Monday, December 12, 2011

Caught Up in the Middle

By Lucy Shafik 
Special to ASSIST News Service

CAIRO, EGYPT (ANS) -- Egyptians lined up once again outside the polling stations in a scene very much like the one in mid-March, when almost every single Egyptian was out to cast their Yes or No on making changes to the constitution. This time however many were not as thrilled or even willing to vote in what is the first real and practical move as a democratic nation. There was still a lot of skepticism that the elections would be forged by members of the old regime or the SCAF (Supreme Council of the Armed Forces) itself.
Women voters in Cairo

I was one of those people who went out to vote but still had doubts as to whether my vote will count for something, since there was not a single credible electoral process in recent memory. Surprisingly there was still a strong turnout at the polling stations, about 62%.

People from every walk of life headed out to their different polling stations (schools in each neighborhood) and cast their vote, with a lot of doubts and questions hanging in the air. Security was tight due to the deadly clashes that took place a week before the elections. Several soldiers and policemen stood guard at the entrances to make sure no thugs caused a ruckus, or that candidates were still campaigning, and that ballot boxes were locked and sealed up safely.

Overall it went well, there was a large turnout and security kept a tab on any skirmishes, and the administrative work was well organized. I was surprised that with such a large number of people going out to vote and especially after the previous weeks violence, the results came out on time and with what seems a credible process.

Members of my family were reluctant to vote because they believed that the Muslim Brotherhood would win anyways, so what’s the point? We encouraged each other that we would do our part and leave the rest to God. If the Brotherhood gained a majority that’s fine, the churches in Egypt haven’t stopped praying and God is listening and will bring good out of this no matter the outcome.
An Egyptian man casts his voice

The first round of voting just ended last week with the Brotherhood and Salafists (hardcore Muslims) gaining the majority votes. However many liberals and moderate Muslims also won seats especially in the upper and middle class neighborhoods of Cairo, such as Nasr City and Heliopolis. For example in Nasr City, my neighborhood, neither the Brotherhood nor Salafists got seats. This is good news of course for me and my family who had such low hopes that our voice would matter. Still the Muslim Brotherhood remains at the forefront and many believe in the next rounds they will gain even more votes. So far the Muslim Brotherhood won 40% of the votes and the Salafists 20%. This was not surprising at all, since they were the most organized political group and immediately after the fall of Hosni Mubarak they bobbed their heads out of the water and went around Egypt campaigning. Plus they’ve been around for over 80 years, maybe not in public, but they still existed. The liberal political groups only started to appear and mobilize after the revolution, so they had only a few months to make their voices heard and gain momentum before the elections.

Although I am afraid of how the Muslim Brotherhood will rule Egypt, I’m more tense about the Salafists, who will try to apply the Islamic Sharia on all aspects of life; they will no doubt impose strict Islamic codes on society. However the Muslim brotherhood is very sly and deceptive; they make you believe one thing while their real intention remains hidden. So even if they appear as more moderate than the Salafists, they may be hiding unpleasant surprises for when they are finally in power. At least the Salafists are direct and upfront about their intentions. Honestly, people are making jokes about the Brotherhood’s rise to power and how this will eventually affect our daily life. One such joke is that people will need a passport to get into Heliopolis, the most liberal neighborhood in all of Egypt.

Many are unable to deal with this crisis, so humor is the best medicine I suppose. But deep down we are aware of how so much is changing in such a short time, and sometimes not dwelling on it too much is the only solution. We can keep guessing as to how things will change for Christians and for the country as a whole in the next year or so, but none of the scenarios we play out are good. During talk shows, Salafists claim that the first thing they’ll do is put restrictions on tourists visiting the Red Sea, what to wear and such. The other thing is ban alcohol from all public venues and impose strict dress codes on all Egyptian women.
Egyptian believers praying at Kasr El Dobara Evangelical Church near Cairo’s Tahrir Square

It’s not comforting to listen to those things, but our hope is in the few liberal individuals who won seats in Parliament and of course the SCAF (military) who wants to maintain some of its power under an Islamist dominated parliament. They announced last week that they will set up a council to help oversee the drafting of the constitution and through this promising to protect the rights of liberals. Of course they are being met with strong opposition from the Brotherhood who believes all the SCAF wants to do is marginalize the parliament and ultimately have the last say in all matters. The battle between these two is just beginning and we are caught up in the middle of it. In some ways it is good that the military is looking out for itself, because then the Brotherhood’s powers will be limited. I could go on about how things could either turn out well or how they can implode by playing out the different scenarios but no good will come of it. We have to wait and see.

The only thing we can do these days is pray and be as politically active as we’re allowed. My church, Kasr El Doubara is hosting 24/7 prayer shifts and I can't tell you how crowded those prayer meetings are, it's amazing how much people are uniting in prayer and how much we believe God will do through prayer. We have one hope, that God would show His glory through this.


Lucy Shafik is a 2010 graduate in journalism from the American University in Cairo. Raised in a Christian family, Shafik says her relationship with God deepened and became more personal after she attended YWAM’s Discipleship Training School in Denver in 2005. Shafik has lived in Egypt her entire life, but travels regularly, usually on mission trips or schools with YWAM. She attends Kasr El Doubara evangelical church in downtown Cairo every Friday, and is currently leading a small group. She can be contacted by e-mail

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