February 11th, 2011 is now known as the Day of Departure among Egyptians. Mubarak’s ouster represented a victory for those Egyptians demanding ‘the fall of the regime’ and turned their uprising into a revolution. A spirit of cooperation, cohesiveness, and national pride pervaded the population from that momentous day. But as the dust settles, the major challenges of a post-Mubarak Egypt are becoming apparent.
In the recent constitutional referendum, forty-one percent of eligible voters showed up to cast their ballot. By an overwhelming majority, Egyptians approved amendments previously proposed by Mubarak himself. One-quarter of voters opposed the moderate measure, and some were soon calling the results fraudulent. This vote has brought to the fore a rift between the more liberal elements of the revolution who want sweeping reforms, including an all-new constitution and guaranteed freedom of speech, and the more conservative constituents who prefer slow, predictable change.
Additionally, in the power struggle for control of now vacant posts, a centuries-old conflict, has also emerged. When the Mubarak-appointed Christian governor of Qina was changed, along with all the over governors in early April, the new government appointed another Christian in his stead. In the aftermath of a people’s revolt, the community protested the appointment. When their demands were ignored, the people of Qina engaged in civil disobedience, blocking shipping and cutting railroad lines. Major media outlets report the people of Qina oppose his appointment because of his past abuse of power with the now defunct and disgraced police force, citing his participation int the torture of past presidential candidate Ayman Nour. However, some members of the Muslim community say they would not stand for another Christian governor. In a country with a ten to twelve percent Christian population, some fear the renewal of sectarian strife.
And then there are the fundamentalists. These are not the bomb-wearing, gun-toting, radical extremists of the region the media simultaneously gasps and drools over. No, they are the largely unlettered and indoctrinated masses who follow the words of their local imams verbatim. These are the ultra-conservatives who believed it a sin to vote against the referendum because the Muslim Brotherhood issued a fatwa saying so. Though they lack the jurisprudent authority to declare such a ruling, their campaign proved very effective in discouraging the “No” vote among their uneducated followers.
Opposing the fundamentalists are the large population of moderate Muslims and the relatively smaller block of young, Western-educated, liberal Egyptians. The former make up the majority of Egyptians, but are not unified in their political views and action. Most supported the revolution, but are anxious to get the economy and government back on track. The latter, though highly energetic, lack the political savvy to navigate the ever-changing waters of current affairs in the new government.