Post-Revolutionary Al-Azhar

Post-Revolutionary Al-Azhar
Part mosque, part university, part center of religious research and knowledge, al-Azhar is perhaps the central—and certainly the most prestigious—element in the state–religion complex in Egypt.
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All political forces in Egypt seem to agree: The country’s premier religious institution, al-Azhar, must be made more independent from the regime. But that agreement is deeply misleading; it masks a struggle within al-Azhar and among leading political forces over its role in Egyptian society. Part mosque, part university, part center of religious research and knowledge, al-Azhar is perhaps the central—and certainly the most prestigious—element in the state–religion complex in Egypt.

Egypt has a very substantial bureaucratic apparatus intertwining religion and state. Nobody in Egypt is arguing for a separation of religion and state; the dispute is over the terms and ways in which they will interact. All within al-Azhar want it to become more authoritative, respected, and autonomous, but there are sharp differences on how to accomplish that and how much it should control. A similar debate is taking place outside al-Azhar, where the call to make the institution more autonomous is broadly voiced but for very different reasons.

The most likely outcome of this post-revolutionary struggle is a religiously influenced state, but not an Iranian-style theocracy. Contrasting visions of what that means are leading to a political battle, fought not on the plane of abstract philosophical argument but on the very prosaic ground of legal drafting. That process has already begun, and it will be placed forcefully on the agenda of the new parliament.

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About the Middle East Program

The Carnegie Middle East Program combines in-depth local knowledge with incisive comparative analysis to examine economic, sociopolitical, and strategic interests in the Arab world. Through detailed country studies and the exploration of key crosscutting themes, the Carnegie Middle East Program, in coordination with the Carnegie Middle East Center in Beirut, provides analysis and recommendations in both English and Arabic that are deeply informed by knowledge and views from the region. The program has special expertise in political reform and Islamist participation in pluralistic politics.




In Fact



of the Chinese general public

believe their country should share a global leadership role.


of Indian parliamentarians

have criminal cases pending against them.


charter schools in the United States

are linked to Turkey’s Gülen movement.


thousand tons of chemical weapons

are in North Korea’s possession.


of import tariffs

among Chile, Colombia, Mexico, and Peru have been eliminated.


trillion a year

is unaccounted for in official Chinese income statistics.


of GDP in oil-exporting Arab countries

comes from the mining sector.


of Europeans and Turks

are opposed to intervention in Syria.


of Russian exports to China

are hydrocarbons; machinery accounts for less than 1%.


of undiscovered oil

is in the Arctic.


U.S. government shutdowns

occurred between 1976 and 1996.


of Ukrainians

want an “international economic union” with the EU.


million electric bicycles

are used in Chinese cities.


of the world’s energy supply

is consumed by cities.


of today’s oils

require unconventional extraction techniques.


of the world's population

will reside in cities by 2050.


of Syria’s population

is expected to be displaced by the end of 2013.


of the U.S. economy

is consumed by healthcare.


of Brazilian protesters

learned about a massive rally via Facebook or Twitter.


million cases pending

in India’s judicial system.

1 in 3


now needs urgent assistance.


political parties

contested India’s last national elections.


of Egypt's labor force

works in the private sector.


of oil consumed in the United States

is for the transportation sector.


of Chechnya’s pre-1994 population

has fled to different parts of the world.


of oil consumed in China

was from foreign sources in 2012.


billion in goods and services

traded between the United States and China in 2012.


billion in foreign investment and oil revenue

have been lost by Iran because of its nuclear program.


increase in China’s GDP per capita

between 1972 and today.


billion have been spent

to complete the Bushehr nuclear reactor in Iran.


of Iran’s electricity needs

is all the Bushehr nuclear reactor provides.



were imprisoned in Turkey as of August 2012 according to the OSCE.

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