Exploring the Roots of Radical Islam in Egypt

Uploaded by PBSNewsHour on 09.09.2011

bjbjLULU JUDY WOODRUFF: Next, a two-part look at the lingering effects of 9/11 in two Arab
nations -- first, from Egypt, a report from Margaret Warner. MARGARET WARNER: Cairo's
Khan Al-Khalili market has stood for 630 years. Shoppers and sellers jam the streets and alleys.
And here, 5,000 miles away from America's shores, the 9/11 attacks still resonate a
decade later. WOMAN (through translator): No one supports this. We were shocked beyond
belief. MARGARET WARNER: But there was another sentiment as well. ISLAM SAYED ABDULLAH, Egypt
(through translator): I felt that the American government deserved it, not the people, but
the government deserved it. MARGARET WARNER: There was little debate, however, on one point.
Like 75 percent of Egyptians in a recent poll, no one here believed that Arabs or Muslims,
much less Egyptians, could possibly have been involved. HASSAN KAMEL, Egypt (through translator):
Most Egyptians are Muslims, and Islam doesn't permit such violence. MARGARET WARNER: Some
hinted at more powerful forces at work. WOMAN: It wasn't one -- only al-Qaida doing this.
MAHMOUD MOHAMED, Egypt (through translator): Muslims don't do that. This is an economic
conspiracy at its highest level. MARGARET WARNER: The 19 hijackers were all Arabs, of
course. Their ringleader, Mohamed Atta, grew up in a middle class Cairo neighborhood. So
did Osama bin Laden's top deputy, now running al-Qaida, Dr. Ayman al-Zawahri. Egypt was
an incubator of militant political Islam, aiming to overthrow secular governments and
replace them with Islamic ones. In the '90s, the movement also drew the U.S., long a supporter
of secular Arab regimes, into its sights. We have come to Cairo to explore that history
and find out if that ideology still has appeal, even after the Arab spring. As a young man
in the '70s, Zawahri was a leader in a new breakaway radical Islamic movement, Egyptian
Islamic Jihad. It was banned from taking part in politics. In the early '80s, Zawahri and
his cohorts turned words into violent action. The radical movement's first really spectacular
attack took place here 30 years ago. President Anwar Sadat, while reviewing a military parade,
was gunned down. That event, so remote from the daily lives of most Americans at the time,
set off a chain reaction that climaxed in the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States.
Sadat's successor, the new president, Hosni Mubarak, rounded up hundreds of alleged conspirators
and imposed tighter constraints on all of the country's Islamist groups. Among those
brought to court in a defendant's cage in 1982, then-31-year-old Zawahri. AYMAN AL-ZAWAHRI,
defendant: We are Muslims! MARGARET WARNER: Zawahri railed against Zionism and imperialism
and his conditions in prison. AYMAN AL-ZAWAHRI: They kicked us. They beat us. They whipped
us using the electric cables. The shocked us with electricity. FOUAD ALLAM, Egyptian
State Security Anti-Terror Office (through translator): I met him three times, and he
was a very decent, calm and shy man. Afterward, when I saw his sermon on television, I didn't
recognize him. He was a different human being, very aggressive. MARGARET WARNER: Retired
Police General Fouad Allam, who helped lead state security's anti-terrorism unit, rejects
the theory that the Mubarak regime's torture and repression drove Zawahri and other Islamists
to greater violence. FOUAD ALLAM (through translator): He was already convinced before
his arrest of this concept of takfir, which means anyone who doesn't subscribe to the
same ideology is an infidel and should be attacked and killed. He wasn't tortured. I
can vouch he was not. It would be great if you could present one person who charged such
a thing. ABOUD EL ZOMOR, Egyptian Islamic Jihad (through translator): These are the
marks from being hung by my arms, by my wrists on a sling. They are permanent marks. MARGARET
WARNER: Aboud El Zomor, founder of Egyptian Islamic Jihad, just released after 30 years
for his role in Sadat's killing, says both he and Zawahri were tortured. ABOUD EL ZOMOR
(through translator): I saw it with my own eyes. Even though we were tortured one by
one, when they took him, I looked out of a small hole and saw the torture firsthand.
MARGARET WARNER: What effect did that have on Zawahri? ABOUD EL ZOMOR (through translator):
This torture didn't change our thinking, but it made us believe, though we must endure
this pain for the sake of Allah, we will engage in the revenge for such treatment. MARGARET
WARNER: Columnist and editor Hala Mustafa, who studies Islamist movements, believes Zawahri
was transformed into a global jihadi figure after he felt forced into exile from Egypt.
