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The Fletcher School Online Journal for issues related to Southwest Asia and Islamic Civilization Spring 2005,

005, Article 3


as the site points out, [a]s a descriptive name,

Background TakfirWalHijrahasfarmoreutilitythanJamaat
TheradicalIslamistmovementAlTakfirWal alMuslimeen. Takfir is a verb which means to
HijraoriginatedinEgyptinthe1960sasaradical declare kufr (infidel), that is, to excommunicate.
offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood. Believing The hijra is the flight, or migration, of
that much of the world is heretical, members of Muhammad and his jamaat from Mecca to
the movement adhere to a strict Salafi Yathrib(Medina)in622AD.5
interpretation of Islam, and aim ultimately to The Takfiri name reemerged in the late
return to what they consider to be a true Islamic 1990s and early 2000s. A group calling itself
societytheIslamiccaliphate.Thisinterpretation Takfir WalHijra that opposed the Syrian
thusrequiresthatitsfollowerspurifytheworldof government and nonobservant Muslim
infidels. The group is known for perpetrating Lebanese also took credit for the killings of
violenceagainstthoseitconsiderskufar(heretics), Christian civilians in the Dinnieh area of
includingthoseArabsandMuslimswhomTakfiris Lebanon. In the 1990s the name resurfaced yet
do not consider to be living in accordance with again with attacks on mosques in the Sudan as
trueIslam. AccordingtotheU.S.Departmentof well as against Sudanese government interests.
Justice, Takfiris are guided by fatwas issued by These attacks were carried out under the
influential radicals, such as the blind sheikh, leadership of Abbas AlBakr Abbas and with
OmarAbdelRahman. members who had been formerly of Ansar Al
The movement was founded by an SunnaAlMohamadiya.
agricultural engineer named Shukri Mustafa in Takfir WalHijra is not simply a terrorist
Egypt in the 1960s. During his stay in prison, organization. Instead, it is better described as a
Mustafa had been part of a Muslim Brotherhood radical ideology than an organization per sea
splinter group, Jamaat alMuslimeen (Society of web of Islamic militants around the world
Muslims) that believedina radical interpretation connectedonlybytheirbeliefs. Asaresult,ithas
ofEgyptianwriterSayyedQutbstextMaalimfil beendepictedbysomeasanIslamicfascismof
Tariq (Milestones on the Road).3 As is explained sorts. Indeed, Takfiris are seen as so extreme
onthewebsitePerspectivesonWorldHistoryand that even many radical Islamists such as Abu
Current Events, the name alTakfir walHijra Hamza, the clawhanded imam of Londons
was applied to Jamaat alMuslimeen by Finsbury Park Mosque who has endorsed and
journalists after the group became publicly defended the 9/11 attacks, described Takfiris as
known.4 True Takfiris still prefer the nothingbutabunchofextremists[they]create
denominationofJamaatalMuslimeen.However, nothing and destroy everything. It is not right to

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be as harsh as they are. These people want to be havelabeledtheirIslamistopponentsasmembers

judgesandexecutioners. Asanideology,Takfir of Takfir WalHijra in order to discredit them
WalHijra today operates with no overall central politically,addingtotheconfusionoverwhoisin
structure;itisimpossibletoattributeoneleaderto fact truly Takfiri. While the size of the
the movement. There are, however, some movement is unknown, considering its presence
figures within the movement who are worth indozensofnationsandinvolvementinterrorist
noting: actsaroundtheworld,thenumberislikelyinthe
Shukri Ahmed Mustafa (19441978). As thousands.
previously described, Mustafa was Takfirs
founder and spiritual leader, and a disciple of Links with Al Qaeda
SayyidQutb.Mustafawasalsothoughtbysome TakfirWalHijraisnowalsoassociatedwith
to be the Mahdi who, according to Islamic AlQaeda,althoughthedepthoftheirrelationship
tradition, would be the deliverer of the end of is unclear and debated among experts. While
time.13 In the Egyptian crackdown on Islamic manyAlQaedamembersareTakfiri,TakfirWal
extremism in the 1970s, Mustafa was captured Hijra is not an affiliate ofAl Qaeda and operates
andexecuted. independently. Takfiri have been implicated in
YoussefFikri(aka:theEmirofBlood)was several terrorist plots attributed to Al Qaeda
thespiritualleaderofaTakfirWalHijragroupin elements. They are believed to have provided
Morocco. He was captured supportfortheMarch11,2004,trainbombingsin
Future attacks in in 2002 in Casablanca and Madrid. There is a growing fear that Takfiri are
sentenced to death. It is
Europe will likely be a mobilizing to carry out additional operations in
said that he killed his own Europe. Takfiriwerealsoknowntohavefought
result of the merging of uncle because Fikri the Soviets alongside Osama bin Ladens
the expertise of Al believedhewaslivingwith
mujahideen in Afghanistan, and it is believed
Qaeda elements with a prostitute and had ties to thatbinLadenhasbeenaTakfirifinancier.

