What is a Salafi? By Assad Elepty

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Post Egyptian revolution, the Muslim brotherhood has sought to shield them selves from accusations of criticism by allowing Salafists to take the lead on the streets and push their agenda. Today we read that Salafists are quickly menacing society, making extremists threats and using the tactics of the Muslim Brotherhood of Old.
So what is a Salafi? and where did they come from?
A Salafi is a follower of an Islamic movement that believe in a literal reading of the Koran and maintaining a lifestyle that replicates early Islam in the days of Mohammed. It is in effect a draconian ideology seeking to retard society back to the 7th century. The word “Salafi” is an Arabic noun which translates to "predecessor", or "forefather" and collectively referred to as the "Salafi- a-Saaleh", or Pious Predecessors, namely the first three Muslim generations.
The Salafists view themselves as the true modern day Sahabah "Companions" of Mohammed, strict adherents of the first three generations following Mohammed. They consider other Muslim sects have strayed from the true tenets of Islam. Salafist’s consider they are the true guardians of “Islamic orthodoxy” and role models of how Islam should be practiced.
Salafism is not considered a sect foreign to orthodox Islam by the Sunni Muslim brotherhood. The Muslim Brotherhood currently sees the Salafists “as a very useful instrument in Egypt”. The Salafists are in effect they are doing the “dirty work” the Muslim Brotherhood is unable to do under the current circumstances. The world wide focus on the Muslim Brotherhood has to some extent shackled the Brotherhood; they are desperate to portray themselves as a non violent tolerant sect pursuing a political role in modern day Egypt.
The goals of the MB are infact in tangent with the objectives of the Salafists. The principal tenet of Salafism is that “Islam as preached by Muhammad and practiced by his Companions”, is the pure, unadulterated ultimate authority for the interpretation of the two sources of revelation given to Muhammad, namely the Qur'an and the Sunna”, uninfluenced by western democracy.
So where did they come from?
The term Salafi is sometimes replaced with “Wahhabi”, the form of Islam practiced in Saudi Arabia. (Like the Brotherhood, both sects are directly linked with terrorism or "extremist" in Islam).
Egyptian ex-pats working in Saudi Arabia have been greatly influenced by Wahhabism and have imported it to Egypt. Whilst they have the same ideology Salafis reject the label “Wahhabi” and argue that Mohammed Ibn Abd al Wahhab (Mohammed son of Abd al Wahhab) did not establish a new school of thought but merely revived the pure, unadulterated Islam that was practiced by the earliest generations of Muslims. With the exception of that difference, Salafists have a mirror ideology of Wahhabism.
In essence the Salafists seek to mirror the same form of Islam practiced in Saudi Arabia. This ideology will not only suppress Christians, but it will also treat women as second class citizens. Women will banned from driving, voting and travelling unaccompanied by Father, Son, or husband in public, the burqa will be mandatory, “all under threat of corporal punishment or execution”. Matters such as rape, will be dealt with under strict koranic interpretations, where four independent male witnesses are required to corroborate the woman’s allegations, minimum marriage age will be scraped and child brides accepted and other aspects of shariah implemented.
Having said the latter, the Muslim Brotherhood who are far more organised and regimented, by far out number the Salafists in Egypt. The Muslim Brotherhood working closely with the Military cunningly organised the release of Salafist leaders at a critical juncture, “just before the constitutional referendum”. Whilst the MB will not allow the Salafists to assume the lead and take power in Egypt, they were desperately needed to secure the outcome of the referendum and enshrine Islam as part and parcel of modern Egypt.
Two weeks ago the Salafists were on the front foot, securing the “yes vote” and suppressed the youth that ensured the over throw of Mubarak and pushed for a “No Vote”.
Today Egypt is predominantly “Ahl-as-Sunna” (family of the Sunna), led by the Muslim brotherhood and Al-Azhar, the oldest and highest Islamic institute in the world, and they have no intention of allowing the Salafists assume supremacy in Egypt.
When the world witnessed a vocal call “for removal of article 2 of the constitution”, this greatly concerned the MB, and led them to use “the Salafists as a convenient street level force to counter the drive to abolish article 2” and the loud call for democracy widely sought by the educated and enlightened Egyptian youth and Coptic Christians.

The Muslim brotherhood is an extremely tenacious, tactical, and well organised machine, and quickly responded to the situation whilst remaining at arms lengths from any criticism of extremism.
No doubt the point will come when the Salafists will be at logger heads with the MB, especially as now the Salafists have declared their intention to form a political party to rival the MB. I predict the MB who are closely aligned with the military in an unholy alliance, will no doubt counter the proposal and suppress the MB. With the benefit of Hindsight, it is now clear Mubarak was not the failure many perceived, including myself. I was extremely critical of Mubarak’s rule; however it is now evident that to control Islamists the ruler has to be brutal and relentless. There is no doubt Mubarak had a deep appreciation of the threats Islamists posed to society, and these is evident as we witness events unfold. The question begs to be asked, “What possessed the Military to free these radicals in mass?” Recently on Insight, one Coptic Lady attended and voiced her support for Mubarak against the majority opinion, the events we see occur to day certainly giver her stance merit and validity. Despite Mubarak’s misgivings, he certainly kept the Islamists on a tight leash and caged the radical ring leaders.
There is a glimmer of hope for the future destiny of Egypt. The constitution subject of recent voting is an “interim constitution” to guide the country until a permanent document is drafted. Parliamentary elections are scheduled for September and the first presidential elections after the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak will be held in October or November.
The make up of the new parliament and the new president will ultimately determine the future path of Egypt. There is no doubt the Muslim Brotherhood, Salafists and other Islamic groups will do their utmost to influence the outcome of the upcoming elections.
At the same time secular parties are aware of the threat and will like wise act to counter the anti-democratic movement. Time is short and the winner of the arm wrestle will no doubt emerge victorious. The over riding threat at present comes from Salafists who are prepared to resort to violence, terrorism, thuggery and brutality to suppress those seeking a moderate democratic society and influence the outcome of the upcoming elections by stealth.
To a very large extent, the entire episode will be determined by the response of the ruling military and how they deal with criminal and subversive behaviour of the Islamists, "Judging by the actions of the military to date it is not looking promising".
Prayer Prayer and Prayer is our greatest weapon against the forces of satan.

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