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JAMA’AT AL-ISLAMIYAH, AL-. A broad range of Islamic organizations in Egypt use the name alJama’at al-Islamiyah (Islamic Groups). These groups operate primarily through independent mosques and student unions on university campuses and appeal primarily to Egyptian youths. There does not appear to be any single leadership uniting the various groups; rather, they represent the general trend in Egyptian society toward Islamic resurgence. However, since the mid-1980s an increasing number of clashes have occurred in Upper Egypt between government forces and more politically militant groups acting under the banner of al-Jama’at al-Islamiyah. The self-proclaimed leader of these groups is Shaykh Omar Abdel Rahman (Umar ‘Abd alRahman), a blind preacher from al-Fayyum who lived in exile in the United States in the early 1990s. al-Gama'a al-Islamiyya The use of the term al-Jama`at al-Islamiyah originated in the early 1970s under the new government of President Anwar Sadat. Sadat released members of alIkhwan al-Muslimun (the Muslim Brotherhood) who had been imprisoned under President Gamal Abdel Nasser and officially permitted new Islamic organizations to form under the umbrella of al-Jama’at alIslamiyah. This move to reconstruct the conservative religious sectors of society was an early sign of Sadat’s intention to shift Egypt’s political course. Through the 1970s, as Sadat developed his plans to restructure the Egyptian political economy, these Islamic groups served as an important counterbalance to the old Nasserist constituency and other groups further to the left. While the regime reduced government programs and encouraged general privatization, the number of private (ahh) mosques in the country doubled in one decade from twenty thousand to forty thousand. These private mosques and the many Islamic organizations associated with them began to play an important role in large urban areas, including Cairo, Alexandria, Port Said, and Suez in Lower Egypt, and Asyut, alFayyum, and al-Minya in Upper Egypt. Continued rural migration to these cities, combined with the government’s restructuring policy, exacerbated social and economic tensions and led to a growing sense of urban alienation. While the government reduced its social welfare programs, the activities of al-Jama’at al-Islamiyah provided a social safety net at private mosques, with centers for food and clothing distribution as well as for the study of the Qur’an. These mosques also had new independent sources of funding in the form of private remittances from members’ relatives who migrated to work in the Arab Gulf countries during the oil-boom years. An additional factor affecting the growth of the movement was the expansion of the country’s university system, especially in Upper Egypt where new campuses were founded in the 1970s in al-Minya, al-Fayyum, Sohag, Qina, and Aswan. Students at these schools and the older university in Asyut organized unions and fraternities under the name of al-Jama’at al-Islamiyah. By the late 1970s, as Sadat faced growing opposition at home for signing the Camp David peace treaty with Israel, there were a number of independent religious leaders associated with al-Jama’at al-Islamiyah who became very popular for their outspoken criticism of the Sadat regime. Prominent among these were Shaykh Ahmad al-Mahallawi at Qd’id Ibrahim Mosque in Alexandria and Shaykh Hafiz Salamah of al-Shuhada’ Mosque in Suez and al-Nur Mosque in Cairo. Just before his assassination in 1981, Sadat made public attacks on both Shaykh Mahallawi and Shaykh Salamah. Shaykh Omar Abdel Rahman was also critical of the regime and was later charged with having links to the Jihad group that carried out Sadat’s assassination, but was not found guilty. In the government crackdown on public opposition both before and after Sadat’s assassination, each of these religious leaders experienced state censorship and imprisonment. It is difficult to generalize about the ideology, practices, and aims of the various al-Jama’at al-Islamiyah organizations. In general, they advocate stronger Islamic rule and oppose non-Islamic practices in Egyptian society. They call for the adoption of shari`ah, the Islamic legal code, as the official law of the state, and they oppose attempts by the government to control and supervise the work of mosques and religious groups through the shaykh of al-Azhar and the Ministry of Awqaf. More than other al-Jama’at leaders, Shaykh Omar Abdel Rahman has denounced the official religious institutions of the state and has even been critical of entry by moderates in the Ikhwan into electoral party politics. After the Iranian revolution he identified closely with its Islamic government and urged his followers to confront the Egyptian government directly for its non-Islamic practices. The Egyptian government and official media have attempted to link Shaykh Omar with the clandestine and subversive Jihad group, but he has always denied the connection. The main difference between his activities and those of Jihad is that he openly sought to mobilize popular resistance to the government through his public preaching and the organizing of large conferences in cities along the Nile river. By the summer of 1988 there were an increasing number of clashes in al-Fayyum, alMinya, and other cities in Asyut province