Egypt Justice Minister: Growing Lynchings Mean ‘Death of the State’

State's Monopoly on Force in Jeopardy, Warns Mekki

by Jason Ditz, March 18, 2013

Max Weber defined the state as an agency which successfully claims a “monopoly on the legitimate use of violence. The Egyptian state has used plenty of violence over the past couple of years, in the lead-up to and the aftermath of the Arab Spring revolution, and the legitimacy in either case has been a hotly debated topic.

The monopoly part however is the focus today, with Justice Minister Ahmed Mekki saying that the growing number of lynchings by civilians against people perceived to have violated the law is ruining this monopoly and therefore means “the death of the state.”

In some of the cases, the lynchings have focused on hanging thieves or kidnappers, or “revenge killings” against accused rapists. A disquieting number of killings however have been by Islamist factions enforcing a strict interpretation of Sharia, including a university student slain for sitting in a park with his fiancee, which the killers argued was against Islamic law because she wasn’t his wife yet.

The ruling Muslim Brotherhood is blaming the police for the growth of vigilantism in the country, saying they are allowing security to deteriorate to the point that civilians feel the need to “deal with” problems on their own. Some accused the police of taking bribes to look the other way while remnants of the Mubarak regime “create chaos.”

Opposition factions are blaming the Muslim Brotherhood, saying the ruling party is so desperate to protect its own headquarters’ from being burned to the ground by protesters that they are ignoring security elsewhere.

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