While world attention is focused on the trial of ousted Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, Muslim radicals are making headway towards turning Egypt into an Islamic republic, according to Israeli Arab journalist Khaled Abu Toameh.
The security situation in the Sinai Peninsula has deteriorated, with Islamists suspected of attacks like this one - a July 29 assault on an El Arish police station which left seven people dead. "If Egyptian authorities do not move quickly to crush the extremists and regain control, the Sinai Peninsula could soon become a separate Islamic emirate run by Salafis, Hamas and al-Qaida," Abu Toameh writes in a column published by Hudson New York.
"The Facebook folks who triggered the anti-Mubarak revolution have been replaced by Salafis and Muslim Brotherhood supporters," he adds. "It is only a matter of time before Egypt turns into an Islamic Republic that is aligned with Iran, Hamas and Islamic Jihad."
Last week, hundreds of thousands of pro-Salafist demonstrators gathered in Cairo's Tahrir Square in a massive show of force. The Salafists have established a political party called Al-Nour, ("The Light") to run in Egypt's next elections.
Alarmed that the Salafists or the Brotherhood might prevail, Egypt's ruling military council has yet to set an election date. But it will not be able to postpone it indefinitely, and many Egyptians appear sympathetic to the Islamists, Abu Toameh writes.
Since Mubarak's ouster, Salafists and their supporters have been accused of encouraging and participating in a wave of violence against Christians and secularists in Egypt.
Abu Toameh contends that many Western analysts exaggerate the differences between the Salafists and the Brotherhood. Although they have doctrinal differences about the role of religion and politics, "both parties want to see an Islamic regime in Egypt - one where moderation and pragmatism are non-existent," he writes.
Read the op-ed here.