EGYPT: Dispelling the Secularist vs. Islamist Divide (VIDEO)

Egypt is as divided as it has ever been.

On December 15, a historic referendum is set to be held on a draft consitution that has further polarized the country, pinning supporters of President Morsi, backed by the Muslim Brotherhood, against a galvanized opposition made up of liberals, socialists and other youth groups.

Critics of the constitution drafted by the Islamist-dominated 100-member assembly argue that it does not reflect Egypt's diverse political views and will pave the way for an Islamist takeover that will undermine the rights of minorities and women.


Many who fought to topple Mubarak claim Morsi is now just as bad, borrowing from Mubarak's playbook to shore up power, using the media to control his messaging. On Sunday, Morsi issued a temporary law granting Egypt's military the right to arrest civilians in another move that mirrors Mubarak's handling of civil unrest.

Even worse, the mainstream media's coverage has adopted a false binary of framing the struggle in Egypt as one between Islamists and secularists, which is misleading, oversimplified and destructive to progress.

"We have inherited a history that the Muslim Brotherhood seems to have a prerogative to define who is a Muslim and who is not a muslim and they are not in that position. Nobody is," Hamid Dabashi, Professor of Iranian Studies and Comparative Literature at Columbia University, told me on HuffPost Live.

"It is time to go back to fundamental issues of class, gender, which are fundamental to the writing, drafting of the constitution, instead of falling into the trap of this binary," he said.

I was joined in-studio by Hamid Dabashi, Professor of Iranian Studies and Comparative Literature at Columbia University, and in a Google Hangout by Adel Iskandar, Professor of Arab Media at Georgetown University and author of the forthcoming book Egypt in Flux: Essays of an unfinished revolution, Heba Morayef, Egypt director for the Middle East and North Africa division at Human Rights Watch, Hisham Hellyer, Specialist on middle eastern strategic affairs, and Nadine Sherif, international advocacy officer at the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies.

Watch our discussion above.