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The Arab Tomorrow

DAVID B. OTTAWAY

October 6, 1981, was meant to be a day of celebration in Egypt. It marked the anniversary of Egypt’s grandest moment of victory in three Arab-Israeli conflicts, when the country’s underdog army thrust across the Suez Canal in the opening days ofthe 1973 Yom Kippur War and sent Israeli troops reeling in retreat. On a cool, cloudless morning, the Cairo stadium was packed with Egyptian families that had come to see the military strut its hardware.On the reviewing stand, President Anwar el-Sadat,the war’s architect, watched with satisfaction as men and machines paraded before him. I was nearby, a newly arrived foreign correspondent.Suddenly, one of the army trucks halted directly in front of the reviewing stand just as six Mirage jets roared overhead in an acrobatic performance, painting the sky with long trails of red, yellow, purple,and green smoke. Sadat stood up, apparently preparing to exchange salutes with yet another contingent of Egyptian troops. He made himself a perfect target for four Islamist assassins who jumped from the truck, stormed the podium, and riddled his body with bullets.As the killers continued for what seemed an eternity to spray the stand with their deadly fire, I considered for an instant whether to hit the ground and risk being trampled to death by panicked spectators or remain afoot and risk taking a stray bullet. Instinct told me to stay on my feet, and my sense of journalistic duty impelled me to go find out whether Sadat was alive or dead.

Islamic Reformation

Adnan Khan

The Italian Prime Minister, Silvio Berlusconi boasted after the events of 9/11:
“…we must be aware of the superiority of our civilisation, a system that has guaranteed

well being, respect for human rights andin contrast with Islamic countriesrespect

for religious and political rights, a system that has its values understanding of diversity

and tolerance…The West will conquer peoples, like it conquered communism, even if it

means a confrontation with another civilisation, the Islamic one, stuck where it was

1,400 years ago…”1

And in a 2007 report the RAND institute declared:
“The struggle underway throughout much of the Muslim world is essentially a war of

ideas. Its outcome will determine the future direction of the Muslim world.”

Building moderate Muslim Networks, RAND Institute

The concept of ‘islah’ (reform) is a concept unknown to Muslims. It never existed throughout the

history of the Islamic civilisation; it was never debated or even considered. A cursory glance at classical

Islamic literature shows us that when the classical scholars laid the foundations of usul, and codified

their Islamic rulings (fiqh) they were only looking to the comprehension of the Islamic rules in order to

apply them. A similar situation occurred when the rules were laid down for the hadith, tafseer and the

Arabic language. Scholars, thinkers and intellectuals throughout Islamic history spent much time

understanding Allah’s revelation – the Qur’an and applying the ayaat upon the realities and coined

principals and disciplines in order to facilitate understanding. Hence the Qur’an remained the basis of

study and all the disciplines that evolved were always based upon the Qur’an. Those who became

smitten by Greek philosophy such as the Muslim philosophers and some from amongst the Mut’azilah

were considered to have left the fold of Islam as the Qur’an ceased to be their basis of study. Thus for

any Muslim attempting to deduce rules or understand what stance should be taken upon a particular

issue the Qur’an is the basis of this study.

The first attempt at reforming Islam took place at the turn of the 19th century. By the turn of the

century the Ummah had been in a lengthy period of decline where the global balance of power shifted

from the Khilafah to Britain. Mounting problems engulfed the Khilafah whilst Western Europe was in

the midst of the industrial revolution. The Ummah came to lose her pristine understanding of Islam, and

in an attempt to reverse the decline engulfing the Uthmani’s (Ottomans) some Muslims were sent to the

West, and as a result became smitten by what they saw. Rifa’a Rafi’ al-Tahtawi of Egypt (1801-1873),

on his return from Paris, wrote a biographical book called Takhlis al-ibriz ila talkhis Bariz (The

Extraction of Gold, or an Overview of Paris, 1834), praising their cleanliness, love of work, and above

all social morality. He declared that we must mimic what is being done in Paris, advocating changes to

the Islamic society from liberalising women to the systems of ruling. This thought, and others like it,

marked the beginning of the reinventing trend in Islam.

