Ten reasons for optimism in Egypt

Despite being still imperfect in some areas, the constitution is certainly a step forward, and is already vastly superior to the former Islamist constitution.

An Egyptian soldier stands guard on the streets of Cairo 370 (photo credit: REUTERS)
An Egyptian soldier stands guard on the streets of Cairo 370
(photo credit: REUTERS)

Despite the current rather bumpy situation in Egypt, there are several factors that offer hope, and may repay optimism. These include:

1.  Ordinary people starting to respect government authority again
When former presidents Hosni Mubarak and Mohamed Morsi ordered curfews to control the revolts against their governments during the Jan 25 and June 30 revolutions respectively, most people did not obey the rules and millions took to the streets. By contrast, when the current government ordered a curfew, most of the population obeyed it. This shows that Egyptians are beginning to trust and accept government authority, which has been lost to a great extent since the Jan 25 revolution.
2.    The ability to protect the process of referendum for the new constitution
The failure of the Islamists to cause wholesale ruin to the current referendum for the newly created constitution — after threatening to do so — is another sign that the security system of the country is functioning properly.
3.    Economic assistance from Arab countries
One of the major challenges Egypt is currently facing is the economic instability caused by the revolutions. The timely intervention of Saudi Arabia, UAE, and Kuwait to support Egypt after the June 30 revolution has given Egypt the opportunity to get organized and move forward successfully.
4.    Reconciliation between the people, the army and the police
One of the most destructive issues that occurred after the Jan 25 revolution and aggravated the problems in the country was the widespread lack of trust in the former SCAF and the police forces. Such lack of trust within society could easily destabilize any country. After the June 30 revolution the military and the police forces regained this trust by together supporting the popular will to remove Morsi from power. This renewed trust for the police and the Army is fundamental to the stabilization of the country.
5.    Reformation
The political, moral and economic failure of the Islamists in Egypt after the Jan 25 revolution exposed the threat to the people of Egypt represented by radical Islam. It has sparked a movement to re-examine the ideological roots of the problem of violent Islam, and to challenge radicalism on an ideological level. These reforms encourage optimism for a better future for the country. Radical Islam is clearly an impediment to Egyptian progress—on many levels, including economic development.
6.    Changing policy toward the Jihadists
When President Morsi came to power he released many Jihadists from prison. The current leadership of the country is capturing and returning many of these same Jihadists back to prison. Such an approach is vital for the future stability of Egypt.
7.    Creative ideas in fighting Radicalism
Islamist Radicalism is a complex ideological, psychological, and cultural polymer. Egyptians who have decided to fight Islamist Radicalism have so far been very creative in fighting it with unusual methods such as jokes, sarcastic TV programs, anti-radical campaigns on Facebook, songs, and even belly dancing. In fact, young children in Egypt have created a new game to play together called “Revolution” (like Hide and Seek) where some play as if they are revolutionists, others as military and police, and others as Ikhwan (Muslim Brotherhood). Interestingly, most children do not want to be the “Ikhwan” in the game!
8.   High caliber of the new government leaders
A simple comparison between the credentials of Hisham Quandil (former prime minister of Egypt — who had virtually no recognizable qualifications or expertise to justify such a high position) and current Prime Minister Hazem El-Bibalwi shows clearly that that the current leaders of the country are far more experienced than those appointed by the Muslim Brotherhood.
9.    Dissimilarity with Algeria, Iraq, and Syria
The path to stability in Egypt might be bumpy, but is unlikely that it will turn into another Algeria (after Islamists in the 1990s were not allowed to lead the country despite their electoral victory), Syria, or Iraq. The reason is that—unlike the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt today—Algerian Islamists who turned against the government were supported by the majority of the population. And unlike Iraq after the removal of Saddam Hussein and the dismantling of his security system, Egypt still has an intact security apparatus, as evidenced by their ability to capture most of the Muslim Brotherhood leadership in a relatively short period of time and by their ability to secure the process of referendum for the newly formed constitution. Finally, unlike Syria, most Egyptians are supportive of their military.
10. The new constitution
Despite being still imperfect in some areas, the constitution is certainly a step forward, and is already vastly superior to the former Islamist constitution. In the new constitution, for example, Article 219—which was added by the Muslim Brotherhood to provide the legal basis for a theocratic Sharia-controlled state such as Iran—has been removed.
In short, despite all the current turmoil and the many challenges facing Egypt today, there is much reason for optimism and hope for stability sooner rather than later.

The writer is an Islamic thinker and reformer, and one-time Islamic extremist from Egypt. He was a member of a terrorist Islamic organization JI with Dr. Ayman Al-Zawaherri, who later became the second in command of al-Qaida. He is currently a senior fellow and chairman of the study of Islamic radicalism at the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies.