The events in Egypt in the past couple of weeks have stunned the world. The army forced President Morsi to leave office, barely a year after he was elected in Egypt’s first democratic election.
The army’s motives are unclear. Some people feel that they intervened because they were frightened by the militant Islamism of the Muslim Brotherhood. Others have suggested that the army, which is believed to control up to 40 per cent of the Egyptian economy, acted swiftly to protect its interests. Whatever the reasons, the army’s intervention has been decisive and unambiguous.
I visited Egypt many times before I was elected to Parliament, and again as a member of the Conservative Middle East Council. I have been struck by how much Koranic principles, with regard to women’s clothing etc., have taken root in the past 15 years. The country I first visited in 1998 had been shocked by terrorist outrages but remained a bustling, secular nation.
Egypt today is a country in which Islam is the most dominant political force. The Muslim Brotherhood won about 50 per cent share of the vote in parliamentary elections last year. The Salafists, an even more uncompromising Islamic party, got about 25 per cent. This shocked the international liberal elite, who rarely stray beyond the confines of Cairo and the nightspots of the Zamalek district.
The second big power block, almost acting as a counter balance to this strong Islamic presence, is the Egyptian army. It was very quickly apparent visitors to Egypt in the aftermath of the Arab Spring that the future of Egypt would be determined by these two big interest groups.