Jihadists in Egypt: From Their Origins to June 30th to Syria

Published: March 01, 2014

frontFollowing the fall of regimes in Egypt, Tunisia, and Libya in 2011, several voices entertained the idea of a new era free of extremism in the Middle East and North Africa, where terrorists and radicals would find no home. But upon Islamists’ rise to power in Egypt, a presidential pardon was granted to imprisoned jihadists, new alliances among jihadists were forged, Egyptians traveled to Syria to open a new jihadist frontline, and Egyptian soldiers were killed by jihadist groups in Sinai. The June 30th, 2013 ouster of President Mohammad Morsi brought the region back to square one. Al-Mesbar  Center explores these developments in its 87th monthly book, Jihadists in Egypt: From Their Origins to June 30th to Syria.  Several former jihadists, together with Egyptian scholars, contributed chapters to the book.

Egyptian scholar and Islamist movements expert Ahmed Al-Shorbachi opens the book with an introduction about the history of jihadist movements in Egypt and their struggle with authorities. The writer discusses the ideology of “confrontation” found in the jihadist dogma and the nature of the individuals involved. He then examines today’s jihadist groups, analyzing the impact of the rise and fall of the Muslim Brotherhood in Cairo. Al-Shorbachi examines the possibility that these groups are now reconsidering their methods — but the writer doubts that any considerable change is in store.

On the same topic, Islamist expert  Munir  Adib presents his chapter, “Jihadist Currents: Maps and Transformations in Egypt”, largely in view of the Muslim Brotherhood’s short-lived rule in Egypt. He points to the “verbal violence” which gradually transformed into “individual violence,” called for and carried out by some Brotherhood members. The author believes that Brotherhood rule has led to random jihadist violence associated with the Brotherhood, but has not engendered a new jihadist organization as such.

Egyptian scholar Maher Farghli examines the jihadist map following June 30th, 2013 parsing the geographical distribution of the various groups and comparing the “map” with prior realities over earlier decades.

Building on documented reports and live interviews, Egyptian scholar Salahaldin Hasan presents the study, “The Brotherhood and the Jihadists: Between Convergence and Divergence,” which explores the many facets of the jihadist movement in Egypt before the January 25th revolution. The author highlights the jihadists’ knowledge of the revolution beforehand and their role in rallying support for the Brotherhood’s then-candidate, Mohammed Morsi, up until the rebellion of the Salafi and jihadist movements and the ouster of Morsi. The study relates transcripts of several conversations conducted with Jihadists.

In his research: “A Climb to the Abyss: Centralization in the Muslim Brotherhood Ideology”, Egyptian scholar Mohammed Hilmi Abd-Alwahab states that climbing to power is the sole objective of the organization. The author presents an analysis of Hasan Al-Banna’s views on authority and power, in addition to the agenda of several Brotherhood leaders in establishing a universal Islamic “Caliphate.”  Hilmi asserts the essential challenge of drawing meaningful distinctions between the ideologies of the various religious groups — the Brotherhood being one of them — because they all share the “Caliphate illusion.”

Lebanese scholar Haythem Hasan examines the phenomenon of Egyptian Jihadists in Syria who the author claims are distributed among several groups including “Jabhat al-Nusra” and “ISIS”. While there are no precise numbers of Egyptian jihadists fighting in Syria, Hasan quotes the American Journal Foreign Policy, which released a study claiming about 119 Jihadists hailing from Egypt are among the thousands of non-Syrian fighters who have arrived since 2011.

Ex-Brotherhood leader Najih Ibrahim Al-Abdullah presents his chapter, “Al-Qaeda: Dogmatic and Strategic Defects,” in which he explains the rise of Salafi Jihadism in modern-day Egypt. Ibrahim Al-Nimr, scholar and editorial board member of Al-Mesbar, presents a reading of the Egyptian government’s decree to ban the Muslim Brotherhood in the country and designate the movement and its members under the “terrorism” category.

Egyptian scholar and jihadism expert Hani Yasin offers his review of the book, “Studies in Salafi Jihadism” (Madarat Publishing and Research, Cairo, 2013). This monthly book also contains two reports: the first, conducted by Italian scholar and Islamism expert Dr. Lorenzo Vidino regarding the phenomena of homegrown terrorism in Italy. The second report, “Al-Qaeda’s Organized Crime Across the Coastal Line and Desert,” is presented by Moroccan scholar and international relations expert Mohammed Bobosh. The author examines the phenomenon of organized crime carried out by Al-Qaeda in Morocco, and the group’s related effort to destabilize several territories.

Al-Mesbar would like to extend its gratitude to all the scholars and experts who participated in making this edition possible, especially Mohammed Hilmi Abd-Alwahab, who coordinated the book.