A generation ago, Ahmed Mitwalli’s parents were Islamists in this neighborhood along the Nile once nicknamed the Islamic Republic of Imbaba. But their son is not, and his convictions, echoed in the cauldron of frustrations of one of the world’s most crowded quarters, suggest why the Muslim Brotherhood is not driving Egypt’s nascent revolution.
“Bread, social justice and freedom,” the 21-year-old college graduate said. “What’s religious about that?”
Egypt’s revolution is far from decided, and the Muslim Brotherhood remains the most popular and best-organized opposition forces in the country, poised to play a crucial role in the transition and its aftermath. But in a neighborhood once ceded to militant Islamists, who declared their own state within a state in the early 1990s, sentiments here are most remarkable for how little religion inflects them. Be it complaints about a police force that long resembled an army of occupation, smoldering class resentment or even youthful demands for frivolity, a growing consciousness has taken hold in a sign of what awaits the rest of the Arab world after President Hosni Mubarak’s fall on Friday.