US embassy cable - 88CAIRO21161

MUSLIM BROTHERHOOD - "JIHAD" FRICTIONS

Identifier: 88CAIRO21161
Wikileaks: View 88CAIRO21161 at Wikileaks.org
Origin: Embassy Cairo
Created: 1988-09-06 16:25:00
Classification: CONFIDENTIAL
Tags: PINS SOCI EG
Redacted: This cable was not redacted by Wikileaks.
R 061625Z SEP 88
FM AMEMBASSY CAIRO
TO SECSTATE WASHDC 9331
INFO AMCONSUL ALEXANDRIA
AMEMBASSY TEL AVIV
AMCONSUL JERUSALEM
AMEMBASSY AMMAN
AMEMBASSY RIYADH
AMEMBASSY LONDON
AMEMBASSY TUNIS
USCINCCENT MACDILL AFB FL
DIA WASHDC
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 CAIRO 21161 
 
LONDON FOR MILLIKEN, CENTCOM FOR POLAD 
 
E.O. 12356:  DECL:OADR 
TAGS:  PINS, SOCI, EG 
SUBJECT:  MUSLIM BROTHERHOOD - "JIHAD" FRICTIONS 
 
REF: (NOTAL) CAIRO  20169 
 
1.  CONFIDENTIAL - ENTIRE TEXT. 
 
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2.  SUMMARY:  TENSIONS SIMMERING BETWEEN THE MUSLIM 
BROTHERHOOD (MB) AND A MORE EXTREME GROUP  ERUPTED INTO 
A BLOODY CLASH IN ASSYUT IN LATE JULY.  (THE EXTREMISTS 
WERE IDENTIFIED BOTH AS "AL-JIHAD" AND AS "AL-GAMA'A 
AL-ISLAMIYA", OR THE ISLAMIC GROUPING, SINGULAR.)  THE 
INTRA-ISLAMIC VIOLENCE IN ASSYUT PROVOKED SHAME AMONG 
SOME ISLAMIC POLITICAL ACTIVISTS AND REVULSION AMONG 
THE PUBLIC AT LARGE.  THE CLASH APPEARED TO BE MOSTLY A 
CASE OF YOUTHFUL THUGGERY, MIXED WITH A FUNDAMENTAL 
DOCTRINAL DIFFERENCE OVER THE ACCEPTABILITY OF WORKING 
WITHIN A NON-ISLAMIC SYSTEM TO BRING ABOUT ISLAMIC 
GOALS.  THOUGH THE MB SUPREME GUIDE AND ONE LEADER OF 
THE EXTREMISTS PERSONALLY CAME TO A PEACEFUL 
UNDERSTANDING, THEY MANAGED BARELY TO PAPER OVER THE 
CONTINUING FRICTIONS, BASED ON MUTUALLY HOSTILE 
PERCEPTIONS:  THE MB REGARD THE "JIHADISTS" AS ERRANT 
AND IGNORANT YOUTH AT BEST, WHILE THE LATTER CHARGE THE 
MB WITH COWARDICE AND "FORBIDDEN" COLLABORATION WITH 
THE SECULAR STATE.  MEANWHILE, THE INCIDENT HAS EXPOSED 
AN APPARENT RIVALRY BETWEEN THE MB AND THE JIHAD FOR 
LEADERSHIP OF "AL-GAMA'A AL ISLAMIYA".  END SUMMARY. 
 
