Thursday,18 April, 2019
Current issue | Issue 1371, (30 November - 6 December 2017)
Thursday,18 April, 2019
Issue 1371, (30 November - 6 December 2017)

Ahram Weekly

Massacre in North Sinai

For over four years, Egypt has been fighting a relentless war against terrorist organisations that have spread like a plague in the entire Middle East region. What made matters worse for Egypt is that it has been fighting this tough war on two fronts: one against the Muslim Brotherhood group, which has refused to recognise the will of the Egyptian people in rejecting Muslim Brotherhood rule on 30 June 2013, continuing to incite violence against the army and police and destabilising the economy; and the second against terrorist groups like the Islamic State (IS) group and Al-Qaeda who managed to expand their presence in several influential Arab countries, such as Syria, Iraq, Libya and Yemen, making use of the state of disintegration these countries have been suffering in recent years.

However, the horrendous, brutal and inhumane massacre that took place at Al-Rawda Mosque at the town of Bir Al-Abd in Northern Sinai on Friday, 24 November, opened a new chapter in the confrontation against terrorism. The mere number of victims, 305 dead, including 27 children and dozens of elderly men, and over 120 severely wounded, is certainly enough to mark the attack as the worst ever in Egypt’s history. According to eyewitnesses, the murderers who carried out the crime with no mercy raised the flag of IS, even though the group has not officially claimed responsibility so far.

The fact that this massacre targeted peaceful worshippers at a mosque was very difficult to comprehend for many people. IS terrorists have in the past attacked army and police personnel and checkpoints, bombed churches and foreign embassies, as they consider all non-Muslims to be “infidels” or “non-believers” who do not deserve to live in their dark, bloody understanding of the world. 

Yet, never before did IS attack a mosque in Egypt, considering that they claim to be fighting for an “Islamic State” in the first place. The majority of Egypt’s Muslims are Sunnis, unlike Iraq that has suffered an ugly sectarian war where Shia and Sunni extremist groups routinely bombed mosques of the other. IS also targeted Shia mosques in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.

In the latest attack in Al-Rawda village, North Sinai, IS expanded the scope of terrorism to include Sunni Muslim mosques, allegedly because the majority of worshippers there belonged to a Sufi Islamic sect. The message was simple and clear: we will kill anybody and everybody who does not belong to us. All are commanded to agree with IS’ absurd, extremist and bloody understanding of religion.

There can be no justification whatsoever for attacking or still less killing innocent people, whatever religion or sect they belong to, but IS’ attack last week has now placed the terrorist group in a confrontation against all local residents of Sinai, considering the extremely heavy loss suffered and the tribal structure of that part of Egypt.

A year ago, IS terrorists kidnapped the 98-year-old spiritual leader of the Sufi sect that many Al-Rawda residents belong to and mercilessly beheaded him in front of cameras, following the same bloody and brutal tactic that was attached to the group since it first emerged in 2013 and 2014 in Iraq and Syria, aiming to terrify the public and force them to submit to their dark understanding of life and religion.

Furthermore, reports from Sinai indicated the IS extremists had warned the residents of Al-Rawda village against performing celebrations that would coincide with the birthday of the Prophet Mohamed, due on Friday. They also threatened the elders of the tribe against cooperating with the army and police, and refusing to provide a hideout for their terrorist elements.

Friday, 24 November 2017, is Egypt’s 9/11 and will certainly be marked in its history as the saddest day in terms of human losses and suffering in the long war against terrorism. However, we have no option but to rise above our deep pain and shock and continue the war to terminate terrorism in Sinai and Egypt, once and for all.

Some local residents in northern Sinai had preferred not to take sides in the war against terrorism launched by the army and police over the past four and a half years, fearing the revenge and brutality of IS and Al-Qaeda, or as a reflection of old agonies against the central government for being slow in providing much needed development in Sinai since it was liberated from Israeli occupation in 1982. However, right now, and after the Al-Rawda Mosque massacre, nobody has a choice. All Egyptians must unite against these forces of hatred and blood, confirming that regardless of any differences towards current policies, these groups pose a serious threat to humanity, to our lives, and to the reputation of Islam as a religion whose core message is calling for peace among all human beings.

May God bless the souls of all the martyrs brutally and mercilessly killed at Al-Rawda Mosque, and provide peace for their families and loved ones. Yet, the true revenge for this crime will occur when all Egyptians unite in fighting terrorism and ending this existential threat.

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