Egypt Unrest Could Cultivate Radical Militancy

Morsi, Eypt, Tahrir Square, Cairo,

As Egyptians of all political and religious hues reflect on the events of the last week – culminating in the military deposition of Mohammed Morsi and the installation of Adli Mansour as Interim President – the future of political Islam and the consequences for security in the weeks ahead has leapt to the fore.

Developing Security Situation

With the arrest on the afternoon of July 4 of Mohammed Badie, the ‘Supreme Guide’ and leader of the political wing of the Muslim Brotherhood, for the incitement of violence, the potential for Islamic radicalisation and exclusion from the democratic process increases.

Overnight, gunmen – possibly Islamic Militants – attacked two military checkpoints, el-Arish airport and a police station near turbulent Northern Sinai’s Rafah border crossing, killing at least one soldier.

The outraged Muslim Brotherhood has called for a wave of peaceful protest today, but there is some potential for clashes between opposing groups and the intervention of security forces over the next week.

Sources in Egypt suggest that most people returned to work yesterday and no major outbreaks of violence were reported in Cairo. There is, however, concern at both the impending response of a substantial number of Egyptians who voted for Morsi and the state’s capacity to discourage and control violence.

Democracy and Islam

Many of those who elected Morsi to power voted tactically – in the absence of a united secular and progressive opposition. They have since become disappointed by the Brotherhood’s performance. There are many Muslims, now disenfranchised, who will question the relevance of democracy to Islam.

This has been a long running debate in Egypt, a resurgence of which could allow space for the violence espoused by the leader of Al-Qaeda, the Egyptian Ayman Al-Zawahiri, the consequences of which are potentially serious for foreign interests including tourism.

Over the coming hours an indicator of future stability will be the way in which President Mansour and the Army seek to accommodate and reassure the moderate rump of Morsi’s supporters and the Salafist movement whilst restraining ultra-conservative Salafists from joining jihadists in abandoning politics for violence directed against government, Tamarod supporters and, possibly, foreign targets. This task will not be easy and will require national coordination and persuasion beyond Cairo into the Governates, many of which are loyal to Morsi.

Spark Points

Friday afternoon prayers will be an important indicator of the degree to which the Imams promote peaceful protest – the path advocated by the Moslem Brotherhood today. If protests or clashes occur, the manner in which the security forces deals with them will be critical in arresting the potential of a cycle of disruption and violence that could spread across the country, creating fertile conditions for the growth of radical militancy.

About Tim Holt

Tim is Head of Inform at Alert:24, a new crisis and risk management consultancy from Special Contingency Risks. He …
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