irroring liberalism’s dubious claims to cultural neutrality, Western
scholarly works on this period of Egyptian history are no less objec-
tive. According to influential interpretations of the Egyptian liberal experi-
ment in the field of Middle East politics, most prominently represented by
the works of Nadav Safran and P. J. Vatikiotis, liberal democracy failed in
Egypt because Egyptians did not quite understand the ideas of European
liberalism.∞ For Safran, the most serious impediment to democratic consoli-
dation in Egypt was the inability of Egyptian political thinkers—both liberal
secularists and liberal Islamic reformers—to break from the traditional be-
lief system and embrace a modern political ideology. The Egyptian liberal
thinkers failed in this attempt, says Safran, because they ‘‘did not grasp
the essential meaning and dynamics of democracy and constitutionalism.’’≤
Vatikiotis, on the other hand, holds that the liberal experiment failed in
Egypt because the constitutional process was constantly interrupted to serve
partisan political interests. Like Safran, however, Vatikiotis infers from this
interference the ‘‘unreal hold which liberal European political ideas had over
Egyptian leaders.’’≥ This depiction of the failure of liberalism in Egypt conve-
niently relieves the colonial order from much accountability and overlooks
the cultural tensions and political contradictions that accompanied the im-
position of ‘‘democratic’’ institutions under the auspices of colonial author-
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