throughout Egypt society. I also discuss
the relationship between the Muslim Brotherhood and the regime in conjunction with
the development of civil society since 1952.
1.5 Organization of Thesis
My thesis is divided into several parts. Chapters 2 and 3 are the theoretical
framework, in which the theoretical basis for the research will be explored. Theories
regarding the conceptualization of civil society, defining civil society, and civil
society in authoritarian contexts are part of this theoretical framework. These theories
lead to an analytical framework. Based on this theoretical part, chapters 4 and 5 of the

research will focus on the development of civil society in Egypt, Islamist civil society
organizations, the Muslim Brotherhood, and ways in which religious institutions are
used to control the Muslim Brotherhood. In chapter 6 the roles of civil society
organizations in Egypt are fully analyzed. From this analysis the connection between
theory described in chapters 2 and 3 and the case of Egypt in chapters 4 and 5 comes
forward. Both the theoretical ideas and the reality in Egypt come together in the last
chapter of this research, which is the concluding part of the thesis. Here, the research
questions are answered and possible connections with other cases are sought. Some
suggestions for further research are also part of the conclusion.

2. Conceptualizing Civil Society
This chapter deals with the complicated task of defining civil society and its
relationship to democracy studies. The first focus will be on finding a definition of
civil society by looking at how the concept developed: What is civil society? What is
civil societys role in social and political development? Then the chapter will
introduce civil society in processes of democratization.
2.1 Introduction:
To understand the role that civil society plays in the Middle East, it would be
responsible to give an introduction to the term and how it developed. In this section, I
would like to deal with the complicated task of defining civil society and its
relationship to democracy studies. Furthermore, I would like to deal with the
conceptualization of the term civil society and its perceived positive role in processes
of democratization. The goal of this chapter is to establish a clear understanding of
the contemporary Western debate on civil society and provide critical analysis of the
theoretical and empirical criticisms of the dominant approach to civil society. At the
end of the chapter, I briefly introduce civil society in the Middle East and North
Africa region.
2.2 Civil Society and its perceived positive role in processes of democratization
Contemporary literature on democratization pays close attention to the role that civil
society has played in transitions and consolidation of democratic ideals. Sardamov

(2005: 380) postulated that building a robust civil society is...a precondition for
democratization and democratic consolidation. What scholars argue is that civil
society helps to hold states accountable, represent citizen interests, channel and
mediate mass concerns, bolster an environment of pluralism and trust, and socialize
members to the behavior required for successful democracies (Jamal 2007: 1). Thus
the demand from international organizations and Western democracies has been to
encourage the proliferation and the spread of civil society organizations in the hopes
that democracy will begin to emerge in non-democratic environments.
As Tocqueville famously observed in 19th century America, the social,
commercial, political, religious and all other manner of associations, large and small,
trivial and serious, in which Americans constantly joined and participated were a
cornerstone of American democracy (Etling, Faris & Palfrey 2010, p.45). Tocqueville
believed that civil associations, organizations and groups were vital to the
establishment and the consolidation of democracy. As well, he believed that these
organizations would be agents of democratic socialization (Jamal 2007: 5).
Nothing, Toqueville asserts, is more deserving of our attention than the intellectual
and moral associations of America... [In associations,] feelings and opinions are
recruited, the heart is enlarged, and the human mind is developed, only by the
reciprocal influence of men upon each other.10 Those who follow Tocqueville
believe that civil society and participation in associational life will lead to an
10 Tocqueville, Democracy in America p.200-201

understanding of democracy, one where tolerance, pluralism and respect for the law
From Tocquevilles work, many have come to postulate that higher levels
of civic engagement will lead successfully to democratization. Ideas of active
citizenship are at the cornerstone of civic engagement. Larry Diamond (1996) argues
that a rich associational life supplements the role of political parties in stimulating
participation [and] increasing the political efficacy and skill of democratic
citizens (p. 232-33). In a democratic context, civic activism can instill values that are
essential to a democracy. Diamond observed that in most democratic transitions, civil
society played a crucial role in mobilizing and articulating public pressure for
democratic change. He writes that although there is variation in each democratic
transition, a substantial combination of civil society actors-including trade unions,
student organizations, churches, professional associations, womens groups, human
rights organizations, ethnic associations, underground media, and various groups of
intellectuals, journalists, merchants, and peasantscombined to coerce or force the
exit of authoritarian leaders.11
Perhaps an even more important consequence of civil society has been the
notion that through associations and civic engagement, social capital will be
produced. In Making Democracy Work, Robert D. Putnam articulated that social
capital, as embodied in horizontal networks of civic engagement, bolsters the
performance of the polity and the economy, rather than the reverse: Strong society,
11 Diamond, The Spirit of Democracy

strong economy; strong society, strong state.12 Putnams discussion focuses on a
narrow, though seemingly powerful, segment of civil association functions. For
Putnam, civil associations are important because they have the capacity to socialize
participants into trust and norms of reciprocity, which for Putnam is the essential
component of social capital (Foley & Edwards 1996: p.41).
Putnam focuses on how civil associations provide the network of civic
engagement within which this reciprocity is learned and enforced, trust is generated,
and communication and patterns of collective action are facilitated (ibid p.41). Where
trust is generated, social capital follows. This increase in social capital in turn
encourages people to stand up to city hall or engage in other forms of behavior that
provide an incentive for better governance. In Putnams formulation, the density of
horizontal voluntary citizens correlates with strong and effective local government.13
Foley and Edwards (1996: 40) would argue that Putnams preoccupation
with social capital is similar to the theme of most Western liberal scholars. In order to
foster a genuine spirit of wider cooperation, Putnams argument suggests, such
associations must not be polarized or politicized. What he is saying is that these
organizations must bridge social and political divisions and thus, presumably, be
autonomous from political forces. The idea of civil society and politics being two
12 Putnam, Making Democracy Work: Civic Traditions in Modem Italy (Princeton, NJ: Princeton
University Press, 1993). pp.173 &176
13 For Putnam, the broader the horizontal reach of civic associations, the more effective they are:
Dense but segregated horizontal networks sustain cooperation within each group, but networks of
civic engagement that cut across social cleavages nourish wider cooperation.... If horizontal networks
of civic engagement help participants solve dilemmas of collective action, then the more horizontally
structured an organization, the more it should foster institutional success in the broader community.
Membership in horizontally ordered groups (like sports clubs, cooperatives, mutual aid societies,
cultural associations, and voluntary unions) should be positively associated with good government.
Putnam, Making Democracy in America, 167-75.

separate autonomous functions, has been the traditional view. But Edwards and Foley
(1996) would ponder how can such associations shape political participation and
civic engagement without engaging in specifically political issues and without
representing compelling social interests? (p.42)
Civil society, according to most Western scholars, is autonomous from the
state. Civil society, understood as a cluster of institutions and associations strong
enough to prevent tyranny, but which are, nevertheless, entered freely rather than
imposed either by birth or by awesome ritual (Gellner 1994), has had positive
normative connotations. Yet civil societys existence has been deemed autonomous of
state function. In democratic societies, the existence of an autonomous space between
the state, the market and the family is believed to sustain the democratic political
system, due to its ability to bring citizens together without coercion (Cavatorta 2006).
The democratic state does not interfere within the autonomous space of civil society,
where demands can develop, issues can be discussed, and activities organized.
Understanding the boundaries of civil society has been an obsession for
some scholars and to clearly define those boundaries can be difficult. Habermas
writes that boundaries of civil society have been broadened to include virtually all
nonviolent associational activity between the individual and the state (Schwedler
1995: 5). For many scholars, civil society refers to a sphere of pluralist activity, much
of which seeks to directly challenge or limit the arbitrary use of state power. It is the
protector of the individual against unjust government actions and policies as well as
against encroachments from within civil society (Shills 1992: 3).

Scholars of civil society and democratic transitions argue that precisely
because civil society exists outside of the state, it can more easily mobilize resistance
against authoritarian regimes (Foley and Edwards, 1996). In the authoritarian context,
the ability of independent social actors to pry away an autonomous sphere of action
from the state is perceived to be vital in undermining the authoritarianism that
characterizes political and social relationships (Cavatorta 2006: 206). The
assumption is that within an autonomous space, civic organizations, free from the
state and politics, can make demands on the authoritarian state. It is also believed that
in this space, participants learn skills that can eventually be utilized in a
democratizing or democratized polity.14
Foley and Edwards (1996), rejecting the notion that civil society can
operate in an autonomous sphere, look to Gramsci and his writings on civil society.
Gramsci regarded civil society as an integral part of the state; in his view, civil
society, far from being inimical to the state, is, in fact, its most resilient constitutive
element, even though the most immediately visible aspect of the state is political
society, with which it is all too often mistakenly identified (Buttigieg 2005). Gramsci
was convinced that the intricate, organic relationship between civil society and
political society enables certain strata of society not only to gain dominance within
the state but also, and more importantly, to maintain it, perpetuating the subaltemity
of other strata (ibid 2005: 4). This unique view of civil society is distinct from the
ideas of civil society advanced by Tocqueville and Putnam (2000).
14 see McLaverty 2002

The proper relation between state and civil society suggest that the state
should rest upon the support of an active, self conscious and diverse civil society and
should, in turn, sustain and promote the development of the constructive forces in that
society (Cox 1999: 7). The importance of the state to civil society and vice versa was
highlighted by Richard Norton in his works on civil society. For Norton, the causal
relationship is transparent: The functioning of civil society is literally and plainly at
the heart of participant political systems, it is a necessary, though not sufficient
condition for the development of democracy.15
Civil society is insufficient alone because a responsible state apparatus is
required to ensure that the groups that compose civil society behave with civility,
toward each other as well as toward the state. Unless governments play a controlling
or intermediary role, the result is likely to be chaos.16 According to Norton, to speak
of civil society without the state would be meaningless. Timothy Mitchell goes as far
to say that the idea of a boundary between the state and civil society is purely
theoretical, and should not be presumed to actually exist in any society. He notes, the
elusiveness of the state-society boundary needs to be taken seriously, not as a problem
of conceptual precision but as a clue to the nature of the phenomenon.17
Civil society has become the comprehensive term for various ways in
which the people express collective wills independently of (and often in opposition
15 Norton, The Future of Civil Society pp. 211 and 212 respectively.
16 ibid., p. 215
17 Mitchell, The Limits of the State, p. 78

to) established power, both economic and political. Civil society is not just an
assemblage of actors, i.e. autonomous social groups. It is also the realm of contesting
ideas in which the intersubjective meanings upon which peoples sense of reality are
based can become transformed and new concepts of the natural order of society can
emerge (Cox 1999: 10). Civil society transformed during the late 20th century. It can
be viewed as emancipatory and transformative of the social order, yet it also seems to
reflect the dominance of the state and corporate economic power. In a bottom up
sense, civil society is the realm in which those who are disadvantaged by
globalization of the world economy can mount their protests and seek alternatives...In
a top down sense, however, states and corporate interests influence the development
of this current version of civil society towards making it an agency for stabilizing the
social and political status quo. (ibid, 11).
Civil society controlled from the top down allows the dominant
hegemonic forces to penetrate and co-opt elements of popular movements. State
subsidies to non-governmental organizations (NGOs) incline the latters objectives
towards conformity with established order and thus enhance the legitimacy of that
order (Cox 1999: 11). For many people, clientalism may seem preferable to
revolutionary commitment, especially when backed by the force of state and
economic power. Moreover, the basic conflict between rich and poor, powerful and
powerless, are reproduced within the sphere of civil society (MacDonald, 1997: in
Cox p.ll).

2.3 Civil Society in the Middle East and North Africa Region
Amaney Jamal (1997) notes that associational life not only promotes and
consolidates democracies but also makes democratic institutions stronger and more
effective. But she bears in mind that little attention has been paid to the fact that most
of the research linking associational life to broader and more effective forms of civic
engagement relies on evidence from democratic, mostly Western states, where
autonomous interests groups already exist and are able to influence government in
bottom-up fashion. (Jamal 2007: 5)18 The frameworks that exist in democratic
countries do not necessarily exist in authoritarian contexts, specifically in the MENA
Taking Egypt as a case study for the study of civil society, Islam and
authoritarianism, I assume that civil society encompasses the presence of a
considerable number of formal associations catering to the varied interests of citizens
in several areas of their social activities; state-society relations in which the former
respects a reasonable measure of autonomy for the latter; and acceptance of
intellectual and political dissension as a legitimate right for minorities so long as it is
bound by peaceful methods of individual and collective action (Al-Sayyid 1993). As
well, Habermas noted, civil society should be broadened to include virtually all
nonviolent associational activity between the individual and the state. This definition
18 Seminal works in this disposition include Putnam, Making Democracy Work; and Verba, Scholzman,
and Brady, Voice of Equality.