the ideology of the

communism. Ayman AlZawahiri, Al Qaedas presumed
Salafi Takfir Wal-Hijra Bassam Ahmed Kanj secondincommand, and Mohammed Atta, lead
(alias: Abu Aisha, aka the suicidehijackerinthe9/11attacks,aretwoamong
movement. Afghan Arab) was the several international terror masterminds also
leader of a terrorist group linked to Takfir WalHijra. Some believe that
of 200300 Lebanese fighters that Lebanese Abu Musab alZarqawi, Ramzi Yousef, Khalid
authoritiescalledTakfirWalHijra. Itisreported Shaikh Mohammed, Ali Mohammed (of the U.S.
thatwhileworkingasataxidriverinBoston,Kanj Special Forces) and Mahmoud Abouhalima
befriendedRiadHijazi,wholaterplottedtobomb are/wereTakfiriaswell.Thisissupportedbythe
tourist targets in Jordan over the millennium fact that as part of their cover they acted as non
celebrations. He was killed by Lebanese forces observant Muslims, a practice associated with
inLebanonin2000. Takfiris who justify such behavior for jihadist
DuetotheloosestructureoftheTakfirWal purposes of waging Jihad. However, Takfiri
Hijramovement,itisverydifficulttoestimatethe elements are also believed to have attempted the
numberofadherents.Themovementhasaknown assassination of Osama bin Laden when he was
presence in North Africa, as well as in Western livinginSudanin1996.

European countries such as France (in at least 16 Due to the similarities and connections between
mosques), Germany, Italy and the United Al Qaeda and Takfir Wal-Hijra, future attacks in
Kingdomthe latter believed to be a major hub Europe will likely be a result of the merging of the
for recruitment. Takfir WalHijra also has a expertise of Al Qaeda elements with the ideology of
presence in various countries in the Middle East, the Salafi Takfir Wal-Hijra movement. As Dr.
East Africa, and in North America. Many
19 Mamoun Fandy, an Egyptianborn professor of
governments, particularly those in North Africa,

The Fletcher School Al Nakhlah Tufts University

Spring 2005, Article 3 3

Institute of Public Policy, has stated: [Takfir] is islegitimate,moreattentionshouldbepaidtothe

verycentraltotheAlQaedamovement. radicalSalafielementssuchastheTakfiris.They
Sincethe9/11attackstherehavebeenseveral are not only widely present in Middle Eastern
events that may be associated with members of states today, but have also proven less interested
theTakfirimovement.In2002,aTakfiriterrorist in compromising and cooperating with Arab
sleepercellthatwasplanningattacksonairliners, governments, such as Saudi Arabia and Sudan.
theU.S.embassyinJordan,Disneyland,andaLas Furthermore, they have shown their continued
Vegas casino, was captured in Michigan. In
Morocco, more than 400 persons belonging to a Muslims alike in a number of Middle Eastern
group known as AlSalafiyah alJihadiyah and Al countries. In Lebanon, for example, Takfiris did
Takfir WalHijra were arrested for the murder of notonlytargetChristianpilgrimsbutalsofought
over ten Moroccan citizens who had deviated for the overthrow of the Syrian and Lebanese
from Islamic Sharia. Dutch authorities have governments.
added that the murderer of Dutch filmmaker At first glance, Takfiri aims of overthrowing
Theo Van Gogh, Mohammed Bouyeri, was also the Syrian or Lebanese governments may not
Takfiri. appear to be in conflict with United States
SomebelievethatitisnowinEuropewhere interestsinpromotingdemocracythroughoutthe
TakfirWalHijrashouldbeofmostconcerntotop world. Takfiris, however, are not interested in
antiterrorism authorities. Janes Intelligence establishing a democracy or even a moderate
Review has predicted that Al Takfir WalHijra Islamic regime. Rather, they are concerned with
now presents perhaps the most pressing security creating an extremist Islamic government that
concern[inEurope].Thishasbeensupportedby would make highly conservative Muslim states
the French terrorism expert Roland Jacquard suchastheIslamicRepublicofIranlookfreeand
andbyleadingEuropeanscholaronradicalIslam, open. Furthermore, the reemergence of such
GillesKepel,whonoticedasignificantincreasein elements in Lebanon would add to the already
the number of European Muslims embracing volatile situation there that has led to the recent
Salafi and jihadist schools of thought. Kepel departure of Syrian troops from Lebanon and is
contends that Salafist jihadists are now a marked by tensions with the proSyrian
burgeoningpresenceinEurope,havingattempted governmentinBeirut. Consideringtheseevents,
more than 30 terrorist attacks among European and recent doubts raised over Syrian President
Unioncountriessince2001. Furtherevidenceof Bashar alAssads ability to retain power
this can be found in the case of DjamelBeghal,a following the most recent political storms, any
French Algerian who was arrested in Dubai. new activity is likely to further ignite and
Beghal and other associates have admitted to complicate the already unpredictable
being members of a Takfiri terrorist cell that had environment.
planned a suicide attack on the U.S. embassy in The latest upsurge in terrorist attacks in
Paris and a canteen located at the NATO airbase EgyptbyIslamicextremistsisanothersignofthe
33 37
atKleineBrogelinBelgium. dangerposedbyTakfirWalHijra. Theseattacks
may significantly damage the vital Egyptian
National Security Implications for Middle tourismindustrythatonlyrecentlywasbeginning
Eastern States torecoverfromthepreviousattacksinLuxor. If

