|President Morsi in better times|
The hounding from power of the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood leaves the most populous and influential Arab country in a dangerous state of flux, and it will have sweeping implications for politics across the Muslim world—Egypt has always been a bellwether for its region. Now that the army has shunted Mr Morsi aside, there is a real question as to whether the country will move towards a warmed-up version of military-backed rule or towards a more inclusive democracy. And with the ordinary people of Egypt empowered by the experience of revolution, that trajectory may be decided as much by how they aspire to see themselves and how they judge each other as by decisions made in barracks or smoky rooms.
Yet judging by the ecstatic roars with which the crowds in Tahrir Square have greeted flypasts by army helicopters, a great many Egyptians have decided to bury their doubts and ugly memories and accept the army’s intervention as in the national interest. With a 94% approval rate in one recent opinion poll, the army remains by far the most trusted institution in the country. Many believe the generals’ promise that they have no desire to linger in politics. Many also see them as better equipped than squabbling politicians to get Egypt’s revolution back on track.
These people yearn for a return to stability. They also long for a more comforting and inclusive notion of what it is to be Egyptian than the Brotherhood held. The Islamists’ rule posed questions about Egypt’s national identity that decades of dictatorship had buried. The underlying quandary was whether Egyptians should be defined chiefly by their faith, as Islamists see it, or rather as free participants in a pluralist society with shared values.
In the past, Egypt’s Islamists have proven most dangerous and prone to violence when shut out of the system. The country needs to find ways to avoid such exclusion this time—which, in the wake of a coup, may be hard. And reform of the parts of public life dominated by the army, always an important post-Mubarak goal, will now be more difficult than ever. For now, most Egyptians feel their own blood a little lighter. But given the depth of the challenges their country faces, they will need to find something to unite them that runs deeper than temperament and shared antipathy, and to dip into their traditional source of strength: patience.
Read more: Egypt’s coup: The second time around | The Economist