allows me to interpret the Muslim Brotherhood as a viable civil society organization
within the context of pursuing political participation through a non-violent path.
It is important to understand that civil society in the Islamic context is
quite different than that of the Western conception. Orientalist readings of Muslim
history and society have posited the absence of civil society as a key issue in the
failure to engender indigenous democratic institutions (Sajoo, 14). The argument
made by scholars is that Islamic society lacked independent cities, an autonomous
bourgeois, rational bureaucracy, legal reliability, personal property and the cluster of
rights which embody bourgeois culture (Turner 1984). It is the absence of these
institutional and cultural elements that have left 'nothing in Islamic civilization to
challenge the dead hand of pre-capitalist tradition.19 20
To sustain the claim that civil society is exclusive to Western traditions, it
would have to be shown that such traditions are fortresses, impermeable to any
external influence in the course of history. This is an unlikely claim, specifically for
an Islamic society located geographically close to Western influence and Western
imperialism. The reality is that civic institutional and cultural elements in Muslim
societies are substantial. The Arabic term for civil society, al-mujtama' al-madanf0
long evoked the sense of institutions organized along civic lines (madani being
derived from medina or 'city'); a more traditional reference is to mujtama' al-ahli21,
19 B.S. Turner, Orientalism and the Problem of Civil Society in Islam, in A. Hussain, R. Olson and J.
Qureshi, ed., Orientalism, Islam, and Islamists (Brattleboro, VT, 1984), pp.23-42
20 Mujtama al-madani literally means civil community. ^oil n
21 Mujtama al-ahli literally means national community <^UV I

which includes a wider array of communal and religious institutions (Sajoo, p. 15).
Moussalli (1995: 83) writes: It is interesting to note that the first Islamic community
was referred to as al-mujtama' al-madani, with civil here indicating the
establishment of the city that was composed of Muslim segments allied on tribal and
geographical lines, as well as Jews and others who were allied on similar lines. The
social structure reflected the diverse nature of the society that was accepted by the
Prophet Muhammed. This would suggest that the notion of civil society is not
exclusively Western. Islamic civil society was based on diversity, and pluralism in
terms of religion and lifestyles were accepted (Kamali 2001: 457).
Ernest Gellner and Jeffrey Alexander make the claim that Islamic civil society
cannot and does not exist because a civil society cannot be without the political
system of Western democracy.22 They deem individualism as an important condition
for civil society and civil society as a western phenomenon (Alexander, 1998). The
individualism of western civil society is the result of capitalistic markets and
institutional arrangements. Alexander sees individualism as one of the most crucial
factors dividing Western and Islamic societies.
Kamali (2001) suggests that Alexander and Gellner ignore the fact that the
relationship between civil society and state has history that goes back to the Islamic
community under the reign of the Prophet himself. The relationship between the
Islamic governance and civil society was discussed by scholars as far back as
980AD.23 The traditional civil societies in Muslim countries have a dynamic history
22 See Cohen and Arato 1994
23 See Ebn al-Sina (980-1038, Ebn al-Roshd (1126-1198, and Imam Ghazali (1058-1111).

of change, adaptation and adjustment to various historical conditions in
countervailing state power (Kamali 2001: 468).
Islamic civil society today is manifest in what Dale Eickelman and Jon
Anderson have documented as 'the emerging public sphere'. Driven by new media
that elude facile official regulation, from satellite television to the Internet, the public
domain has already become the locus of Islamic civil society discourse, whereby the
publics that participate as well as the subjects they talk about have altered radically
from traditional realities.24 This new civil society sphere challenges old assumptions
about gender, hierarchical authority and inclusiveness. Its important to note that the
language of exchange is frequently 'Islamic', as participants "seek to redefine and re-
appropriate old meanings in new contexts." (Sajoo p. 16) Civil society in the Muslim
world and for that matter, the Middle East and North Africa region is characterized by
the complex, intertwined relationship between the secular and sacred, the political
and religious. Citizen demands for individual space, gender and minority
inclusiveness, political participation and the rule of law and for ethical
accountability in public life, and the freedom to redefine the 'secular' limits of the
public sphere have prompted fundamental political change throughout the Muslim
world (ibid p. 18).
24 See D. Eickelman and J. Anderson, Redefining Muslim Publics, in D.E. Eickelman and J.W.
Anderson, ed., New Media in the Muslim World: The Emerging Public Sphere (Bloomington and
INdianapolis, IN, 1999), pp. 1-18, at p. 12.

3. Civil Society Dynamics in Authoritarian Contexts
This chapters deals with the contemporary debate about civil society in authoritarian
contexts. The first part focuses on the debate about civil societys role in the Middle
East and asks the question: Is civil society a tool for democracy? Is the expansion of
civil society an indication of democratization? Then this chapter turns to theories that
depart from the notion that civil society and democracy are linked, and focuses on
civil societys role in authoritarian environment. Can civil society strengthen
authoritarian structures? What is Islamic civil societys role in authoritarian contexts?
3.1 Civil Society in Authoritarian Contexts
The belief that civil society can be used as a tool for social and individual
empowerment emanated from studies on democratization and resistance to repression.
Most notably, ODonnell and Schmitter (1986) began research on the role of civil
society in promoting democracy in Latin America. What they discovered was that
professional associations, churches, human rights organizations, intellectual societies,
and a host of other social institutions generated counter hegemonic projects and
criticism of authoritarian regimes in Latin America. The prospects for political change
swept through the social consciousness and inspired social resources to combat
repression (Wiktorowicz p. 45). The persistence of protest in the face of harsh
repression in such countries as Pinochets Chile attests to the remarkable mobilizing
potential of civil society, even in the most dire circumstances (ODonnell &
Schmitter, p. 54-56).

In Eastern Europe, students of politics began to adopt the same
perspectives on civil society. Many began to believe that civil society could be a tool
for collective opposition against the state. The Polish Solidarity movement, for
example, proposed a gradual process of reform initiated by civil society, often
referred to as new evolutionism or neo-Gramscian (Pelcynsi,1998). The main goal
for Eastern European movements was not to overthrow the regime, but rather to affect
society by constructing an autonomous sphere of social interaction where parallel
structures and institutions could be created to serve the needs of the people (Havel,
1985). As society regained its independence, the authoritarian state weakened.
In 2000, Laith Kubba declared that the awakening of civil society in the
Arab world would be the decisive factor in challenging authoritarian regimes. Kubba
(2000), like others, maintained the theoretical connection that civil society activism is
conducive to democratization. As many other observers of the region have noted,
there had been an explosion in the number of civil society organizations across the
Arab world. This has led many to argue that a third wave of democratization would
take place in the region.25 Yet, today democratization has not occurred and any
liberalization that has occurred has been limited and initiated by authoritarian
Previously discussed about civil society is that the presence of an active
civil society is a positive development. This idea is firmly entrenched in the Western
liberal conceptualization of civil society, and leads to questions regarding the
25For more on the Third Wave of democratization look to The third wave: democratization in the late
twentieth century By Samuel P. Huntington

normativity that is implicit in the use and application of the term (Cavatorta 2010:
2). Now the linkage between civil society and democratization has come under severe
perusal. Some scholars would suggest that Islam is the cause of an ineffective civil
society. Yet in some instances, Islamist civil society organizations, (i.e. the Muslim
Brotherhood), have proven to be very organized counter-hegemonic forces, which
may help lead to democratic transition. Others (Jamal 2007), would suggest that the
civil society landscape has been divided according to political access, clientelism, the
availability of funding, and relationships with the incumbent regime. Those that toe
the regime line are accorded preferential treatment and enjoy political rights and
liberties. In Egypt, the regime has been able to micromanage there civic spheres,
resulting in a system of rewards and sanction founded on support for the government.
Arab regimes have marginalized the significance of civil society in order
to survive. Singerman (1995) notes that as Egyptian activists pursue their goals and
aims, they are constantly confronted by an entanglement of legal bureaucratic
ambiguity. The legal and bureaucratic ambiguity of the Egyptian state is intentional
since it allows the regime flexibility and multiple strategies to pursue its critics,
whether they are NGOs, civil companies, media publications, or individual activists
(p. 31). These regulations that are put in place by the government keep those who are
pushing for political change to become unstable, insecure, and ultimately ineffective.
Augustus Richard Norton (1995) noted that in a region characterized more
by dictators and authoritarian regimes rather than by pluralist democracy, civil society
in the Middle East is viewed as a possible remedy for the stagnation of limited

political participation.26 Norton argues that the growth of civil society in the region
could be used to mobilize opposition, dissent, and alternative voices. In regards to
political participation being constrained in the region, civil society organizations are
viewed as mechanisms of social empowerment for groups excluded from the formal
political arena (Wiktorowicz, 2000).
The expansion of civil society is credited with numerous transitions to
democracy and is frequently offered as a proscriptive remedy to authoritarian rule.
Egypt boasts a large number of CSOs although the exact figures are inconclusive, it
is estimated that as of 2007 a total of 21,500 CSOs are registered with the Ministry of
Social Solidarity.27 Other sources, such as the Federation of Associations estimate the
number of CSOs to be 12,531 28 According to the Egypt 2008 Human Development
Report, the majority (70%) of CSOs are concentrated in urban areas, while poorer,
more rural areas, namely in Upper Egypt, have much lower numbers of CSOs. Yet,
even amid the seemingly global democratic waves and proliferation of CSOs, Egypt
remains an authoritarian stronghold, where its non-democratic political system has
clung to authority with unsurpassed tenacity and remarkable power.29
Today, those factors that are deemed most important for the linkage
between civic activism and democratization are increasingly scrutinized. Max Weber
26 Todays events in the Egypt and the region suggest that August Richard Nortons notion on civil
society may be very accurate.
27 Data for statistics
28 UNDP Egypt Human Development Report 2008. p.67
29 Even though this today is being challenged by a lively youthful protest movement, and real change
seems to be on the horizon, it should be important to note just how an effective authoritarian
government can surpress civil society for regime maintenance.

once warned, the quantitative spread of organizational life does not always go hand
in hand with its qualitative significance.30 The expansion of civil society does not
lead necessarily to the realization of democracy. The impact of the state on civil
society can have a powerful and often limiting effect on associationalism.
The point of departure from the notion that civil society is intrinsically
linked to democracy came from the works of Tempest (1997) who argues empirically
that the role of civil society in the transitions of Eastern Europe and Latin America
has been overemphasized and that civil society acted differently in those countries.
This has led to a wider debate on civil society and its role in authoritarian settings,
specifically in the MENA region.
Brumberg (2002) and Hinnebusch (2006), argue that civil society in an
authoritarian context should be studied differently than those in a democratic one.
Brumberg believes that the strength of civil society in the Arab world should be
examined through the dynamics that occur between its different sectors given that
they all operate under the same authoritarian constraints. It is suggested that the
linkage between democratization and civil society in the region might not be a
positive one precisely because authoritarian constraints impeded the creation of
positive social capital31. By themselves, Brumberg posits, civil society organizations
cannot make up for the lack of a functioning political society, meaning an
30 Max Weber, "Geschaftsbericht und Diskussionsreden auf den deutschen soziologischen Tagungen,"
in Weber, Gesammelte Aufsatze zur Soziologie und Sozialpolitik (Tubingen: J. C. B. Mohr, 1924)
Quoted p. 407 in Berman, Sheri, Civil Society and the Collapse of the Weimar Republic, World
Politics 49.3 (1997) 401-429
31 For more on social capital and civil society see Putnam, Making Democracy Work and previous

autonomous realm of self-regulating political parties that have the constitutional
authority to represent organized constituencies in parliaments. Hinnebusch, along the
same lines as Brumberg, argues against any cultural assumptions that try and explain
democratic deficiency in the MENA region. He postulates that it has more to do with
the unique institutional-social structural configurations by which it has combined
mass incorporating populism with rent-lubricated patrimonialism.32
Liverani (2008) and Wiktorowicz (2000), have also downplayed civil
societys role. They point to authoritarian regimes use of civil society as a means for
regime survival. They suggest that civil society has indeed been strengthened over the
last decade, with a significant surge in the number of organizations being created.
However, this is not a sign that ruling elites are losing control of their own societies.
Quite the contrary is true, as many civil society organizations are largely the creation
of the state itself, while others are either beholden to the state or fully co-opted.
Wiktorowicz emphasizes that the growth of civil society does not lead to
democratization because it has no real autonomy from the regime in place and is
therefore unable to perform this function.
Berman (2003), Carothers (1999/2000), and Encamacion (2006) believe
democratic theory is overly normative with respect to civil society. Berman (2003)
rejects the wholly normative definition of civil society and prefers a more neutral one.
If the normative traits of the concept are shed, then the sphere of independent and
autonomous action constituted by civil society does not have a specific nature, but
32 Raymond Hinnebusch, Authoritarian Persistence, Democratization Theory and the Middle East: An
Overview and Critique. Democratization, 13:3 (2006), pp. 373-95.

simply becomes the realm where all sorts of groups and movements, with radically
different beliefs and ideologies, operate. From a theoretical point of view, Berman,
Carothers and Encamacion question the a priori positive normative connotations that
the concept has taken on and argue for a more neutral definition that would take into
account the fact that many groups belonging to civil society are rather uncivil and
are certainly neither pro-democracy nor pro-human rights (Cavatora & Elananza
2008: 563).
Cavatorta (2010), like Brumberg (2002) and Jamal (2007), discerns civil
society dynamics and their nature depending on the wider institutional context and on
the types of organizations that are active. Civil society activism can generate different
dynamics depending on the institutional context. Within this assumption, it is
plausible that civil society in established democracies or authoritarian systems
performs radically different tasks and gives rise to different dynamics (Cavatorta
2010: 3). Cavatorta shares the same theoretical perspective as Berman (2003) but
contests the way in which Islamist movements have been studied in the Arab world in
order to make this theoretical point. He argues that civil society activism in the region
cannot be really understood if we exclude the contribution of Islamism. He believes
that Islamism has engaged with and is part of civil society in the Arab world.
Labeling Islamism as uncivil does not do justice to the variety of
movements that operate within the sphere of civil society and does not reflect the
diverse approaches to civil society that Arab and Islamist political thought presents.
Cavatorta rejects the assumption that all the movements which subscribe to Islamism

are inimical to democracy, that they condone political violence, and that they have a
totalitarian ideology, whose essence and objective are the desire to transform human
nature and society once they manage to acquire power (Cavatorta 2006: 208).
Regardless of ones normative views about Islamism, Cavatora rightly suggests that
Islamic activism needs to be examined because it represents a crucial aspect of the
vibrancy of an autonomous civil society.
3.2 Islamic Civil Society
There is little denying that Islamic activism and Islamist CSOs are popular
throughout the Arab world, yet the view of Islam in civil society is deemed
fundamentally anti-democratic by Western observers. Berman (2003) explains it is the
overwhelming presence of Islamists, who have anti-democratic ethos, which have
denied democracy. This view is shared by Pratt, who examines the evolution of civil
society activism in a number of Arab republics since independence. Berman's
analysis is concerned with explaining how authoritarian rule has been able to survive,
using civil society as an explanatory variable (2007:189). Her explanation is that the
Arab world has failed to democratize simply because Islamic civil society
organizations are not supportive of democracy.
Since independence, civil society organizations in the MENA shared a
common objective of modernization and the construction of a national ideology. This
national ideology was to be modem but not Western. In Pratts analysis, this post-
independence project failed to take shape, progress stalled, and civil society began to
turn against the ruling elites. What Pratt argues is that the dissent that took shape did