PRECISION IN THE GLOBAL WAR ON TERROR:

Sherifa Zuhur

Seven years after the September 11, 2001 (9/11) attacks, many experts believe al-Qa’ida has regained strength and that its copycats or affiliates are more lethal than before. The National Intelligence Estimate of 2007 asserted that al-Qa’ida is more dangerous now than before 9/11.1 Al-Qa’ida’s emulators continue to threaten Western, Middle Eastern, and European nations, as in the plot foiled in September 2007 in Germany. Bruce Riedel states: Thanks largely to Washington’s eagerness to go into Iraq rather than hunting down al Qaeda’s leaders, the organization now has a solid base of operations in the badlands of Pakistan and an effective franchise in western Iraq. Its reach has spread throughout the Muslim world and in Europe . . . Osama bin Laden has mounted a successful propaganda campaign. . . . His ideas now attract more followers than ever.
It is true that various salafi-jihadist organizations are still emerging throughout the Islamic world. Why have heavily resourced responses to the Islamist terrorism that we are calling global jihad not proven extremely effective?
Moving to the tools of “soft power,” what about the efficacy of Western efforts to bolster Muslims in the Global War on Terror (GWOT)? Why has the United States won so few “hearts and minds” in the broader Islamic world? Why do American strategic messages on this issue play so badly in the region? Why, despite broad Muslim disapproval of extremism as shown in surveys and official utterances by key Muslim leaders, has support for bin Ladin actually increased in Jordan and in Pakistan?
This monograph will not revisit the origins of Islamist violence. It is instead concerned with a type of conceptual failure that wrongly constructs the GWOT and which discourages Muslims from supporting it. They are unable to identify with the proposed transformative countermeasures because they discern some of their core beliefs and institutions as targets in
this endeavor.
Several deeply problematic trends confound the American conceptualizations of the GWOT and the strategic messages crafted to fight that War. These evolve from (1) post-colonial political approaches to Muslims and Muslim majority nations that vary greatly and therefore produce conflicting and confusing impressions and effects; and (2) residual generalized ignorance of and prejudice toward Islam and subregional cultures. Add to this American anger, fear, and anxiety about the deadly events of 9/11, and certain elements that, despite the urgings of cooler heads, hold Muslims and their religion accountable for the misdeeds of their coreligionists, or who find it useful to do so for political reasons.

EGYPT’S MUSLIM BROTHERS: CONFRONTATION OR INTEGRATION?

Research

The Society of Muslim Brothers’ success in the November-December 2005 elections for the People’s Assembly sent shockwaves through Egypt’s political system. In response, the regime cracked down on the movement, harassed other potential rivals and reversed its fledging reform process. This is dangerously short-sighted. There is reason to be concerned about the Muslim Brothers’ political program, and they owe the people genuine clarifications about several of its aspects. But the ruling National Democratic
Party’s (NDP) refusal to loosen its grip risks exacerbating tensions at a time of both political uncertainty surrounding the presidential succession and serious socio-economic unrest. Though this likely will be a prolonged, gradual process, the regime should take preliminary steps to normalise the Muslim Brothers’ participation in political life. The Muslim Brothers, whose social activities have long been tolerated but whose role in formal politics is strictly limited, won an unprecedented 20 per cent of parliamentary seats in the 2005 elections. They did so despite competing for only a third of available seats and notwithstanding considerable obstacles, including police repression and electoral fraud. This success confirmed their position as an extremely wellorganised and deeply rooted political force. At the same time, it underscored the weaknesses of both the legal opposition and ruling party. The regime might well have wagered that a modest increase in the Muslim Brothers’ parliamentary representation could be used to stoke fears of an Islamist takeover and thereby serve as a reason to stall reform. If so, the strategy is at heavy risk of backfiring.