between the local police and his followers as they left mosques after the Friday sermons. Cities and universities throughout the area experienced increasing repression by the state as the government closed mosques, disrupted student union elections, and banned all activities under the name al-Jama’at al-Islamiyah. As tensions rose there were reports of house-to-house police searches, mass arrests in the thousands, and an increasing number of killings in many cities of Upper Egypt. In 1988 and 1989 Shaykh Omar was arrested and detained on at least two occasions. During his imprisonment, his followers staged large protests that led to further confrontations with the police; there were also demonstrations of support reported in the Cairo suburbs of Imbabah and `Ayn Shams, indicating his broad following and the shared identity of al-Jama’at organizations around Egypt. As the clashes between the government and al-Jama’at continued, Shaykh Omar left the country, reportedly first to Afghanistan and Pakistan and then to the United States. Following Shaykh Omar’s exile the level of conflict between al-Jama’at followers and the government increased, with military troops, armored cars, and helicopters deployed to several cities. The nature of the confrontation also assumed three new forms. First, the political assassinations of People’s Assembly speaker Rif at al-Mahjub in October 1990 and of liberal author Faraj Fawdah in June 1992, were blamed on al-Jama`at and said to have been ordered by Shaykh Omar. Attacks on prominent officials continued, such as the attempted assassination of Prime Minister `Atif Sidqi, in November 1993. Second, in 1991 violent sectarian clashes between Muslims and Christians erupted in several cities of Upper Egypt, notably Dayrut; the government claimed these were instigated by members of al-Jama’at, but they mainly resulted from old social rivalries. Third, by late 1992 extremist elements in al-Jama`at claimed responsibility for at least two attacks on foreign tourists visiting pharaonic monuments in Upper Egypt. The government claimed the al-Jama`at were pursuing a new strategy to disrupt the tourist trade and thus damage the national economy. These attacks on foreign tourists continued into 1993 In the summer of 1992 the government passed a strict new antiterrorism law limiting al-Jama’at’s activities, and in the fall it announced that all mosques and prayer leaders would be put under state control. In August 1992 the government claimed to have arrested twentyfive leaders of al-Jama’at, including two foreign citizens-a Sudanese and Jordanian-at an organizational meeting in Alexandria. The government has always maintained that al-Jama`at is foreign-inspired, primarily by Iranians and Sudanese, and it now claimed to have exposed this international connection. Despite these arrests, however, al-Jama’at will probably remain a significant factor in Egyptian society; it has wide appeal among the youth and university students and seems to have established popular roots in several parts of the country. It is also unlikely that the Egyptian government will be able to establish state control over the thousands of independent mosques that have served as the base of the movement. Many Egyptian political analysts see the government’s conflict with al-Jama’at continuing and perhaps intensifying, and indeed from June 1993 the government has shed an earlier hesitation to carry out the execution of Islamists convicted in military tribunals. It is unlikely, however, that al-Jama’at will be able to seize power from the present ruling elite in Egypt, not only because the elite is shielded by a powerful security apparatus and the army, backed by the “silent majority” of the middle classes and intelligentsia, but also because al-Jama’at ultimately lacks the organizational strength and cohesion necessary to assume popular leadership. [See also Egypt; Fundamentalism; Muslim Brotherhood, article on Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt; Organization of the Islamic Jihad; and the biography of Abdel Rahman.] BIBLIOGRAPHY Ansari, Hamied. “The Islamic Militants in Egyptian Politics.” International Journal of Middle East Studies 16 (1984): 123-144. Ayubi, Nazih N. “The Politics of Militant Islamic Movements in the Middle East.” Journal of International Affairs 36 (Fall 1982-Winter 1983): 271-283. Foreign Broadcast Information Service. Daily Reports: Near East and South Asia. New Canaan, Conn., 1980-1992. Summary of Arab newspapers and radio broadcasts. Ibrahim, Saad Eddin. “Anatomy of Egypt’s Militant Islamic Groups: Methodological Note and Preliminary Findings.” International Journal of Middle East Studies 12 (1980): 423-453. Kupferschmidt, Uri M. “Reformist and Militant Islam in Urban and Rural Egypt.” Middle Eastern Studies 23 (October 1987): 403-418. McDermott, Anthony. “Mubarak’s Egypt: The Challenge of the Militant Tendency.” The World Today 42.1o (October 1986). Sayyid Ahmad, Muhammad. “Egypt: The Islamic Issue.” Foreign Policy, no. 69 (Winter 1987-1988): 22-39. Sonbol, Amira El Azhary. “Egypt.” In The Politics of Islamic Revivalism: Diversity and Unity, edited by Shireen Hunter, pp. 23-38. Bloomington, 1988. IBRAHIM IBRAHIM

Azhar Niaz Article's Source: http://islamicus.org/jamaat-al-islamiyah-al/

  • writerPosted On: July 11, 2014
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