Recent developments in Egyptian political culture leading up to the presidential elections of 7 September 2005 suggest that increasing participation and broader political representation are underway. This is exemplified by the Kifaya protest movement, now a significant feature of the Egyptian political scene. More significantly, however, is a general revitalisation of Cairene civil society upon which Kifaya is based. Over the last decade, this revitalisation has meant that a new emphasis on political ethics and social civility has emerged to replace preoccupations with ‘political Islam’ of the 1990s. This shift in values is reflected in the social discourse of Cairene elites. From 2000, key debates and images of Egyptian national identity projected by journalists and other professionals increasingly highlight civic ideals – adab (propriety/civility), akhlaq (public ethics), ta’addudiya (pluralism) – seen as critical to a reformed political culture. This suggests a return to a more nuanced understanding of Muslim governance (hakimiyya) based on scholarly fiqh and ijtihad, as distinct from unilateral and defensive usuliyya (fundamentalism) that drove earlier Islamist challenges of the secular state. Furthermore, the 1980s vogue of cultural authenticity (‘asala) as the ultimate measure of identity politics, in which ritual differentiation from ‘Western’ values was obligatory, also appears to have diminished in Cairene cultural discourse. This can be attributed to Egypt’s national interests (wataniya) having eclipsed qawmiya (transnationalism) of ideological Arabism that dominated Egyptian national discourses throughout the 1970s and 1980s. Finally, incorporation of Islam by the state, from the mid-1980s, also influenced Cairene social discourse by successfully promoting religious moderation, social pluralism and civility as official Islam. Gradual convergence of Egyptian civil society with global norms of civil society was thus firmly anchored in ethically constitutive portrayals of Islam. The result indicates the closer conjunction between projections of a positive self-image and a more progressive political culture.