Fundamentalism and Intellectuals in Egypt, 1973-1993
This study examines the attitude of Egyptian intellectuals toward the rise of Islamic fundamentalism in modern Egypt. At the root of the fundamentalists' doctrine lie the call for a return to Islam and the teachings of Mohammad, and the establishment of an Islamic government which applies Islamic law, the Sharia. During the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries Egypt had witnessed the flourishing of a modernist trend, started and encouraged by Mohammad Ali, which embraced many facets of Egyptian life including science, technology, literature and the emancipation of women. The emergence of the Islamic Brothers' Movement proved a powerful counter-reaction to such modernism for its members held that Western values were a source of evil and the cause of all Egypt's ills. Though at first adopting a moderate approach, the movement became more aggressive in the 1940s and 1950s, especially during the period immediately before and following the assassination of its leader Hasan Al-Banna and the accession of Sayyid Qutb as its spiritual head. Since the 1970s, the teachings in Qutb's book, Milestones, have become the covenant for all Egypt's militant Islamic organizations, including Al-Jihad, the extreme Islamic group behind the assassination of President Sadat in 1981. This book surveys the writings of over 20 Egyptian liberal intellectuals on issues such as the implementation of the Sharia, the rule of Allah and the Islamic state, the caliphate, Jihad, the West, Israel, Jews and Christians, and science. While still contending that Islam is the basis for every aspect of life in Egypt, they are united in their belief that the establishment of an Islamic state would signify a return to theMiddle Ages. They emphasize that Western values do not necessarily contradict Islam, and that without taking advantage of Western scientific and technical progress, Egypt will never solve its social and economic problems. It remains to be seen to what extent their arguments will be allowed to affect development in Egypt.
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