The millions of Egyptians who gathered in Tahrir Square in Cairo in January and February were not carrying pictures of al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden when they led peaceful protests that toppled the regime of former President Hosni Mubarak.
Bin Laden and his organisation were absent entirely from most protest activities in the Egyptian street, who called for changing a regime they viewed as dictatorial or corrupt – or both.
The presence of hundreds of Islamists - described as Salafis - on the streets of Cairo last Friday to protest the killing of bin Laden raised questions about whether al-Qaeda might benefit from the fall of the Mubarak regime.
This is certainly a legitimate question. The Salafis who carried photographs of bin Laden in Cairo last week would not have dared to act this way if the Mubarak regime was still in power. Perhaps the dismantling of the state security apparatus, which acted as the former regime's fundamental tool of repression, was one reason that allowed the Salafis and others to act with such freedom, which was unimaginable a few months ago.
Is it possible then, that al-Qaeda might try to follow in the footsteps of the Salafis and take advantage of the disintegration of the former regime in order to build cells in Egypt, especially if an Egyptian, Ayman al-Zawahiri, becomes bin Laden's successor and assumes the organisation's leadership post?
This may be what al-Qaeda is planning to do. But the reality of the matter suggests that it would be of little benefit to them even if they tried.
The first and most important factor that indicates al-Qaeda will not benefit greatly from the new atmosphere in Egypt is the climate of freedom and democracy that prevails in the country after years of oppression and tyranny.
The new government, which was formed by the ruling military council, appears determined to pursue a policy of multi-party democracy that permits different segments of society to express their views through political parties that compete to win the votes of citizens.
The parliamentary and presidential elections, scheduled for the fall, will serve as a test to validate the government’s commitment to hold free, transparent and fair elections. This cannot be said about the various elections held during Mubarak's rule, which always produced a landslide victory for the former ruling National Democratic Party, which was dissolved.
The new Egyptian government's open-door policy will energise the entire population, which will then have no justification to refrain from engaging in political life in order to express their views and try to achieve their objectives and principles through peaceful methods. The success or failure of these parties will be measured by the extent of their success or failure in winning the majority of Egyptian voters, as is the case in any true democracy in the world.
Such an open-door policy forbids any party –be it al-Qaeda or other groups that use violence – the right to resort to non-peaceful means to achieve its objectives. In such an environment, armed organisations will have great difficulty in recruiting members because the majority of Egyptians will see with their own eyes that the state has allowed them freedom of political action, and therefore they are no longer justified in taking up arms against it.
There is a second factor that negates the theory that al-Qaeda is a beneficiary of the Egyptian revolution: the growing Islamist movements.
This may seem, at first glance, contrary to this conclusion, as it suggests that al-Qaeda is actually the beneficiary of the revolution. But a closer look would reveal the opposite.
This is because the Islamist movement that has benefited most from the fall of the Mubarak regime is the Muslim Brotherhood. This group was suppressed for decades, during which time it was denied the right to lawful political action.
Perhaps the Muslim Brotherhood had erred decades ago when the existence of its secret military wing was revealed (called the Secret Apparatus) and the involvement of some of its members in acts of violence and assassinations was discovered. But the group later pursued a clear policy, at least since former President Anwar Sadat's tenure in the 1970s. It distanced itself from violence as a means to achieve its objectives and refused to be dragged behind jihadist groups, which had insisted on changing the regime by force, as happened when members of Islamic Jihad and the Islamic Group assassinated Sadat in 1981, and when these two groups later engaged in a large scale campaign of bombings and assassinations in the 1990s.
The refusal of the Muslim Brotherhood to join the war waged by the jihadists against the Egyptian regime in the last century led to severe criticism from the jihadists. Al-Zawahiri, who was one of the leaders of Islamic Jihad, was highly critical of the Muslim Brotherhood's position, as he stated in his famous book, "Bitter Harvest" in which he outlined what he considered their failed policies.
Allowing today's Muslim Brotherhood to form a legitimate political party that engages in electoral battles does not necessarily mean that al-Qaeda will benefit from its presence in parliament. The Brotherhood is certainly not part of al-Qaeda even if sometimes, some of its positions seem to agree with al-Qaeda's positions.
There is a third factor that indicates that al-Qaeda will not benefit from the pro-jihadi Egyptian groups that are supposed to be closest to them. This is because the Islamic Group, the largest group described as jihadist, renounced violence in 1997. They reinforced this position through comprehensive "reviews" that abandoned the practice of labeling the Egyptian regime as apostate and justifying armed rebellion against the regime under the pretext of seeking to establish sharia law.
The Islamic Group did not stop there. Its leaders and ideologues were highly critical of the actions of al-Qaeda and its subsidiaries, starting with the attacks of September 11th until today.
This practice was not limited to the Islamic Group. It extended to Dr. Fadl (Sayyed Imam) who was the emir of Islamic Jihad before al-Zawahiri. Dr. Fadl issued fiqh studies (such as "Rationalizing Jihad in Egypt and the World") in which he violently attacked al-Qaeda and its leaders, even though that organisation considered him one its most important religious scholars and used his books in its training camps in Afghanistan.
It is unlikely that al-Qaeda will be able to attract many recruits among followers of the Islamic Group and Dr. Fadl because of the obvious differences in outlook between a faction that has distanced itself from the use of violence and a faction that considers violence to be the only way to achieve its objectives.
Does this mean that the picture is truly so rosy to the extent that al-Qaeda will not be able to find a foothold in Egypt, "the land of the Nile"?
Al-Qaeda will no doubt try to build cells, not only in Egypt, but in any place it can. But the democratic changes that Egypt is undergoing are certainly not in al-Qaeda's interest because these changes deprive them of any justification to which it may resort to recruit followers from among individuals who are disillusioned with a dictatorial regime, as was possible during the Mubarak era.
Can the new regime through democracy and respect for human rights, achieve the same results in the fight against terrorism that Mubarak achieved through his repressive security organs? Time alone will answer this question.