This article originally appeared in the .
For many religious puritans politics is profane, but for others it can be a blessing. Over the past three years the ultraconservative Salafis, a Sunni Islamist group that adopts a strict interpretation of Islamic teachings, have become a major winner as a result of the “Arab Spring.” However, since the downfall of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, Salafism has been struggling to maintain its image as a sacred ideology.
Salafism’s upsurge in Egypt and throughout the Middle East after the uprisings ranks as one of the key moments in political Islam over the past century. This is not only because it ended the hegemony of veteran Islamists, such as the Muslim Brotherhood, as well as other former radical and violent Islamists, such as al-Gama‘a al-Islamiyya and the Islamic Jihad Organization (IJO), but also because it revealed the changes taking place within the discourse and ideology of Salafi movements and groups. Salafis had shunned politics for decades, as they believe that involvement in the political sphere is religiously prohibited. However, they quickly became important players in post-Mubarak Egypt, with many of their leaders immersed in everyday politics. They thus shifted their discourse and activities from the sacred, or religion, to the profane, or politics.
Since the massive public protests that led to the July 3 military ouster of Egypt’s first Islamist president, Mohamed Morsi, Salafis seem to be hanging between religion and politics. As a result, they are becoming divided and fragmented. While some could not resist the lure of politics, such as the Nour Party, which is generally considered the second largest Islamist force in Egypt after the Brotherhood, others have abandoned politics and are focusing on religious preaching, or da‘wa.
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