not coalesce around liberal and democratic notions (2007:59). While secular and
liberal civil society organizations may exist, they have ultimately been overshadowed
by Islamist civil society organizations.
Eventually Islamists became the dominant challenge to the ruling elites
within civil society, but as Pratt claims, that it is not truly a challenge because a
democratic counter-discourse has not been fully developed given the marginal role of
secular and liberal organizations. Pratt further explains that civil society activism
remains very much linked to the necessity of rediscovering a unitary enthusiasm of
modernization that seems to have been lost throughout the years. Immediately after
independence from colonial rule, many Arab populations were enamored with the
idea of modernization, but ultimately became disenchanted when modernization
failed to take place. Cavatorta, in his analysis of Pratt, sees her interpretation of civil
society activism as an explanation for the popularity of Islamic activism. While on
the surface Islamism is in opposition to the current regimes, it offers simply a re-
invention of previous corporatist arrangements, this time imbued with the traditional
values of religiosity which will ensure against corruption and secular individualistic
tendencies.33 Islamism is able to offer citizens a framework that seems reminiscent
of the post-independence era, which can explain its popularity.
Pratt further explains that secularist and liberals are marginally effective
because they do not offer solutions that promote modernization in the way Islamists
promise. The discourse of secularists and liberals, according to Pratt, is not popular
33 Cavatorta, Civil Society, democracy promotion and Islamism on the Southern shores of the

because it seems to Western to ordinary citizens. Divisions between Islamists,
secularists, and liberals, Pratt believes, prevents any challenge to the authoritarian
structure. While not going as far as labeling Islamist groups inherently anti-
democratic, Pratt points to very real difficulties that opposition secular and liberal
groups have in dealing with Islamists (Cavatorta 2007). Civil society in her view,
despite its strength, is currently unable to challenge authoritarian regimes in the name
of shared democratic values. This view helps to explain the absence of meaningful
alternatives to the current regimes in power, although it is admittedly based on an
ideal type categorization of associations into Islamist and secular/liberal (ibid 8).
Pratt ultimately misses an important aspect of civil society within an
authoritarian context. Secularists and liberals behave differently under the rule of
authoritarian governments in the MENA region. Although it may be true that there is
not a shared democratic value amongst civil society organizations, it is not generally
due to Islamists who are wary of democracy. Rather, it can be argued and
demonstrated in the Egyptian case, that secularists and liberalists tend to side with the
autocratic regime and stand against democracy. The authoritarian justification for
repressing democracy is that democracy can create a circumstance under which free
elections could well make illiberal Islamists the dominant voice. In Egypt, the
authoritarian regime has utilized the Islamization scare tactic, whereby it maintains
that Islamist organizations, if allowed to participate in a democracy, would take over
and repress any secular and liberals aspirations. This has forced secularists and
liberals to choose, in their opinion, which evil benefits them the most.

Jamal (2007) has observed, authoritarian constraints the regime put in
place make it necessary for associations to decide which side they are on. If the
association wants to achieve some of its objectives, it has to play by the rules of the
authoritarian government. To divide civil society into Islamists and secularists,
according to Jamal, is simply naive. Jamal, believes that the reality is much more
complex and that one should examine divisions in civil society movements as pro-
regime and anti-regime.
As mentioned before, Jamals analyses of civil society demonstrates that it
can be linked to the reinforcement of authoritarian rule. Jamal challenges the
assumption that democratic change and civil society are always linked and she argues
that associational life in authoritarian contexts is distinctively different from the one
in established democracies. Her argument is that only through corrupt networks of
patronage will the association be able to satisfy the basic needs of its members and
achieve its goals because only the regime can deliver the goods. In following these
networks, civil society associations only help to reinforce the existing authoritarian
structures. Paradoxically, social capital increases within these pro-regime associations
because their members, by playing with the constraints provided, can be reasonably
certain of positive outcomes for the group, which then has no interest in dismantling
such networks in favor of fairer and more democratic ways of access to decision
makers because this would diminish their benefits (Jamal 2007)
Regarding Islam and civil society, Jamal notes that it does not matter what
your beliefs are, whether you are secular or Islamist, but rather if you are willing to

do as the government wants. Anti-regime organizations, which do not utilize or do not
have patronage networks available to them, have lower levels of social capital
because of their more democratic values, which do not allow them to obtain the same
level of benefits (Jamal: 2007). These benefits usually consist of major funding, easy
access to high level officials, cutting of red tape, and permits for building. The pro-
and anti-regime labels are probably more effective than the Islamist and secular/
liberal ones because they better capture the personalistic nature of these networks.
Jamal concludes by positing that civil society in the end does not produce
democratization because authoritarian dynamics provide a very rigid structure of
incentives for associational life and do not permit the emergence of democratic
attitudes (Jamal 2007: 9).
Janine Clark (2004) in her works on civil society, charity and Islam,
confirms Jamals point about associational life often being a reinforcement of existing
authoritarian structures. She examines Islamic social institutions and how they
operate in the provision of welfare. Clark argues that Islamic social institutions
represent a moderate response not only to the secular states inability to provide social
welfare services but against the secular state as well (2004a: 941). She suggests that
the constraints of the environment surrounding Islamic organizations make them not
so different than their secular counterparts. In her study, she finds that organizations
are rational actors and not simply ideological ones unable to accept the reality of
their institutional, social and economic environment (Clark 2004a: 942).

From her findings, Clark came up with three important conclusions. First,
while it is confirmed that Islamic social institutions are more active than their secular
counterparts and, at times, more active than the state itself in providing welfare
services, their activism does not present tangible Islamic ideological references.
There is no conscious attempt to create the foundations for an Islamic vision of
society (Clark 2004b: 152). Departing from both Pratt and Berman, Clark believes
that Islamist organizations are very much aware of the environment they operate in
and make the necessary compromises in order to fulfill their primary objectives,
which are not necessarily political. What makes such institutions Islamic is the belief
of many individuals involved that they are promoting Islam through their
work {ibid: 153). Islamist organizations should be treated as rational actors.
Her second important finding is that Islamic charities are a product of the
middle class, run by professionals (Cavatorta 2007: 11). She finds that although
charities do have programs for the poor, their primary function is to employ and serve
middle-class professionals and families that the state cannot or will not support.34
This finding is important because it implies that the majority of poor and
disenfranchised are not organically integrated in an Islamist political and social
project, the poor... are excluded from the social networks which lie at the heart of the
Islamist movement (Clark 2004:154). This is significant in that it might undermine
the commitment to radical social change of the Islamist movement because it can be
accused of abandoning the reason which gives it popularity, namely the commitment
34 It should be noted that the case studies in Janine Clarks work focus on middle class networks in
Egypt, Jordan and Yemen, and therefore may not be the case in other Middle Eastern and North African

to help the less fortunate (Cavatorta 2007: 11). In many Arab countries, the poor
make up the majority of the population and cannot simply be ignored. It means that
the poor are a constituency that any political group can attract.
Her third finding is that Islamist CSOs are rational actors in terms of their
relationship with the regime. Islamist groups operating as service-providers are
dependent on the state because they need the regimes cooperation on a number of
issues such as licensing or building permissions. Islamist organizations privilege
efficiency of action over futile confrontations that might hinder their capacity to act
and therefore act rationally in order to advance the associations concrete goals
(Cavatorta 2007: 12).
Clark further contends that civil society activism, even Islamic activism,
does not disturb authoritarian structures because Islamic social institutions end up
cooperating on many matters with the regime. Similarly, Jamal (2007) argues that
fostering civic activism has a detrimental effect on democratization because the
authoritarian setting privileges pro-regime associations, which do not have any
incentive in democratic change because they will lose their access and therefore their
material gains (2007: 12).
From the findings of all these studies, it seems that there is consensus that
strengthening civil society activism is not always a sure means to democratize, but for
differing reasons. Although for some, Pratt in particular, Islam seems to represent an
anti-democratic tenor, yet evidence suggests that more often it is secular and
nominally liberal civil society that rallies to the authoritarian regime to stop political

Islam from taking over (Cavatorta 2007). This is an important and very understudied
point that often gets overlooked in any analysis of democracy and civil society in the
Middle East.
Co-operation and alliance building between Islamists and secular/liberal
organizations is difficult in civil society due to the fact that Islamist civil society
organizations, for purposes of unifying the population, use Islam as an ideology, and
secularists/liberal organizations rally against any Islamist influence in society. What
ensues is a lack of cooperation and unifying democratic discourse. This division
allows authoritarian regimes to use divide and conquer strategies in order to remain
in power. The outcome is that too many secular and liberal organizations have
proven too willingly to cooperate with local non-democratic regimes (Cook 2005:
What can be confirmed from many of these contemporary studies is that
civil society and democratization are not linked and in fact civil society may be
advantageous for ruling elites in the Arab world. This is possible through the
manipulation, division, and co-optation of civil society organizations. These studies
have also highlighted the important role that Islamism plays in civic associations.
Islams role in civil society is not necessarily, as Berman (2003) and Pratt posit, an
anti-democratic ideological force. On the contrary, Islamists seem to be less
motivated by ideology and are more concerned with making informed rational
decisions to ensure their survival. As Cavatorta explains, they [Islamists] compromise
and cooperate with the regime and with other opposition groups on ad hoc matters if

this advances the interests of the association irrespective of significant ideological
A final confirmation of these studies is evidence pointing to a shift away
from political activism among Islamists and towards charity work. This shift toward
social services and charity is the result of Islamists forced disengagement from the
political process. As Wicktorwicz (2001) suggests, the feeling of political impotence
amongst Islamists is exacerbated in the face of security service repression and
administrative processes that attempt to depoliticize civil society and prevent
oppositional activities. Since political movements are banned under most
authoritarian regimes, Islamic activism becomes a natural vehicle for civic discontent.
Rooted in established social sites of religious practice and widely accepted values,
Islamism represents one of the few remaining effective options for confronting a
sense of political exclusion (p. 194). Islamist CSOs have found their popularity not
within civil society movements that advance the needs of the poor and middle classes.
In the final analysis of the discussion of the civil society within the Islamic
context, I argue that civil society is not a normative term that can fit neatly in any
situation. It has been in the last decade, while analyzing the Middle East, scholars
have begun to deconstruct the mythology of civil society as a democratizer. For
other scholars, one should go beyond teleological thinking. For instance, authoritarian
systems are not necessarily on the way towards democracy thanks to civil society
activism. Rather, it is possible to think that civil society activism may represent new
modes of non-democratic governance. In Egypt, no religious or secular civil society

organization can function without the security and regulatory framework the state
provides; without the state there is no civil society. On the other hand, the state cannot
function without the legitimacy provided by civil society organizations, particularly
Islamists CSOs, some of whom escape direct control. The Egyptian regime
demonstrates that to maintain its legitimacy and power, it is essential that there is no
clear boundary between civil society and state and between religion and politics. In
the next chapter I will examine civil society within the Egyptian state and its
relationship with Islam.

4. Between Civil Society, Islamists, al-Azhar and the State
In this second part of the research the case of Egypt is explored, starting with this
chapter which gives a brief historical look at the development of civil society in
Egypt. I will examine the growth of civil society starting in 1952 and discuss laws
that have been introduced to restrict civil society expansion. Then I will focus on
elements of Islamist civil society in Egypt and its influence in the social service
sector, as well as how the Egyptian government began to de-liberalize and target civil
society. Important questions to considered throughout this chapter include: Does
Egyptian civil society have what it takes to influence the regime? What is the role of
Islamist organizations in civil society?
The chapter ends with a brief introduction to the Muslim Brotherhood, the
most organized and influential of civil society organizations. Chapter 5 discusses the
role of Muslim Brotherhood in civil society and constraints the government has
placed on it. I then turn to a discussion on how institutionalizing the religious
institution of al-Azhar had given the regime a powerful tool to counter-balance the
Muslim Brotherhood.
4.1 Development of Civil Society in Egypt
Using criteria found in associational democracy and contemporary civil
society discourse according to the modem Western interpretation, Egypt could be
regarded as becoming more democratic (Rahman 2002: 25). These criteria imply

that the multiplication of voluntary associations are a guarantee of a vibrant civil
society, which in turn is the main constituent of democracy. The Egyptian experience
in the development of civil society, which extends over a period of almost two
hundred years, gives a distinctly different picture from that of other Middle Eastern
countries. Civil society took its modem form in 1821 as a result of modernization
projects led by Muhammed Ali, which also coincided with the rise of the bourgeoisie
and professional syndicates (Hassan 2009). Civil society further grew out of
contestation with colonial power from 1882-1922. During this time there was a
proliferation of modem, voluntary organizations. Trade unions, cooperatives, political
parties, chambers of commerce, professional associations, and even feminist
movements began to appear. After independence from Britain in 1922 a liberal
constitution was created which guaranteed rights of civic associations. During this
time, civil society discourse was concentrated on government transparency, free
elections, and the rights of working class unions (ibid: 73). Much of this changed
with the rise of the army and subsequent Free Officers Coup which placed Gamal
Abdel Nasser into power.
The chief characteristic of Egyptian authority in 1952 was that it was ruled
politically, socially, and economically by a military regime. The regime established
by Nasser and the Free Officers Movements controlled government and political
process, remained in power for a long period of time, and instituted radical political,
economic, and social changes (Harb 2003: p.272). Socially, a combination of the
makeup of the majority of the officer corps that executed the coup of 1952, the nature

of social relations at the center of which was an agrarian aristocracy, and the absence
of a clearly dominant and unifying middle class ideology allowed the revolutionaries
to take over and monopolize power (ibid 272). Politically the revolutionary leaders
were able to fill in the void made by the absence of British colonialism and secure
legitimacy. The popularity and perceived legitimacy of the Free Officers movement
made it possible for the new leaders to steer Egyptian affairs in a radically new
direction. The regime set out to transform Egyptian society and create a new Egypt.
Advances in education and literacy, housing, health, family services and rural
development were achieved. Politically they banned all political parties, in order to
secure power, and established the Liberation Rally (LR) to harness political energies
in support of them.35
In 1957 the National Union (NU) replaced the LR, only to be replaced by
the Arab Socialist Union (ASU) in 1962. Added to these successive mass
organizations were a number of political committees and intelligence services that
permeated all sectors of life and effectively shut off any independent activity,
specifically within civil society (Harb 2003: p. 276). From 1952-1970 civil societys
growth was curbed, as power had returned to the hands of the president. The
constitution of 1923 was abolished and 6 constitutions were written before one was
selected. It is no surprise that the new constitution put considerable power in the hand
of the governing elite and subsequently the military. Nasser had control over judiciary
35 The revolutionaries concern was the Wafd Party, an organization established in the 1920s that was
the only cohesive, nationalist, and secular group that could threaten them. The Muslim Brotherhood
was an active religious organization that was spared until 1954 (because of its close relations with some
officers) when it was disbanded after one of its members attempted to assassinate Nasser. See
Vatikiotis, The Egyptian Army, p.77 and Jamal Hammad, Al-Hukuma al Khafiyya fi Ahd Abd al-Nasir
[The Secret Government under Abd al-Nasir], (Cairo, Egypt: al Zahra lil-Nashr al-Arabi, 1986). p. 11