Organizational Continuity in Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood

Tess Lee Eisenhart

As Egypt’s oldest and most prominent opposition movement, the Society of

Muslim Brothers, al-ikhwan al-muslimeen, has long posed a challenge to successive secular
regimes by offering a comprehensive vision of an Islamic state and extensive social
welfare services. Since its founding in 1928, the Brotherhood (Ikhwan) has thrived in a
parallel religious and social services sector, generally avoiding direct confrontation with
ruling regimes.1 More recently over the past two decades, however, the Brotherhood has
dabbled with partisanship in the formal political realm. This experiment culminated in
the election of the eighty-eight Brothers to the People’s Assembly in 2005—the largest
oppositional bloc in modern Egyptian history—and the subsequent arrests of nearly
1,000 Brothers.2 The electoral advance into mainstream politics provides ample fodder
for scholars to test theories and make predictions about the future of the Egyptian
regime: will it fall to the Islamist opposition or remain a beacon of secularism in the
Arab world?
This thesis shies away from making such broad speculations. Instead, it explores

the extent to which the Muslim Brotherhood has adapted as an organization in the past
decade.

BETWEEN YESTERDAY AND TODAY

HASAN AL-BANNA

The First Islamic State
On the foundation of this virtuous Qur’anic social order the first Islamic state arose, having unshakeable faith in it, meticulously applying it, and spreading it throughout the world, so that the first Khilafah used to say: ‘If I should lose a camel’s lead, I would find it in Allah’s Book.’. He fought those who refused to pay zakah, regarding them as apostates because they had overthrown one of the pillars of this order, saying: ‘By Allah, if they refused me a lead which they would hand over to the Apostle of Allah (PBUH), I would fight them as soon as I have a sword in my hand!’ For unity, in all its meanings and manifestations, pervaded this new forthcoming nation.
Complete social unity arose from making the Qur’anic order and it’s language universal, while complete political unity was under the shadow of the Amir Al-Mumineen and beneath the standard of the Khilafah in the capital.
The fact that the Islamic ideology was one of decentralisation of the armed forces, the state treasuries, and provincial governors proved to be no obstacle to this, since all acted according to a single creed and a unified and comprehensive control. The Qur’anic principles dispelled and laid to rest the superstitious idolatry prevalent in the Arabian Peninsula and Persia. They banished guileful Judaism and confined it to a narrow province, putting an end to its religious and political authority. They struggled with Christianity such that its influence was greatly diminished in the Asian and African continents, confined only to Europe under the guard of the Byzantine Empire in Constantinople. Thus the Islamic state became the centre of spiritual and political dominance within the two largest continents. This state persisted in its attacks against the third continent, assaulting Constantinople from the east and besieging it until the siege grew wearisome. Then it came at it from the west,
plunging into Spain, with its victorious soldiers reaching the heart of France and penetrating as far as northern and southern Italy. It established an imposing state in Western Europe, radiant with science and knowledge.
Afterwards, it ended the conquest of Constantinople itself and the confined Christianity within the restricted area of Central Europe. Islamic fleets ventured into the depths of the Mediterranean and Red seas, both became Islamic lakes. And so the armed forces of the Islamic state assumed supremacy of the seas both in the East and West, enjoying absolute mastery over land and sea. These Islamic nations had already combined and incorporated many things from other civilisations, but they triumphed through the strength of their faith and the solidness of their system over others. They Arabised them, or succeeded in doing so to a degree, and were able to sway them and convert them to the splendour, beauty and vitality of their language and religion. The Muslims were free to adopt anything beneficial from other civilisations, insofar as it did not have adverse effects on their social and political unity.

The Lives of Hasan al Banna & Syed Qutb.

