Bloody Monday
By: Robert Spencer
Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Why the jihadists brought death and destruction to yet another tourist site in Egypt.
The explosions Monday night in Dahab, an Egyptian resort city, killing at least 30 and wounding many more, was the sixteenth attack on foreign tourists in Egypt since 1992.  Egyptian 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.

These attacks have often been quite bloody. Eighty-eight people were killed in bombings in the tourist resort city Sharm-al-Sheikh in July 2005. Thirty-four were killed at the Taba and Ras Shitan resorts near the Israeli border in October 2004. Jihadists from Al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya and another Islamic group murdered fifty-eight tourists (along with four Egyptian natives) in Luxor, the site of several ancient temples and more artifacts of Egypt’s pre-Islamic past, in November 1997. In April 1996, the mujahedin murdered eighteen Greek tourists who were visiting the Pyramids; the killers thought their victims were Israelis.


Such attacks are high on the jihadist agenda for Egypt. Less than a week ago Egyptian authorities arrested six who were plotting to attack tourist sites. Since many Western analysts continue to insist that the groups opposed to Mubarak, including the Egyptian mujahedin, are essentially nationalist in orientation, this may seem curious: why would nationalists want to make foreign tourists fear to visit Egypt’s many archaeological treasures, and its world-famous resorts? Why would they want to weaken Egypt in this way?


The answer, of course, is because these groups aren’t essentially nationalist at all. They 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 ten 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: immodest clothing, sport, revelry. 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, in addition to the above, 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.” By making tourists too afraid to come to Egypt, the mujahedin hope to cleanse the land of these evils.


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. Just 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). Muhammad’s favorite wife, Aisha, recounted: “I never used to leave in the Prophet’s house anything carrying images or crosses but he obliterated it” (Sahih Bukhari, vol. 7, bk. 72, no. 836). To the pious killers who commit terror attacks near the artifacts of Egypt’s pre-Islamic past -- pyramids, sarcophagi, temples -- 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 (including Mubarak’s Egypt, with its decadent beaches of revelry). 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. But 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 (1906-1966), 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: ‘And if they do not respond to you, then know that they only follow their own lusts. And who is more astray than one who follows his own lusts, without guidance from Allah? Verily! Allah guides not the people who are disobedient’[Qur’an 28:50]; ‘Do they then seek the judgment of (the Days of) Ignorance? And who is better in judgment than Allah for a people who have firm faith’ [Qur’an 5:50]. 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 has always been, and remains, the program of the jihad against tourist sites in Egypt.


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Robert Spencer is a scholar of Islamic history, theology, and law and the director of Jihad Watch. He is the author of eight books, eleven monographs, and hundreds of articles about jihad and Islamic terrorism, including the New York Times Bestsellers The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades) and The Truth About Muhammad. His latest book, Stealth Jihad: How Radical Islam is Subverting America without Guns or Bombs, is available now from Regnery Publishing.