A current bestseller in Egypt, written by jailed members of a militant Muslim group, the Jamaa al-Islamiya, is causing a stir for its renunciation of armed struggle.
The Swiss daily Neue Zürcher Zeitung (March 27) reports that the 600-page book , which explains why the leaders of the movement have decided to give up violence,. has already sold 100,000 copies. The Egyptian government has supported its publication.
Leaders of the Jamaa al-Islamiya had already indicated their willingness to renounce violent actions of the past. But the self-critical book now offers a detailed statement of the reasons for such a move. The authors acknowledge that their past and nearly exclusive emphasis on holy war led to a misrepresentation of Islam, which cannot be reduced to jihad. There are also practical considerations, beginning with the awareness of the obvious impossibility to reach their goals.
Moral considerations are present as well: many victims were fellow Muslims, and killing tourists is now declared to be contrary to Sharia (Islamic law). Similarly, Islam does not allow attacking Coptic Christians (as often happened in Southern Egypt). The real enemy, states the third of the four volumes, is Israel, not the Egyptian government or people. This change of mind is partly the consequence of Jamaa’s leaders getting older. It should also be seen as an indicator of wider developments among a range of militant groups around the Muslim world, which have never been of one and the same mind.
The trend predates the events of Sept. 11, but these might well have been an additional catalyst for some to distance themselves from a radical, violent, and losing strategy.
— By Jean-François Mayer, RW contributing editor and director of Religioscope (http://www.Religioscope.com), a Website offering religion news and resources