Who are the Salafists? They are an enigma because while the word suggests moderate, Salafists are actually among the most violent of the Sunni movement, which includes Wahhabism. It is literalist and puritanical Islam. Salafist is a word recently developed as part of the pretense suggesting moderation among the Muslim Brotherhood. The term also describes Palestinian groups Jaish al Islam and Jaish al Umma. Salafism is an Egyptian invention, and here’s how it happened:
President Anwar al Sadat made the mistake of permitting the reemergence of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt during the 1970s. But he did terrorize them to the extent that they understood that if they resorted to violence in Egypt, if they were too vocal in opposition to the government, or if they became too successful, he would hang them in public. Thus, the leadership of the Muslim Brotherhood, elderly and experienced —meaning harassed and tortured by Sadat, began to make themselves into invisible men. They had no illusion about the regime of Anwar al Sadat: they knew he could not last forever, and they realized patience is a virtue. From the 1970s on was a time for organization, education, and the pursuit of calm determination. They of course continued to support the murder of innocent Israelis and Americans, but they moderated violence at home.
Some of these new men were impatient, of course. They murdered Sadat in a most-public spectacle. Some of these people joined al Qaeda —even if having disparate views. But now the fruit appears on the tree and the Brotherhood is eager for violence and instant revolution. In the 2011 Parliamentary elections, the Salafist al-Nour party led the Islamist Bloc, which gained 127 out of 498 seats in parliament—al Nour itself won 111 of those 127 seats.
Is the Muslim Brotherhood friend or foe of the Salafists? I believe the Salafists have become a tool of the Muslim Brotherhood: useful idiots, as it were. If the Brotherhood wants a pipeline destroyed, they assign that task to Salafists. If the Brotherhood wants to create morality patrols, they use Salafists. And then of course, the Salafists become a convenient excuse: Hamas didn’t lob those rockets; Sunni extremists did that. The Salafists are also a good manpower pool. Whenever the Brotherhood is running short on pea-brains, they can always get them from the Salafists.
This one point stands out, however: the goal of Salafists and the Muslim Brotherhood are identical. It only remains to decide how fast to drive the train of extremism. Nor is the Muslim Brotherhood in any danger from the Salafists—not in Egypt, not in Tunisia, and not in Gaza (where the Muslim Brotherhood is known as Hamas).
What does cleverly mean? Well, for starters it means that the Muslim Brotherhood has to convince Western leaders that it represents a moderate face in Islam. Relying on the Democratic strategy found in America —a lie told often enough becomes the truth— the Muslim Brotherhood focuses its attention on the western press and the most useful politicians: John Conyers, Keith Ellison, Hillary Clinton, Martin Dempsey, Barack Obama … the list does go on far too long.
The lie told often enough will propel the Muslim Brotherhood to prominence, but we cannot suggest they will succeed. Yes, it is true they pose a clear and present danger to peace loving peoples everywhere in the world, but while clever, they are no geniuses. They despise the Shia; they will kill them when it is convenient. They will destroy national economies. Yet, ultimately, they must lose ... and for the same reasons that communism collapsed.
The question is, how long will it take to break the back of the Muslim Brotherhood —or is this even possible? As failures, will they go back into hiding to arise again, like a phoenix out of the desert? In my view, the Muslim Brotherhood must strengthen Israel, and Israel will determine its own destiny.
Still, we must wonder if western policy is capable of supporting genuine moderation in the Middle East, or whether it will become an obstacle, as with Obama’s inept "hands off" foreign policy.
h/t Dr. Barry Rubin & Tammy Swofford