HALA MUSTAFA, Democracy Review: Because it was very difficult to topple the regime at
the time, the militant groups and Islamic groups in Egypt shifted their focus from the
domestic field to the foreign field, from the domestic ruler to the United States, which
-- and to the West in general. MARGARET WARNER: After prison, he joined the fight against
the Soviets in Afghanistan, teaming up with bin Laden, matching his brains to the Saudi's
charisma. Since bin Laden's killing, Zawahri has been urging his followers to exploit democratic
upheavals in the Arab world and to step up attacks on U.S. targets as well. But do these
messages still find a receptive audience here? Mohamed Abdel Rahman of the Islamist group
Jemaah Islamiyah says the answer is no. He's camped in front of the U.S. Embassy, petitioning
for the release of his father, the so-called "Blind Sheik," imprisoned in the U.S. for
terrorism. Mohamed Rahman says now that his group can take part in politics, they don't
need the tactics Zawahri still espouses. MOHAMED ABDEL RAHMAN, Jemaah Islamiyah (through translator):
His message to seize the opportunity in Egypt to revive the spirit of violence doesn't resonate
with the Egyptian people, because they have seen firsthand with the revolution that there
is a possibility for peaceful change. MARGARET WARNER: Yet, several nights later, with Sadat
conspirator Zomor on stage, one attendee told us, U.S. policies abroad still make America
target. MAN: After killing a lot of people, innocent people, in Sudan, in Somalia, in
Iraq, in Afghanistan and supporting the Jewish state, Israel, so what is -- what am I going
to expect out of that? Of course someone, you know, will have a feeling of getting revenge
against the Americans. MARGARET WARNER: Another unanticipated terror threat may be emerging
in Egypt as well, especially in the desert expanse of Sinai far from Cairo. There, militants
returning from exile after Mubarak mingle with local bedouins in what U.S. officials
fear could become a safe haven for terrorists. The last few months have seen attacks on gas
pipelines into Israel and a police station. A group calling itself al-Qaida in North Sinai
claimed responsibility. We asked Abu Faisial a follower of the fundamentalist Salafi strain
of Islam, if he'd seen new faces in Sinai since the revolution. ABU FAISIAL, Salafi
Islamist (through translator): I see old and familiar faces of people that had scattered
due to the old regime's presence. Now many of the sons of Sinai have returned to their
homes from which they were deprived. MARGARET WARNER: Salafi leader As'ad Amin Kheiry Bek
said the state's security presence is much diminished since Mubarak fell. AS'AD AMIN
KHEIRY BEK, Salafi leader (through translator): When the government left, there was a vacuum
that we had to fill. Since the police and court systems are not functional anymore,
we have been mediating to maintain the peace by Sharia principles. MARGARET WARNER: But
Cairo attorney Montasser Al-Zayat (ph), jailed with Zawahri and still representing Islamist
groups, says the real threat to the U.S. is not in Sinai; it's in the hearts and minds
of a new generation of Egyptians, Islamists and secular alike. Do you think that the conditions
that created Sept. 11, that came out of Egypt at least, are worse even now, that it could
create another Sept. 11? MONTASSER AL-ZAYAT, attorney (through translator): There is actually
a large chance that this might be repeated, because the youth of the Middle East have
a lot of anger towards American policy against Iraqis and Afghans and Palestinians. MARGARET
WARNER: And has the Arab spring changed any of that? MONTASSER AL-ZAYAT (through translator):
Not at all. Arabs were against their autocratic governments and corrupt leaders, but the resentment
towards the U.S. still remains because of its policies. Zawahri's message resonates
within this group of youth. MARGARET WARNER: To explore that, we went to Zawahri's leafy
boyhood neighborhood of Maadi to meet three Egyptians who were barely teenagers when the
towers fell, 23-year-old Ahmed El Sheikh and his friends Sara Mahmoud and Islam Dardeery.
What do you remember about the time of those attacks and what you thought? AHMED EL SHEIKH,
Egypt: I had this mix of feeling about feelings of joy, like Islamists was taking its revenge
from supporting America to Israel, and, at the same time, feeling sorry about this and
most -- all of these innocent people who have died. MARGARET WARNER: They voiced resentment
that 9/11 had tarred all Muslims as terrorists. ISLAM DARDEERY, Egypt: We have to justify,
OK, we are not terrorists, we are Muslims. SARA MAHMOUD, Egypt: We love these and we
do not want to kill you. And, just, we are normal human beings. MARGARET WARNER: They
all criticized the U.S. response to 9/11 in Afghanistan and Iraq, and its support for
Arab autocrats like Mubarak, who repressed all opponents at home. But Islam Dardeery
thinks the terrorist threat to the United States has lessened because Egypt's Islamist
groups can engage in politics. ISLAM DARDEERY: It will help them to move away from their
extreme thinking to more moderate one. OK, they have to have a solution for everything.
MARGARET WARNER: Sara Mahmoud thinks healing also may come from the Western world's new
regard for Egyptians since the February uprising. SARA MAHMOUD: Actually, the world, the whole
world actually respect us. And they start to open newspaper and look what happened in
Egypt today. MARGARET WARNER: Americans have to hope that, through young Egyptians like
these, the U.S. can find a new accommodation with the Arab world. JUDY WOODRUFF: Late tonight,
hundreds of protesters converged on the Israeli Embassy in Cairo. About 30 of them reached
a room on a lower floor and threw documents from windows. In her next report, Margaret
looks at the revolutionaries now working to build a new democratic Egypt. urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags
country-region urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags place urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags
City JUDY WOODRUFF: Next: a two-part look at the lingering effects of 9/11 in two Arab
nations -- first, from Egypt, a report from Margaret Warner Normal Microsoft Office Word
JUDY WOODRUFF: Next: a two-part look at the lingering effects of 9/11 in two Arab nations
-- first, from Egypt, a report from Margaret Warner Title Microsoft Office Word Document
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