Who are Egypt’s Salafi-Jihadis?

Ahmed Ashoush, Salafi-Jihadi leader

Ahmed Ashoush, Salafi-Jihadi leader

From my article at Middle East Institute, analyzing Egypt’s Salafi-Jihadis, but from before the recent deposing of President Morsi:

The Egyptian Islamist Mohamed al-Zawahiri is most famous for being the brother of al-Qaeda front man Ayman, but his story is also a gripping one. Zawahiri was arrested in 1999 for his alleged participation in the assassination of President Anwar Sadat. He spent 13 years in Cairo’s Tora prison, where he was tortured by the mukhabarat and did a five-year stint in solitary confinement. He was released in March 2012 when the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, who ruled after Hosni Mubarak’s ouster, issued a general pardon for scores of political prisoners.

Just six months later, Zawahiri sent a message of peace when he offered to mediate a truce between the West and Islamists through his connections with al-Qaeda, promising cessation of global terrorist activity in exchange for non-interference in Muslim nations.

But Zawahiri’s doings aren’t limited to such an offer. As a leader of an Islamist organization called the Salafist-Jihadists, he is often in the public eye. Yet it is difficult to determine who he leads and what ideology the group espouses—and whether the United States and others should worry about the organization’s activities in post-uprising Egypt.

The group appears to thrive on such ambiguity. Ahmed Ashoush, a fellow leader, claims that the organization does not, in a sense, exist, as it has neither a leadership structure nor a membership count. “We know how wide our support is on the street,” he says, “but we don’t want to talk about it. We want you to see it, in the coming days, if God wills.”

As of yet, Egypt has not seen it. And as strong as the demonstrations in support of Morsi have been, they are far short of the ‘Islamic Revolution’ some predicted as a response to the Rebel Campaign collection of signatures for early elections.

Even so, this group of Islamists who graft ‘jihad’ onto their name bear watching for Egypt’s future. Please click here to read the rest of the article at Middle East Institute.

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