The Rise of the Salafis
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Just to be clear, Egyptian Salafis are not merely ultra-conservative, devout, pious, Sunni Muslims.
A truth we refuse to believe.
For many onlookers, the result was shocking. The idea that a nation of people who had lived under corrupt, abusive, dictatorial rule for decades would choose a fundamentalist Muslim from an Islamist party to be the first ever democratically elected President in their nation's history seemed unthinkable.
There were others, however, to whom this outcome was entirely expected.
Given the Muslim Brotherhood's widespread national support throughout Egypt at the time of elections, as well as their political wing'The Freedom and Justice Party'being the best organized entity taking part in the elections, there really was nothing left to chance.
In addition to the presidential elections, it is also worth noting that in the 2011-12 Egypt parliamentary elections, the Islamist Bloc led by al-Nour Party, which is comprised solely of ultra-conservative Salafis, received 27.8% of the vote to form the second largest parliamentary bloc, only behind the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party bloc which received 37.5% of the votes.
Or to say it another way: The number of votes the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party received, combined with the votes the Salafist-backed al-Nour Party received, means that nearly 70% of Egyptians voted for hard-line Islamists!
The fact that an Islamist leader from the Muslim Brotherhood had been elected President brought a certain amount of concern to much of the world. Many were asking questions such as: What will having a leader from the Muslim Brotherhood as President mean for Egypt? Will Egypt become an Islamic state governed by Islamic law? What impact will this have on the broader Arab world as a whole?
All of these were, and remain, very good questions that should be asked. Frankly, however, they miss the main point entirely.
The point is, the Muslim Brotherhood is not who we should primarily be concerned with. We should, however, be concerned with, and be paying very, very close attention to the Egyptian Salafist movement. If it has to be one way or the other, than they'the Salafis'are the real bad guys.
Let me use an illustration to make my point: If the Muslim Brotherhood uses water-guns, the Salafis use fully automatic machine-guns, and if the Muslim Brotherhood uses machine-guns, the Salafis use nuclear bombs!
Although Salafis have always been a moderately visible constitute of Egyptian society, it was primarily the uprisings of the Arab Spring which paved the way for a massive 'coming-out-of-the-closet' party for Egyptian Salafis, which in turn gave birth to a new political force in Egypt. Namely, the al-Nour Party, which is the leading Salafist party in Egypt today.
Salafis are ultra-conservative Sunni Muslims who yearn for a society ruled entirely by a strict interpretation of Islamic law, ultimately leading towards the re-establishment of the Caliphate, and in-turn, seeing the creation of a worldwide Islamic State. They model themselves after the salaf (predecessors or ancestors), referring to the earliest Muslims who lived during the lifetime of the Prophet Muhammad and were considered to be exemplary examples of true, unadulterated Islamic practice.
Just to be clear, Egyptian Salafis are not merely ultra-conservative, devout, pious, Sunni Muslims. Indeed, it is true that most Salafis do embody all of those religious attributes; they are devout, pious, conservative Muslims. Unfortunately, the theology and ideology behind the Salafist movement does not end there, but goes much further, into very dangerous territory. In actuality, the dominant theological interpretation and ideology that guides the Salafist movement is so much in line with the theological interpretation and ideology that guides al-Qaeda, the two groups are nearly indistinguishable.
They dream of seeing Islamic societies established that will function just as they did in 7th century Arabia. They aspire for much more than mere partial involvement in the Egyptian political system. They are whole-heartedly committed to strict adherence to the Salafi way of life and all that entails, as well as making sure Salafi theological and ideological beliefs continue to spread throughout the country, permeating all aspects of life.
Salafis are driven. Salafis are motivated. Salafis are passionate. Salafis are wholly committed to living'and dying'for 'The Cause'.
Yet what is the cause? What is the Egyptian Salafi agenda? How far will it go, and where will it end?
Ultimately, the cause aims to bring about the re-establishment of the Caliphate. The Salafis agenda for Egypt is to institute the hard-line ultra-conservative Salafi interpretation of Islam as the basis for all aspects of life on a nation-wide level.
But there is more, much more indeed.
Salafis believe that anyone'even another Muslim'who refuses to live according to the Salafi interpretation of Islam is an infidel, and deserving of death. This belief is further inculcated, as Salafis believe their religious and moral duty is to cleanse the land of all infidels, which according to them, denotes all non-Salafis. And let there be no illusions as to what they will do'and already are doing'to cleanse the land of those they deem non-Salafis.
They will go to those whom they consider to be deserving of death, and brutally beat and torture them until they are no longer alive. The fact that these may be fellow Muslims does not matter. The fact they are fellow Egyptians does not matter. All that matters is that anyone and everyone who is not a Salafi is fair game.
This aforementioned scenario is not a 'made-up' hypothetical situation as to what may, or could, potentially happen one day. Recent video footage showing Salafis brutally beating to death four Egyptian Shia Muslims outside of Cairo in Giza has been widely distributed and remains readily accessible. Other evil acts of violence similar to this are being planned at this very moment in time. And let us make no mistake about it, these acts will continue, and likely will become worse. And that is a fact.
Yet, the violence directed towards non-Salafi Egyptians'Coptic Christians, Sufi Muslims, Moderate Sunni Muslims, and Shia Muslims'is only where the Salafis have chosen to begin their crusade. Truly, this is only the beginning.
It is in no way beyond the realm of possibility for them to plan and carry out attacks on US citizens and facilities in Egypt as well. Unfortunately, for those guided by the religious ideology the Egyptian Salafist movement continues to spread and indoctrinate further into the movements adherents, the possibilities are endless when it comes to evil acts of violence they will undertake.
Yes, the rise of Egyptian Salafis is at hand, and something must be done.
Jeff d. Patterson, Middle East Specialist: While the ashes were beginning to settle in New York City with the setting of the sun on 9/11, Jeff D. Patterson was unpacking his bags far, far away from American shores; far, far away from his family and friends; far, far away from his homeland. He was starting a new phase of life in a region of the world he would call ‘home’ for most of the next decade. Jeff was taking his first breaths of Middle Eastern air, thinking of the world becoming a better place… In contrast to most... (more...)