THE BLOG

Egypt, Islam at Cross Roads

15/07/2013 14:02 BST | Updated 12/09/2013 10:12 BST

If negative voting and a few failed policies were enough to bring Morsi in Egypt, then no democracy will have a full term. But what is happening in Egypt is not about democracy? Sometimes it is forgotten that Judaism, Christianity, Islam and Secularism are all related and originate from the same Abrahamic stable. All are universalist, all like to proselytise and dominate the public sphere. They seem destined to follow a similar historic path.

Nothing in Egypt is unpredictable. Islam follows the course and conflicts that Christianity has gone through. Christians were at this stage in the thirty years war in 1618. After sweeping across Europe with its universalism, Christianity eventually succumbed to schismatic wars around 'true interpretations'. It gave way to disbelief, the 'enlightenment' and the new universal, the secular State.

So has Islam come to this juncture. Having started 600 years later it has made time in the internet age. Today, Sunni Islam is in conflict with Shia Islam for total domination. Rigid interpretations are in conflict with less committed Muslims. And all are uncomfortable with the growing legion of secularised Muslims, if that is not a contradiction. The Middle East has entered a version of the European thirty years war. Except it is a five way contest between Sunni, Shia, Secularists, Jewish security and western interest. It seems an all out war between Abrahams many prodigies.

The spokesperson of Egyptian 'revolutionaries' said, 'On the one side are the secularists, liberals and human rights believers and the other side are the religious Egyptians, the Brotherhood.

Syria and Iraq are already gripped in this conflict. Turkey has gone from secularism to a moderate Islamic State and again being challenged by secularists. The secularists are underground in Iran. Elsewhere in the Maghreb, Algeria continues to simmer while Tunisia and Libya hushes the tension between backers of Islamic Stateand secular State. Sixty years after decolonisation Pakistan has still not been able to decide whether it wants to be religious, very religious or secular.

These conflicts are not about democracy, but whether the majority Muslims want a universal secular State or a universal Islamic State. Islam like Christianity and secularism cannot deal with the genuinely plural State. Iran is perhaps the one Islamic country that has managed to reconcile Democratic Statecraft with Islam but at the expense of treating non Shia, other religious minorities and secularists as 'inferior citizens'.

The Brotherhood in Egypt does not yet have a political philosophy to accommodate the plurality of schisms in Islam let alone plurality of religions and even less to give secularists and atheists the same status as Sunni Muslims. But it was beginning to act with considerable maturity in power. It was showing signs of wider responsibility in the plural State.

The Brotherhood in Government was a hope for Sunni Islam reconciling with the Democratic plural State without the despotic power of Kings and dictators. The neighbours weren't too happy. A successful democratic Sunni Islamic State could have given ideas to their subjects.

That chance is gone now. If the Brotherhood returns to power, it won't forget why it was toppled. It will probably seek to purge the State of 'secular liberals' as did in Iran.

So where now? More likely the next decade is going to be the decade of Islam bumping its way towards an end point in the age of republican States. Between Shia and Sunni. Between Secularists and Islamicists. Between armies, Kings and peoples movements. From Maghreb, down Middle East, Afghanistan to Pakistan. And of course the likes of western strategists such as Blair and Wolfowitz, trying to push their two penny worth of influence in a trajectory where interference matters for not.

Miracles can happen. Islam may be the first Abrahamic creed to become pluralistic. It is a contest between Islam choosing to reach Christianity's end point and adopt Secular liberalism, or become Indic and pluralistic. Meanwhile pretentious journalists and pontificating pundits (including me perhaps) will no doubt keep us occupied on TV and internet. Still human beings eventually reach periods of peace. There is an end point.