The Muslim Brotherhood (Ikhwan al Muslimeen) was founded by Hasan al-Banna (1906-1949) in the Egyptian town of al- Isma’iliyyah in 1928. The son of an Azharite scholar, who earned his livelihood by repairing watches, Hasan al-Banna showed from his early
school-days an inclination and great zeal for calling people to Islamic values and traditions. His strong sense of religiosity and spiritual awareness drove him to join the Hasafiyyah tariqah, one of many Sufi tariqahs that were widespread in Egypt at that time. Even though he was not formally associated with this tariqah after he founded the Ikhwan, he, nevertheless, maintained a good relation with it, as indeed with other Islamic organizations and religious personalities, and persisted in reciting the litanies (awrad, pl. of wird) of this tariqah until his last days. Though Hasan al-Banna joined a modern-type school of education, he promised his father that he would continue to memorize the Qur’an, which he did, in fact later, at the age of twelve. While at school, he took part in the activities of some religious associations and clubs which were promoting it and calling for the observance of Islamic teachings .

In the Shadow of an Arab Caesar: Sayyid Qutb and the Radicalization of Modern Islamic Fundamentalism

Research

“We are the umma of the believers, living within a jahili society. As a community of believers we should see ourselves in a state of war with the state and the society. The territory we dwell in is the House of War.”1 These were the words of Sayyid Qutb in an Egyptian military court in April, 1966 before he and two of his companions were sentenced to death by hanging. The offense; conspiring against the government and plotting its overthrow, the evidence used by the state prosecutors in the trial, besides ‘confessions,’ a book, Qutb’s final piece of literature, Ma‘alim fi al-Turuq, Signposts.2 This study does not set out to be a thorough analysis of the political and religious ideology of Sayyid Qutb. Rather it is an attempt to identify the political and social climate in Egypt as the primary motivation which led to the development of Qutb’s radical interpretations of Islam. Notions of Arab nationalism and Arab socialism dominated the political discourse of Qutb’s Egypt and hearts and minds were enraptured by promises of its populist leader, Gamal Abdel Nasser. This chapter in Arab history from the early 1950’s until the late 1960’s is etched in historical memory as the era of pan-Arabism. However, it was also a vital period in the evolution of fundamentalist Islam into its more radical form which first expressed itself in the 1970’s and is until today at the base of radical fundamentalist Islamic thought worldwide. This piece will
demonstrate the principal role played by Sayyid Qutb in this transformation and reveal that radical interpretations of Islam were given impetus to develop in Egypt during this period due to the nature of Nasser’s regime

EGYPT: SECURITY, POLITICAL, AND ISLAMIST CHALLENGES

Sherifa Zuhur

This monograph addresses three issues in contemporary Egypt: failures of governance and political development, the continued strength of Islamism, and counter terrorism. It is easier to tackle their contours in Egypt if they are considered separately. They are not, however, separate or independent; continuing to treat them as mutually exclusive conditions will lead to further crisis down the road.
The Egyptian government forged a truce with its most troublesome Islamist militants in 1999. However, violence emerged again from new sources of Islamist militancy from 2003 into 2006. All of the previously held conclusions about the role of state strength
versus movements that led to the truce are now void as it appears that “al-Qa’idism” may continue to
plague the country or, indeed, the region as a whole.
In consequence, an important process of political liberalization was slowed, and in 3 to 4 years, if not earlier, Egypt’s political security and stability will be at risk. Widespread economic and political discontent might push that date forward. In addition, continuing popular support for moderate Islamism could lead to a situation where the current peace could erode if a
comprehensive peace settlement to the Palestinian- Arab-Israeli conflict is achieved, and if various other
factors were to come into play.

