by Patrick Appel
Henry Farrell focuses on the role of mosques:
One of the most significant problems in coordinating widespread collective protests in undemocratic regimes is figuring out where and when people should meet. One can converge upon major public sites - but one faces obvious risks in so doing, unless one is already part of a large group. When there is (a) a social institution or set of social institutions through which people meet in large groups at particular places at regular times, and (b) that institution is vaguely or strongly associated with unhappiness with the regime, then they help solve this problem. People can meet and congregate in larger groups and then take action. Mosques (in a country where the Islamic Brotherhood is repressed) can obviously play that role in Egypt and did play that role. Even without any other means of communication, people could plausibly have predicted that the mosques' Friday services would be the obvious place for protestors to congregate in large groups (or, if there was no large group, to reassess the probable costs of protest and slink away).
(Photo: Egyptian riot police officers watch people praying outside the Mustafa Mahmud Mosque in Cairo, on January 28, 2011)