The implications of Takfir WalHijras Takfiris were to employ their high level of
popularity and growth for the national security training, support and expertise to carry out
policies of Middle Eastern states are significant. attacks on a larger, more strategic scale, the
TodaysmediamakesmuchofWahhabielements political and economic impact on the Egyptian
(more accurately known as Muwahhibun) present statecouldbedisastrous.Suchactionscouldeven
throughouttheMiddleEast. Whilethisconcern lead to the overthrow of the regime of President
Hosni Mubarak. Such a move would be

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catastrophic for U.S. interests, considering that a harder to identify. Furthermore, members of
stable Egypt is central to U.S. interests in the Takfir WalHijra come from a wide range of the
Middle East, and that the United States has economicspectrum,fromtheslumsinMoroccoto
pumpedbillionsofdollarsinaidtotheMubarak theeducatedclassesinEgypt. Theythushavea
government. The Lebanese and Egyptian special gift for being able to blend in with their
instances are merely two small examples of the surroundings.Consideringthatalargenumberof
Takfiri movements potential for causing future intelligence leads are procured by the general
upheaval in Arab states if scholars and public tipping off law enforcement agencies, this
policymakerscontinuetoneglectthismovement. characteristic has the potential of eliminating a
There is a debate as to what more Middle critical resource of intelligence collection. This
Eastern states can do to counter the threat posed author predicts that as antiMuslim sentiment
by radical Islamism, including Takfir WalHijra. increases in Europe, and as the alienation of the
Whilesomearguethatdemocratizatingtheregion European Islamic community continues to rise,
is key to eliminating this threat, others counter extremistIslamicterroristsandtheirsupportbase
that elections would only allow Islamic groups willriseconcomitantly.
such as the Muslim
When the media today Brotherhood to gain Conclusions - Outlook and Future Indicators
reports of attacks by political legitimacy. The Takfir WalHijra members pose a serious
Muslim extremist answer probably lies securityrisktotheWesternworld.Theyoperate
somewhere in between. It such that they blend into Western infidel
Wahabbis or appears necessary that societies unnoticed, and they come from widely
associates of Al Qaeda, Middle Eastern states 43
divergent economic backgrounds from the
the perpetrators are slowly move towards slums in Morocco to the educated classes in
likely to be Salafi democratic reforma
Egypt. These characteristics, together with the
adherents of Takfir move that is critical not ruthlessness, dedication, experience, and large
only for the improvement
Wal-Hijra. number of Takfiri members in Western Europe,
of the Arab people, but for come together as ingredients for a potentially
U.S. interests and global deadly mix. Indeed, it isno surprise that Takfiri
stability as well. However, such steps must also elementswereconnectedtotheMadridbombings
beaccompaniedbythesimultaneousoutlawingof ofMarch11,2004.Whenthemediatodayreports
political groups that preach hatred or seek to of attacks by Muslim extremist Wahabbis or
restrictcitizensfreedoms.Indeed,thiswouldnot associatesofAlQaeda,theperpetratorsarelikely
beunlikewhatWesterndemocracieshavealready tobeSalafiadherentsofTakfirWalHijra.
doneinsomeinstances. Due to the nature of the movement and its
ideology, it is extremely difficult for Western
National Security Implications for Western countries to successfully defeat such a group.
States Consequently, Western states must work to
Westernstatesmustalsopaymoreattention supportelementsintheArabandMuslimworlds
to the Takfiri movement. Takfiris have a strong thatseektocombattheseextremists.Thismustbe
presence in the West, and their practice of done not solely through military power and
temporarilyignoringIslamicpreceptsforthesake support, but also through improving the
ofJihadenablesthemtomoreeasilyinfiltrateand educational, social, political, and economic
maintain a lowkey presence there. This modus situations of the Muslim population around the
operandi renders them particularly dangerous; world. It will also require Western nations to
unlike other Islamic terrorists who had lived in workspecificallytobetterintegratetheEuropean
Muslim communities, Takfiris often live Muslim populations into the mainstream
separately from such groups. They can thus be communities. Such encouragement, coupled with
increased vigilance and intelligence focused on

