from london to mansoura — killing in the name of allah

Mansoura terrorism

The terror group Ansar Bayt Al-Maqdes which claimed responsibility for the suicide bombing on the police headquarters in Mansoura  on the 24 of December killing 16 people,  mainly police, and injuring many more  has emerged as the most active and lethal jihadi group operating in Egypt today.   Its  terrorists were behind another audacious car bomb in September  that narrowly missed the interior minister in Cairo. They  have also launched  a string of attacks on the army and police in Sinai.

Earlier this month,  the group released a video tape bragging about its “heroic achievements” against the soldiers of the “infidels” and “renegades” .  According to Egyptian newspapers, it was formed by an Islamic militant (Ahmed Salamah Mabrook) who was serving a life sentence when he was pardoned by the ousted Muslim Brothers  president, Mohammed Mursi,  last year.

However,  other reports suggested that the group  emerged immediately after the overthrow of Mubarak in 2011. Initially it targeted Israeli interests (such as blowing up pipelines carrying Egyptian gas to Israel), but after the overthrow of Mursi, it has shifted its terror campaign  to attack Egyptian army and police.

We may never know the exact provenance of shadowy groups like Ansar, but its public statements tell us a great deal about it.

The videotape (which has now been removed by YouTube)  had all the hallmarks of Al-Qaeda propaganda:  the Quranic verses taken out of context to justify the slaughter of “kuffar”,  mixed with religious chanting interspersed with grainy footage showing  attacks on military vehicles. Typically, the accent of the voice over was from the Arabian peninsula – as if this somehow bolsters its Islamic credentials.

But perhaps more striking than anything else was the link  the Al-Qaeda propagandists make between their terrorist attacks in Sinai and the Muslim Brothers  campaign of public protests and riots on university campuses whose apparent aim is to derail the road map and prevent the establishment of a new political legitimacy for the emerging order after the constitutional referendum and subsequent elections due early next year. This reinforces a widespread suspicion  that sees a direct link between at least some Muslim Brothers leaders and Bayt Al-Maqdes.  The MB has yet to condemn such attacks as acts of terror. It has done so in London and in English. Its response in Arabic is equivocatory, to say the least.    The conspicuous absence of public condemnations  have led  some to conclude (plausibly I think) that the violence is being waged on the MB’s  behalf to achieve political goals and force concessions from the interim government.

Two weeks before the Mansoura outrage, and thousands of miles away in the UK  a language strikingly similar to that of Bayt Al-Maqdes was heard in a London courtroom.

Michael Adebolajo and Michael Adebowale appeared in court charged with killing a British soldier last summer on the streets of  south London in Woolich.

The murder was particularly savage, totally unprovoked :  the two men, who are converts to Islam,  overran the off-duty soldier with a car, then hacked him to death with knives and  a meat cleaver.   Although they had a gun and could have shot him, it seems that they wanted to relish the sight of blood and mutilation.  It was a barbaric attack. They were subsequently found guilty,  but are yet to be sentenced.

During the hearing Adebolajo told the jury that he didn’t consider what he did to be a murder, but “a military operation”,  because he was “a soldier of Allah”, adding also that he considered “Al-Qaeda … to be Mujahideen. I love them, they’re my brothers. I have never met them. I consider them my brothers in Islam.”

This is a man who has declared  war on society in the  name of religion,  using the same language and justification  Bayt Al-Maqdes  uses in Egypt. They are killing in the name of Allah.  This is basically the thread that unites all Islamists, from the most violent to the pragmatists, who don’t do the killing themselves, but provide theological cover for the terrorists.

Adebolajo’s apparent reason for committing this heinous crime was that British soldiers had killed Muslims in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Received wisdom has taught us to blame Islamist terrorism on the absence of democracy or freedom of expression in Arab societies.   Assuming that was right, why would a Muslim living in a Western democracy such as Britain resort to terrorism to achieve political goals?

Adebolajo is certainly not the only one opposed to British foreign policy.  Millions of Britons are. But they didn’t take up arms against the state , let alone assassinate politicians responsible for the controversial policy.

I think the reason is a lot simpler than that.   Time to dismiss the bogus causal link between  autocracy and  Islamism ,  and to stop finding excuses for the inherently violent temper of this ideology.   Time has come to see it for what it really is.  Many other political groups (liberals, communists) were repressed and thrown into jail during Egypt’s modern history :  they did not take up arms and declare war on the state or kill innocent civilians.

The point is that Islamism is a virulent supremacist ideology prone to violence and which seeks to prevail, with or without democracy.  The pragmatists (often referred to as moderates) are as dangerous to Muslims as are the militants.  The jihadis use the blunt and lethal instruments of violence; the “moderates”  are sly and rely on religiously sanctioned dissimulation (known as Taqiyya) to hide their true intentions.  In the West, they work assiduously to undermine the very liberal foundations that allowed them to thrive in the first place.

Recently we heard the news that Islamist activists at British universities want to separate men from women at lectures; others want to opt out of the normal legal system and settle their disputes in sharia courts , or to be exempted from selling alcohol or pork. The list keeps getting longer.

The story may vary, but the message is the same : these are not people who are using their legitimate right to proselytise, but are determined to surreptitiously fight the open and tolerant society and replace it with an intolerant and closed one based on their understanding of Sharia.

At the other end of the spectrum, the likes of Adebelajo.

Islamism is a political ideology that has never shied away from using religiously motivated violence to achieve political goals. So was the Muslim Brothers  in its first decades,  and so are many of the militant outfits it has spawned over the years,   and so are the people who indoctrinated Adebolajo and his friends in the UK.

Time for the whole world to reassess its relationship with Islamism in all its manifestations. Islamism is a movement and ideology that seeks to separate Muslims from the rest of humanity,  and put them on collision course with fellow human beings wherever they live because of its pernicious supremacist teachings.

The difference between the moderates and militants is a difference in degree, not kind.  It is politically convenient for the ideology and those who believe in it : in reality the moderates  and the militants reinforce and refuel one another.

(written for Islamist Gate :


Magdi Abdelhadi

Writer, broadcaster, moderator, media consultant. I commute between London and Cairo. I am a former BBC journalist. All views here are only mine.

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