and the parliament, and was free to create legislation restricting civil society.
Furthermore, Nasser ensured that the Egyptian military would be there to protect the
regime and participate in governing.
Since 1952 the military regime has imposed its domination on all civil
society activities through Law 32, enacted in 1964, which gave the Administrative
Authority the right to refuse the creation of any civil association, or the dissolution,
or amalgamation of such associations without recourse to the judiciary (Hassan: 71).
Additionally, the law allows for control of associational life, giving the state the
ability to supervise all activities of civil society groups. Law 32 requires citizens
wishing to form voluntary organizations (NGOs) to obtain permission from the
ministry of social affairs. Permission was often denied on vague grounds including
determinations that the nongovernmental organization was not needed or was
redundant (Langohr 2004: 193).
If the NGOs were lucky enough to get approved, they would need to
notify the ministry of all activities that took place. They had to notify three
government offices of the agenda and location of meetings and promptly file records
of their proceedings. An important condition for such registration is a commitment by
the proposed organization not to engage in political activities. The ministry
interpreted the term political activity loosely, and has denied registration to certain
associations, the most famous being the Arab Organization for Human Rights and its
Egyptian chapter, even though the first was given observer status in the LIN
Economic and Social Council (Al-Sayyid 1993, 236). The law also closely regulated

fundraising. Although Law 32 was a paralyzing restraint to many associations, others
were able to function relatively free, either because they fell into categories privileged
under the law or because they were able to escape it entirely by registering their
activities under other headings (Langohr 2004).
In 1970, Sadats ascension to the presidency, after the death of Nasser,
brought about radical and ideological changes in the makeup and policies of the
Egyptian Regime. Civil society saw a second rebirth during Sadats presidency. The
decision of Sadat to allow for the re-proliferation of civil society was due to societal
pressures as well as the advent of the market economy and multiparty system.
Having no political base of his own, no charism similar to Nasser, and hated by his
predecessors lieutenants for inheriting Nassers legacy, Sadat found it difficult to
govern. In order to prevent a military coup from within, Sadat created an environment
of political competition [to secure himself from his enemies]. In 1971, Sadat
conducted his own purge of the Egyptian regime in what he called the Corrective
Revolution. (Harb 2003: 282). He used military officers loyal to him to oust his
enemies. The military, after his purge, pledged allegiance and loyalty to Sadat. With
the loyalty of the military on his side, Sadat decided to allow for the beginning of
multi-party politics in 1976.
It was the beginning of the facade democracy, liberalization without
liberalization. The permanent constitution of 1971, like similar constitutions of
authoritarian regimes, provided for the respect of a long list of civil and political
rights, prohibited torture, and stipulated rules for the exercise of state power in

different domains. At the same time, it left many details to be decided by laws and
regulations. It could be interpreted by state authorities in ways that violate the
fundamental rights of citizens. (Al-Sayyid 1993)
Yet, the number of associations expanded considerably in the mid-1970s,
when the onset of political and economic liberalization encouraged various social
groups to set up their own organizations. 36 The growth stagnated around the
mid-1980s under President Husni Mubarak. The largest growth of civil society
organizations was seen under Anwar Sadat from 1976-1981, with an increase of 41%.
Since the 1980s, authorities have viewed such expansion of civil society as politically
risky (Al-Sayyid 1996: 273).
Despite introducing laws that would eventually curb the expansion of civil
society, Egypt under the power of the military regime, experienced greater freedom
that most other Middle Eastern countries. The government licensed hundreds of new
publications and allowed professional syndicates a higher level of involvement in
shaping political life, as the number of political parties increased and NGOs
expanded (Jamal 2007: 119). Economic reform was now able to be influenced by
professional and business associations. The countrys intermediate level of economic
development, its extensive array of nongovernmental organizations, and its multiparty
system all seem to favor a democratic future. (Brownlee 2002: 6)
Although 24 political parties have been vetted by the government and
approved, constant changes in electoral law and the supervision of the activities,
36 Center for Political and Strategic studies, Al-Taqrir al-istratiji al-Arabi, 1989 [Arab strategic repot,
1989] (Cairo: Dar al-Ahram, 1990), pp.458-62; Ministry of Social Affaris, Al-Muashirat al-ishaiyyah,

leadership, and fundraising of political parties has ensured that government, military
and National Democratic Party (NDP)37 interests are served first. This law and its
many, very confusing amendments, instituted restrictions and limitations on political
parties functioning in Egypt. The financial support obtained by some of these parties
from the state represents a major source of money, which allows them to survive. But,
the financial dependence on the state adversely affects these political parties
The multiparty law itself does not allow for the creation of parties based
on religion. According to the ballot on March 26, 2007 Article (5) was amended to
prohibit the establishment of any religious party.
The political system of the Arab Republic of Egypt is a multiparty
system, within the framework of the basic elements and principles of the
Egyptian society as stipulated in the Constitution. Political parties are
regulated by law. Citizens have the right to establish political parties
according to the law and no political activity shall be exercised nor
political parties established on a religious referential authority, on a
religious basis or on discrimination on grounds of gender or
origin. (Article 5 Amendment Egyptian Constitution.)
The political repression of religious organizations has been most apparently aimed at
Islamist who have gained considerable power in Egypt. Islamists and members of the
Muslim Brotherhood, who typically win the most seats in parliament, cannot legally
form a political party (Singerman 2002). Blocked from unrestricted access to
elections, Islamists have instead found other ways to participate, most notably
37 Sadat, after beginning the plan to implement the multi-party system, issued the 1974 October paper.
In the October Paper Sadat reaffirmed his committment to established a constitutional democratic
government. He initially formed the Misr Party (ASPE); and finally in 1978 he formed the National
Democratic Party (NDP), which in all reality was a continuation of the LR, NU and the ASU parties
formed by Nasser.

through various civil society channels that give them the opportunity to influence
politics. Associations belonging to the Islamists tend to be the most effective and
active compared to the rest of civil associations (Hassan: 73). The governments
decision in early 1998 to replace Law 32 with Law 153 was motivated by a desire to
lessen restrictions on good (apolitical) nongovernmental organizations while
severely limiting the activities of oppositional [Islamist] advocacy organizations. This
was largely a result of increased Islamic activism against the regime, which emanated
from civil society.
4.2 Islamist Civil Society in Egypt
Islamist organizations have come to dominate the social and political
landscape. Their sphere of influence has been within the social service sector, where
they have successfully provided health care and education to their respective
communities. The new space for associational freedom has brought a higher level of
confrontation between organizations of civil society and the state, but also among
these organizations themselves and the different interests they represent (Rahman
2002: 26).
Furthermore, the inability for many Islamist organizations to form
politically has led them to find other arenas to express themselves. Civil society
organizations in Egypt have opened up space for political contestation where different
groups, otherwise excluded from prospects for power sharing, try to establish and
protect their interests and to mobilize the support of the masses around their political
programs (Rahman 2002: 27). Rahman (2002) notes that civil society is diverse in

Egypt, and is occupied by various actors, yet the competition for political and social
power is dominated by Islamist organizations.
Islamist civil society organizations throughout Egypt were unified by their
opposition to what they consider is a corrupt, failing, and un-Islamic political and
social order dominated by an authoritarian militaristic regime. By 1981, Islamic
organizations nurtured by Sadat since the early 1970s to counter the weight of
Nasserists and leftists had grown disillusioned. Sadat became erratic and arrested
many prominent Islamic leaders. His liberalization policies had become too ambitious
and his controlled opening of the political process produced more demands than he
was able or willing to address (Harb 2003: 284). On October 6, 1981, he was
assassinated by a band of religious conspirators. Immediately following the
assassination of Sadat, a wave of arrests and repression took place. It was aimed at
Islamist organizations, moderate and radical, and specifically those who functioned
within the civil society sphere. As Husni Mubarak took the place of the Sadat,
increased restrictions against Islamist organizations were put in place.
The Peoples Assembly passage of Law 152 served to restrict Islamist
organizations. The law banned political activity and the receipt of foreign funding
without government approval, granted the Ministry of Social Affairs the power to
dissolve NGOs, and eliminated legal loopholes that had allowed human rights groups
to avoid NGO restrictions by registering as law firms or civic groups.38 While
allowing associational life to exist, the government imposed strict legal control by
38 Freedom House, Egypt, 4.

screening initiators; they also checked fund-raising, and unilaterally outlawed
nonconformist NGOs and other organizations. The intention of this law was to restrict
Islamists, especially Islamist organizations that had come to pose a great challenge to
the state. Yet, in many ways this has affected secular organizations more than Islamist
Islamists have used different means in order to ensure that their projects
and movements are still funded. The popularity of using Islamic-based funding has
increased due to the Islamists provision of affordable social services. The availability
of funding in the form of zakat (2.5% of income) from Muslim businesses and
activists, sadaqat (various donations), khums (a fifth) levied on the savings of Shii
Muslims, and external aid (e.g., from Iran to Hezbollah and from Saudi Arabia to the
FIS) give these associations a comparative advantage over other organizations in the
civil society sphere that are often restricted by legal code (Bayat 2002: 12). The zakat
funds have given the Islamists advantages in the way of increased volunteerism, as
well as legal favor.
4.3 State Retreat from Social Responsibility and the de-Liberalization of
Egyptian Society
For many students of Islamism, the underlying impetus for activism
derives from the structural crises produced by the failure of secular modernization
projects initiated by Nasser and Sadat (Waltz, 1986; Dekmejian 1995; Hoffman,
1995; Faksh, 1997). The state gradually retreated from the social responsibilities that
characterized their early populist development and as a result, social provisions were
withdrawn, and the low-income groups largely have had to rely on themselves to

survive. State subsidies on certain basic foodstuffs such as rice, sugar, and cooking oil
have been removed, and subsidies on items such as fuel, power, and transportation
have been reduced. Rent control is being reconsidered; a new land law has ended
tenant famers control over land; and public-sector reform and privatization continue,
all with significant social costs (Bayat 2002: 2). From as early as 1993, a United
States Agency for International Development report was warning of the deteriorating
social conditions in Egypt.39
Between 1993 and 1999 over one-third of state-owned enterprises were
partly or entirely privatized, raising the prospect of massive layoffs in an economy
with unemployment rates already between 10 and 22 percent, while the repeal of
Nasser-era land reforms required that land distributed to peasants in the 1950s and
1960s be returned to its original owners (Langohr 2004: 186). These policys have led
to a severely depressed standard of living. During the Mubarak presidency the
countryside experienced growing unemployment, falling real wages, [and] higher
prices for basic goods and services. while the percentage of the population in
poverty nationwide doubled from 21 percent in 1990 to 44 percent in 1996.40
Migrants fleeing the poverty of the countryside ended up in slums on the periphery of
Cairo, which often lacked sanitation, decent housing, schools, and transportation.
Urbanization overtaxed the states ability to minister to the needs of its citizens (Lee
39 USAID/Cairo/EAS, Report on Economic Conditions in Egypt, 1991-1992 (Cairo: USAID, 1993), 2.
40 Lehman B. Fletcher, Egypts Agriculture in a Reform Era (Ames: Iowa State University Press, 1996),
P. 4, quoted in Vickie Langohr, Too Much Civil Society, Too Little Politics Egypt and Liberalizing
Arab Regimes Comparative Politics, Vol. 36, No. 2 (Jan., 2004), pp. 181-204

2008). Growing populations and increased poverty throughout the country coincided
with increased popularity for Islamism.
Islamism, and in particular this idea of social Islam, articulates the
concerns and struggles of the underprivileged urban Middle Easterners (Bayat 2002:
11). It represents a significant means through which some disadvantaged groups
survive hardship or better their lives. Islamist activism is directly correlated with the
intensity of the crisis. Dekmejian (1995) articulates this perspective when he argues
that, the scope and intensity of Islamist reactions to the state depend on the depth and
pervasiveness of crisis environment. The pervasive phenomenon that is the Islamist
CSO has grown extensively in part because the Egyptian governments development
programs had fallen into crisis in the past two decades. The Islamist movements
contribute to social welfare first by directly providing services such as health care,
education, and financial aid; at the same time, they offer involvement in community
development and a social network, most of which are carried out through local,
nongovernmental mosques.
Most importantly, the Islamist movements can help to foster social
competition. Bayat (2002) observes that this competition compels other religious and
secular organizations to become involved in community work. Islamism is deeply
rooted in a diverse web of informal and formal Islamic organizations: private
voluntary and charitable organizations, informal social networks, neighborhood
mosques and especially, initiatives sponsored by the Muslim Brotherhood. The need
for much of this community involvement and social work has been due to the fact that

the state had failed to provide basic services. This allowed Islamist civil society
organizations to fill urban social spaces with a parallel social service sector that could
provide services where the government was unable.
The mosque is the central institution for Islamist CSOs functioning.
Centered in ahli mosques (built and controlled by the people rather than the state),
Islamic CSOs help to foster the development of volunteerism and community activity.
Furthermore, they could use these mosques to aid in neighborhood development.
Rugh (in Al-Sayyid 1993) had observed how the Islamist civil society has operated
using the ahli mosques.
Many private mosques have expanded into services that compete directly
with less efficient and lower quality public services. Services may
include the provision of subsidized clothing and food, health care,
regular educational programs (usually at the preprimary or primary
level), after-school tutoring for children, religious instruction, subsidies
for students, evening courses, social group activities...In poor areas
mosque representatives hand out free food, clothing, and money in
exchange, as one women put it, "for wearing our Islamic dress." Money
can also be borrowed through Islamic banks in the approved "profit
sharing" way where a fixed interest is not required (Al-Sayyid 1993:
Within the physical structure of the mosque, Islamists offer sermons, lessons, and
study groups to propagate the movements message, organize collective action and
recruit new joiners. They provide an organic, national network that connects
communities of activists across space. Mobilization through the mosque is analogous
to the use of churches by the civil rights movement in the United States (Wiktorowicz
2002: p. 197).

