Ansar al-Jihad poses challenge to Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood

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The pledge of allegiance to al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri by a group calling itself "Ansar al-Jihad in Sinai" poses a challenge to parties that won the Egyptian elections, particularly the Freedom and Justice party, the political arm of the Muslim Brotherhood.

The Muslim Brotherhood's disapproval of al-Qaeda's methods is not new. What's new, however, is that the two trends in Islamist ideology will confront each other for the first time since the Arab spring led to changes that enabled Islamists to reach power in more than one Arab country, such as Tunisia and Morocco, with Islamists in Egypt apparently following in their footsteps.

The elections, which began late last year and are still ongoing, allowed the Freedom and Justice party to obtain a clear majority in parliament. In addition to the Muslim Brotherhood, the Salafists, represented by al-Nour party, also had a strong showing and came in second place.

However, as Muslim Brotherhood Islamists advance towards holding the reins of power, Islamists of a different brand have emerged and seem determined to use violence to achieve their objectives. This is in contrast to the route taken by the Muslim Brotherhood, the Salafists, and even jihadist groups such as the Islamic Group.

To date, Islamist groups that rely on violence seem to be confined to the Sinai Peninsula, where several attacks were carried out last year targeting mostly pipelines that supply natural gas to Israel and Jordan. They remained shrouded in mystery until late last year when they announced their existence under the name of "Ansar al-Jihad in Sinai."

The group's founding statement conveyed a number of positions, some of which relate to local issues and some clearly indicate that Ansar al-Jihad follows al-Qaeda's approach.

The statement condemned the actions of the deposed regime and proceeded to attack the new regime that succeeded it, saying that after the "lions of Sinai" blew up the gas pipeline, "the corrupt regime rushed to appease the Jews and the crusaders by killing the masked martyr Salim Mohammed Juma." Juma was killed in a raid carried out by military and police forces to arrest members of an armed cell, including five jihadi leaders in al-Dheisheh district of El-Arish in August.

On January 23rd, the group issued a second statement in which it officially declared its allegiance to al-Qaeda's new leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri. In the statement, the group put its members at his disposal as "your soldiers", and vowed to "never quit or surrender until the last drop of our blood is spilled in the cause of Allah and until Islam rules by the help of God the Almighty."

Ansar al-Jihad threat to Egypt's national fabric

An oath of allegiance to al-Qaeda by an active organisation in Egypt constitutes a clear challenge to any government in that country. Such a local group could resort to attacks against Westerners (a favourite target of al-Qaeda), inflicting serious damage to the tourism sector on which the Egyptian economy is based, including the economy of Sinai, where the most prominent Egyptian coastal tourist resorts are located.

The threat posed by Ansar al-Jihad's position on internal Egyptian matters is as serious as its outward link to al-Qaeda, if not more, because it compromises the national fabric of Egypt, and specifically the relationship between Muslims and Copts.

The group posted clearly stated positions on its website on the relationship of Muslims with the Copts and the form of the Egyptian state that differ greatly from the positions of the Muslim Brotherhood, and even the Salafist's stated positions.

In a statement, Ansar al-Jihad said the Copts have to pay taxes to their Muslims rulers under an Islamic state in Egypt. It also criticised unnamed groups that do not espouse a "religious state" in Egypt, in a clear reference to the Muslim Brotherhood, which explicitly said it wants a civil, not a religious state.

Ansar al-Jihad added that those who say "we do not want a religious state [...] do not understand that by saying such they are recognizing it as a secular state, in other words an infidel state that is outside the laws of God."

Even though the Muslim Brotherhood was victorious in the elections, it is yet to take the reins of power in Egypt. In any case, completion of the transition process entails that the victorious party lead the new government, or at least be the primary force in a coalition government, as was the case with the al-Nahda Party in Tunisia and the Justice and Development Party in Morocco.

This would mean that the Muslim Brotherhood will for the first time come into direct confrontation with a group that sees itself as a jihadi movement, in this case one that advocates the use of violence.

