Mohammad Salah
Al-Hayat (Opinion)
September 20, 2012 - 12:00am

If the Islamists are in power in Egypt today, then who are those Islamists who are committing acts of violence in the Sinai? The question strongly poses itself in light of the violent incidents repeatedly taking place in the Egyptian peninsula – incidents which are branching out and have not ceased despite the broad military campaign waged by the Egyptian army in extremist Islamist strongholds there ever since the attack on border guards that resulted in 16 deaths. Some believe that Islamists coming to power in the country with the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafists winning the parliamentary majority in the dissolved parliament, and then with Doctor Mohamed Morsi reaching the seat of the presidency, would have ensured the disappearance of religious violence all over Egypt, even if political or even military conflicts were to arise for other reasons in other parts of the country. But there are also others who believe that Islamists coming to power has increased the rate of violence, as “the authorities” are taking measures that increase the number of extremist Islamists, provide them with opportunities to commit acts of violence, or keep them from being prosecuted and punished. Those of the latter opinion point to decisions issued by Morsi for example to release Jihadist Islamists from prison, some of whom had been sentenced to death, in addition of course to reducing the siege on the Gaza Strip and strengthening relations with the Hamas movement, opening the border crossing and overlooking the tunnels.

The truth is that the history of the Islamist movement in Egypt proves that there are intolerant Takfiri groups (groups that declare others to be apostates of Islam) that would not approve of any party ruling aside from themselves, and that such groups had been in existence in Egypt under Nasser, as well as under Sadat and Mubarak, and will continue to exist even if the Muslim Brotherhood, along with the Salafists, was to rule the country. Indeed, such groups, just as they have accused every former regime of apostasy, accuse the Muslim Brotherhood, as well as other non-Jihadist Salafist groups, of it also. Moreover, the situation in the Sinai is not so much due to political reasons than it is to security reasons. Indeed, security unrest there is ongoing, and the incidents the State Security apparatus has been subjected to have contributed to increasing the activity of Takfiri groups, as a result of the absence of efforts to combat them or of accurate information about them.

As for those who believe that the army is capable of entering into gang warfare against Takfiri groups in the Sinai, and that it would in such a war achieve victory similar to that of October 1973, they do not realize that internal security (police) forces would be better able to deal with the activity of religious movements, despite the difference in terms of equipment and capabilities between the police and the army. Armies require vast areas of land devoid of habitations and inhabitants, and can achieve victory even when fighting a larger and better equipped army. As for movements, groups and organizations that practice gang warfare, information about them is more important than their ability to wage war, just as the fact that they mix in with the local population prevents the army from resorting to broad battles of elimination, as it would not have the sympathy of the local inhabitants.

Abdel Nasser fell because of the defeat of the Egyptian army in the Six-Day War of June 1967 – and this was a defeat in the face of another army. What could one then say if Egypt were to lose the Sinai again because of Egyptian Takfiri Islamist groups?

The Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafists (non-Jihadist of course), as well as President Morsi, are required to provide a model of peaceful Islamist rule. If such an experiment were to succeed, this would contribute to decreasing the numbers of those who would join Takfiri movements. The latter are now working on bringing about the failure of the new Islamist government by adding new cadres, based on the notion that the Brotherhood is no different from the other regimes that have ruled Egypt in the past. And the more failures the new government suffers, the more the situation will become increasingly dangerous. It is now restricted to the Sinai, and the greatest fear is that it might spread in Egypt… all of Egypt.


American Task Force on Palestine - 1634 Eye St. NW, Suite 725, Washington DC 20006 - Telephone: 202-262-0017