Citizenship and religious freedoms in post-revolutionary egypt

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Styrelsen för Internationellt Utvecklingssamarbete

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Political Science Department

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Research Article

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The majority of the social and political forces that spearheaded and actively participated in the 2011 and 2013 waves of uprisings catapulted the demands to reestablish ‘citizenship’ as one of the main foundations of a new social contract aiming at redefining state–society relations in a new Egypt. Meanwhile, the concept of citizenship has been increasingly featured in the discourse and practice of a wide variety of state actors and institutions. In fact, Egypt’s experiences with the modern nation-state project concerning the conceptualization of citizenship, and the subsequent implications on religious freedoms and the role of religion in the polity at large, has gone through various ebbs and flows since the beginning of the 20th century. The concept of citizenship as such has faced a plethora of challenges and has been affected by the socioeconomic and political trajectories of state– society relations during the Nasser, Sadat, Mubarak, and, most recently, Sissi regimes. Dilemmas of geographical disparities and uneven access to resources and services, in addition to issues of discrimination against ethnic and religious minorities such as Coptic Christians, Shiites, Nubians, Bedouins, or on the basis of gender, are among the main accompanying features of the neoliberal order that was introduced and then consolidated first by Sadat’s Open Door and then Mubarak’s state-withdrawal policies, respectively. To what extent did the conception and practice of citizenship rights and religious freedoms—as defined by state and non-state actors—change after the demise of the Mubarak regime? In addition, what is the role of the Egyptian civil society vis-a-vis the state in this process of conceptualizing and/or practicing citizenship rights and religious freedoms in the new Egypt? Focusing on the aforementioned questions, this paper aims at shedding some light on the changing role of religion in the Egyptian polity post 2011, while also highlighting the impact of the sociopolitical and economic ramifications witnessed within the society on the scope of religious liberties and citizenship rights as a whole.

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