Islamist CSOs accounted for one-third of all Egyptian private voluntary
organizations (PVOs) in the late 1980s and at least 50 percent of all welfare
associations (or 6,327) in the late 1990s, offering charity and health services to
millions. A 1997 newspaper report, quoting a statistical study by Amani Qandil,
estimates that Islamic charity organizations provided 14% of Egypts health care
(Negus 1997: 2). Others emphasize the higher quality of Islamist social services for a
nominal fee at sites where the customers are treated with respect. Islamist medical
clinics, well-staffed and outfitted with the latest medical equipment, contrast sharply
with state-run hospitals with their low sanitation standards and long
delays (Sadowski 1987: 45).
It is estimated that between 10-15 million people by 1992 had benefitted
from the services provided by Islamist CSOs.41 By 2002, more than 4,000 Zakat
(religious tax) Committees had organized in mosques to mediate between the donors
and the needy (Bayat 2002: 12) They have come to provide alternative support
services to the low-income groups to compensate for the governments withdrawal of
support after adopting more liberal economic policies. An example of this was in
Cairos poorest community of Imbaba which consisted of spontaneous settlements
(ashwaiyat) that arouse as shanty towns without electricity, water supply, sewage
and other basic services (Bayat 2002). Imbaba is home to some 800,000 inhabitants,
mainly Muslims, and is considered a state within a state, a place in which those
affected by extreme poverty in the countryside fled. Imbaba is the result of failed
41 See Amani Qandil, The Nonprofit Sector in Egypt, in the the Nonprofit Sector in the Developing
World, ed. H.K. Anheier and L. M. Salamon (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1998), 145-46.

modernization policies. The so called Islamic Republic of Imbaba, which still
exists, has been run with a combination of security, dispensation of Islamic justice
and mediation, and provisions of social services by Islamic CSOs. Private mosques,
unregulated by the state, formed the organizational infrastructure of the Islamic
Group. Some 70 percent of them had some kind of health clinic attached to them.
Islamist CSOs, such as medical clinics, hospitals, charity societies,
cultural centers, and schools, provide basic goods and services to demonstrate that
Islam is the solution to everyday problems in Egyptian society. Islamists not only
provide needed social services, but use social interactions with local communities to
propagate ideology and recruit followers as well. Rooted in socio-economic
development activities, these organizations represent a friendly public face that
promotes the Islamist message without directly confronting the regime, even though
the activities themselves may highlight the inability of the state to effectively address
socio-economic problems (Sullivan, 1994 in: Wiktorowicz 2002: p. 197).
Of all Islamist civil society organizations within Egypt, the most popular,
effective and powerful has been the Muslim Brotherhood. To many Western
observers, the Muslim Brotherhood is most certainly not a positive group for
Egyptian society. Sheri Berman (2003), a skeptic of Islamist civil society, posits that
the strength of the Muslim Brotherhood comes from the fact that institutions in Egypt
are weak at best. She believes that the necessary precondition for the rise of the
Muslim Brotherhood, and other Islamists, has been the declining efficacy and
legitimacy of the Egyptian state. Furthermore, she believes that the rising influence

and dominance of civil society by the Muslim Brotherhood and other organizations is
Less alarmed, John Esposito writes of the Islamist movement and in
particular the Muslim Brotherhood threat: Islam and most Islamic movements are
not necessarily anti-Western, anti-American, or anti-democratic.5,42And, he notes, the
most significant aspects of Islamism are not bombs and hostages but clinics and
schools. The battle is often one of the pen, tongue, and heart rather than the
sword."43 The Muslim Brotherhood is representative of this thinking and has become
an essential organization in Egyptian civil society.
42 John L. Esposito, The Islamic Threat: Myth or Reality? (New York: Oxford University Press, 1992),
43 John L. Esposito, Islam: The Straight Path (New York: Oxford University Press, 1991), 218.

5. The Muslim Brotherhood and the State
The following chapter discusses the important role that the Muslim Brotherhood
plays in civil society. Furthermore, I will focus on how the Egyptian state has found
ways to contain the movement: Government coercion, limited informal toleration, and
the co-optation of al-Azhar.
5.1 Introduction:
There is much to be said about the influence that the Muslim Brotherhood has had in
Egyptian politics. It is by no means any surprise to the public of Egypt what the aims
and goals of the Brotherhood are. Din wa dawla, referring to marriage of religion
and the state reflects the idea that Islam embodies, which is pervasive in
Brotherhood ideology. The Brotherhood view Islam as a complete system governing
all aspects of life. It encompasses all things material and spiritual, societal and
individual, political and personal. These broad visions of an Islamic state have helped
lead to a dramatic resurgence of calls for Islam as the solution to societal issues. The
Muslim Brotherhood describe their organization as more than either a political party
or a charitable, reformist society. Rather, it is a spiritual worldwide organization that
encompasses all aspects of life. Yet it is important to understand that the founder of
the Brotherhood, Hassan al-Banna, insisted that the Muslim Brotherhood was
committed to broad-based social reform, not to the direct exercise of political
44 John O. Voll, Fundamentalism in the Sunni Arab World, in Fundamentalism Observed, ed. Martin
E. Marty and R. Scott Appleby (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1991), 366

The founding of the Muslim Brotherhood was in 1928 and it emerged as a
powerful organization that had both political and social agendas. Beginning as an
association for Islamic reform, serving workers in the British-controlled Suez Canal
Zone, and soon Cairo (1943), the Brotherhood materialized as the first modem
organized, mass-based, multi-functional Islamist organization to speak to the needs of
the new urban classes now emerging throughout Egypt.
The Muslim Brotherhood have not specifically laid out what their state
would look like, what the Islamic state they envision would entail, but it must be
noted that the terms democracy, liberty, and freedom are used freely and
repeatedly by the Brotherhood. This strongly suggests that the Brotherhood are
dedicated to notions of democracy and that democratic institutions can function
within a system of Islamic legislation. The Brotherhood have been quick to dismiss
any claims that Islam and democracy are incompatible.45 Brotherhood member Isam
al-Aryan says of democracy that the Brothers consider constitutional rule to be
closest to Islamic rule... We are the first to call for and apply democracy. We are
devoted to it until death.46
Using the Islamic concept of Da wa47 (call), the Muslim Brotherhood in
very general terms, calls for the re-Islamization of Egyptian society and the
application of Shari a, to law and politics. Their objective is the Islamization of civil
45 Jihad al-Kurdi, The Muslim Brotherhood and Democracy: Conference Transformed to
Confrontation, Liwa al-lslam, October 1990, 15. This article was an analysis of a conference held in
Cairo from 29 September to 1 October 1990 on The Development of Democracy in the Arab World.
46 Quoted in Sana Abed-Kotob, The Accommodationists Speak: Goals and Strategies of the Muslim
Brotherhood in Egypt International Journal Middle East Studies. 27 (1995), p.325
A7Da wa literally means "issuing a summons" or "making an invitation", being the active participle of a
verb meaning variously "to summon" or "to invite"

society whereby Islam would be the guiding principle in schools, mosques, clubs,
associations and social welfare services for those employed as laborers, clerks and
professionals in the Western-oriented, modem urban sector. They are highly active in
civil society, seeking to establish networks of social and political connections that
answer basic social and economic needs and encourage political loyalty(A. Jamal
2009: 1154).
The overt use of Islamic doctrine in their message has not turned away the
masses. The doctrine of the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamists have been
accompanied by the movements provision of social services that the Egyptian regime
could not maintain any longer in times of economic crisis. Fueled by an Islamic
economic sector, the Muslim Brotherhood capitalized politically on the proliferation
of services, jobs, and material benefits (Albrecht & Wenger 2006). The Brotherhood
is dedicated not only to democracy, but toward the expansion of democracy.
Ideologically, the Brotherhood accepts democracy as the institutional arrangements
for arriving at political decisions in which individuals acquire the power to decide by
means of a competitive struggle for the peoples vote. The democratizing potential of
the Brotherhood coupled with their popularity amongst the masses as a CSO poses a
large threat to the Egyptian regime.
Wickham (2002) in her seminal study, demonstrated that the Muslim
Brotherhoods outreach fell on fertile soil within Egyptian society at large. They have
innovative recruitment and membership registration strategies, disciplined
organizational techniques, and comprehensive social services for new migrant
workers flooding into Egyptian cites. The Brothers organizational capacities stand out

in Egypt and reflect positively its role as a powerful social movement organization
within civil society. They guarantee high degrees of homogeneity among its rank.
Public outreach is institutionalized through a network that reaches almost every
comer in the country and facilitates the coordination of the Brothers work in the
professional syndicates, schools, universities and student unions, clubs and charity
organizations (Albrecht and Wegner 2006: 130). During Sadats presidency the
Muslim Brotherhood had built up its basis (during the 1970s) in the universities. By
the end of the 1980s, the Brothers controlled the student unions in all major
universities including those in Cairo, Alexandria, Mansura, and also a/-Azhar
university. (Al-Awadi 2005: 64).
The Muslim Brotherhood have found themselves in a position to develop a
strong presence within professional associations and syndicates, which has allowed
them to make in-roads politically through civil society channels. Muslim Brother
activists gained an opportunity to hone their leadership skills, broaden their base of
support, and present an alternative model of political life through civic activism.
(Wickham 1997: 131). Despite their professional basis, most Egyptian syndicates
were, until the early 1980s, under the control of the government. There are 22
professional syndicates in Egypt with a total of 3.5 million members. The supremacy
of the Muslim Brothers as a controlling majority took place in the five most
politically active syndicates, representing doctors, engineers, pharmacist, scientists,
and lawyers (Fahmy 1998). In addition, the Muslim Brothers attempted to control

other syndicates through affiliated syndicates outside of Cairo, or through the
activities of the syndicates Liberty and Islamic Law Committees.48
52 Egyptian State Containment of The Muslim Brotherhood
Amal Jamal (2009) notes that since meaningful democratization might
well lead to the taking over of the state by the Muslim Brotherhood, the regime has
remained preoccupied with preventing its rivals from obtaining political power. It
seeks to block Islamic candidates from winning seats in the parliament. Most
importantly, if democratization meant Islamization, then the ruling elite had to
provide a counter-discourse to the Brotherhood movement that has found its strength
within Egyptian civil society. The ruling elite found itself ever more deeply involved
in seeking to manipulate religion to its own advantage.
As a reaction to the governments harassment in the 1980s of Islamist
organizations, and its imposition of various restrictions on them both inside and
outside parliament, the Muslim Brothers increased political control over professional
syndicates (Fahmy 1998). Those restrictions had prevented the Muslim Brotherhood
from acting as an opposition party, and had caused a decline in its representation in
parliament in the early 1990s. Analysts observing this trend see an inverse
relationship between the rise in power of the Muslim Brothers within the syndicates
and their declining representation in parliament (ibid, p. 553).
48 These committees were established by the Muslim Brotherhoods members in all the syndicates. The
aim of these committees is to build support, through conferences and public lectures, for sharia
(Islamic law) as the system of law in Egypt.

The relationship between the state and professional syndicates had been
most contentious during the Mubarak regime. After the Muslim Brotherhood was
successfully able to win leadership roles in many professional syndicates in the early
1990s, the government wrote legislation which was enacted to bring most of the
syndicates under the management of government-appointed judicial committees
(Brownlee 2002a: 7). The regime embarked on the dissolution of the Brotherhoods
influence in all professional syndicates, and outlawed its participation in the
parliamentary elections of 1995. In 1999, the government arrested 20 alleged Muslim
Brothers, mostly lawyers, university professors, and other professionals, and accused
them of membership in an illegal organization and attempting to control the activities
of professional associations. Furthermore, the Syndicate Democratization Law was
created to put an end to the role played by the Brotherhood in those syndicates, which
inevitably meant the curtailment of their independence from the state. As Albrecht
and Wegner (2006) point out, the 1990s marked the end of the political honeymoon
of the 1980s and the Muslim Brotherhood came under siege from coercive statist
containment policy of minimal toleration and formal restriction.
It may seem as though the regime on the 90s was in a tough position,
where the opposition movements, both politically and within civil society, were ready
to make change. Yet, the government has been savvy, and maneuvered in such a way
to take advantage of this. The ruling elite exploited the rise of Islamic forces to curb

any democratization and maintain a tight grip on the electoral system, as the
parliamentary elections in the recent two decades demonstrate.49
Political events taking place in Algeria50in the early 1990s were closely
observed by the regime. The events provided a basis for which the Egyptian regime
could make the case that Islamists were dangerous to the country. Furthermore, it
gave the regime added support from the secularists who were given a good reason to
abandon their push for democracy. Norton (1995:6) observes that Arab intellectuals
who previously emphasized the imperative of democracy are no longer enthusiastic
about this project for fear that Islamists would be able to replicate the electoral
success of the Islamic Salvation Front (FIS) in Algeria. The secularists fear of this
scenario is justified by the logic that if Islamists come to power, there is no guarantee
that they would abide by the rules of democracy.
Since the mid 1990s the ruling regime deviated from its earlier more
accepting approach towards the Brotherhood, under the false pretext that the
Brotherhood was maintaining relations with militant groups. The Jam a Islamiyya s
and Jihads militant initiative51 starting in the 1980s and lasting throughout the 90s,
had helped to impair opportunities for the Brothers since it had increased diffuse fears
49 Despite persecution, intimidation, denial of legal status and widespread voter fraud, the Muslim
Brotherhood won 17 seats as independent candidates, thus constituting the largest bloc of opposition
members in parliament (Howeidy, 2000).
50 The Algerian conflict began in December 1991, when the Islamic Salvation Front (FIS) party gained
popularity amongst the Algerian people and the National Liberation Front (FNL) party, fearing the
former's victory, cancelled elections after the first round. At this time the countrys military effectively
took control of the government, and president Chandi Bendjedid was forced from office. After the FIS
was banned and thousands of its members arrested, Islamist guerillas rapidly emerged and began an
armed campaign against the government and its supporters.
51 Disgruntled off shoots of the Muslim Brotherhood who were not aligned with the Brotherhoods more
moderate views.

of an Islamist revolution (Ibid., p. 135). The government enacted the 1992 Anti-Terror
Law, which criminalized non-violent political opposition and was used to arrest and
prosecute people not accused of committing or advocating violence but simply of
alleged affiliation with the Muslim Brotherhood and its NGOs (Singerman 2002, 30).
Throughout the 1990s the Egyptian political elite took the lead to install a
strategy ofindiscriminate state repression (Hafez &Wiktorowicz 2004: 78), that
targeted not only the radical groups, but also the Muslim Brotherhood. The 1992
Anti-Terror Law gave the executive the right to transfer individual cases to military
courts. These courts provide even fewer legal protections, rights to appeal, and due
process, and men who have appeared before this court have been quickly executed
(Singerman 2002). The coercive measure which the Egyptian state enacted led to
more arbitrary arrests of the Brotherhoods rank and file and prominent activists,
particularly in the run-up to the parliamentary elections in 1995 and 2000. The regime
sent 54 Brotherhood members to prison by military trial in 1995 and detained
thousands more without charge.
5.3 Limited Informal Toleration
In his influential article on civil society in Jordan, Quintan Wiktorowicz
(2000) posited that under certain circumstances, civil society institutions are more an
instrument of state social control than a mechanism of collective empowerment. In
Jordan, the regime believed that rather than risk uncontrollable popular protest and
collective action that could destabilize the political system, they should instead offer
new, though often limited, opportunities for the creation of civil society organizations.

