The future of terrorism in Egypt

Terrorism analysis Sherifa Zuhur wonders if the recent terrorist attacks in Egypt are a sign of "a new phase for Jihad":

The recent attacks raise a number of important questions. First and foremost, is a new phase of radical activity in Egypt emerging precisely because of repressive tactics? How might better tactics against terror be effective if the Egyptian government does not provide more transparency and accountability in its communications to the public? And, are there other means to employ, like promoting moderate Islam as an antidote to radical Islam as some academics and a recent Rand report have suggested?


I think the article is rather flawed, as it's an overview of not only the attacks but the entire political atmosphere of the past six months. It would have been nice to have more details on the attacks and their perpetrators instead. Still, many still not dare ask that question (for the record, while I don't believe in a return to the kind of violence seen in the 1990s, I do believe there will be more attacks.) She concludes with the following, which is probably flawed:

Moreover the tentative re-emergence of radical Islam has once again propelled the forces of moderate Islam onto the spotlight. Indeed just days after the shootings and bombing, police clashed with pro-Brotherhood demonstrators in Fayyum, Mansura and Zagazig, and demonstrations were also held in Alexandria, the Delta and Cairo. The demonstrators were protesting parliamentary efforts to amend a constitutional reform to election procedures in which Mubarak's National Democratic Party might impose conditions that would limit the Brotherhood's efforts to obtain votes. They condemned the state-owned media, called for an end to emergency laws and for reform. The police claimed 400 arrests, while the Brotherhood said 1,546 of its members were detained. Four leaders, including al-Aryan, were subsequently rounded up.


Observers believe that the Brotherhood might secure up to 30% to 35% of parliamentary seats in a free and fair election. The key question is whether efforts by moderate Islamists to cash in on democratization efforts have any clear causal effect on the suppression of radical Islam, particularly if is now primarily motivated by events and dynamics beyond Egyptian borders. Conversely, some may argue that since moderate Islamists have established a presence in the Egyptian government and educational system, resulting attitudes and sensitivities enable the more hard-core and violent elements to escape censure and surveillance.


The more "hardcore and violent elements" of an Islamist movement probably do not have serious levels of contact with the "moderates," and in fact would probably consider them sell-outs. Portraying Islamist groups as a continuum is dangerous, because it suggests that at the end of the day they are part of the same "political family." But Islamic Jihad is not the IRA to the Muslim Brotherhood's Sinn Fein.
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Issandr El Amrani

Issandr El Amrani is a Cairo-based writer and consultant. His reporting and commentary on the Middle East and North Africa has appeared in The Economist, London Review of Books, Financial Times, The National, The Guardian, Time and other publications. He also publishes one of the longest-running blog in the region, www.arabist.net.