Is Egypt the next Algeria? Unlikely.

While some radical Islamists in Egypt may try to use violence and terrorism as a tactic, the magnitude of this phenomenon is likely to be miniscule compared to the situation in Algeria in the 1990s.

Algerian riot police prevent a demonstration 370 (R) (photo credit: REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra)
Algerian riot police prevent a demonstration 370 (R)
(photo credit: REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra)
Many fear that banning the Muslim Brotherhood group will result in the use of violence, similar to what happened in Algeria during the 1990s. When the Algerian people refused to give the radical Islamists - who later won the elections - political power, Algeria endured the blood shed of 100,000 innocent people, over a ten year period.
The possibility that Egypt will follow Algeria, in a similar outcome, is highly unlikely due to the following reasons.
1. Unlike Algeria in the 1990s, where the removal of the Islamic leadership was opposed by the Algerian people, the vast majority of the Egyptian people were supportive of former President Mohamed Morsi’s removal.
2. Unlike the Algerian people, who were looking forward to having Islamists in power for the first time, the Egyptian people had already experienced an Islamically-controlled government and subsequently revolted against said leadership. Trying to persuade people that having the Islamists back in power will bring miraculous solutions simply will not work.
3. In the early 1990s, Internet in Algeria was virtually unheard of. Currently, Egyptians use the Internet and social media sites as powerful tools in fighting the Islamists psychologically and in challenging their violent ideology. This technological advantage will allow Egyptians to defeat the Islamists - as the Algerians ultimately did - but in a much shorter period of time.
4. Algerians in the 1990s - unlike Egyptians now - did not know how detrimental Islamists could be to their country, as there were not many examples of their failure at that time. Egyptians have now had the chance to see the impact of radicalism and terrorism in other countries, such as Algeria, Iraq, and Afghanistan. This grants them the knowledge and understanding needed in order to fight the Islamists and prevent them from destroying their country.
5. The mountains and layout of housing in Algeria gave Islamists greater opportunities to hide from authorities. The relative lack of mountainous areas in Egypt and the arrangement of residential areas will make it more difficult for the radical Islamists to hide from authorities. Since Egypt is heavily populated, the communities are relatively dense in nature; the recent capture of many Muslim Brotherhood leaders, within a mere few days, exemplifies how difficult it is to hide in Egypt.
6. The Islamists in Egypt are up against the Egyptian Media which is considered to be the most powerful and creative media source in the Arab world. Such powerful media can help put an end to the radical ideology of Islamists at a much faster rate than the Algerian media was capable of.
7. In Algeria the phenomenon of Islamic terrorism was considered uncharted territory. In Egypt, however, since the assassination of late Egyptian President Anwar Sadat in 1981 and the Luxor massacre in 1997, Egyptian intelligence has been fighting Islamic terrorism and has already infiltrated many Islamist groups.
8. Many Islamists in Egypt will be reluctant to resort to violence as malicious as that seen in Algeria, as security crackdown would be rather powerful; the Islamists would not have many supporters and the people of Egypt would empower the police, intelligence and military to clampdown mercilessly. Islamists in Egypt have realized that the more violence they use, the further they fall in their ideological battle.
9. After the Egyptian leadership's miserable failure and the current level of hatred towards it, many Islamists will be fearful of resorting to terrorism, concerned over revenge and backlash from the Egyptian public.
For these reasons, while some radical Islamists in Egypt may try to use violence and terrorism as a tactic, the magnitude of this phenomenon is likely to be miniscule compared to the situation in Algeria in the 1990s.

The writer is an Islamic thinker and reformer, and one-time Islamic extremist from Egypt. He was a member of a terrorist Islamic organization JI with Dr. Ayman Al-Zawaherri, who later became the second in command of al-Qaida. He is currently a senior fellow and chairman of the study of Islamic radicalism at the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies.


www.tawfikhamid.com