The Muslim Brotherhood will undoubtedly be in a position of strength since it clearly won popular support through the ballot box in free elections. Even so, dealing with this issue will likely not be easy, and neither will many of the economic, political and social challenges facing any Egyptian government.

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    حسن

    2012-2-26

    Generally, the risks of terrorism on countries and individuals are known, such as bloodshed, fighting internally and externally, being the factor affecting negatively on the social, economic, and secure life everywhere. What will be the risk if the entire was country under the control of terrorism? It is something scary and frankly confusing.

  • اسلام

    2012-2-24

    Muslim scholars need to address the deficiencies in their own countries if they are to save the lives and souls of the Muslim youth.

  • مصلح سمير

    2012-2-24

    Since the end of the Egyptian revolution, we have seen the Islamic parties rise and take control of the political arena. This will impact the country greatly both politically and economically. Most international donors will shy away from investing in Egypt due to the ideologies implemented by the Islamist groups but on the other hand, the government of the Arab countries whose main majority is Islam will embrace them. The country might get into an alliance with the countries that support Islamic laws in a bid to create a strong Islamic nation. The economy will suffer a major blow because not all donors and investors support the Islamic laws and they will need to have an assurance that they will have a safe environment. Also, on the tourism front, there will be major challenges for non-Muslims who think that they will face discrimination and distortion from visiting an all-Islamic state. The best thing to do is to integrate all religion and give a certain degree of flexibility to the people of different religions and political views.

  • عارف

    2012-2-23

    Before answering this question, we should first determine a precise definition of the concept of terrorism. Are we talking about the real sense of terrorism according to the concept circulation in the international media? If we are going to talk about terrorism in the real sense, Egypt has been ruled by terrorists for more than 60 years with different tactics and strategies of governance. However, their rule was the rule of terrorism, working on gagging or killing anyone who dares to say "no". After the revolution of January 25 and the fall of these terrorists, it is Egypt's right to breathe freedom and experience the other ruling systems. Moreover, if we are going to talk about terrorism, according to the concept globally traded which is linking the killings of innocent people and bombing operations inside cities to Islamists, this type of terrorism does not actually exist in Egypt. It is a scenario prepared by the former regime to be exploited to impose unjust laws such as the law of emergency which ended with the end of Mubarak's rule. Therefore, there is no fear of the arrival of terrorists of this type to power because they are a fake community and do not exist in the Egyptian society.

  • ياسين عباد

    2012-2-23

    As an Arab, it is my duty to pray to the Almighty God to enable Egyptians to rid of every cowardly terrorist who seeks to harm Egypt. Terrorists seek to dominate Egypt at any price. We do not want a similar thing to happen. In my opinion, Egypt is one of the great and noble countries, which always fights every oppressor. Al-Qaeda terrorists wait for any opportunity to carry out their cowardly and despicable acts. In the beginning, Ayman al-Zawahiri tried to seize Egypt through his propaganda that Egypt will become an Islamic state and that he will be the absolute ruler. Some of the Arab countries that are under terrorist acts were controlled by al-Qaeda terrorists, but Egypt is one of the powerful countries that cannot be seized by terrorism. No matter what terrorists do, they will not be able to capture it. I call upon every honorable Egyptian citizen to work for the interest of Egypt and stand up against terrorist pressures, so that there will not be any threat to Egypt.