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3.  ACCORDING TO UNUSUALLY WELL-DONE PRESS ACCOUNTS 
(SEE LAST PARA), THE MB AND THE EXTREMIST "JIHAD" GROUP 
(OFTEN IDENTIFIED BY THE PRESS AS "AL-GAMA'A 
AL-ISLAMIYA", OF WHICH AL-JIHAD, HOWEVER, PROBABLY IS 
JUST ONE CONSTITUENT PART) HAD BEEN CIRCULATING 
LEAFLETS AGAINST EACH OTHER OVER SOME NINE MONTHS IN 
THE UPPER EGYPTIAN PROVINCIAL CAPITAL OF ASSYUT. 
HANDBILLS SIGNED "AL-GAMA'A AL-ISLAMIYA" CHARGED THE MB 
ARE COWARDS, WHO USED TO ATTACK MINOR OFFICIALS, AND 
THEN DENIED THEIR RESPONSIBILITY FOR THE ATTACKS (IN 
CONTRAST TO THE JIHAD, WHICH STOOD UP FOR ITS 
ASSASSINATION OF SADAT).  THEY CHARGED THAT THE MB 
"HATE TO SEE 'ISLAM' EMERGE, EXCEPT FROM THEIR 
THROATS."  IT CALLED THEM "TRAINED CIRCUS LIONS" FOR 
ENTERING THE PEOPLE'S ASSEMBLY, THEREBY COLLABORATING 
WITH A GOVERNMENT SEEN AS ISLAMICALLY ILLEGITIMATE.  IN 
TURN, THE MB'S LEAFLETS INSULTINGLY DISMISSED 
AL-JIHAD", AND ITS PRETENSIONS TO LEADERSHIP OF 
AL-GAMA'A AL-ISLAMIYA,  AS "LITTLE ONES. . . WHO HAS 
LED THEM ASTRAY?" 
 
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4.  AT LAST MAY'S FEAST OF 'EID AL-FITR, THE 
PAMPHLETEERING RACHETED UP TO A "WAR OF THE POSTERS", 
AS EACH SIDE PLASTERED OVER ITS RIVAL'S ANNOUNCEMENTS 
OF UPCOMING HOLIDAY PRAYER MEETINGS.  THE POSTER WAR 
WAS RENEWED A FEW DAYS BEFORE THE LARGER FEAST OF THE 
SACRIFICE (JULY 24-25).  AROUND THE SAME TIME, GANGS OF 
MB AND JIHADISTS REPORTEDLY USED MACHO INTIMIDATION 
TECHNIQUES REMINISCENT OF WEST SIDE STORY, INCLUDING 
MOTORCYCLE-MOUNTED MB YOUTHS AND SWITCHBLADE-WIELDING 
JIHADISTS.  AN MB LEADER TOLD JOURNALISTS THAT THE 
JIHADISTS PROVOKED THE CULMINATING RUMBLE OF JULY 23 BY 
CLAIMING "OUR (JIHADIST) WOMEN HAVE MORE VIRILITY THAN 
THEIR (MB) MEN."  IN UPPER EGYPT, THOSE ARE FIGHTING 
WORDS THAT CANNOT BE IGNORED. 
 
- 
5.  ACCORDING TO THE INVESTIGATIVE PRESS REPORTS, 
VIOLENCE FINALLY BROKE OUT ON THE EVE OF THE FEAST OF 
THE SACRIFICE, AS MB YOUTHS WERE PREPARING SWEETS FOR 
CHILDRENS' HOLIDAY GIFTS IN THEIR MOSQUE OF SHALNAB. 
MORE THAN 150 YOUTHS OF THE GAMA'A SEALED OFF THE 
STREET, AND SHOUTED TO BYSTANDERS THAT "POLICE" INSIDE 
THE MOSQUE WERE PREVENTING PEOPLE FROM ENTERING TO 
PRAY.  THEN THEY INVADED THE MOSQUE, AND OVER THE 
COURSE OF ABOUT 30 MINUTES DESTROYED ITS FURNITURE AND 
WINDOWS, KNIFING THE YOUTHS INSIDE AND BEATING THEM 
WITH CHAINS.  13 MB AND BYSTANDERS WERE INJURED.  THE 
ATTACKERS FLED BEFORE POLICE ARRIVED BUT SEVEN WERE 
LATER ARRESTED, ACCORDING TO POLICE RECORDS REPORTED BY 
THE PRESS.  ONE NEUTRAL BYSTANDER TOLD JOURNALISTS THAT 
HE HAD NEVER SEEN SUCH VIOLENCE IN HIS LIFE -- "EVEN 
THE JEWS AND NASSERISTS COULD NOT DO ANYTHING LIKE 
THIS|"  THE LOCAL POLICE PASSED UP THE OPPORTUNITY TO 
GLOAT, TELLING REPORTERS ONLY THAT "IT IS NOT IN THE 
INTERESTS OF (PUBLIC) SECURITY THAT THERE BE CONFLICT 
BETWEEN THE MB AND THE JIHAD." 
 
