Monday 11 June 2012

Egypt's "Civic" Political Forces?

Next to the Islamists in Egypt, how exactly should one refer to the other guys?

The answer to that question remains a bit of a debate, abroad and at home. Some media chooses to describe them as "Secularists," but that would not entirely be technically accurate for many reasons, including the fact that there are significant religious references and influences in the programs, rhetoric and platforms of most political parties in Egypt, even the ones described as liberal. Some use "secular-leaning," but that is not exactly a description you could use either as an official designation. "Liberal" is also used, to indicate that they are "politically liberal," but it is not the most accurate portmanteau either given that Leftists are part of that category, and especially since most Egyptian parties are  quasi-centrist/Third Way, perhaps economically liberal in the American Democratic Party sense of the word rather than the classical liberal sense (with centre-rights exceptions of course, such as the Free Egyptians Party.) Another barely used alternative, of course, is "progressives," but I can only think of one or two times I read this somewhere.

The term Egyptian and Arab media is using more commonly nowadays is a more spontaneously-created term, Madaniyya. The term is translatable as civil or civic, depending on context, and essentially indicates that these parties and groups give great focus on civil rights, equality of all citizens under the law in rights and responsibilities, and to creating a state that respects all of the above. That state, within Egyptian discourse, is described as a Dawla Madaniyya, which could be translated as Civil/Civic State.

Naturally, some media recently began developing interest in this term, and began using "civil political parties" to mirror the Arabic original, as well as "Civil State." But after some reflection I feel that perhaps "civic" would be a better translation in this context. In any case, it feels like this term is becoming more widely accepted now in here, Madaniyya. Would this become the elusive official designation of these political parties, groups and their political movement from now on? Egyptian Civic Parties? Egyptian Civic Movement?

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