Sunday,17 February, 2019
Current issue | Issue 1121, 8-14 November
Sunday,17 February, 2019
Issue 1121, 8-14 November

Ahram Weekly

Brands of Salafism

Al-Ahram Weekly

Al-Salafiya Al-Rasmiya: official Salafism
The key feature of this is its subservience to the ruling regimes, at times working closely with them. It provides religious legitimacy to support rulers’ actions and dispels popular questioning of state policies under the slogan of “no to sedition”. The clearest example of this brand of Salafism is in Saudi Arabia, where it is often referred to as Al-Gameiya or Al-Madkhaliya, expressing an attribution to Sheikh Adel Gamei or Sheikh Rabie Al-Madkhali. This Salafist strain holds that the authorities should make decisions on behalf of the ummah, and that there should not be rebellion against the ruler as long as “the calls to prayers can be heard in the streets”.

Al-Salafiya Al-Elmiya: scholarly Salafism
This is concerned with the study of the Quran and Islamic jurisprudence.

Al-Salafiya Al-Harakiya: activist Salafism
This label describes both politically active Salafist groups and those groups that are not politically active but that occupy a place in the public sphere through their charity work and networks of social support and religious education institutes. This current also includes Al-Salafiya Al-Islahiya, or reformist Salafism.

Al-Salafiya Al-Jihadiya: jihadist Salafism
This brand of jihadist Salafism concerns itself with implementing jihad, or religious struggle. It has commanded much media attention, but it does not have a significant base. Following the 9/11 attacks, Islamists, and Salafis in particular, both activist and non-activist, faced what one observer has described as the “biggest crisis in their recent history”. Their scholarly and humanitarian institutions became the target of a state security clampdown in different parts of the Arab world, and their activities were curtailed. Pressure was exercised that forced them to compromise their long-held convictions, and the outcome was a policy of reining in their most radical figures. Saudi Arabia provides an example here. However, such policies have also targeted the non-activist current of Salafism, which has traditionally been preoccupied with the scholarly aspects of the Quran and has focussed much of its activity on charity work. Most importantly, this strain of Salafism has had no interest in joining the political mainstream.

Al-Salafiya Al-Siyasiya: political Salafism
This term was coined by political science professor Ashraf Al-Sharif. In a recent article, Al-Sharif argued that the Salafis’ engagement in the political process had forced a need to monitor their discourse and political performance and attitudes on different issues. Such engagement had resulted in the politicisation of wider sections of the Salafist rank and file, he said. This brand of Salafism, however, suffers from a structural problem as a result of a conflict between principles and method and between jurisprudence and politics’ ever-changing course. This contradiction could become more profound and lead to splits in the movement.

Hizb Al-Nour
The Hizb Al-Nour, or Nour Party, is the political wing of the Al-Daawa Al-Salafiya (Salafist Calling of Alexandria), and it is the strongest and best-organised Salafist movement with multiple resources. It has its own media outlets and an army of sheikhs to put across its message. The party is based in Alexandria, where the bulk of its supporters is to be found, but it also enjoys a presence in the Delta governorates. The founders of the party say that it was founded at the behest of young members of the Salafist Calling, and its membership extends to leading figures of the Calling. There are no precise statistics regarding party membership, but some members estimate it to be in the tens of thousands. Among the most prominent figures, considered to be the founding fathers of the Al-Daawa Al-Salafiya, are Sheikh Mohamed Ismail Al-Mukadem, Yasser Burhami, Said Abdel-Azim, Ahmed Farid, Ahmed Hutaiba and Abdel-Moneim Al-Shahat.

Hizb Al-Shaab
The Hizb Al-Shaab, or People’s Party, is the newest Salafist party and the mouthpiece of Al-Gabha Al-Salafiya (the Salafist Front). The party was formed after the 25 January Revolution, and it accommodates groups not under the Salafist Calling umbrella. These do not have as much popular support or resources as the Salafist Calling, but they have a strong popular base in Cairo and rely on respected and senior sheikhs to carry their message, such as Sheikh Mohamed Abdel-Maksoud and Fawzi Al-Said. The group’s political front is the Al-Asala wal-Tanmeya Party (the Authenticity and Development Party).

Hizb Al-Fadila
The Fadila Party draws its support particularly from within the ranks of lawyer Hazem Salah Abu Ismail’s supporters. One of its main founders is Hossam Al-Bukhari, founder of the Coalition of New Muslims, which supports Copts who have converted to Islam. The Fadila Party’s platform calls for building bridges between Egypt’s religious and political groups.

The Salafist Movement for Reform
This movement identifies itself as representing the “Islamic scholarly line” and consists mainly of young, educated Salafis who do not fully agree with the line held by the Al-Daawa Al-Salafiya. The movement has abstained from joining the political process and has no ambition for power, but it “supports any political or military move that assist in achieving the movement’s goals, while upholding the fundamentals of the faith”. The movement was the only Salafist group to issue statements in support of the protests prior to the 25 January Revolution. It was vocal in criticising Salafist participation in the parliamentary elections, because this ‘”would confront Salafis with challenges for which they are not prepared, not to mention the great questions facing the nation, for which the Salafis would be made responsible for finding the answers to.”

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