For a Western audience, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi is a complex figure, who was shunned by the Obama administration. There appear truly pressing, immediate priorities in Egypt, such as developing the economy and combating the avalanche of extremist attempts to overthrow him. Among Middle East and North African territories, Egypt stands out as a primary target, given the cocktail of challenges that position it as a center of radical Islam.
President Sisi faces violent extremist hotbeds in the Sinai Peninsula, and the still-destabilizing influence of the Muslim Brotherhood (a political arm of violent radicals). Most notably, Sisi brought a reality check to the Arab Spring when he led the military overthrow of the Muslim Brotherhood government in 2013, ushering a spiritual and cultural Islamic reformation with widespread popular support from Egyptians on a grass-roots level.
Sisi faces more than just militant and political extremists within Egypt’s borders; he is also walking a theological tightrope. Egypt is home to the regressive theocratic influence of the most revered Islamic institution in the Sunni world, Cairo’s Al-Azhar University, which openly views freedom as a “ticking time-bomb.”
Being held hostage intellectually by the grip of Al-Azhar University ensures that there is a constant supply when it comes to producing the next generation of militant and political Islamists.
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