The Egyptian Civilizational Model


Among the many external and internal challenges facing Egyptian state and society, the issue of how to reclaim Egypt’s historical regional leadership is the most pressing. In my opinion, creating an ‘Egyptian civilizational model’ is the key ingredient to renewed regional influence.

Egypt, along with the entire Arab region, has been living through a major civilizational dilemma for the last two centuries, the manifestations of which do not need much explanation. This situation is due to the absence of a clearly defined civilizational model that can reconcile a past full of knowledge and experiences with a present abounding with development and advances. A key facet of this failure to create a civilizational model is the absence of a comprehensive and implementable intellectual project that can define the relationship between religion and the state, whether by setting limitations on each, or by clarifying the aspects in which they converge. Resolving this dilemma will require an enormous amount of effort, work that, for many reasons, should take place and emerge in Egypt. 

Creating this civilizational model will not only begin a self-made Egyptian renaissance, but will also enable Egypt to regain its influence at the regional level. Indeed, the past teaches us that Egypt’s greatest asset above all throughout history has been its civilizational, intellectual and cultural influence. Our need for this civilizational model reflects our need to build a self-made renaissance and to shape a regional role by disseminating this model that can form a relationship between the Arab world and its religion on the one hand, and its worldly aspects on the other.

In this context, the ‘Turkish model’ is often referred to as being an appropriate model for Egypt and other Arab countries, a model capable of making a developmental breakthrough in the Arab world. I disagree with this approach for two reasons. First, Turkey’s historical, political and social contexts, which differ significantly with Egypt and the Arab world, make a comparison irrelevant. Second, Egypt’s historical approach of dealing with other cultural models is that it ‘digests’ and ‘absorbs’ them, but does not imitate them. This brings us to the need to ‘produce’ a civilizational model capable not only of fulfilling our needs but is also suitable for disseminating elsewhere.

Egypt must be prepared to become, and should become, a ‘model’ itself.

Yussef Auf is an Egyptian judge and 2012 Humphrey Fellow at American University’s Washington College of Law. 

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