THE METAMORPHOSIS OF THE EGYPTIAN MUSLIM BROTHERS

Mona El-Ghobashy

Jihane al-Halafawi’s small apartment above a barbershop in Alexandria is exceedingly

orderly, a cool oasis on a sweltering summer afternoon. Plant leaves brush up against
curtains undulating with the breeze from the nearby Mediterranean. As she walks into
the living room with a tray full of cakes and tea, al-Halafawi is the picture of a kindly
Egyptian mother, a genuine smile gracing her youthful face. But when this fifty-yearold
mother of six and grandmother announced her candidacy for Egypt’s parliamentary
elections in fall 2000, the state geared up amassive security force outside polling stations;
leftists shrugged her off as a “front” for her husband; and state feminists dedicated to the
electoral empowerment of women were silent.When Halafawi outperformed her rulingparty
rival in the first round, despite rigging, the Interior Ministry promptly stepped in
and canceled the results on the pretext of respecting an earlier court ruling postponing
the elections.
Alexandria’s al-Raml district went without parliamentary representation for two years

s al-Halafawi and her legal team battled the state in the courts. Finally, in June 2002,
a Supreme Administrative Court ruling compelled the Interior Ministry to hold the
by-elections.On election day, security forces blockaded roads leading to polling stations,
arrested al-Halafawi’s legal team and 101 of her supporters, roughed up journalists, and
stepped aside as public-sector workers bused in from outside the district voted for her

rival. Unusually, the six o’clock news was interrupted that evening to announce the
sweeping victory of the two ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) candidates in the
Raml by-elections.1
Al-Halafawi’s experience is one dramatic piece of a larger story, the story of the

group of which she is a part: the Society of Muslim Brothers (Jamaat al-Ikhwan al-
Muslimun).2 Over the past quarter-century, the Society of Muslim Brothers (Ikhwan)
has morphed from a highly secretive, hierarchical, antidemocratic organization led by
anointed elders into a modern, multivocal political association steered by educated,

savvy professionals not unlike activists of the same age in rival Egyptian political
parties. Seventy-seven years ago, the Muslim Brothers were founded in the provincial
city of Ismailiyya by the charismatic disciplinarian and shrewd organizer Hasan al-
Banna (1906–49).

The History of the Muslim Brotherhood

Michelle Paison

We in the West !nd it incomprehensible that theological ideas still in”ame the minds of men, stirring up messianic passions that can leave societies in ruin. We had assumed that this was no longer possible,that human beings had learned to separate religious questions from political ones, that political theology died in 16h-century Europe. We were wrong.1Islam is no longer exclusively a religion, but an ideology that provides a total framework for all aspects of political, social, economic, and cultural life in the Muslim world. Although Islam has continuously demonstrated the theme of resurgence throughout its history in response to the internal and external forces that challenge Muslim faith and society, the assertion of Islamism has strongly reemerged. Discontent is evident through the gradual movement towards Islamist ideology, whether or not the idea ofIslam strongly resonates among the populous. Individuals, despondentfrom the suppression of alternatives from oppressive regimes, look towards change. Organizations, such as the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, provide clear examples of the greater trend developing throughout the region ofthe Middle East and North Africa. #e political power and social in”uenceheld by the Brotherhood capitalizes on the Arab Republic of Egypt’s failureto support its peoples. Subsequently the dissatis!ed population turns to a movement that has the ability to provide the necessary services for survival;Islamism. #is increasing development is pushing moderate, mainstream Islam into the realm of radicalism through means of desperation.Part of the emergence of neorevivalism, the Muslim Brotherhood,established by Hassan al-Banna in 1928, saw the Islamic community at a critical crossroads and insisted that Muslims would !nd strength in the totalself-su$ciency of Islam.

The Future of the Muslim Brotherhood

Amr Al-Chobaki


The Muslim Brotherhood managed to maintain its organizational existence since its establishment in 1928, by the late Hasan Al-Banna. Throughout eight decades, it has managed to exist as a religious movement as well as a political and social organization. This, on one hand, helped it to be sufficiently strong to be distinguished from other political powers, but also made it weak and feeble in some other ways.

