How will Ramadan Affect Protests in Egypt?

Posted: 8th July 2013

Egypt is at a fever pitch. The crowds in Cairo at the end of June swelled in the beginning of July, culminating in a military takeover that forced President Mohammad Morsi from power on July 3. The coup has not been the much hoped for panacea for Egypt’s ills. The actions of the military have begotten reactions from the pro-Morsi camp. The death of some 50 Morsi supporters on July 8 by soldiers in Cairo has prompted vows of vengeance for the “martyrs” by conservative factions in a country with a suspended constitution.

These same conservative factions, however, are also the country’s strictest adherents to the restrictions of Ramadan. The holy month, set to begin on July 10 and end on August 9, requires practicing Muslims to abstain from food, drink, and other bodily intakes from sunup to sundown. On the first day of Ramadan, the sunrise in Cairo is expected at 5:01 AM and the sunset is expected at 6:59 PM. That’s almost 14 hours of zero substance. Add to this the summer heat of Egypt compounded by energy blackouts and you get one long day.

This may not matter much to non-fasting secularists. They’re pleased that Morsi is out of power and are optimistic that the military will pave the way for a swift transition to democracy (individuals mindful of SCAF’s actions post-Mubarak and pre-Morsi should be wary of such optimism).

This does, however, matter to the individuals most incensed over the recent actions of the military. While outraged, supporters of Morsi and like-minded opponents of the military’s moves will be tested to keep up the same tempo of protest with their mouths dry and their bellies empty in the heat of a midsummer Cairene afternoon.

So while protests are not expected to disappear in the coming thirty days, they may well taper off after Ramadan begins – at least in the daylight hours. This relative lull in protest activity during Ramadan has a history behind it. And it is not specific to Egypt. Bahrain experienced a similar lull in its ongoing protests last year during Ramadan (July 20 – August 18, 2012). Instances of protest were mostly confined to pre-dawn, pre-fasting hours.

Protests in the next thirty days are not expected to stop in Egypt. But with Ramadan soon taking effect, protests can be expected to take a different flavor then they have taken in recent days. Ramadan is likely to push more protests into the evening and early morning hours while adding an additional religious element to the cause of Muslim Brotherhood supporters and Islamists.