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6.  ACCORDING TO PRESS REPORTS, IN THE IMMEDIATE 
AFTERMATH OF THE CLASH THE MB LEADERSHIP REJECTED 
RECONCILIATION INITIATIVES BY "AL-GAMA'IYA 
AL-SHAR'IYA", WIDELY-KNOWN AS AN OFFICIALLY-REGISTERED 
AND ESTABLISHMENTARIAN GROUPING OF SOME 2,000 MOSQUES 
ENGAGED IN SOCIAL SERVICES.  THE FOLLOWING WEEK, 
HOWEVER, DR. 'OMAR 'ABDURRAHMAN, IDENTIFIED IN THE 
SYMPATHETIC RELIGIOUS OPPOSITION PRESS AS "AMIR 
(PRINCE) OF AL-GAMA'A AL-ISLAMIYA," SPOKE FROM SAUDI 
ARABIA BY PHONE WITH MB SUPREME GUIDE ABUL NASR. 
ACCORDING TO THE "SPOKESMAN" OF THE GAMA'A,  DR. 'ALA' 
MOHI AL-DIN, 'ABDURRAHMAN ORDERED THE GROUP TO SHOW 
"SELF DISCIPLINE".  OTHER LEADING RADICAL RELIGIOUS 
FIGURES, INCLUDING ALEXANDRIA'S AHMED AL-MEHALLAWI, 
ALSO INTERVENED.  THE STAGE WAS THUS SET FOR THE 
OFFICIAL ANNOUNCEMENT OF RECONCILIATION AT THE MOSQUE 
OF AL-GAMA'IYA AL-SHAR'IYA IN ASSYUT AUGUST 5. 
(DESPITE ITS REPORTED ROLE IN THE MB-JIHAD 
RECONCILIATION, HOWEVER, THE NATIONAL LEADER OF 
AL-GAMA'IYA AL-SHAR'IYA, TOLD US THAT HIS GROUP HAS NO 
CONNECTION, PERSONAL OR OFFICIAL, WITH EITHER THE MB OR 
THE GAMA'A.) 
 
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7.  SINCE THEN, WESTERN JOURNALISTS WHO INTERVIEWED 
JIHAD/GAMA'A MEMBERS INVOLVED IN THE AIN SHAMS INCIDENT 
IN CAIRO OF AUGUST 12-13, TOLD US THAT THE TENSIONS 
BETWEEN THE MB AND RADICALS CLEARLY REMAIN.  THE HEART 
OF THE ISSUE SEEMS TO BE THE MB'S RESENTMENT OF THE 
JIHAD'S ASSERTION OF A LEADERSHIP ROLE WITHIN WHAT 
APPEARS TO BE A KIND OF UMBRELLA GROUPING OF AL-GAMA'A 
AL-ISLAMIYA.  THE JOURNALISTS TOLD US THE YOUTHS 
EVIDENTLY SOUGHT DELIBERATELY TO OBSCURE THEIR GROUP'S 
IDENTITY OR RELATIONSHIP WITH THAT OF THE AL-GAMA'A 
AL-ISLAMIYA.  ALSO, THOUGH THE MB'S 'ESAM AL-'ARIAN 
CONFIRMED TO EMBOFF THAT THE MB AND JIHAD WERE 
RECONCILED", HE BROKE THE ISLAMICISTS' NORMALLY 
MAFIA-LIKE CODE OF SILENCE TO PROVIDE SOME DETAILS 
ABOUT THE DIFFERENCES BETWEEN THE ISLAMIC GROUPS. 
(SEPARATE REPORT WILL FOLLOW AS WE SORT OUT CONFLICTING 
DETAILS.)  AL-'ARIAN WENT OUT OF HIS WAY TO EMPHASIZE 
THAT THE JIHAD'S CLAIM TO LEADERSHIP OF AL-GAMA'A IS 
BOGUS.  HE BLAMED POLICE OPPRESSION OF THE JIHAD FOR 
TURNING THEM INTO POPULAR HEROES, WHILE THE GOVERNMENT 
FAILS TO DISTINGUISH THE MB FROM THE VIOLENT GROUPS. 
 
