Egypt’s Political History and Religious History – Research Paper

Egypt has a rather long political, as well as religious, history. Its history makes it one of the oldest nation-states globally. It is widely deemed as a civilization’s cradle, having experienced many of the earliest advances in organized religion and government, hence politics. The ancient Egyptian kingdom came into being around 1350 BC under King Menes. The kingdom, which was typified by flourishing religious practices and customs, was ruled by successive dynasties for about 3000 years. When the 30th dynasty was in power under Pharaoh, or King Nectanebo II, the kingdom fell to Persians around 343 BC. In a few years, Alexander the Great toppled the Persians. During Alexander’s reign the Ptolemaic Egyptian Kingdom, a strong Hellenistic state, arose. Ptolemies adopted Egyptian culture and religious life. Cleopatra VII was the last Ptolemaic Egyptian ruler. Even then, the Hellenistic way of life went on and on even after Egyptian had been conquered by Muslim Arabs. Saint Mark the Evangelist introduced Christianity to Roman Egypt in the first century. Egypt moved transited to the Byzantine era from the Roman era when Diocletian was in power, between 284 AD and 305 AD. During the transition thousands of Christians were murdered. After 451 AD, Christians established the Egyptian Coptic Church firmly following the Chalcedon Council (Tignor, 2011).

In the Middle Ages, between 639 AD and 642 AD, Muslim Arabs conquered Byzantine Egypt. The Muslim Arabs introduced Sunni Islam to Egypt. Many Egyptians blended Sunni Islam with their native religious practices along with beliefs, giving rise to several Sufi orders, which continue to survive. The Muslim Fatimid Caliphate continually nominated several Muslim leaders to rule Egypt for about 600 years. When the Kurdish Ayyubid dynasty ended, the Mamluks ruled Egypt (Tignor, 2011).

Ottoman Turks conquered Egypt in 1517 AD and decreed that it was an Ottoman Empire Province. Ottoman Egypt lasted from 1517 AD to 1867 AD though the Mamluks continued exerting considerable influence on it. In 1798 AD, Napoleon I led French troops to invade Egypt. Even then, the troops were attacked by British forces after a while. The resulting political power vacuum gave rise to a struggle for power between the Mamluks, Albanian mercenaries that served the Ottomans’ interests and Ottoman Turks. Muhammad Ali Pasha, an Albanian seized power in 1805 following the expulsion of the French. Muhammad’s Muslim dynasty ruled Egypt, largely as an Ottoman Empire province, up to the 1952’s revolution. Various European states, especially France and the UK, intruded into the province’s political affairs when the dynasty was in power (Tignor, 2011). France and the UK helped crush a nationalist uprising against the dynasty in the 1870s and 1880s militarily. Egypt became a British protectorate in effect with the protectorate’s figurehead being Tewfik Ismail even as it remained an Ottoman Empire Province by law till 1914. More and more Egyptians joined the ranks of varied nationalist movements. From, Egypt was pronounced a British protectorate under Sultan Hussein Kamel, authoritatively when the empire’s Young Turks decided to fight along the Central Powers in the First World War according to Perry (2015).

The revolution that happened in 1952 gave way to military leadership in Egypt, which was pronounced a republic under president General Muhammad Naguib in 1953. Gamal Abdel Nasser compelled Naguib to resign in mid-1954 and assumed the country’s presidency in mid-1956. In the 1960s, the country’s economy deteriorated and the masses lost faith in Nasser considerably until when he passed on in 1970. Anwar Sadat succeeded Nasser as president. During the Cold War, Egypt was initially a Soviet Union ally. Even then, Sadat shifted its allegiance to the US over time. He instituted an economic reform program known as Infitah and remained keen on crushing secular and religious oppositions militarily. His dalliance with Israel made him detested by the Muslim world and an Islamic militant assassinated him in 1981 (Tignor, 2011).

Hosni Mubarak succeeded Sadat. Mubarak maintained Egypt’s ties with Israel, making Egypt a common target for attack by Islamic militants and terrorists. The militants particularly targeted Christian Copts and government installations as well as officials. Different Islamic militant groups, including the 1990s’ Al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya, executed violence campaigns against Christian Copts and government installations as well as officials. Mubarak dominated the country’s politics via the National Democratic Party. Different Islamic militant groups evolved into political parties based on extremist religious persuasions in an effort to take power.  The 2011 revolution protests saw Mubarak resign and the assumption of power by the military with Mohamed Hussein Tantawi as the state’s head. The elections held in the same year had Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood elected as the state’s head and president (Tignor, 2011). Morsi’s efforts to immunize his orders lead to extended protests and violence across the country, leading to his removal as the state’s head and president by the military in July 2013 (Perry, 2015). Justice Adly Mansour of the Egypt’s Supreme Constitutional Court took oath as a transitional president. Adly Mansour’s interim administration facilitated the writing and promulgation of a new constitution and the subsequent election. In the election, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi was elected president. Abdel Fattah el-Sisi continues to persuade tolerance of religious differences.

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