The Danger of Breeding Terrorism in Overcrowded Jails: Transforming Political Imprisonment into an Opportunity

EPC | 01 Feb 2015

Over the last four decades of the 20th Century, Egyptian jails went through three different experiences in terms of success in achieving or failing to achieve the purpose of jailing members of extreme and radical organizations. The irony is that Egyptian jails was the breeding ground for the rise of groups of radical thought and action.

Takfir wal-Hijra "Excommunication and Exodus", alternately "excommunication and emigration" was the popular name given to a radical Islamist group Jama'at al-Muslim (Society of Muslims) founded by Shukri Mustafa which emerged in Egypt in the 1960s as an offshoot of Muslim Brotherhood.

Torture and harsh conditions suffered by members of MB in prison led them to believe that the enmity by the Egyptian authority is aimed against their religion because it has deviated from the teachings of Islam. In parallel with the rise of Takfir wal-Hijra, other groups, al-Jihad and the Egyptian al-jamāʻah al-islāmīyah, "the Islamic Group” were evolving but were less extreme in their thought. They only accused the government of being infidel, not the whole society, but those two groups were more organized. The power of those two groups was culminated by their success to infiltrate the Egyptian army and assassinate the late President Anwar al-Sadat.

The experience of militant ideological violence led by al-Jihad and the Egyptian al-jamāʻah al-islāmīyah ended with successful intellectual review in prison in the 1990s and the movement formally renounced violence. This renunciation was evident after the revolution of Jan. 25, 2011 when most members of the two groups were not involved in ideological violence once again. But in recent years, Egyptian authorities have repeated the mistakes of the 1960s and 1970s which led to the breeding of a new generation of Jihadists in jails such as at-tawḥīd wal-jihād group (Oneness and Jihad).

Image Source: Reuters Pictures

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