The Muslim Brotherhood as a movement is similar to other Egyptian political movements, as it was established at the time of the royal regime and a semi-liberal era. It clashed with the government during the time of President `Abd Al-Nasser, adapted to the regime of President Sadat, and tended to fluctuate in its relationship with President Mubarak, however, the relationship was based on partial elimination, just like the state during the age of President `Abd Al-Nasser. Moreover, it has been outlawed for most of its history; since 1954 until the present time (i.e. more than half a century).

The Muslim Brotherhood has continued to be both a witness and a party in the political and cultural dispute in Egypt and the Arab countries, throughout different historical periods; Egypt in the time of the royal regime and in the time of the republic with its three stages. This dispute was about issues of identity and cultural belonging, the relationship between the religion – on one hand – and politics, the East and the West on the other hand, as well as the coming and the inherited. The Muslim Brotherhood had a flexible political and intellectual reference that gave it a comprehensive conception of Islam.

Current Trends in the Ideology of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood

Dr. Israel Elad Altman

The American-led Middle East reform and democratization campaign of the last twoyears has helped shape a new political reality in Egypt. Opportunities have opened up fordissent. With U.S. and European support, local opposition groups have been able to takeinitiative, advance their causes and extract concessions from the state. The EgyptianMuslim Brotherhood movement (MB), which has been officially outlawed as a politicalorganization, is now among the groups facing both new opportunities and new risks.Western governments, including the government of the United States, are consideringthe MB and other “moderate Islamist” groups as potential partners in helping to advancedemocracy in their countries, and perhaps also in eradicating Islamist terrorism. Couldthe Egyptian MB fill that role? Could it follow the track of the Turkish Justice andDevelopment Party (AKP) and the Indonesian Prosperous Justice Party (PKS), twoIslamist parties that, according to some analysts, are successfully adapting to the rules ofliberal democracy and leading their countries toward greater integration with,respectively, Europe and a “pagan” Asia?This article examines how the MB has responded to the new reality, how it has handledthe ideological and practical challenges and dilemmas that have arisen during the pasttwo years. To what extent has the movement accommodated its outlook to newcircumstances? What are its objectives and its vision of the political order? How has itreacted to U.S. overtures and to the reform and democratization campaign? How has itnavigated its relations with the Egyptian regime on one hand, and other opposition forceson the other, as the country headed toward two dramatic elections in autumn 2005? Towhat extent can the MB be considered a force that might lead Egypt toward liberaldemocracy?

Will Politics Tame Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood?

NEIL MacFARQUHAR


CAIRO, Dec. 7 – When stumping through the port city of Alexandria, whose crumbling mansions and rickety tram lines evoke long-faded glory, Sobhe Saleh of the Muslim Brotherhood vowed he had a different vision for Egypt’s future.

“If Islam were applied, no one would be hungry,” he roared recently to a crowd of fully veiled women ululating with joy. “Islam is a religion of construction. Islam is a religion of investment. Islam is a religion of development.”

Religion, in fact, should profoundly alter both Egypt’s domestic and foreign policy, said Mr. Saleh, a 52-year-old lawyer with a clipped helmet of steel-gray hair.

“If Islam were applied, the television would not show us prostitution and people lacking all decency!” he declared. “If Islam were applied, Iraq could not have been invaded, Israel could not occupy Jerusalem, and aggression could not have been used to humiliate Muslims everywhere!”

A long-expected day of reckoning is at hand in Egyptian politics now that the Brotherhood, an illegal organization with a violent past, is entering the corridors of power for the first time in significant numbers.

The outcome of the freest election in more than 50 years could determine whether political Islam will turn Egypt into a repressive, anti-American theocracy or if Islamic parties across the Arab world will themselves be transformed by participating in mainstream politics.

No sudden earthquake is expected. But initial results from the final round of voting on Wednesday showed that the Brotherhood had gained at least 12 more seats to bring its total to 88, with seven races from all three rounds still unsettled, according to a spokesman. That is five times the 17 seats the group won in 2000.

