Center for American Progress

RELEASE: New CAP Report on Egypt’s Islamists Features Original, On-the-Ground Research and Interviews
Press Release

RELEASE: New CAP Report on Egypt’s Islamists Features Original, On-the-Ground Research and Interviews

Washington, D.C. — Today, the Center for American Progress released a report on the latest political and security dynamics in Egypt and their impacts on a range of Islamist groups in the country. The report was informed by the work of a research team from CAP that interviewed more than 30 leading politicians, Islamists, and observers in the Egyptian cities of Cairo and Alexandria over a two-week period in December 2013 and conducted follow-up interviews in January 2014. Those interviewed included current and former mid-level to senior-level members of the Muslim Brotherhood; the Salafi Daʿwa and its political wing, the Nour Party; other Salafi movements; Islamist youth with responsibility for the street demonstrations or other forms of protest; and non-Islamist politicians.

This report provides a snapshot of current trends among Islamists in Egypt, including the Muslim Brotherhood. It offers an overview of the enduring weaknesses and divisions that plague the country’s political landscape; explores the impact of the military’s overthrow of the previous government and repression of a broad range of independent political actors, including the Muslim Brotherhood; and examines the Salafi response to these events. The report concludes with a summary analysis of the situation and suggested recommendations for U.S. policymakers.

“New security challenges and sharp political divisions in Egypt threaten the government’s ability to deal with basic economic problems and serve as a reliable security partner for the United States,” said Brian Katulis, CAP Senior Fellow and co-author of the report. “Events in Egypt have a major impact on broader U.S. policy in the region, and the Obama administration needs to redouble its efforts to work with Egypt and other key countries in the region to invest in greater stability, political pluralism, and economic progress in Egypt.”

The report offers the following key findings:

  • Egypt’s political transition remains in a fragile state, affected by growing security threats and enduring economic challenges.
  • The landscape of political Islam in Egypt is fragmenting.
  • The Muslim Brotherhood lacks a strategic vision and faces a historic challenge.
  • The Salafi Daʿwa has aligned itself with the current ruling powers and remains a key political actor.
  • The threat of continued violent radicalization is real.
  • A strong, overt political role for the Egyptian military risks its independence and standing with the Egyptian people.
  • Regional forces are gaining influence.

“The struggle between the cornerstone of the Egyptian state and the country’s largest social movement threatens Egypt’s cohesion,” said Hardin Lang, CAP Senior Fellow and co-author of the report. “The ongoing violence is making it harder by the day to put the genie of conflict back in the bottle. The threat of radicalization is very real.”

“The conflict in Egypt today is not simply Islamists versus secularists, but instead cuts across disputes over political and religious legitimacy between the Muslim Brotherhood, the interim authorities, and ultra-orthodox Salafis,” said Mokhtar Awad, CAP Research Associate and co-author of the report. ​“This multilayered intra-Islamist competition highlights that the Brotherhood does not represent Egypt’s Islamist current and is locked in a political fight for its own survival, not political Islam in Egypt.”

The report recommends that Washington take the following actions:

  • Advocate for political inclusion as a means to support stability, effective governance, and economic growth.
  • Promote political dialogue.
  • Engage the Gulf region on the Egyptian economy.
  • Reform U.S. security assistance to help the country meet today’s pressing security challenges.

Read the analysis: Fragmenting Under Pressure: Egypt’s Islamists Since Morsi’s Ouster by Hardin Lang, Mokhtar Awad, and Brian Katulis

To speak to an expert on this topic, contact Anne Shoup at [email protected] or 202.481.7146.