FEATURE-In free Egypt, Salafists regroup, speak out

Mon Feb 21, 2011 5:28pm GMT

* Egyptian Salafists enjoy freedoms not seen since the 1970s

* In old heartlands, they hold meetings, reorganise

* Once militant, Gama'a Islamiya says gives up violence By Tom Perry and Marwa Awad

CAIRO, Feb 21 (Reuters) - Islamists who suffered some of the toughest oppression of President Hosni Mubarak's era are speaking out and regrouping for the first time in years, making the most of freedoms they have not enjoyed since the 1970s.

Egypt's Salafists are resurfacing, from groups that once took up arms against Mubarak's administration, such as the Gama'a al-Islamiya, to others only involved in peaceful preaching to advance their fundamentalist vision of Islam.

The Gama'a al-Islamiya's return to prominence worries some Egyptians. The name hit world headlines in 1997 when its followers massacred foreign tourists at a temple in Luxor, ignoring a truce to which its leadership is still committed.

In the wave of freedom that has swept Egypt since Mubarak was toppled, the Salafists have returned to the mosques from which they were banned. Clerics who have been out of the public eye for years are reappearing from Assiut to Alexandria.

They hope to take their place in a new Egypt where Islamists are assuming a more assertive role: the mainstream Muslim Brotherhood is becoming ever more vocal in stating its views on what the new military-led government should be doing.

For now, the Salafist movements say they aim to revive their work in da'wa, meaning calling people to their fundamentalist version of Islam based on the foundations of the religion.   Continued...

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