Religious Groups and the State in Egypt and Israel: A Love-Hate Relationship

Tuesday, 12 July 2016: 16:00
Location: Hörsaal 42 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Iman HAMDY, The American University in Cairo, Egypt
When the Egyptian army announced the ousting of President Morsy on July 3, 2013, following the massive anti-Muslim Brotherhood demonstrations of June 30, the fundamentalist Salafi movement announced its approval of its roadmap for restructuring Egypt’s political institutions. Responding to criticisms and accusations of supporting the coup and betraying the Muslim Brotherhood, the deputy leader of the Salafi movement responded by saying that they did so to save the “Islamist project”. The same justification was given by the movement for participating in the Committee of 50 assigned with the redrafting of Egypt’s constitution in 2013.  This attitude of the Salafi movement looks similar to the attitude taken by Agudat Yisrael, the ultra-othrodox non-Zionist party, toward Israel in 1948. Since then, the party has granted the state de facto and not de jure recognition. The logic is to prevent the fall of the Holy Land in the hands of the secularists. On the other hand, although the Muslim Brotherhood (Egypt) and Shas (Israel) seem to be part of the political system, they share the same hostility to the secular state, though their pragmatic outlook allows them more flexibility in dealing with it. 

This paper seeks to compare the dialectical relationship between the state and orthodox religious groups in Egypt and Israel, focusing on the Salafi movement and the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and Agudat Yisrael and Shas in Israel. It will investigate the attitude of the Islamist and Jewish groups to their respective states, how they seek to use the state for furthering their “religious agenda”, and how the state—on its part—is using these groups to enhance its legitimacy, in order to see if indeed there are similarities between the two cases.