Empowering Egypt to Defeat Radical Islamism
Despite billions of dollars in counter-terrorism measures, the threat from transnational terrorist organizations like ISIL, Al-Qaeda and the Taliban has metastasized into a greater menace than ever before. Given the U.S. government’s trepidation to engage the public sector on religious issues, our efforts to contain the threat have relied on purely kinetic counterterrorism approaches, rather than decreasing the proliferation of radical ideologies, which perpetuate the flow of new recruits. However, with a renewed focus in the U.S. on addressing radical Islamist extremism, there are new opportunities to consider empowering religious scholars who can authentically refute extremist narratives and possibly break the cycle of radicalization and recruitment.

“Empowering Egypt to Defeat Radical Islamism” provides an extensive overview of Egypt’s religious landscape and explores normative religious networks’ efforts to push back against ISIS – from publishing digital magazines, to setting up anti-extremist kiosks in Cairo’s metro. The authors acknowledge that these pilot projects will require strengthening, and suggest that the U.S. can do more to empower scholars in the soft-power fight. Considering the intellectual nexus between radical Islamist thought and the support for terrorism, the authors suggest the U.S. government should limit engagement of Islamists in exchange for empowering religious actors who share our values on important issues like religious freedom, freedom of association, and nonviolent solutions to social change.

This study is part of a series of reports that WORDE has published to explore the capacity of local civil society organizations to promote peace and counter radical Islamism. It is the result of an 18 month study in which WORDE staff conducted research in Washington D.C. with policymakers, and eight weeks of fieldwork in Egypt with government officials, analysts, religious scholars and community leaders.