[Editor’s Note: Jihadica is pleased to welcome Cole Bunzel to its lineup. Cole is a PhD candidate in Princeton University’s Department of Near Eastern Studies, which has become one of the world’s leading incubators of scholars of the jihadi movement.]
Last week, resurfaced videos of Egyptian President Muhammad Morsi making anti-Semitic and anti-Zionist remarks stoked vigorous debate in American media. A week earlier, another resurfaced video of Morsi, this time making apparently anti-Islamic remarks, highlighted a quite different debate taking place in the realm of jihadi media: Is Muhammad Morsi a kafir (unbeliever)?
In a recent fatwa, Abu al-Mundhir al-Shinqiti, the influential Mauritanian Jihadi-Salafi ideologue, betrayed a remarkable level of caution in taking up this question. His fatwa, along with his other writings on takfir (excommunication) of Morsi, is a revealing political statement. It has less to do with the theology of faith than with Jihadi-Salafi strategy in post-Arab Spring Egypt.
Al-Shinqiti, a member of the Shari‘a Council of the website Minbar al-Tawhid wa-l-Jihad and currently its only acting mufti, responded on January 6 to a question over the potentially incriminating video mentioned above. The questioner, a Dagestani student living in Egypt, linked to the 2011 clip in which Morsi said in an interview: “there is no difference/dispute between the Islamic creed and the Christian creed” (ma-fish khilaf bayn al-‘aqidah al-islamiyyah wa-l-‘aqidah al-masihiyyah). Morsi was speaking about the possibility of the Muslim Brotherhood’s electoral coalition allying with the Salafi Nur Party, and made this comment only to say that the Brotherhood would even consider allying with Christians. As one of his supporters wrote in an online forum, by the word khilaf (“difference/dispute”) Morsi clearly meant mashakil and sira‘at (“problems” and “struggles”). He was not blurring the lines between Islam and Christianity.