Differences (between the Salafists of Egypt and those of S. Arabia)
For the records, the Salafists of Egypt have no record of direct involvement in violence or terrorism of any kind. Even in their engagement in political activities in the recent times, they have maintained a clean record as far as national and international security is concerned. They stand with the fact that reforming one’s self as well as reforming the community he or she is a member begins with purifying one’s faith religious wise. That is the only tradition or ideology they purpose to pursue and adhere. In addition, to enhance this as their main ideology and tactic behind their reformation goals, they have established national networks all across Egypt consisting of religious institutions such as mosques, social aid organizations and nationally recognized satellite television channels. However, the case is different in Saudi Arabia. There, the Salafists have an additional ideology towards carrying out their reformation campaigns. They have within themselves a huge sub branch whose belief is that all Muslims should live in a country entirely governed by Islamic law, in every aspect of the citizen’s lives. They call themselves Salafi-Jihadists. Their efforts to enforce Islamic religion to non-Islamic believers go even far beyond the borders of Saudi Arabia. They have effects even in their across the border countries including Afghanistan among others (Hegghammer 52). Though many see the actions of these Salafi-Jihadists as terrorism that is not how they view themselves. To them it is a complete ideology with an unquestionable functionality index. Their agenda is to raise awareness in the Muslim community, detailing to them how their religion has strayed with respect to the foundations laid by its initiators. To strengthen their actions as an ideology, they attempt to create new identities to those the make followers. Though understood militarily, they provide an action program just as all other ideologies do. This ideology invokes religion in a number of ways: describing themselves and their enemies in religious terms, describing their actions as religious missions and they quote the Quran to back their claims and actions.
When it comes to the relationship between Salafists and the West, especially the US, there is a difference. It crops from the different public images attached on the Salafists of Egypt and those of Saudi Arabia, which in any case is subject to the different actions of each. Egypt has a strong friendship record with the US, which dates back since the reign of Abdel Nasser. This good relationship is not partial in any manner. It is a wholesome good relationship with all bodies in Egypt, which means that there is no record of any conflict with the Salafist of Egypt. However, without a record of military aid, the US authorized $250 million fund in the past as aid for all Egyptians, inclusive of even the Salafists present, denoting a warm relationship between the two. Even at the present with the Egyptian Salafists associating themselves with open politics, the US still holds an openhearted relationship with them. In Saudi Arabia, however, the case is very different. Actually, it is bilateral in nature. The Saudi Arabian administration strives to make the relationship a good one but unfortunately, it always ends up collapsing or just works only to a certain level. This is so because of the presence of Salafist-Jihadists who have a bitter relation with the west. For a number of times, they have successfully plotted jihadist attacks either directly to US citizens in US or to Arab countries allies of the US. In retaliation, the US also either directly uses military force against them or against their strong holds in other countries.
By virtue of being Salafists, regardless of being Egyptian or Saudi Arabian, there is a common method or path they use to live an even in the implementation of their beliefs and their calling to restoration. They are supposed to adhere to the given teachings without giving in to temptations characterizing by the changing world of this age. According to the teachings that they follow, one adopted law guides on avoiding any kind of affiliation and association whatsoever with any group with a formal organization, which includes even civic association or political parties (Meijer 37). The idea behind this is that such formal organizations are the main reasons why divisions emerge among Muslims. As a result of those teachings and strong believe, most Salafists, including those in Egypt as well as those in Saudi Arabia stayed away from mainstream politics in their initial starting times. Rather, they concentrated in social work and religious preaching. However, in Egypt, which holds elections from time to time, for a very long time the Salafists associated indirectly with political party activities represented by the Salafi Daawa and Al-Nur Party. In Saudi Arabia, this is a monarchy, issues of Salafists indulging in mainstream politics is not in record. In the recent times, the revolutions experienced across almost all Islamic nations brought forth significant pressure on the political views held by the Salafists in that some of them decided to engage in mainstream politics without fear. This happened in Egypt after the stepping down of Hosni Mubarak as the president. The Salafists of Egypt embraced politics open heartedly. Actually, as statistics has it, the won about 25 percent of parliamentary seats in the general elections held afterwards. While that is the case in Egypt; Salafists finally engaging in open national politics, that is not the case in Saudi Arabia and there is no indicator that something of the sought is about to happen.
Most important to note too, as another core difference between the Salafists in Egypt and their counterparts in Saudi Arabia, is the extent of rights allowed to their women. In Saudi Arabia, the women’s responsibilities are limited to not more than household matters. Technically, they have no public say and they cannot even drive. However, in Egypt the case is a little different. There is a liberality of some kind. Here the women can drive, they can participate in activist campaigns and involve in other public activities that go beyond the household environment; a very prominent difference.
Being Salafists ideologically and having cropped from similar arguments and a common drive, the Salafism in Egypt and in Saudi Arabia is hypothetically the same. This emanates from studying what the two have in common, which is significant enough to term them as one thing. However, the few different adoptions each has separately acquired are enough to support the idea of viewing the Salafist of Egypt as completely different from those of Saudi Arabia. The different adoptions they have welcomed drive each a little from the initial aims of Salafism. Depending on an unbiased viewpoint, each has both a positive and a negative effect with respect to the changes they have adopted. What is different is the degree of dominancy between the positivity and the negativity of the actions of each.
- Gauvin, Richard. Salafi Ritual Purity. New York: Routledge, 2012.
- Heffelfinger, Christopher. Radical Islam in America: Salafism’s Journey from Arabia to the West. Washington,D.C.: Potomac Books, Inc, 2011.
- Hegghammer. Jihad in Saudi Arabia. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010.
- Meijer, Roel. Global Salafism. New York: Columbia University Press, 2011.