The Egyptian regime never made an attempt to formally destroy the
organizational civil societal capacities of the Muslim Brotherhood. The Brotherhood
maintains offices in Cairo and other cities in the country and the coordination of
activities is openly organized in the professional syndicates (Albrecht & Wenger
2006: 126). Although the Brotherhood is excluded from political dialogue with other
opposition forces in the country (i.e. legal political parties and human rights NGOs);
the Brotherhood still has managed to remain the strongest opposition force in
parliament, all the more so since the 2005 elections in which the Islamists, as
independents, managed to win 88 of a total of 444 seats.52 The logic behind the
toleration of the Muslim Brotherhood is that it does not only figure as an opponent of
the regime but maybe at times even to a higher degree as a political ally. It is
rational for the regime to grant the Muslim Brotherhood some public space in order to
uphold fears of the Islamist threat, by which coercive measures can be legitimized
and thereby prolong the state of emergency and control elections (Albrecht 2006:
As the Egyptian governments legitimacy began to fade during the late
1980s and 1990s due to high levels of debt and inflation, the political process within
the country also changed. The economic crisis that ensued prevented the government
from providing social services that the Muslim Brotherhood had taken advantage of.
In order to placate groups affected by the economic crisis and consequent reform
52 At the time of writing, parliamentary elections took place in Egypt, where many of the gains made in
2005 by the Muslim Brotherhood were erased and many have concluded that the elections were rigged
in order to prevent the NDP from losing seats in Parliament. This section does not reflect the 2010

policies, new political liberalization measures, ranging from consultative assemblies
(with little real power) to relatively free and fair elections, were enacted
(Wiktorowicz 2000). Liberalization measures created new opportunities for
associationalism, and civil society organizations proliferated rapidly. The process of
political change was driven by the regimes need to reassert control, foster stability
and maintain legitimacy (Ibid., p. 48).
It is ironic that the key factor for the growth of the Muslim Brotherhood as
a CSO originated in the states tolerance for the organization and its Islamization of
education policy. Initially, in order to undermine active student Leftists and
Nasserites53, Sadat pursued a divide and rule policy by sponsoring Islamist groups
in the universities and supporting the publications (i.e. Al-DaWa, Al-Itisam) of the
Brotherhood. Sadat, feeling the pressure from other oppositional groups [secularists,
Nasserists, Marxists, and Nationalists], felt the need to encourage the Muslim
Brotherhood to compete for power within the universities. As part of Sadats strategy
to roll back Nasserism, he began to free jailed Muslim Brothers in 1971. At this time,
the state found it necessary to require religious education in schools and to use state
institutions to push government led initiatives (Esposito 1992).
When structural adjustment policies triggered a food riot in 1977
spearheaded by Islamist groups and the Brotherhood, Sadat not only retreated from
cutting food subsidies, but called for greater Islamic educational content and more
authority for al-Azhar and the Ministry of Religious Endowments. Sadat took
advantage of this time to insert Islamic legitimacy into the government. He cultivated
53 Supporters of former President Gamal Abdel Nasser.

a religious image, spoke frequently at Friday mosque, and became known as the
believer president (Lee 2008: p.88). Sadat welcomed and encouraged an upsurge of
religious feeling, apparently believing it useful in strengthening citizen identification
with the state and support for him as president. These initiatives highlighted the
governments shift toward an Islamic agenda to gain legitimacy. However, the regime
had exhibited a cyclical policy toward the Brotherhood; one characterized by cautious
acknowledgment, followed by an effort to incorporate the Brotherhoods program
into state institutions and then suppression, using arrests, murder, torture and
detention without trial. It should be noted that neither Sadat nor Mubarak later,
offered full legal recognition of the Muslim Brothers. The Mubarak regime, to ensure
its survival, legitimacy and to foster an environment of competition that could
counter-balance the Muslim Brotherhood, initiated a push for the proliferation of civil
society organizations.
The proliferation of state-controlled civil society did little to enhance the
lives of Egyptian citizens and was merely limited liberalization to enhance the
regimes status and power. Any prospects for further political reform started to
deteriorate sharply under Mubarak. Brownlee (2002) notes that Indulging in
executive decrees, the extensive use of military courts, and the broad deployment of
security forces, Mubarak reversed Egypts course and began to deliberalize,
renewing controls on opposition parties, elections, Islamist activity, civil society
organizations and the press. (p. 8)
Michel Foucault argues that disciplinary power derives not from the use of
visible coercion and commands but from the partition of space into surveillable units

that can be regulated and administered.54 The Egyptian state wields disciplinary
power through the use of the administrative apparatus and regulation. This discipline
requires that the objects of surveillance are constantly visible and subject to
technologies of control, and Egypt developed a series of administrative techniques to
observe, register, record, and monitor associationalism (Wiktorowicz 2000). The state
must first ensure that collective activities are performed within surveillable, state-
delineated space that is subject to administrative regulation and can be monitored
The state was committed committed to transforming the institutional
structure of Islam. Every religious institution must in some measure play politics to
protect itself within the system. Its most important tool to counterbalance and control
the Muslim Brotherhood and at the same time maintain Islamic legitimacy had been
the religious institution of al-Azhar. Virtually every religious act has acquired
political significance. Every proclamation, every sermon, every study group, every
CSO operated in the mane of religion resonates within a structure defined, regulated
and monitored by the government through al-Azhar. (Lee 2008)
5.4 Politicization of Islam
The enduring role of religion and its place in the daily life of different
societies make it necessary to escape judgmental assertions and look for analytical
tools that help in understanding its impact on countries. It may be helpful to
understand that I view institutionalized religion and its impacts as being neither
54 Michel Foucault, Discipline and Punish (New York: Vintage Books, 1979). Quoted in Quintan
Wiktorowicz Civil Society as Social Control: State Power in Jordan Comparative Politics, Vol. 33,
No.l (Oct 2000), pp. 43-61.

democratic nor anti-democratic. Dismissing the political importance of religiosity or
adopting dichotomous models that view democracy and religion as two antagonistic
world views and authority systems is reductive. (Al-Azmeh 1992). On the other hand,
adopting one hegemonic state religion is counter democratic not only in pluralistic
and multi-religious societies, but also in homogenous ones. No religion has proved
itself to be absolutely immune to democracy and the changes that it brings and
processes of democratization have taken place in many states where religion has a
central influence and role in the public sphere (Jamal 1146).
According to Stepan (2005) historical evidence demonstrates that there is
nothing deterministic about a religions relationship to democracy. One could
generalize that religion plays an ambivalent role in politics. The influence of religion
is not one dimensional and while it can lead to authoritarianism, it can also contribute
to tolerance and democratization. Religion as such is not necessarily a democratic or
non-democratic factor of political regimes (Jamal 1147).
Philpott claims that there are four models of relationship between religious
and political authority. The first model is conflictual integrationism, where a regime
with an integrationist political theology suppresses religion, denying the autonomy
and political participation of religious institutions. The second model is consensual
integrationism, where the institutional authority of religion and state is intertwined.
The third model is conflictual differentiation, where religion and the state contest for
political authority. The fourth model is consensual differentiation, where religious

freedom is guaranteed and religious institutions are free to participate in the political
game and promote their views. (Philpott, 2007: 505).
It is important to understand, taking from Philpotts models, that neither
state nor religion should be treated as unitary and homogenous actors. They are far
more than one dimensional (Philpott, 2007). Furthermore, religion cannot also be
treated as a homogenous set of beliefs and practices. One cannot ignore the
institutional differentiation between various religious streams within the same faith as
well as the differences between various groups of faith in the same state (Jamal 1147).
Accordingly, institutionalized religion may intend that religion should play
a prominent, institutionalized role in the public sphere and in the state. In Egypt, the
regime institutionalized Islam in order to curb the power of the radical and even
moderate Islamists. It promoted Islamic rulings and facilitated the application of some
Islamic Shari 'a laws in order to compete with the Islamic movement for public
legitimacy (ibid., 1155). Although the regime instituted policies that were seen as
liberalizing and symbolic of democracy, the minor liberalization of the state at the
political level had to be balanced with illiberal measures on the religious front in
order to strengthen the legitimacy of the regime. Islamist organizations chafe under
the limitations placed upon them, and the state, still dominated by secular-minded
elites, appeared chagrined by the concessions it found itself making. Both sides
proclaimed their commitment to democracy, and neither believed the other was
sincere. The regime feared that democratization would empower Islamists to revise

the configuration of the religious-political sphere currently guaranteed by the coercive
powers of the state (Lee 2008: p. 106).
Since the 1952 Free Officers coup, the challenge of the Egyptian regime
was to curb the power of Islamists, whether that be in civil society or political society.
Nasser, in a very forward thinking manner, decided to define Egypt as an Islamic
state, yet pursue his secular nationalist agenda. Islam became institutionalized as the
state religion, controlled by the countrys religious institutions. The new regime
made certain that al-Azhar, the oldest institution of Islamic teaching and jurisdiction,
was integrated into the state apparatus. Al-Azhar is the most important center of
learning for Muslims and is an institution that protects the teachings of Sunni Islam.55
Al-Azhar existed well before the advent of the current regime and was later integrated
as a new pillar of the regime for legitimacy-creating purposes. Nassers co-optation of
al-Azhar was an attempt to draw on Islamic legitimacy, despite the regimes modern,
revolutionary and nationalist discourse (Albrecht 2005: 381).
The institutionalization of al-Azhar was a way for the government to
closely control the religious institution and to appropriate religion, without making it
disappear from the public sphere. An anti-religious political model was something the
government knew it could not pursue because they understood that religion played an
incredibly important role in the lives of most Egyptian citizens. Although the state
retains the upper hand, the lingering threats of radical Islam and the mass appeal of
Islamic symbols and programs meant the state has needed to accommodate religion
and control it at the same time. Under a 1961 reform law, al-Azhar passed under the
55 For a more thorough history of al-Azhar see Eccel, Egypt, Islam, and Social Change: Al-Azhar in
conflict and accomodation. 1984, & Dodge, Al-Azhar: A millennium of Muslim learning. 1961.

direct control of the president, who appointed the shaykh (leader) of al-Azhar; the
Academy of Islamic Research; modem faculties were added to the religious ones; and
the teacher, the professor, the imam and the khatib (preacher) educated at al-Azhar
became civil servants performing religious services for salary. (Zeghal 1999)
Nasser deprived al-Azhar of their economic independence and
(dispossessing them) of their judicial power. He then paradoxically put al-Azhar
under his control through an ambiguous transformation. In order to deprive any other
groups or institutions of independent religious authority, Nasser had to give a
monopoly on legitimate religious interpretation to a group of specialists he could
control by reshaping them into a bureaucracy. He created a group of religious men
known as rijal al-din, whoas civil servants received regular salarieshad a state-
controlled monopoly on religion and constituted the authority regarding knowledge
(Zeghal 1999,375). Sadat, with the creation of a new constitution in 1971,
proclaimed Shari'a one source of legislation. Along with al-Azhar, the regime
modified the Egyptian constitution in 1980 to make the Sharia the principal source
of legislation (Lee, 2008: p.98).
As the state became the sole overseer of Sharia (Islamic law), al-Azhar
was increasingly used as a legitimizer for state actions. Al-Azhar could not afford to
challenge the legitimacy of the regime from the inside; instead it defended the state
against the radical Islamist perspective that defined the political leadership as kufr,
unbelievers (Lee, 2008: p.98). The state became deeply involved in the regulation of
religious organizations, albeit not in full control, and battled semiautonomous
religious organizations in the political sphere. In particular, the growth of al-Azhar

was important for the governments long struggle with the Muslim Brotherhood.56
The government repeatedly called upon al-Azhar to issue statements justifying
campaigns against Islamists and lend support to the introduction of legislation that
might otherwise have aroused religious opposition (Albrecht, 2005: 382). This is
important because its helps to confirm decisions of the government and the court, and
in many ways lends them an Islamic justification for their actions, which for a public
that largely identifies with Islam, is very important.57
The co-optation of al-Azhar was not met with open arms at first. Many
within the institution were bitter and opposed the governments take over. Although
many scholars were opposed to the increasing government regulations and al-Azhars
reduced autonomy, they were ultimately content that the institution gained crucial
state resources in the process. The increase in resources allowed al-Azhar to carry out
massive capital projects, such as a new campus in Madinat Nasr and expanding its
nationwide program of primary and secondary education (Moustafa, 2000: 6).
According to Starrett new educational initiatives pumped resources into al-Azhars
primary school network, increasing enrollment by 70% between 1976 and 1980 and
125% under Mubarak (1998: 105). Together with the Ministry of Awqaf (Religious
Foundations), Azhar became and remains the principal tool for state control of
56The sentence from the constitution Islamic jurisprudence is the principal source of legislation does
not satisfy the Muslim Brotherhood or other radical Islamists, determined secularists, or even some in
Azhar, but it has served to turn debate toward a more manageable question: whether existing Egyptian
law reflects the Sharia.
57 A survey taken in 2000 reported that some 80 percent of Egyptian respondents identified themselves
first as Muslims and only secondarily as Egyptians (10 percent) or Arabs (1 percent). The percentage of
Egyptians saying they are best described by a religious term (Muslim in this case) exceeds comparable
numbers for Turkey (29 percent), Israel (44 percent), and Iran (61 percent). Although no direct
comparison with past surveys is available, the magnitude of that number seems to confirm what many
have observed:that Egyptians seem to be more religious than ever before. (Lee 2008: pp.90)

