Middle East turmoil in Egypt: A secular or religious revolt — or both?

Popular protests have roiled the Middle East, spreading from Tunisia and Egypt to Bahrain and Libya and elsewhere. Speculation is rife about what could come next, but also about the role Islam could play in reconfigured Arab countries — and what role religion is playing in sparking the current revolts.

In the Egyptian situation, much of the discussion about the influence of religion focuses on the Muslim Brotherhood, an important religious and political group based on the belief that Islam is not simply a religion, but a way of life.

But in other Arab nations the role of religion as a liberating force also raises questions about the political future of the Middle East, and about the stability of one of the world’s most contentious trouble spots. What does secularism mean in cultures where religion is so intertwined with daily life?

Some observers say it is a mistake to try to fit contemporary events in these Arab and Muslim countries into a Western historical framework.

Others believe that the popular revolutions in these largely Islamic societies can provide insights into American views of Islam because of the way Americans react to the events.

One school of thought in the United States fears the rise of populist Islam, which is seen as a threat to U.S. interests and to Israel. Others believe that the emergence of genuinely democratic societies in the Middle East, even if heavily influenced by Islamic religious principles, is in the long-term interests of the United States and of human rights.

This edition of ReligionLink provides resources for journalists covering the ongoing developments in the Middle East.

Articles and resources


  • Middle East Policy Council

    The Middle East Policy Council is a nonprofit organization based in Washington D.C. It works to educate Americans on the political, economic, and cultural issues in the Middle East relevant to the United States.

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