The article seeks an answer to one of the most puzzling aspects of the century-long, engaged debate on 'citizenship' (muwäṭana) in Egypt: its scope. How did 'citizenship' come to be confined to issues of religious (in)equality, thus preventing any form of meaningful engagement with other aspects of citizenship, be it political participation, gender equality, or class mobility?
The article applies the Gramscian conceptual toolkit to shed some light on the limited scope of the discourse on 'citi- zenship' in Egypt by analyzing how the hegemonic consensus on what 'citizenship' means was built. It identifies and characterizes three main phases in the debate, with an eye always on the scope. In its first phase (the counter- hegemonic inception), traditional intellectuals challenged the post-colonial nationalist project of the ruling class and its organic intellectuals; in its second phase (the accommodation), traditional intellectuals explored ways to find mid- ground solutions with organic intellectuals; and in its third phase (the counter-challenge), organic intellectuals were mobilized by an emerging sector of the ruling class against traditional intellectuals and their accommodation at- tempts. In the buildup of the hegemonic consensus, however, the main accomplishment was eminently to occupy the space of the public debate with questions of religious (in)equality.
A large, closing section is then dedicated to the analysis of a recent contribution by a prominent traditional intellectual (Ṭäriq al-Bishrz) that shows how arguments are constructed so as to provide a constraining framework of reference for the debate, and at the same time ground the hegemonic consensus in Islamicate discourse.