Egypt: secularism and dictatorship?

Opposition and human rights activists in Egypt are bracing for the impacts of a new law "anti-terrorism" decree signed by President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi that allows life sentences for such ill-defined crimes as intending to "harm the national interest," "compromise national unity," or "breach security or public peace." Human rights attorney Ragia Omran told the New York Times, "Everyone in civil society is panicking." (Inquisitr, Dec. 27) At the end of 2014, el-Sisi boatsed of having detained nearly 10,000 for "rioting" and "terrorism" over the course of the year. (Daily News Egypt, Dec. 21)

The crackdown comes as el-Sisi is making much of advocating secularism and tolerance, in repudiation of Islamist extremism. In a speech celebrating the birthday of the Prophet MuḼammad, which coincided with New Year's Day, el-Sisi seemed to be calling for an Islamic reformation: "I say and repeat, again, that we are in need of a religious revolution. You imams are responsible before Allah. The entire world is waiting on you. The entire world is waiting for your word… because the Islamic world is being torn, it is being destroyed, it is being lost. And it is being lost by our own hands… It's inconceivable that the thinking that we hold most sacred should cause the entire Islamic world to be a source of anxiety, danger, killing and destruction for the rest of the world. Impossible that this thinking—and I am not saying the religion—I am saying this thinking." (CNN, Jan. 6)

On Jan. 7, el-Sisi became the first Egyptian president to attend Christmas Mass, giving s short speech at Cairo's Abbasiya Cathedral. Sisi urged Egyptians to remain united as "one hand," adding that "we will build the country together… we will love each other." Coptic Christmas is held on Jan. 7, under the Gregorian calendar. (Egyptian Streets, Jan. 6)