Atlantic Council Middle East Published Articles

‘No’ to Political Violence, Because…

Islamist Rally

From my recent article on EgyptSource:

Cynics throughout Egypt could only smirk. Thousands of Islamists protested against the recent wave of political violence, answering the call of one of its most notorious perpetrators, the Jama’a Islamiya. Throughout the 1990s they led an armed campaign against the Mubarak regime, as well as targeting tourists in a bid to discredit the state.

In the early 2000s, beaten and discredited themselves, the Jama’a Islamiya issued its famous ‘Revisions’. Jailed leaders reconsidered their violent philosophy, publishing tomes on the errors of their way. They also reconciled with the government, securing release from prison for many. Since then the group has largely laid low, at least until the revolution.

Like others in the formerly forbidden Islamist trend, the Jama’a Islamiya took advantage of new political freedom to form a party, Building and Development. They allied with the Salafi Nour Party but played second fiddle, offering their popular support especially in Upper Egypt in exchange for a handful of parliamentary seats. But as Egypt descended into a morass of political chaos and violence, it was the Jama’a Islamiya which took the lead in condemnation. The question is, why?

Cynical reasons abound.

The article then seeks to expose some of these cynical reasons through the testimony of protestors:

“When the Jama’a Islamiya says ‘no’ to violence, we have more credibility than anyone else,” said Sharaf al-Din al-Gibali, a party leader in Fayoum. “Why? We engaged in an armed struggle with the regime for over ten years. We finally realized violence is not a suitable path to power, under any circumstances.”

In fact, it is concern for the opposition that is a large part of their motivation. “We have tried this path already,” he continued, “so for those who are trying it now we are worried for them.”

But then other testimony reinforces the cynical:

“What is happening now is the empowerment of Islamists and if God wills he will help us soon to rise against Israel,” said Mohamed Ahmed, an unaffiliated clothes merchant who leans in support of the Jama’a Islamiya. “We are against violence among ourselves; God has forbidden a Muslim to shed the blood of another.”

By ‘among ourselves’ Ahmed meant all Egyptians, even though he labeled the opposition as troublemakers. He believed Mahmoud Shaaban’s recent fatwa authorizing their death was near-appropriate.

“ElBaradei and the others spread corruption in the land and call for rebellion against the authorized leader,” using a traditional phrase from Sunni Muslim jurisprudence. “Sheikh Shaaban simply mentioned the hadith that says such as these deserve death, but those with him on the program convinced him this issue must go to the Azhar.”

Ahmed has a distaste for politics in general, but the times are changing. “There is a jurisprudence of reality; if the people now want ballot boxes, we will use them,” he said.

“We entered into political parties to be able to reach the ability to govern, and not just preach. If you only preach they can shut you down.”

Please click here to read the whole article at EgyptSource.

One reply on “‘No’ to Political Violence, Because…”

What's your opinion?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s