Within Islamist philosophy, groups aligned with the Muslim Brotherhood have traditionally clashed with their more conservative counterparts, the Salafists. However, a new article in The Economist identifies a growing cooperation and ideological "crosspollination" between the two factions, despite conflict in battlegrounds like Gaza.
"But the lines separating the two schools are increasingly blurred. Across the region many share similar experiences. When Egypt suppressed the Brothers in the 1950s, many found refuge in Saudi Arabia, where the movements cross-fertilised," The Economist reports. "Under Salafist influence, the Brothers have adopted more classical jargon; and the recent Arab uprisings have helped the Brothers sway fellow Salafis into pondering whether civil opposition might not be better at changing regimes than setting off bombs."
"Most Salafist jihadists still want to have their felafel and eat it. A few of their brethren—for instance, the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group and Egypt's Gama'a Islamiya—seem for the moment to have disavowed violence, as other more moderate Islamists, such as the Muslim Brotherhood, now do," the article notes. "But most Salafists still want to bomb and fight."
Cooperation has been pragmatic, but also hesitant and inconsistent. Salafists in Egypt recently called participation in upcoming elections, a "raid via ballot boxes," showing a departure from the MB's ideology. However, it's not an altering of the traditionally militant Salafist rhetoric. The groups also routinely attack the methods of one another, despite a similar desire for the rule of Islamic law.
The Muslim Brotherhood has criticized Egyptian Salafists for their aggressive and violent methods. "It appears sadly that some Salafists, after years of opposing politics, want to step in to undermine the revolution by abusing democracy and taking advantage of the freedom Egyptians have fought and sacrificed their lives for, in order to impose their ideology," Khaled Hamza writes for the English-language Brotherhood site, ikhwanweb.com. "Although Islam promotes democracy, which means freedom, it does not justify the wanton destruction of property public or private regardless of motives."
In Gaza, Salafists recently murdered Italian Vittorio Arrigoni, a strike at international activists helping the Hamas regime. The message of the Salafists is making headway there, according to The Economist article, because Hamas rule has not ended corruption and has not fully implemented Islamic law.