(Los Angeles Times) The passions fueling Egypt’s political turbulence arose directly from the “Arab Spring” of 2011, but they have deeper roots in a decades-long struggle over the nation’s identity between two authoritarian forces — Islamists and a secular military state.
Egypt won its independence from Britain after a 1952 revolution by army officers led by Gamal Abdel Nasser. From the start, the military was set against the Muslim Brotherhood, a growing and at times violent underground Islamist movement. Strong in the provinces and among professionals, the Brotherhood espoused sharia, or Islamic law, and went so far as to attempt political assassinations to wear down the military-backed government.
The Brotherhood’s vision inspired both moderate Islamist groups and terrorist organizations across the region. It renounced violence decades ago and concentrated on social and religious programs, but the group was both co-opted and persecuted by successive military leaders who regarded it as a threat to the westward-leaning secular state they envisioned.