religious practice in Egypt, administering a system of religious schools that expanded
from a total of 90,000 students in 1970 to about 300,000 by 1980. The university
itself came to enroll about 90,000 students; faculty, employees of the state, constitute
the elite of Azhar. This was important in that it has helped to counter-balance Islamist
activities at the educational level.
The government was increasingly aware that Egypts flourishing Islamist
civil society movements were a result of an oversupply of graduatessecondary, post-
secondary and universityrelative to the demand for their skills (Richards &
Waterbury, 1996). Since Nassers presidency, graduates, usually as a last resort, were
expected to be absorbed into the poorly paid, stagnant state sector. Between 1976 and
1986,90% of new jobs came from either the government or from emigration abroad
(Richards & Waterbury, 1996: 119). The state weakened and almost destroyed the
hold of religious elites on the education of youth. Yet decades of populist educational
policy and austerity budgets diminished the standard of graduates so that few had
skills demanded by the emerging private sector. The result reinforced the place of
religion in Egyptian society. This forced the governments hand to use its religious
institutions. Al-Azhar became a prominent fixture in the education sector in order to
reverse this trend, and the government provided al-Azhar with further authority. The
Azhari system bounced back in a new form combining secular and Islamic criteria,
and became a force in shaping the Egyptian political culture as a whole.
With the integration of religious institutions, the government has also been
successful at taking over one of the Brotherhoods and other Islamist strong hold; the
Ahli mosques. Ahli mosques are private mosques that are built and controlled by the

people rather than the state. Many of these, as mentioned before, grew extensively in
part because the governments development programs had fallen into crisis. It is
within these private mosques that the Brotherhood found an avenue for getting their
message out, and an outlet for civic engagement to take place. It was estimated that
by 1993,170,000 mosques existed in Egypt, of which only around 30,000 were
sanctioned and controlled by the state; roughly half of all private voluntary
associations (some 15,000) are supposed to have religious foundations (Wickham,
2002: 98). The Muslim Brotherhood is believed to be the largest and most important
single organization of Islamist social outreach within these mosques, where they
serve as the main belt of transmission for the provision of social services (Albrecht &
Wegner, 2006: 134).
Private mosques outside the governments control are potentially
threatening to the state. No other societal organization is able to assemble such a large
group on a weekly basis with an equal amount of influence over the masses as does
the mosque (Moustafa, 2000). Beginning in 1952 and continuing until today, the
governments of Nasser, Sadat, and Mubarak each participated in an ambitious
program of subsidizing and nationalizing virtually all of Egypts mosques. Table 1
illustrates the trend.

'I'ABLK 1 Trends m state and private mosque building. 1962-94
_______|%2________ 1982________ ______________1994
Number Percentage Number Percentage Number Percentage
Stale controlled 3,006 17 6.071 19 50.000 71
Private 14.212 83 26.622 HI 20.000 29
With state aid 999 7 7.160 27 N/A N/A
Without aid 13.213 93 19.462 73 N/A N/A
Soanes Berger. Islam in t'gypi Today, IK. Biancht, Unruly Corporatism, 190; at~Musau-*ar, 23 Sep-
tember 1994. 431-42. K0.
The government utilizing al-Azhar, increased state-support for mosques,
and in turn increased the amount of leverage that the government could exert on
private mosques. It has been under the Mubarak regime that the nationalization of
mosques increased. State-owned mosques have been situated strategically in the
urban centers of Cairo and Upper Egypt, where the majority of Islamists reside
(Moustafa, 2000: 8). The government enhanced al-Azhars power by giving it control
of the majority of private mosques by 2002, estimated to number about 50,000
(Barraclough, 1998). Accompanying the take over of private mosques was the
implementation of government established Imams (prayer leaders) who could address
topics friendly to the state. It had become a priority of the state to incorporate salaried
imams to silence the independent voice of Islamist civil society.
In the 1970s, the regime established a network of district offices in all of
Egypts twenty-six govemorates charged with selecting imams for state mosques and
monitoring their actions.59 Candidates are routinely screened by a committee made up
58 Table 1 see Moustafa 2000
59 As with the government reorganization of al-Azhar in 1961, there has been resistance to the
nationalization of private mosques. In several cases, forced government nationalization has led to mass
arrests and rioting. See Gaffney,"ChangingVoices of Islam,"45

of al-Azhar and government officials in an effort to ward out any radical Islamists or
those who sympathize with the Brotherhood (ibid,. 8). Furthermore, through
legislation which was determined by al-Azhar, the Peoples Assembly required all
remaining private mosques to be approved and licensed through the Ministry of
Endowments. Not only had the imams been selected by government institutions, but
what they said and did was also selected by the government.
The Director of the Fatwa in al-Azhar, along with other committee
members who make up the High Council for Islamic preaching, have the
responsibility of deciding the topics to be covered in state-controlled mosques.60 The
High Council has the authority to draft and dictate the content of all Friday sermons61
for distribution to all state mosques. Those imams who strayed too far from the
outlined topics are punished (Moustafa, 2000).
Mohammed Ali Mahjub, Egypts former Minister of Endowments, was
reported as saying in an interview, When we receive reports and ascertain that a
preacher is guilty of violations that harm social peace and security, then we consider
that he has moved from preaching to political action. He must be removed.62
Furthermore, he added, A report covering any excesses in Egyptian mosques is
compiled every week. Dont worry; the mosques are under control.63Yet, besides
60 Awqaf Minister on Mosque Extremism Controls, al-Musawwar (23 September 1994), p. 19
61 Friday sermons, otherwise know in arabic as Salat- al Jumma is the most important prayer to attend
for Muslims. It is required in Islam that Muslims attend Friday prayer, and along with the special
Friday prayer, the Khudbah (sermon) is an important aspect of this. This is when the Imam discusses
topics of the day, either political or social and relates it to Islam.
62 Mahjub estimated that about 20 preachers are penalized per week throughout Egypt.
63 Al-Musawwar (23 September 1994), 18. quoted in Tamir Moustafa Conflict and Cooperation
between the State and religious Institutions in Contemporary Egypt. in International Journal of Mid
East Studies, Vol. 32. No.l (Feb., 2000), p. 9

abusing long standing Muslim urban spatial practice regarding community control of
neighborhood mosques, the Ministry of Endowments strategy violated a widely held
norm of Islamist civil society that the imam of a neighborhood mosque remain
sufficiently independent of the state so as to guide the moral life of the community
(Wickham, 1997), a central principle in Islamic notions of civil society.
Though the state-controlled mosques have lost considerable autonomy,
they have gained valuable financial resources that they had not previously had.
Access to government coffers has been an important institutional achievement,
allowing al-Azhar to expand its role in Egyptian society, while also increasing the
Islamic legitimacy of the government.
Furthermore, since the 1980s, al-Azhar had been directly involved in the
censorship of the media, which at the time became largely influenced by the
Brotherhoods al DaWa publication (Albrecht, 2005). Not only was this a means in
which to counterbalance the voice of the opposition Islamists, it was also a means of
challenging the liberal intellectuals. Violent attacks on liberal intellectuals such as
Naguib Mahfuz and Faraj Fuda, the apostasy cases of Nasr Hamid Abu Zayd and
Hasan Hanafi, and the removal of books from shelves and articles from newspapers,
are illustrative (ibid., 382). All were either directly initiated or quietly, and sometimes
openly, approved by al-Azhar. Although this seemed to accommodate the voice of
most Islamists, the moderate Muslim Brotherhood was quick to denounce the actions
but found it difficult to do so publicly due to the censorship by al-Azhar.
It seems that institutionalization of al-Azhar by the government should be
contentious. Al-Azhar was co-opted by the regime in the struggle against Islamists,

yet it seemingly accommodated those most radical of Islamist organizations, while
targeting the moderate Muslim Brotherhood. There are many explanations for this,
but the most simple explanation is that radical Islamists, those who are not aligned
with the Brotherhood, presented little political threat to the incumbent regime. This is
important to note, because the government used who it needed to in order to maintain
its survival. The group that claimed responsibility for the murder of Faraj Fuda in
1992 referred to an al-Azhar judgement that called Fuda an apostate. 64 In June 1998,
the Front of the Ulema of al-Azhar, a bastion of radical Islamist thinking, was
dissolved by the newly appointed Shaykh, Muhammed Sayyid Tantawi, after
candidates close to the Muslim Brotherhood had allegedly won a majority in the
Fronts board (Barraclough, 1998: 242), threatening to moderate the organization.
The growing power of al-Azhar in the media has made it difficult for the
Brotherhood to find avenues to transmit their message. The Brotherhood has had to
find other forms for communication, and for the most part, the MB took to confined
legally acceptable channels. This includes communication of their platform by written
word. In order to get their message out, they have had to cooperate with other
political and social groups that can give them a platform. Both the Liberal and Labor
parties have provided the Brotherhood a media stage to disseminate their Islamist
message. Brotherhood members have also written articles for al-Haqiqa and al-Usra
al-Arabiyya, both operated by the Liberal party, and for al-Shab, operate by the Labor
party (Abed-Kotob, 1995). Despite the fact that these channels have opened up for the
64 The Islamic Research Center of al-Azhar has censorship responsibilities limited to Islamic Issues
only; however the Centers recommendations are hardly ever left unimplemented and, more often than
not, al-Azhar determines what constitutes Islamic Issues and what does not.

Brotherhood, they are still under considerable constraints and censorship from al-
Azhar65, who after a 1994 Council of State ruling, was granted the power to censor
the media. The ruling also stated that al-Azhar was to be limited to Islamic issues,
although it would be for al-Azhar to decide what constituted an Islamic
issue (Barraclough 1998: 242). Azhars Institute for Islamic Research has the right to
censor all Egyptian publications according to Islamic criteria. It has largely succeeded
in exercising that right. The shaykh of Azhar, named by the government, is in theory
the chief spokesman for Islam in Egypt, and is empowered to issue opinion and laws
affecting every Muslim in Egypt (Lee, 2008: p. 102).
The states Islamic image was increasingly invested in the cultural realm
as a strategy for neutralizing the radicals. The state pursued this strategy on the
grounds of morality, using cultural productions and the media as weapons for
discrediting militant and moderate Islam. In the convergence of forces, official Islam
and conservative Islam close ranks. The positions that al-Azhar has taken on a
number of issues demonstrate the links developing between the two. Al-Azhars
involvement in court cases brought against artistic and intellectual productions tended
to line up on the side of conservatives66. Under the state emergency rules, trials of the
militants went before military courts in order to speed up and control the process. In
its confrontation with the militants, the state also called on its official ulema and was
65 On al-Azhar's expanding role in censorship, see, The Egyptian Organization for HumanRights,
(Freedom of Thought and Belief: Constraints and Problems; al-Azhar's Censorship of Artistic
Productions) (Cairo: al-Munazzama al-Misriyya li-Huquqal-Insan,1994).
66 On state violence, see Ahmed Abdalla, "Egypt's Islamists and the State: From Complicity to
Confrontation,"Middle East Report 183 (July-August 1993):28-31; seealso,The Egyptian Organization
for Human Rights, Difa a'an Huquq al-lnsan (In Defense of Human Rights) (Cairo: al-Munazzama al-
Misriyya li-Huquiqal-lnsan, 1997).For an overview of the clashes between the state and the militants
over the last two years, see Abdal-Fatah and Rashwan, eds., Taqrir.

able to gamer support in the form of al-Muftis report in 1981, th al-Azhar statement
in 1987, and various other documents condemning the Islamists as religious
extremists. In addition, the state engaged in propagating its own brand of Islam,
sponsoring religious newspapers and television programs, and expanding the power
of al-Azhar in censoring un-Islamic intellectual and artistic productions. As guardians
of orthodox and moderate Islam, they contain the radicals while Islamizing the
state at the cultural level and setting the boundaries of public discourse. The
convergence between the Azhar and the state put limits on the positions available, not
not only neutralizing the militants but also containing the Islamic left, the
Brotherhood and by circumventing the secularists.
The significant amount of power that the state had ceded to al-Azhar in an
effort to gain religious legitimacy could very well have backfired. Al-Azhar was close
to controlling every mosque in Egypt, playing a major role in legal jurisprudence, and
having the final say in media censorship. Yet, for the government the danger was that
al-Azhar and the Muslim Brotherhood could potentially create a de facto alliance,
which if it did emerge, would be powerful force on the Egyptian political scene
(Barraclough 1998: 249). It is expected that Muslim Brothers are to be found among
the thousands of students, staff and higher education experts who are based at Al-
Azhar. In a 1995 round-up of Muslim Brothers, before the national elections, one of
the 14 arrested was an accounting teacher at al-Azhar67. Maintaining control of al-
Azhar was important because it gave the government significant religious power over
the Islamists but could succeed only if Azharis and Muslim Brothers were at odds
67 Qutb al-Arabi and Mutazz al-Hadidi, "Muslim Brotherhood Members Arrested, Tried, MB
Statement on Arrest Issued, Al-Sha b, in FBIS-NES, 10 October 1995.

with one another. At this stage the greatest single ideological obstacle separating the
Muslim Brothers from al-Azhar is the latters refusal to the Camp David Accords.