  • مزهر عيسى

    2012-2-23

    God says, “And fall into no disputes, lest ye lose heart and your power departs.” That is the great truth of God. The news about the al-Azhar Fatwa caused me pain and ire. The sectarian situation in Egypt requires an internal political solution. However, this does not mean bending Islam and using it to serve this purpose. The concept of Western democracy has decayed and collapsed, and here we embrace it in the name of religion. There are some wrong and irreligious elements in the contradictory al-Azhar fatwa. Islam, regardless of the opinion of the Salafis and others, determined the way for future governing until the Day of Judgment. Surat Bara'ah and al-Anfaal in the Holy Qur'an forbid a plurality of sects and parties because it leads to dispute, disagreement, and difference, but they did not dismiss the diversity of views and difference of visions among individuals. The prophet’s close companions who were promised paradise formed a Shura (consultation) Council for the Messenger of Allah. Omar did not invent this council, considering Surat Ash-Shura and the verse that says, “And consult them in affairs.” Security and stability require qualitative unity of method, not just in personal thoughts. Democracy was actually one of the elements which led to the development and stability in Europe after it renounced religious pluralism and adhered to the traditional culture of Christianity. Without this, democracy would have never succeeded there. Those in charge of al-Azhar and the Salafis as well should be aware of the difference between religious pluralism, political parties, and diversity of views on one typical approach for the majority of the population. The people of al-Azhar should not have flung religion into this political tumult which is harmful for Egypt and its people.

  • عمر فهمي

    2012-2-21

    I think that there is a relentless campaign against everything Islamic since the events of the January Revolution. In fact, the regime has affected the people’s identities in order to achieve its interests and stability. This has been achieved through oppressing the Islamic authorities. However, the appearance of the popular desire has directed people toward the doctrine of the majority of Egyptians, which is Islam. The liberal trends have started to appear thanks to the relentless media campaigns which have criticized the Islamic aspects of society. They have thought that attacking the Muslims is the best defense even if your enemy has been peaceful with you. This has led to a fierce attack against Islam. In fact, the majority of moderate people like me have seen liberals on TV channels. They have insulted all those who have raised Islamic slogans. At the same time, Muslims are characterized by their respect in discussing with these liberals. They have enjoyed the viewers’ respect while liberals have been exposed to criticism.

  • VOB

    2012-2-21

    They want to use religion as a form of ruling. The Salafists are the real origin of Islam in terms of clothes and thinking. Who can deny the Arabian Peninsula saying which doesn’t accept two religions? Where is democracy especially since you pretended to know about knowledge and science? Do you think that there is no one except you in life? The people of Shura and the Saqifah Bani Saida have shown consultation between Salafists. In fact, they have not made any decision without consultation. 300 million Muslims have thought that reality exists in one of al-Ghadeer’s speeches which say, “Be loyal to his supporters and the enemy of his opponents.” Conflict has started. Thus, we would like to say to the Salafists and Azharites: “How much blood must be shed in order to be convinced that Islam is like all the other religions and cannot be used to rule? You must count the number of the Muslim victims. In fact, this authentic Salafi Sharia has led to the deaths of a million Muslims. Many others have died because some people have tried to impose this Sharia on them. Thus, it is important to separate religion from governance and you must apply your Sharia if you think that it is your way to reach heaven. The civil and secular constitution can protect your rights as citizens. Thus, our country is poor because it does not deserve all this ignorance and backwardness that have caused our suffering. Only some Salafists have respected the laws of life. The generations must acknowledge that I have warned them.

  • سليمان احمد

    2012-2-20

    Secularism is based on the separation of religion and state, not atheism. This means that the religion is for God and the homeland is for all. Secularism rejects the imposition of the teachings of a specific religion on all human beings regardless of their religion, sect, or nation so that people will live in peace. However, some Islamist hypocrites associate secularism with atheism. They are fully aware of the invalidity of this view. They only want to offend the secularist Arabs after the revolutions that led to the change of the political situation in the Middle East. Indeed, people hated hypocritical Islamists because they forbade everything including the gains from the revolution. This applies to the current situation in Egypt. People are fed up with their deviant ideas. During the revolution, the slogans included that “the people want the toppling of the regime” and “the people want to eradicate corruption”, in addition to many other slogans over the political, economic, and social situation. None heard a single slogan calling for the implementation of Sharia Law or “the people want the Muslim Brotherhood for power”. Even if the Egyptians did not know Islam quite well, this did not justify the emergence of a bearded Sheikh called Abou Ismaeil al-Hakam to force them to embrace Islam.