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8.  COMMENT:  THE BLOODY ASSYUT CLASH CLEARLY HAS 
EMBARRASSED SOME OF OUR CONTACTS AMONG ISLAMIC 
POLITICAL ACTIVISTS BECAUSE OF ITS UGLY AND 
"UN-ISLAMIC" VIOLENCE.  MORE IMPORTANTLY, WE SENSE 
UNHAPPINESS IN ISLAMIC POLITICAL QUARTERS OVER THE 
INCIDENT'S EXPOSURE OF BITTER DIVISIONS IN ISLAMIC 
POLITICAL RANKS -- AND HENCE, SOME CLUES TO ITS SHADOWY 
ORGANIZATION.  IN FACT, AL-NUR, THE SYMPATHETIC 
RELIGIOUS OPPOSITION PAPER THAT MOST FULLY OUTLINED THE 
STORY, REPORTED THAT HENCEFORTH IT WILL COMPLY WITH THE 
WRITTEN REQUESTS OF BOTH PARTIES TO AVOID PUBLISHING 
FURTHER ON THE ASSYUT INCIDENT. 
 
9.  MEANWHILE, THERE IS NO INDICATION YET THAT THE 
FORMAL MB-JIHAD RECONCILIATION HAS TAKEN DEEP ROOT, OR 
THAT THEIR RIVALRY WILL DEVELOP SOON INTO COOPERATION. 
WITH THE JIHAD LEADERSHIP AND MANY OF ITS "FEW" CADRES 
IN PRISON, ACCORDING TO SEVERAL SOURCES, THE MB WOULD 
SEEM TO HAVE THE UPPER HAND.  WHAT REMAINS UNCLEAR IS 
THE EXACT ORGANIZATIONAL NATURE OF THE "GAMA'A 
AL-ISLAMIYA", AND THE ROLE OF THE MB AND OTHER GROUPS 
WITHIN IT.  THE ASSYUT INCIDENT, HOWEVER, HAS SHED SOME 
LIGHT ON THE SHADOWY RELATIONSHIPS OF THESE GROUPS, AND 
OVER THE COMING MONTHS WE WILL BE TRYING TO EXPLOIT 
SOME NEW LEADS TO TRY TO MAKE SENSE OF THESE TIES. 
 
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10.  FOR MORE DETAILED REPORTS OF THE ASSYUT INCIDENT, 
WE CALL ANALYSTS' ATTENTION TO CENTER-LEFTIST, 
SECULARIST ESTABLISHMENT WEEKLY "ROSE EL-YUSUF" OF 
AUGUST 22 AND MODERATE ISLAMIC OPPOSITION WEEKLY 
"AL-NUR" OF AUGUST 3 AND AUGUST 10.  AL-NUR 
INVESTIGATIVE ARTICLES ARE STARTLINGLY UNUSUAL AS 
EGYPTIAN JOURNALISM, STRIVING FOR OBJECTIVITY BY NAMING 
SOURCES AND DESCRIBING THE INCIDENT FROM THE DIFFERING 
VIEWPOINTS OF THE MB, JIHAD, POLICE, AND INNOCENT 
BYSTANDERS.  ARTICLES PROVIDE MB AND JIHAD/GAMA'A LOGOS 
FROM THEIR PAMPHLETS, AND PUBLISH PHOTOS AND NAMES OF 
INDIVIDUALS AND MOSQUES ASSOCIATED WITH THE VARIOUS 
ISLAMIC GROUPS IN ASSYUT. 
 
 
WISNER 

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