Salafi Influences

Alongside the Muslim Brotherhood, the newly forming Muslim political parties, Al-Azhar and Dar Al-Ifta, major players in the political scene of Egypt from the Egyptian Sunni religious landscape include Salafi coalitions.

Following the January 25th uprising, Salafists have acquired increasing attention. The expansion of Salafi influence, especially after the departure of Mubarak, has been criticized not only by secular and liberal forces, but also by Islamic scholars and activists. In an interview in Al-Masry Al-Youm, Sheikh Youssef El-Qaradawy attributed the expansion of the influence of Salafis to the waning role of Al-Azhar and its wasati (centrist) approach. He argued that the Salafis were against the revolution, based on their view that the youth of the revolution were against Quran and Sunna and that they rose against the ruler (which is forbidden from an Islamic perspective according to some interpretations). Al-Qaradawy argues that despite this initial position, Salafis are now jumping onto the revolution. Nonetheless, according to news reports, the role that Salafi groups have played alarmed many liberal and secular forces. On the other hand, Salafis have expressed their intention in the remaking of Egypt after the revolution. Salafi Sheikh Mohamed Hassan said in a news report: “The country is being made anew, and we are [being portrayed in the] negative.”  

The influence of Salafists groups, Salafi relations with other players on the political scene, and Salafi orientation toward pluralistic democracy and peaceful political participation remains to be seen. In particular, concerns have been raised regarding violence against Copts, Shiites, and Sufis, however some Salafi preachers are keen on supporting the civil state and the acceptance of religious minorities. The excessive presence of Salafis in the July 29th 2011 rally supporting the Islamic nature of the state drew special attention.  Of special concern was the fact that a number of Salafis held the Saudi flag during the rally. This could be a reflection of the Saudi influence on Salafi groups in Egypt. However, the exact links between Saudi Arabia and these Salafi groups are not clear.

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See Also: Egypt's Salafists: A Closer Look