Monday,18 December, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1252, (25 June - 1 July 2015)
Monday,18 December, 2017
Issue 1252, (25 June - 1 July 2015)

Ahram Weekly

Theories of terror

Ahmed Eleiba examines the ideological underpinnings of Sinai’s Jihadist groups

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Al-Ahram Weekly

Significant quantities of books have been recovered following the latest spate of arrests of terrorist operatives in Sinai. The jihadist literature found by security forces sheds light on the ideological framework within which these groups operate and helps answer questions about whether the groups hold to a home-grown creed drawn from earlier organisations like Jamaa Islamiya and Egyptian Jihad or have adopted elements from Al-Qaeda and IS. More importantly, the recovered texts have allowed investigators to trace the ideological relationship between the ideas of the jihadist groups and the Muslim Brotherhood.

The most widespread work, according to a military investigator who spoke to Al- Ahram Weekly, is “The Guiding Light for the Perpetrators of Martyrdom Operations”by Abul-Hassan Al-Filistini.

Al-Filistini, a jihadist salafi ideologue of the Gaza school with close links to Al-Qaeda, is currently in prison in Jordan. His thinking is an extension of that of Abdallah Azzam and Abu Mohamed Al-Maqdisi. He is also the author of “Why Jihad Is An Urgent Necessity”. Both books, produced by Al-Himma publishing house in Iraq, have been widely circulated.

Other books discovered are less common. They include “Loyalty and Disavowal”, “A Transmitted Creed and a Lost Reality”, “The Call for Global Islamic Resistance”, “Jihad and Ijtihad: Contemplations on Methodology” and “The Missing Duty” by Abdel-Salam Farag. “Why They Executed Me”, a document attributed to Sayed Qutb, the Muslim Brotherhood ideologue after whom the most radical branch of the organisation - the Qutbists - is named, was also found. The Muslim Brotherhood senior leadership - the Supreme Guide Mohamed Badie, Deputy Supreme Guide Khairat Al-Shater, Mahmoud Ezzat, Mahmoud Hussein, Mahmoud Ghozlan and Abdel-Rahman Al-Birr - all subscribe to the Qutbist school.

The store of jihadist literature underlines how closely intertwined the Salifis and Muslim Brothers are.

“We are seeing a convergence between jihadist salafism and Qutbism,” says Hani Nasira, an expert on Islamist movements and senior researcher at the Arab Institute for Studies. “It is significant there are no Egyptians among the later theorists. The last influential local theorist was Abdel-Aziz Abdel-Kader, who spearheaded the process of ideological revision in Egyptian prisons and authored several important books and documents. The most recent theorists now, however, all come from abroad.”

Sinai activist and researcher Mohamed Sabri argues figures such as  Abu Osama Al-Masri, the mufti of IS Sinai Province, are basically imam-theorists, no different from the more rhetorically skilled mosque preachers.  That there is no theoretical activity taking place in the ranks of the organisation operating in Egypt is, says Sabri, a cause for concern since the vacuum is being filled by the types of ideas that fostered IS.

Sabri dismissed the influence of foreign operatives in Sinai. “I do not think that there are many foreigners remaining among the takfiris though at one point I believe there were a few Syrians and some volunteers from Europe.”

The literature shows how takfiri thought in Sinai has evolved in a way that eliminates all restraints when it comes to killing civilians. This extends beyond the disregard for the consequences of detonating explosive devices in crowded areas, as occurred with the bombing of the second police precinct in Al-Arish which claimed numerous civilian casualties.

“We are witnessing an ideology of savagery, which can be attributed to Al-Khalil Al-Hakayma and Abu Bakr Naji,” says Nasira. “A concept of scattered jihad has also emerged. Whoever is capable of doing something can now act independently, without having to consult a commander or emir.”

The condemnation of armies as heretical and of soldiers as apostates, a central idea in the works of Abu Mohamed Al-Filistini, has become prevalent. Put bluntly, it means anyone can take it into their head to blow themselves up in the midst of a crowd of soldiers or civilians. Earlier ideologues did not sanction such actions and had a moral dilemma with unintended casualties. This is not an issue in the latest imported takfiri doctrine.

A military source says the language and style in many recent works, including those by Abu Mohamed Al-Filistini, is significant. It is simplified and addressed to the young volunteers who have little familiarity with theological works and their terminology.

“The style is a departure from the conventional literature once associated with Islamist groups. It is tailored to the young minds it addresses.”

“One takfiri youth we arrested tried to convert the soldiers guarding him. He would say, ‘Go ahead and kill me, but I call you to the truth in the Islamic State and the Caliphate,’ and other such notions. It was an attempt to show he had a creed and believed in it.”

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