Mohamed Abd El Ghany / Reuters

Egypt's Theory of Terrorism

Why It Is a Problem for the United States

On June 2, the U.S. State Department released its annual Country Reports on Terrorism. During the announcement of the reports, Justin Siberell, the department’s counterterrorism chief, noted that, once again, Washington and Cairo are drifting further apart in their understanding of violent extremism. Speaking to the drivers of terrorism in Egypt, Siberell noted that “there is quite well understood linkage in some cases between repressive policies of governments, including in its security practices, as a contributing factor in some cases to radicalization.”                                                                                                  

His comments stand in stark contrast to documents and remarks by Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry at a United Nations Security Council meeting in May. Ahead of the UNSC debate, Egypt, which held the 15-member body’s presidency that month, sent a concept paper calling for a discussion on how to counter the threat of “ideologies of religiously inspired terrorist groups,” such as the Islamic State (ISIS) and al Qaeda, which “emanate and derive from the same extremist, takfiri and violent concepts and views that were propagated in the mid-twentieth century... [and that] provide them with intellectual foundation.”

The concept paper did not mention the Muslim Brotherhood, but Shoukry’s remarks made it clear that Cairo views the group as a problem. Specifically, Shoukry’s mention of mid-twentieth century Brotherhood theorist Sayid Qutb, a thought leader from whom many terrorist groups have drawn their ideologies, telegraphed Egypt’s belief that the Brotherhood’s ideology has spurred all violent Islamist groups of the last half-century. Egypt’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has explicitly made this point, arguing in March that “the extremism and radicalism which serve as the lifeblood of today’s terrorist groups is based directly on Brotherhood thinkers and ideologues that are still venerated and closely adhered to by the organization, such as Sayid Qutb. To put it simply, the threat of terrorism as we see it today owes its existence to the Muslim Brotherhood.”

gold_egyptstheoryofterrorism_photographer.jpg Amr Abdallah Dalsh / Reuters

A news photographer with her mouth taped and holds up her camera during a protest against the detention of Ahmed Ramadan, a photojournalist with Egyptian private newspaper "Tahrir", in front of the Syndicate of Journalists in Cairo, Egypt August 17, 2015.

A news photographer with her mouth taped and holds up her camera during a protest against the detention of Ahmed Ramadan, a photojournalist with Egyptian private newspaper "Tahrir", in front of the Syndicate of Journalists in Cairo, Egypt August 17, 2015. A news photographer with her mouth taped and holds up her camera during a protest against the detention of Ahmed Ramadan, a photojournalist with Egyptian private newspaper "Tahrir", in front of the Syndicate of Journalists in Cairo, Egypt August 17, 2015. For his part, Shoukry spoke of Islamist extremism as emanating from terrorist Read the full article on ForeignAffairs.com