Democratization and Islamic Politics:

YOKOTA Takayuki�

The aim of this article is to explore the often contradictory correlation between democratizationand Islamic politics in Egypt, focusing on a new Islamic political party, the Wasat Party (Ḥizbal-Wasaṭ).Theoretically, democratization and Islamic politics are not incompatible if Islamic politicalorganizations can and do operate within a legal and democratic framework. On the other hand,this requires democratic tolerance by governments for Islamic politics, as long as they continueto act within a legal framework. In the Middle East, however, Islamic political parties are oftensuspected of having undemocratic agendas, and governments have often used this suspicion as ajustification to curb democratization. This is also the case with the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood(Jam‘īya al-Ikhwān al-Muslimīn) under the Ḥusnī Mubārak regime. Although the Brotherhood is amainstream Islamic movement in Egypt, operating publicly and enjoying considerable popularity,successive governments have never changed its illegal status for more than half a century. Someof the Brotherhood members decided to form the Wasat Party as its legal political organ in order tobreak this stalemate.There have been some studies on the Wasat Party. Stacher [2002] analyzes the “Platformof the Egyptian Wasat Party” [Ḥizb al-Wasaṭ al-Miṣrī 1998] and explains the basic principlesof the Wasat Party as follows: democracy, sharī‘a (Islamic law), rights of women, and Muslim-Christian relations. Baker [2003] regards the Wasat Party as one of the new Islamist groups thathave appeared in contemporary Egypt, and analyzes its ideology accordingly. Wickham [2004]discusses the moderation of Islamic movements in Egypt and the attempt to form the WasatParty from the perspective of comparative politics. Norton [2005] examines the ideology andactivities of the Wasat Party in connection with the Brotherhood’s political activities. As theseearlier studies are mainly concerned with the Wasat Party during the 1990s and the early 2000s,I will examine the ideology and activities of the Wasat Party till the rise of the democratizationmovement in Egypt in around 2005. I will do so on the basis of the Wasat Party’s documents, suchas the “Platform of the New Wasat Party” [Ḥizb al-Wasaṭ al-Jadīd 2004]1), and my interviews withits members.

ISLAMISM IN SOUTHERN EGYPT

James Toth

For years, religious violence and terrorism in Middle Eastern countries such as Egypthave splashed across the headlines and surged across the screen, announcing yet anotherround of senseless death and destruction. While Arabists and Islamicists attemptto pick their way carefully through the ideological and intellectual minefields to makesense of what is happening, the wider public generally disregards their insights andinstead sticks to what it knows best: deeply ingrained prejudices and biases. Egyptian,Arab, Muslim—all are painted in a very unfavorable light. Even in Egypt, manybystanders show the same sorry prejudices. In the end, people simply blame the brutalityon inexplicable backward religious ideas and then move on.Yet comprehending terrorism and violence in places such as Egypt by recourse toan unnuanced religious fundamentalism is generally acknowledged not only to begthe question of why these events actually happen, but also to lead to misunderstandingsand misperceptions, and perhaps even to exacerbating existing tensions.1 Mostscholars agree that such seemingly “irrational” social behavior instead needs to beplaced in its appropriate context to be properly understood, and hence made rational.Analyzing these actions, then, involves situating this violence and destruction in theireconomic, political, and ideological milieu as these have developed historically, forthis so-called Islamic terrorism does not merely arise, ex nihilo, out of a timeless void.What follows, then, is one case study of one portion of the Islamic movement as itemerged principally in southern Egypt and as it was revealed through anthropologicalfieldwork conducted in one of this region’s major cities. This account takes a completelydifferent direction from that of stigmatizing this movement as a sordid collectionof terrorist organizations hell bent on the senseless destruction of Egypt and itsIslamic civilization.2 Because this view is somewhat at odds with the perceptions oflocal spectators, Egyptians in Cairo, and non–Egyptians inside and outside the country,I go to some length not only to discuss the movement itself but also to shed lighton why it might have received such negative publicity.