Tourist Jihad in Egypt

The explosions Monday night in Dahab, an Egyptian resort city, killing at least 30 and wounding many more, was the 16th attack on foreign tourists in Egypt since 1992Egyptian authorities have linked at least some of these attacks to groups that want to establish an Islamic state in Egypt — principally Egyptian Islamic Jihad and Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman’s Al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya. Sheikh Omar, of course, is now serving a life term in federal prison in Colorado for his role in masterminding the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.

The mujahedin aren’t concerned that their actions will harm one of Egypt’s major industries — in fact, that’s exactly what they want to do. Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman and his ilk target tourist spots for the same reason they targeted the World Trade Center: to harm their enemy economically. Tourism accounts, directly and indirectly, for over 10 percent of Egypt’s Gross Domestic Product; destabilizing the tourist industry could cripple the Egyptian economy as a whole and possibly even topple the government – or at very least lead to a substantial increase in popular support for groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood, which has already recently enjoyed a resurgence at the ballot box.

But the enemy of these groups is not just Hosni Mubarak. These attacks allow the mujahedin abundant opportunity to express their hatred for infidels. Among those killed in the various attacks on popular tourist destinations have been citizens of Britain, Spain, France, Italy, Germany, Sweden, Greece, Israel and the United States — as well as Turkey and Egypt itself. In choosing tourist sites as particular foci of their attacks, the jihadists are striking a blow for the pure Egypt they envision: one that is not trodden down by infidel tourists or dependent upon infidel money. To the dour ideologues who perpetrated the attacks in Dahab Monday, resorts such as Dahab represent the worst of infidel decadence. One fatwa at the Internet site Islam Q&A put it this way: “Tourism nowadays means wanton display (tabarruj), mixing, alcohol, promiscuous parties, gambling and beaches on which ‘awrahs [private parts] are uncovered. In some countries…there is visiting the lands of the kuffaar [unbelievers] which we are forbidden to go to and visit unless we are weeping. All of this goes against Islam and comes under the heading of cooperating in sin and transgression, and acquiring haraam [forbidden] earnings.”

The attacks at the sites of ancient ruins — such as the Luxor attacks of 1997 and the shooting at the Pyramids in 1996 — most likely also have another motivation. This month the Grand Mufti of Egypt, Ali Gomaa, issued a fatwa declaring statues un-Islamic. His ruling was based on statements of the Muslim Prophet Muhammad such as: “Angels do not enter the house in which there is a dog or a statue” (Sahih Muslim bk. 24, no. 5250). To the pious killers who commit terror attacks near the artifacts of Egypt’s pre-Islamic past these treasures are thus all just so much trash: monuments of jahiliyyah, the pre-Islamic period of ignorance, and, in modern times, any society not governed by Islamic law. Since in its pre-Islamic era Egypt was a great civilization, it is full of the remnants of jahiliyyah, which were — at best — neglected by Egyptian Muslims until the British colonialists arrived and began both to restore them and show the Egyptians how lucrative they could be. Today, the sheer abundance of such artifacts in Egypt makes the tourist sites a nature target for the mujahedin.

The great theorist of the Muslim Brotherhood, Sayyid Qutb, foresaw a titanic struggle between Islam and jahiliyyah: “Islam cannot accept any mixing with Jahiliyyah. Either Islam will remain, or Jahiliyyah; no half-half situation is possible. Command belongs to Allah, or otherwise to Jahiliyyah; Allah’s Shari’ah will prevail, or else people’s desires… The foremost duty of Islam is to depose Jahiliyyah from the leadership of man, with the intention of raising human beings to that high position which Allah has chosen for him.”

That is the program of the jihad against tourist sites in Egypt.