Experts, politicians see religious mobilization as a threat to democracy

The use of religion to mobilize people politically is threatening the progress of democracy in Egypt, several of the country's politicians and experts said, in response to Saturday's referendum process.

In interviews with Al-Masry Al-Youm, various figures suggested that the use of religious slogans by certain groups to push for a "yes" or "no" vote in the referendum on constitutional amendments amounts to a sectarian crime against Egyptians.

Before the referendum, the Muslim Brotherhood and some Salafi groups urged supporters to vote in favor of the amendments. Leaflets were distributed that said approving the proposed amendments was a religious obligation.

Sameh Ashour, vice president of the Nasserist party, said religious slogans must be kept out of politics, and must not be used for political publicity.

A spokesperson for the leftist Tagammu party, Nabil Zaki, meanwhile, criticized the mobilization of voters by the Brotherhood, Salafis and Christians as a criminal attempt to break up national unity and abort the revolution.

Ahmed Drag, media spokesperson for the National Association for Change, accused political Islamist groups of opportunistically using Copts as a scarecrow to push for "yes" votes.

Drag said certain groups turned the referendum into a sectarian affair. He urged the Brotherhood to issue a statement clarifying its position and condemning the statements issued in its name. Drag added that religion should be separate from politics.

Wael Nawwara, secretary general for the liberal Ghad Party, also described the slogans of the Brotherhood as "sectarian." He said they may lead to a disaster.

Finally, two political experts from the Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies expressed similar concerns. Diaa Rashwan said the future of democracy in Egypt will be at risk if religious groups continue to engage in politics along sectarian lines, while Nabil Abdel Fattah, an expert at the same center, said what happened before the referendum deepens the gap between Egyptians by evoking religion at the expense of political and ethical responsibility toward society.

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