Country Profile

Egypt

Summary

Far from being a battle of competing religious ideologies, Egypt's current conflict is primarily one of who and what should control the levers of power. The majority of Egyptians, both in power and in opposition, are personally pious.But since the military coup of July 2013, a conflict has emerged between those who support the deposed President Morsi, and those who opposed him. President Sisi has led the charge, declaring that under his rule the Muslim Brotherhood "will not exist". The Muslim Brotherhood, meanwhile, has focused on legitimacy: Morsi is the "legitimate" president, and Sisi is therefore illegitimate. The implication in jihadi thinking is that he can be removed by force, and indeed jihadi groups operating out of the Sinai peninsula have been active in Cairo and elsewhere in Egypt. Likewise, the government is not only appealing to Egyptians for backing; several Gulf countries as well as the United States have pledged financial and political support.

1Of an Egyptian population of 86 million, 10% are Christians. The majority of the Muslim population is Sunni.

2Since the July 2013 military coup, over 10,000 Brotherhood supporters have been arrested, and hundreds sentenced to death.

3While public sentiment towards the military is broadly positive, according to research from Pew the institutions favourability rating has fallen from 73% to 56% between 2013 and 2014.

Situation Report

In the wake of the 2011 uprising that ousted long-time Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, Egypt has faced political instability, characterised by frequent protests and often violent clashes between protesters and government forces. Although Egypt's current conflict may not be solely about religion, religion is an issue of major importance in Egypt. The majority of Egypt's population is Muslim, with a minority of Coptic Christians that make up roughly 10 percent of the population. The vast majority of Egyptians, regardless of their political stance, are personally pious. Indeed, the current president, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, has intentionally cast himself as a "defender of Islam" and spoken of his vision for the future of Islam in Egypt. Rather than being a battle between different religious ideologies, the religious element of the current Egyptian struggle is primarily political, deciding the role and scope of religion in the government.

Even before the 2011 uprising, the struggle between secularism and Islamism was epitomised in the ongoing conflict between the military government and the Muslim Brotherhood, a social movement that became politicised and at times radical. In 1952, a group of junior military officers known as the Free Officers' Movement overthrew the monarchy of King Farouk, ended the British occupation of Egypt and established a republic. For the subsequent sixty years, Egypt was ruled successively by military men, namely Gamal Abdul Nasser, Anwar Sadat, Hosni Mubarak. Over this time period, the government has almost always had a contentious relationship with the Muslim Brotherhood, the main opposition movement.

Although the Brotherhood initially supported the 1952 coup, Nasser did not include the group in his government; their exclusion from power allowed the Brotherhood to claim that it now opposed the secularist direction of the government under the Free Officers. Following an assassination attempt against Nasser, the organisation was outlawed in 1954. As a banned organisation, the Brotherhood became increasingly radical and subsequently violent, leading in turn to more arrests, imprisonments and executions. A number of Brotherhood members fled to nearby Saudi Arabia. It was the Egyptian military who imprisoned Brotherhood member Sayyid Qutb, eventually hanging him in 1966. Qutb's writings from prison have directly influenced the ideology of other, more radical groups, such as Tanzim al-Jihad, of which Ayman al-Zawahiri was a one-time member. The Brotherhood largely remained an underground organisation throughout the Nasser, Sadat and Mubarak presidencies—though their violent tendencies lessened.

  • Global Overview
  • 1. Violent Religious Extremism Incidents: September 2016 6
  • 2. Violent Religious Extremism Incidents: August 2016 6
  • 3. Violent Religious Extremism Incidents: July 2016 10
  • 4. Violent Religious Extremism Incidents: June 2016 12
  • 5. Violent Religious Extremism Incidents: May 2016 4
  • 6. Violent Religious Extremism Incidents: April 2016 5
  • 7. Violent Religious Extremism Incidents: March 2016 10
  • 8. Violent Religious Extremism Incidents: February 2016 5
  • 9. Violent Religious Extremism Incidents: January 2016 16
  • Extremism
  • Fatalities: Civilians: September 2016 6
  • Fatalities: Extremism: September 2016 71
  • Fatalities: Security Forces: September 2016 10
  • Counter-Extremism
  • Counter-Extremism Incidents: September 2016 9
  • State Counter-Extremism: Statements: September 2016 2
  • State Counter-Extremism: Use of Force: September 2016 5