  • عادل

    2012-2-20

    The Muslim Brotherhood did not participate in the revolution, which is unbelievable. The Muslim Brotherhood opposes the revolution. They were arrested and subjected to torment, humiliation, harassment, and expulsion from their jobs. Does this mean that you will benefit from the revolution? Whether you and the intellectual elite like it or not, the Egyptian people love and support their religion. They do not want the ideas of a few people who want to impose Western ideas. Those who reject Western ideas are viewed as reactionary, backward, radical, extremist, or hypocrites who exploit religion to their advantage in addition to slandering. Oh secularists, whom do you defy exactly? Are you defying your own Creator and Provider? Allah brought you to this life and you shall return to Him as insignificant creatures. Then, there would be no need for remorse. You would wish that you could return to life and do something different. Thank God for the blessing of obedience to Allah. This is for Muslims only: “If you have seen an affliction, thank God for helping us recover and favoring us to many of His creatures.” God bless you and we hope that evil would not befall on you. There is no scourge beyond the loss of one’s religion.

  • ابو سالم

    2012-2-20

    What do you think of the Brotherhood youth who had been on the Qasr al-Nil Bridge on February 28 praying and facing the police, water, bombs, and smoke? What do you think of the 70% who said no to the constitutional reforms? What do you also think of those who have protected the revolution after Allah in the Al-Jamal battle according to the declaration of the senior opposition leaders including Sawiris? In fact, the problem is that people like you only want to criticize and attack Islam and Muslims only because it is Islam. You are the enemies of this religion and you have nothing to do with it. However, Allah will not accept but to overwhelm people with His light even if infidels refuse that. In fact, secularism and liberalism are atheistic political ideologies which aim to isolate Islam in mosques. This fact can be accepted by some people, but a true Muslim will reject the exclusion of Islam. Allah the Almighty, the creator, how could you leave Him while you belong to Him? I wish Muslims would feel the truth of this malicious ideology. It is an ideology that serves America, Europe, and the Zionist Nation. This ideology is the origin, and the objective. It seeks to belittle Islam and tries to cancel its laws and rules gradually as much as it can. Indeed, their objective is neither the present generation nor the coming one but they seek to target the following generations which are brought up in the pure western civilization. Besides, according to its local definition, liberalism capitalizes upon women and the attempt to remove their veils and chastity. The latter is an initial objective while the others will follow according to a well-studied plan. Now, I remember a Western saying that all the sects, ethnic groups, civilizations, and religions despise whoever dissents from his ideology, religion, and civilization in order to borrow other people’s civilizations.

  • ايمن صبري

    2012-2-20

    The Revolution has actually erupted to fulfill democracy. In fact, the brotherly Muslims and the Salafists have been against the revolution from the beginning. For instance, Sheikh Hassan al-Salafi has been warning people against protesting against the ruler. However, things have changed with the success of the revolution since we have found Safwat Hijazi in Tahrir Square on the first of February next to the Muslim Brotherhood. In addition to that, the discourse of the Salafist Sheikhs has changed and they have become one with the revolution. How strange. The Muslim Brotherhood wants to steal the revolution of the poor who have protested for the sake of freedom rather than to cripple themselves with more bounds and laws. There is no power but from Allah the Almighty. Islam has been a great religion for 1400 years while the Muslim Brotherhood is a mere movement that is hiding behind religion and mocking the ignorant. You have to look at the rule of the Muslim Brotherhood in Gaza and how they fight and track down the Palestinians who oppose it. I wonder whether this is the wise rule, the rule of the peaceful brotherhood in Sudan. The latter has been divided into two states. On the other hand, the Muslim of South Cordofan and the State of the Blue Nile want to split from the rule of dictatorial brotherhood. We do not want to divide Egypt into small nations. No to the separatist Brotherhood! Indeed, the greatest problem is the confusion between politics and religion, given that religion is the same and politics changes. Secularism preserves the rights and freedom for everyone including the Muslim Brotherhood and the best example for this is the liberal European countries which are full of these people.

  • محمد مجدى

    2012-2-10

    As long as we are away from the Lord, we will never see any goodness. Our problem is that we have forgotten the Qur'an. Almighty God says: "They forgot God, so He forgot them." The words of God are the truth. May God appoint a good ruler!