6. Authoritarianism, Democratization and the role of Civil Society in Egypt
In chapter 2 and 3 of this research the definition of civil society is discussed as well
as a discussion of democratization, authoritarianism and civil societys role. In
chapters 4 and 5 the situation in Egypt is explored examining the development of civil
society, Islamists dominance of civil society, and the relationship between the state
and religion. In this chapter, I will bring the theoretical and empirical elements
together to examine the situation in Egypt. Do theories on civil society and
democracy fail to explain the domestic politics in Egypt? Was the regime, from 1952
until today, strengthened by civil society? Can controlling religious institutions help
to curb the impact of Islamist civil society movements? The main goal of Part 3 is to
explore if civil society in an authoritarian context can actually be used as an
instrument of state and social control, and whether civil society activism in
authoritarian contexts might in fact lead to a reinforcement of authoritarian practices
rather than to the development of democracy.
6.1 Civil Society and Democratization
In the second chapter, the definition of civil society that is used in this
research is discussed. I use a definition of civil society given by Al-Sayyid (1993) that
states civil society encompasses the presence of a considerable number of formal
associations catering to the varied interests of citizens in several areas of their social
activities; state-society relations in which the former respects a reasonable measure of
autonomy for the latter; and acceptance of intellectual and political dissension as a

legitimate right for minorities so long as it is bound by peaceful methods of individual
and collective action. I also include the notion, given by Habermas, that civil society
should be broadened to include virtually all nonviolent associational activity between
the individual and the state. This definition is important because it allows me to
include the Muslim Brotherhood, as well as other non-violent Islamists organizations,
as viable parts of civil society.
Within Egypt there is a particularly large overlap between the political
sphere and civil society sphere. One way the Egyptian autocracy responded to
Islamist civil society pressure was by creating a parallel civil society that was fully
co-opted by the state but which sought, ostensibly, to provide the same goods and
services as Islamist civil society organizations. This blurred the line between political
and civil society (Rahman 2004).68 Despite the limitations of political parties and
civil society organizations, they are not to be viewed as irrelevant. As long as they are
not too oppositional towards the incumbent regime, civil society organizations can
play a role in shaping politics.69 And while Egyptian CSOs are under administrative
control of the state they have sown an exceptional sense for survival and self
organization within a dire context.
68 Maha M. Abdel Rahman, Civil Society Exposed: The Politics ofNGOs in Egypt (London: Tauris
Academic Studies, 2004).
69 Beyond Orthodox Approaches: Assessing Opportunities for Democracy Support in the Middle East
and North Africa, (NIMD/Hivos, 2010).
79 Ibid

6.2 Civil Society, Authoritarianism and Egypt
Is civil society in Egypt considered civil? Is Islamist Civil Society autonomous
from the state?
An important consequence of the concept of civil society has been the notion that
through associations and civic engagement, social capital will be produced (Putnam,
1993). The belief is that an increase in social capital will encourage people to protest
or engage in other forms of behavior that provide an incentive for better governance.
This in turn is said to encourage democratization. Amaney Jamal (2007) in her
studies on civil society and authoritarianism in the Middle East, contradicts Putnam
and states that social capital in a certain context will not necessarily be democratic.
Jamal posits that social capital can be important in the reinforcement of any
government in power, regardless of whether it is democratic or
nondemocratic (2007: 7). This is true assuming that ineffective democratic
institutions promote levels of civic engagement (including social capital, supportive
of nondemocratic procedures and institutions). Although Putnam found that
interpersonal trust is valuable for enhancing behavior that supports democratic rule, it
may be less applicable to nondemocratic societies. Furthermore, social capital in
democratic settings may create opportunities for citizens to collectively seek the help
of democratic institutions and thus legitimate these democratic institutions. This may
also be true in nondemocratic settings where citizens seek out local public officials
through any available avenue-whether formal or informal, thus reinforcing the
legitimacy of the state (Jamal 2007: p.7).

The literature examined in chapter 3 suggests that civil society has indeed
strengthened, however this is not a sign that ruling elites have lost control of power
due to civil society. There is no doubt that civil society is abundant in Egypt and for
over 60 years the ruling regime did not lose control of society. Besides Islamist CSOs,
civil society growth has been the result of government intervention and co-optation.
As Wiktorowicz (2000) suggests, the growth of civil society does not lead to
democratization because it has no real autonomy from the regime and is therefore
unable to perform this function.
Berman, Carothers and Encamacion question the positive normative
connotations that the concept has taken on and argue for a more neutral definition that
would take into account the fact that many groups belonging to civil society are rather
uncivil and are certainly neither pro-democracy nor pro-human rights. This might
apply to some organizations within Egypt, but the overall character of civil society
organizations, highlighted throughout chapter 5 and 6, conclude that civil society
organizations in Egypt are most closely associated with social services and welfare.
Certainly some groups may deviate and function without civility, but the focus of this
thesis was on the Muslim Brotherhood, and as an organization it has proven civil and
committed to human rights. Berman, in particular, is quick to suggest that the Islamist
nature of civil society is a clear indication that civil society in Egypt is clearly
incompatible with democracy and that it is uncivil. Yet, the Muslim Brotherhood
has stated in their doctrine that democracy is an important aspect in their agenda. I
would agree with Cavatorta that Islamists in civil society need to be recognized, and

within Egypt to exclude Islamists would be to exclude one of the most autonomous
parts of civil society.
6.3 Islamist Civil Society Organization in Authoritarian Egypt:
Chapter 3 presented a discussion about the role of Islamist civil society organizations
was discussed. Their were a few different scholars which I chose to focus on, Pratt,
Jamal, Clark, Wicktorowicz and Berman. There opinions on Islamist civil societys
role varied from positive outlooks to negatives ones. I would like to begin by
addressing Pratts analysis of Islamist civil society and compare that to my findings in
6.4 Analysis
6.4.1 Pratt and Egypt
Pratt argues that Islamist civil society organizations are a threat. The logic she uses is
much the same used by the regime in order to maintain grip on power. In Egypt, post-
independence projects failed to take shape and as government led progress stalled,
Islamist organizations filled in the void. This is no difference than findings made by
Pratt. At this point I would challenge her on her second point. Pratt claims that the
growth of civil society represented a dissent against the ruling elites, and that the
form that this dissent took did not coalesce around liberal and democratic notions. My
objection to Pratt is that although some fringe elements of civil society may have
turned away from democratic notions, the Muslim Brotherhood, as stated by their
founder Hassan al-Banna, have been dedicated to democratic principles, within an
Islamic context.

Muslim Brotherhood dominance in civil society goes against Pratts
argument. Pratt claims that Islamist domination of civil society is not positive because
it does not provide a democratic counter discourse to challenge the regime and
furthermore that they [Islamists] marginalize secularists and liberals. What is ironic
about this is that the democratic ambitions of the Muslim Brotherhood are the reason
why they had not been successful in challenging the regime, and furthermore that the
marginalization of secularists and liberals is due most in part because they bought
into the regimes scare-tactics. The regime in Egypt had been diligent in comparing
the Muslim Brotherhood to other fundamentalist Islamic organizations whose only
aspirations are the complete overthrow of the state in favor of an Islamic theocracy.
Secularists and liberals have been thrown into a situation in which they believe they
must pick between the better of two evils. If they choose democracy, they fear that
Islamist popularity among the public will ensure their victory at the polls. Once given
the power to control the country, the secularists and liberals have been led to think
that the Islamists will then throw away democracy in order to maintain power and
install a theocracy. So instead, many secular and liberal organizations toe-the-regime
line in order to maintain the status-quo and a non-theocratic state.
Muslim Brotherhood doctrine can very well show that the true aspirations
of their movement is not the complete overthrow of the state. They have
demonstrated that they are committed to an electoral democracy and they would be
willing to share power if they were in a position to do so. It must also be noted, that
Pratt tends to lump all Islamist organizations into one generalized category. The

Muslim Brotherhood represents a moderate Islamic path. Other organizations that are
smaller, less organized and less influential, may subscribe to fundamentalist ideology
but they are in the minority and present a very little threat. Islam in Egypt is not
static, it is diverse and very dynamic.
Pratts analysis deem civil society in authoritarian structures deems it
incapable of producing a viable challenge to the regime. This may have been true in
Egypt for sometime, but her claim is focused on Islamist civil society organizations
unwilling and unable to cooperate with secularists and liberals. In some cases, this
may be true, but as my analysis of Egypt suggests, Islamists in civil society have
routinely joined political movements, that were not tied to religion in order to find a
voice and representation in parliament. Civil societys inability to challenge the
regime, I would posit, had more to do with the authoritarian context for which it is
placed. The Egyptian regime, specifically under Husni Mubarak, went through
considerable trouble to make sure that the establishment of an autonomous united
civil society could not be achieved. As well, the regime manipulated religious
institutions in order to control Islamists and ensure that they were monitored and
I believe that Pratts argument does not fit the Egyptian model of civil
society. Although, broadly speaking, she may be right in saying that civil society is
unable to challenge the regime, she is incorrect in her reasoning. Islamists in Egypt
are not the cause of an ineffective civil society, the real culprit is most certainly the
authoritarian regime.

6.4.2 Jamals Analysis and Egypt
As previously shown, Jamal (2007) posits that the constraints put in place by the
regime make it necessary for civil society organizations to decide which side they are
on. In Egypt, the regime made it difficult for CSOs to function without approval from
the state. For a CSO to exist it must go through multiple government offices to gain
approval. Once approved by the state CSOs must make sure that all funding, done
outside the state apparatus must be submitted to the separate ministries for further
approval. In other words, CSOs can only operate within the confines of the state. This
ensures that the regime can control how CSOs function. If CSOs decide to work
outside the confines of the government, the government has constitutional powers to
dissolve the organizations. Only Islamist CSOs have been successful at moving
around the state, specifically when it comes to funding, because of their ability to use
Islamic charities to fund their programs. But they continue to seek approval from the
state for permits to build schools, organize large events and further their projects.
The idea of social capital that was put forward by Putnam stated that as
citizens engaged with civil society, there would be an increase in social capital. This
social capital would then lead to more citizen demands which would alter the state,
eventually pushing for more democratic practices. Jamal argues that social capital
exists in Egypt, but that this social capital increases within the pro-regime
associations because their members, by playing with the constraints provided, can be
reasonably certain of positive outcomes for the group, which then has no interest in
dismantling the networks in favor of fairer and more democratic ways of access to

decision makers because this would diminish their benefits (Jamal 2007). This is to a
large extent seen in the Muslim Brotherhood. The Brotherhood, although not a pro-
regime organization, decided to play by the rules of the regime. They rarely used
illegal means to challenge the state, and because of this never became a real threat to
the regime.
Where Jamal differs from Pratt in her analysis of civil society is that it is
not Islamists versus secularists. Rather, it is more appropriate to label the relationship
between the state and civil society as pro-regime and anti-regime. Jamal notes that
anti-regime organizations, which do not utilize or do not have patronage networks
available to them, have lower levels of social capital because of their more
democratic values, which do not allow them to obtain the same level of benefits [as
pro-regime organizations] (Jamal: 2007). I would argue that this is not necessarily the
case in Egypt. Within Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood would never be considered a
pro-regime organization, yet it used the networks available to them, such as al-Azhar,
to receive benefits. The Muslim Brotherhood realized that it could be more effective
working within the regimes constraints rather than fighting it outside. This has not
compromised the Brotherhoods democratic aspirations or made them support the
regime. Due in large part because they have found ways to control professional
syndicates and run as independents in other non-religious political organizations. But
the restraints set in place by the regime have prevented civil society organizations
from realizing their full potential. Jamal correctly points out that civil society in the
end does not produce democratization because authoritarian dynamics provide a very

rigid structure of incentives for associational life and does not permit the emergence
of democratic attitudes.
6.4.3 Janine Clark and Egypt
Of all the theories about civil society in the Middle East, I believe that
Janine Clarks theory is most appropriate for the Egyptian case. Clarks first assertion
is that constraints in place against civil society put Islamists, secularists and liberals at
a level playing field. This is most certainly true in the Egyptian case. Law 32, which
gave the regime the right to refuse the creation of any civil association and dissolve it
when they pleased, affected all civil society organizations. Where the Egyptian case
would differ from Clarks claim would be that Islamist organizations have been the
obvious target of the regime. I would argue that the regimes targeting of Islamist
CSOs has also put secularists and liberals at a significant financial disadvantage. By
putting in place laws that monitor and limit all foreign funding of CSOs, the only
organizations that have truly been affected are the secularists and liberals. As well, in
order for liberals and secularist organizations to obtain any funding or permissions,
they must adhere to the rules set out by the regime. This means that they must give up
a certain level of autonomy and toe-the-regime line. All CSOs in Egypt are restricted
in some way by the state.
Clarks second point is that for Islamist CSOs there is no conscious
attempt to create the foundations for an Islamic vision of society (Clark 2004b: 152).
I would argue that this is valid, specifically in regards to the Muslim Brotherhood.
This refutes much of Pratts and Bermans conceptions of Islamist CSOs. The Muslim

Brotherhood insist that they are committed to broad-based social reform, not to the
direct exercise of political power. They are dedicated to notions of democracy and
believe that democratic institutions can function within a system of Islamic
legislation. They do have Islamic visions for the Egyptian state, but do not seek to
undermine democratic principles in order to achieve it. Furthermore, within Egypt,
the Muslim Brotherhood is very much aware of the environment they operate in and
make the necessary compromises in order to fulfill their primary objective, which is
not necessarily political. Clark contends that Islamist CSOs, like other organizations,
act rationally in order to promote their work successfully.
Islamist CSOs in Egypt are rational actors in terms of their relationship
with the regime. They operate a service providers but are dependent on the state
because they need the regimes cooperation on a number of issues such as licensing
and building permissions. The Muslim Brotherhoods condemnation of violence is
more a reflection of their rational character rather than their higher morality. They
understand as an organization the importance of efficiency of action over futile
confrontations that might hinder their capacity to act. The rational actions of Islamists
in civil society lead Clark to contend that their activism does not disturb authoritarian
structures because Islamic social institutions end up co-operating on many matters
with the regime. The Muslim Brotherhood has demonstrated this as they had co-
operated with al-Azhar on a number of matters.71
71 This was made more evident when the Muslim Brotherhood was shy to come forward as a viable
opposition party to the regime during the January 25th, 2011 revolution.