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Ideological Reorientation and Counterterrorism: Confronting Militant Islam in Egypt


Journal of Terrorism and Political ViolenceJournal abstract

During the 1990s, Egypt fought a bitter campaign against militant Islamist groups in which over a thousand people died. Since the end of the insurgency in 1997, Egypt's two fiercest Islamic terrorist groups, first the Islamic Group (Al-Gama‘a Al-Islamiyya) and then Islamic Jihad, not only ceased their violent activities but also produced and published texts revising their religious beliefs on the use of violence. Based on the counterterrorism experience of Egypt, this paper defines and describes a counterterrorism strategy of ideological reorientation. We define ideological reorientation as a counterterrorism approach that seeks to change core ideological or religious beliefs of the terrorist group, thus bringing the beliefs of group members in line with societal norms. While we cannot causally attribute the groups' decisions to lay down arms to ideological reorientation versus other regime actions (like repression), the Egyptian experience is highly suggestive. First, it indicates that the ideology of religiously-based groups is not exogenous and fixed, as is often assumed, but rather endogenous and flexible. Second, the Egyptian experience suggests that ideological reorientation may be more effective at stemming militancy in the long run compared to rival approaches.

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