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Spring 2005, Article 3 5

Takfiris and Salafists, will help diminish the the movement, from where they will have to
number of attacks that are still to come. slowly work their way up over time. Until the
Improving intelligence may prove to be severity of this movement is recognized, and the
particularly difficult and will require Western appropriatestepsaretaken,theUnitedStatesand
countriestoassociatethemselveswithfiguresthat indeed the entire Western world will remain at
mayhavebloodontheirhands.Inthelongterm, seriousrisk.
agents should be placed in the lower echelons of

1 Philip Johnston, Alert over Islamic terrorists who tried to kill Bin Laden, The Daily
Telegraph, February 1, 2005.
2 Al Takfir Wal Hijra (accessed April 10, 2005); available from
3 Shukri Mustafa (accessed April 8, 2005); available from http://www.pwhce.org/shukri.html.
4 Supra note 3.
5 Supra note 1.
6 Lebanese Army Ousts Islamic Militants (accessed April 21, 2005); available from http://www.ict.org.il/.
7 The Organizations, (accessed July 2004); available from:
8 Showdown in Sudan (accessed April 10, 2005); available from
9 Tamara Makarenko, Takfiri presence grows in Europe, Janes Intelligence Review, February 1, 2005.
Accessed April 12, 2005.
10 Hate Club, accessed April 9, 2005); available from
11 Nicholas Hellen, Super militants thriving: Bin Ladens a pussy cat compared to Takfir, Calgary
Herald, October 21, 2001. Accessed April 21, 2005.
12 Supra note 9.
13 Middle East Review of International Affairs, Vol. 5, No. 4, December 2001. Available from
14 Alison Pargeter, The evolution of radical Islamist groups in Europe, Janes Intelligence Review,
February 1, 2005.
15 Supra note 2.
16 Asbat al-Ansar, Janes World Insurgency and Terrorism, January 18, 2004.
17 Supra note 16.
18 Supra note 1.
19 Supra note 9.
20 Supra note 14.
21 Supra note 9.
22 Supra note 2.
23 The Secret War (accessed April 11, 2005); available from
24 Supra note 2.
25 Supra note 8.
26Al Qaedas Trajectory in 2003 (accessed May 1, 2005); available from
27 The Salafist Movement (accessed April 22, 2005); available from
28 Supra note 2.
29 Morocco: Al Qaeda supporters rounded up after gruesome killings, BBC Monitoring Middle East,
August 5, 2002.
30 Islamist group Takfir wal Hijra may target Europe: Janes, Agence France Press, February 1, 2005.
31 Supra note 10.

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32 The Salafist Movement (accessed April 22, 2005); available from

33 Supra note 32.
34 Mohammed Abdul Wahhab founded the sect of Islam known as the Muwahhibun in the 1740s. It is incorrect to call followers of the Muwahhidun doctrine Wahhabis.
Derived from ISP-422 class notes of April 8, 2005.
35 Lebanon Marks Syria Pullout From Country (accessed April 30, 2005); available from
36 Bush discusses Syrias future with Assads opposition (accessed May 1, 2005); available from
http://www.aljazeera.com/cgi-bin/review/article_full_story.asp?service_ID=8126, and:
Syrian president could be toppled- Israeli intel. (accessed May 1, 2005); available from
37 Two Israelis Lightly Hurt as Wave of Terror Strikes Cairo (accessed April 30, 2005); available from
38 Attack on tourists in Egypt leaves 71 dead (accessed August 16, 2005); available from http://www.cnn.com/WORLD/9711/18/egypt.attack.on/.
39 $50 billion later, taking stock of US aid to Egypt (accessed May 1, 2005); available from
40 For example, Germany has outlawed neo-Nazi and other far-right wing parties from participating in elections, and Israel has outlawed the Kach party from being a political
party. For more information on the German move, see: Germany Seeks to Outlaw an Extreme-Right Party - Nazis" (accessed May 1, 2005); available from
http://www.mindfully.org/Reform/Germany-Outlaw-Nazis.htm, and Protecting Democracy:
Germany Wants To Ban Far-Right Party (accessed August 16, 2005); http://www.aicgs.org/at-issue/ai-npd.shtml. For more information on the Israeli action, see: Kach and
Kahane Chai (accessed May 1, 2005); available under International Terrorism and Terrorist Organization Profiles from http://www.ict.org.il/.
41 Global Jihad (Holy War) Against Non-Muslims (accessed May 1, 2005); available from
42 Anti-Muslim Backlash Rises in Europe as Amnesty Condemns Racist Attacks (accessed May 2, 2005);
available from http://www.islam-online.net/English/News/2001-10/06/article2.shtml.
43 Supra note 2.
44 Global Jihad (Holy War) Against Non-Muslims (accessed May 1, 2005); available from

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