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EGYPTIAN JAMAA ISLAMIYA

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Egyptian Jamaa Islamiya – a name that can be translated as “The Islamic Society”, was anumbrella organization for Islamic militants in Egypt after the crack down on the Muslims Brotherhood in Egypt and their renunciation of violence as a political tool in 1970.

The Egyptian Jamaa Islamiya was primarily active on university campuses and was mainly composed of university students. The group also recruited some inmates of Egyptian jails. With time its main base of recruiting and support has moved away from universities to poor neighborhoods of cities, and to rural areas.

The Egyptian Jamaa Islamiya gained large support when Egypt began the peace process with Israel in 11/1977. Many joined the violent opposition to the process and Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman emerged as the spiritual leader of the Egyptian Jamaa Islamiya.

In 1980 Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman issued a Fatwah (an Islamic religious statement) that justified the assassination of Egyptian leaders that betrayed the Islam by recognizing Israel.

After the assassination of the Egyptian President Anwar Saadat by Khalid El-Islambouli, in a military parade on 10/06/1981, thousands of Egyptian Jamaa Islamiya activists were arrested, some of them tortured, and those who could – fled Egypt.

Many of the activists and supporters of the Egyptian Jamaa Islamiya who managed to flee Egypt to fight the Global Jihad elsewhere, mainly in Afghanistan against the Soviet Union, became, with time, key figures in Al Qaeda and other affiliated groups.

The Egyptian Jamaa Islamiya carried out the Luxor Massacre on 11/17/1997 and, in response, the Egyptian authority began to pursue vigorously the Egyptian Jamaa Islamiya and its known followers. The attack ruined the Egyptian tourist industry for a number of years and many in the Egyptian society began to turn on against the Egyptian Jamaa Islamiya.

After causing a bloodshed of over 1300 Egyptians, under immense government pressure, with the most senior leaders in exile and an unsupportive public atmosphere the Egyptian Jamaa Islamiya in 1998 renounced violence as a political tool just as the Muslims Brotherhood did in 1970, 28 year earlier.

From 2000 to 2006, gradually, the Egyptian authority began to release from jail more then 2,000 former Egyptian Jamaa Islamiya supporters.

Today (08/2007) it seems that the Egyptian Jamaa Islamiya is divided between the organization in Egypt, that endorsed political methods rather then violence and the activists abroad, many of them veterans of the war in Afghanistan, that announced on 08/05/2006 uniting with Al Qaeda headed by Ayman Al Zawahiri, the acting leader of Al Qaeda and Mohammad Khalil al-Hakim, one of the Egyptian Jamaa Islamiya prominent leaders abroad, probably living in Iran. Leaders of the organization inside Egypt denied the unification and described it as “propaganda”.

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