Is Egypt Headed Down a Violent Path?

Article Summary
In light of escalating clashes with protesters in Egypt recently, some worry that any misstep by the military to hand over power could lead to violence between Egypt's polarized political parties and the SCAF. Mounir Adib talks to Nageh Ibrahim, a founder of the Gamaa Islamiya, a radical Islamist group known for its violent past.  

One of Egypt’s Islamist parties, the Gamaa Islamiya, said that it will continue to put pressure on the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) until it transfers its power to civilians. The group said that its members will protest if necessary, and that violence will be inevitable if there are hints of armed conflict between Egypt’s political factions and the SCAF.

Dr. Nageh Ibrahim, a member of the Gamaa Islamiya’s Shura Council, said that the group is concerned that violence will resume as a result of recent events and sharp polarization between Islamists and the liberal and secular movements.

He told Egyptian newspaper al-Masry al-Youm that "violence would have definitely taken place had it not been for the wise men of the nation who contained the situation and calmed the rebellious youth who were engaging in violence."

Ibrahim continued, "the conditions which prompted Islamists to carry out violent acts in the past are present today — perhaps even more than before. First, we need to establish a mechanism for addressing any kind of violence that may arise."

When questioned about the indicators that violence would break out, Ibrahim said, "these indicators have been visible for months. They manifested themselves during the sieges on the Ministry of Interior, the Ministry of Defense and several embassies. Even though Tahrir Square embraced a peaceful political revolution, it has now turned into a source of violence.”

He stressed that: “violence can take many forms. It can be bloody, verbal or political. We constantly heard abusive words and insults during the siege of the Saudi Arabian Embassy. The same happened with the military council. Their language was horrific.”

Ibrahim said, "Political takfir [takfir refers to the practice of one Muslim declaring another Muslim an unbeliever, or "infidel"] is one of the main reasons for the widespread violence because it is a popular tactic for political factions. Each faction inevitably sees the other as nonbelievers, which leads to an arms race between the groups.”

He said the young people protesting at Abbassya Square in Cairo and in front of the Ministry of Defense are completely irrational, ignorant and blinded by their emotions. Unfortunately, the takfiris, who are spread out all over the world, are able to appeal to these young people at an emotional and intellectual level. 

Ibrahim said that armed conflict would bring the nation back to square one. Such a conflict would be similar to the violent clashes that erupted between Islamic groups and the government in the 1990s, and the one between the Muslim Brotherhood and the military in 1954, just two years after Egypt’s 1952 revolution.

He said, "Most political parties are acting irrationally and are being driven by their emotions. They are acting in a way that is far from reasonable, and they lack wisdom. They are giving priority to their personal interests over those of the nation."

Ibrahim continued, "I am deeply concerned by the proliferation of weapons in governorates like Matrouh, the Sinai and in Upper Egypt. Some people have started stockpiling rocket launchers."

Alaa Abu Alnasr, Secretary-General of the Construction and Development Party, the Gamaa’s alleged political wing, said "We will continue to hold million-man protests in Cairo's Tahrir Square and in other  governorates to put pressure on the junta until they hand over power in late June."

He added that "the Gamaa and its political branch have not decided yet whether they will protest next Friday in Tahrir Square or not. They will decide based on how the political situation develops, since it seems to change by the hour.”

Abu Alnasr said, "Everything depends on the events. We will make a final assessment based on the information available, which will help us make a final decision and put national interests above any others. Our goal is to ensure, by any means possible, that power is handed over. This may mean making sacrifices to uphold the national interest."

He said, "The parliamentary committee asked the Construction and Development Party to give Dr. Kamal Ganzoury’s government a vote of no-confidence, after we received evidence that they are trying to force the Islamists to abort their project, thus leading Egypt into a dark tunnel."

Found in: violence, tahrir square, tahrir, scaf, polarization, ministry of defense, islamic groups, arms, abbassia square

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