Young people expressed cynicism and hopelessness, saying “Nothing is going right,” “Everyone is lying to everyone,” and “There is a sense of political exhaustion.”[i] Thus voter turnout was very low, especially for young people, and as usual there were charges of vote buying and other violations. Sissi used religion to boost his authority: During the elections a preacher on state TV freferred to the president as “God’s Shadow on earth.” Around the same time, August 2015, John Kerry lectured Egyptian officials that they couldn’t defeat terrorism at home without respecting human rights and oppression would radicalize some youths, but resumed joint military exercises and the usual $1.3 billion in mostly military aid. He also warned that jailing young protesters could radicalize them in prison. A few weeks later, a new counterterrorism law established a fine of at least $25,000 for publishing information about military activities that differs from the official line.
Religious freedom is assaulted as the government jails Coptic Christians, Shiites and atheists on charges of contempt of religion and blasphemy postings on Facebook.[ii] Imams are asked to use state sermons. The Hollywood film Noah was prohibited because it shows prophets in violation of Islam. In 2016, the Ministry of Religious Endowments told preachers to resist calls to demonstration on the anniversary of Jan25 as a crime that would lead to destruction. A young woman, age 20, commented “Already there is no democracy, and now they are telling us where to pray. The government is pressuring the youth, and it’s going to blow up in their faces.”[iii]
[i] Kareem Fahim, “Lack of Enthusiasm Mars Latest Voting in Egypt,” New York Times, October 18, 2015.
[ii] Dwight Bashir, “A State of Denial: Religious Freedom in Egypt,” US Commission on International Religious Freedom, January 24, 2014.
[iii] Declan Walsh, “Egypt’s President Turns to Religion to Bolster His Authority,” New York Times, January 9, 2016.