Safe for democracy? Cairo bomb attacks show Egyptian regime's challenge

On the eve of the third anniversary of the Egyptian revolution, four bombs exploded in Cairo, killing at least six, injuring dozens and underscoring the key challenge faced by the transitional government.

The Friday explosions marked a new level in the violence Egypt faces after the military ousted Muslim Brotherhood-backed President Mohammad Morsi in July. Morsi was elected after the revolution toppled the three-decade reign of Hosni Mubarak, but the promise of democracy soured when Morsi moved the country toward Islamic rule.


Ever since, the military-backed transitional government has been laying the groundwork for new elections while trying to crack down on reprisals from militant Morsi supporters.

“We are trying to create an open society for all Egyptians who are peaceful, but we cannot condone violence or terrorism,” Egyptian Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy told Fox News at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. “The public is not looking to create an unstable insecure society, nor a police state."

Yet, three years after Mubarak was ousted, and less than one year after the first effort at democracy collapsed in a false start, Egypt is stuck somewhere between the two. Many suggest that Egypt's current government is doing itself no favors by cracking down on the Muslim Brotherhood, which was declared a terrorist organization in Egypt last month.

Fahmy defended Egypt's move against the Brotherhood.

"No country in the world, including America, when responding to terrorism, can ignore the threat,” he said. “When you faced 9/11, you developed the Patriot Act and you had exceptional measures."

Fahmy noted that although the Brotherhood is banned as a movement, not all card- carrying members are shut out of the political process in Egypt. Only those he described as having "blood on their hands" have been relegated to the margins, he said. Islam still has a place in Egypt’s political process, he stressed, noting that the new Parliament will likely include Salafists and members of the Nour Party.

"Those who failed were the Muslim Brotherhood, not necessarily political Islam,” Fahmy said. “There are political Islamic trends in Egypt today that are participating in politics and participated in the drafting of the constitution.

He said religion has a place in society, but that the recently approved constitution states it should be kept outside of society.

"You may be guided in your politics by your values, and that is what normal human beings do, but you can't determine your program based only on your faith, excluding others," he said.

At Davos, where the emphasis is on economics, Egypt has much to discuss. The political turmoil has taken a heavy toll on the economy, and Fahmy said it remains a major challenge. Both tourism and foreign investment require security and stability, something the government is striving for amid attacks like those in Cairo.

“Security has been enhanced tremendously,” Fahmy said. “The country is much more secure. It's just that the intensity of the violence, where it happens, is larger. But the frequency of the violence has decreased. "

Fahmy insisted that the army won't be out front forever, and that its role is public safety, not politics.

"If we stand up the tenets of the democratic system and establish security, then the army will disappear from the streets."

In the meantime, despite the trouble, Fahmy is optimistic.

"I am very proud of us.  I believe in spite of all the difficulties, it's the beginning of a new Egypt."