A brand of militant, pious Islam is on the rise in the Middle East. Lead by the state-supported Salafists of Saudi Arabia and the Muslim Brotherhood of Egypt, this Islamic revival, energized by plentiful petrodollars and dreadfully backward conditions in the Arab world, fully embraces jihad ('yes to jihad, just not yet'). This movement is willing and increasingly able to take the world back to its fossilized and very Islamic 7th century world view.
As the Middle Eastern Muslims go, so eventually go the ones in Southeast Asia. Remember Malaysians, the burqa (niqab) and all that comes with it is in your future. So-called 'ninja' women clad in black from head to toe are already a common sight in Kuala Lumpur.
Here's the piece from the Associated Press (any emphasis added below is mine):
Ultraconservative Islam on rise in Mideast
Critics worry that the rise of Salafists in Egypt, as well as in other Arab countries such as Jordan and Lebanon, will crowd out the more liberal and tolerant version of Islam long practiced there. They also warn that the doctrine is only a few shades away from that of violent groups like al-Qaida—that it effectively preaches “Yes to jihad, just not now.”
In the broad spectrum of Islamic thought, Salafism is on the extreme conservative end. Saudi Arabia’s puritanical Wahhabi interpretation is considered its forerunner, and Saudi preachers on satellite TV and the Internet have been key to its Salafism’s spread.
Salafist groups are gaining in numbers and influence across the Middle East. In Jordan, a Salafist was chosen as head of the old-guard opposition group, the Muslim Brotherhood. In Kuwait, Salafists were elected to parliament and are leading the resistance to any change they believe threatens traditional Islamic values.
The gains for Salafists are part of a trend of turning back to conservatism and religion after nationalism and democratic reform failed to fulfill promises to improve people’s lives. Egypt has been at the forefront of change in both directions, toward liberalization in the 1950s and ‘60s and back to conservatism more recently. ...
In most of the region, Salafism has been a purely social movement calling for an ultraconservative lifestyle. Most Salafis shun politics—in fact, many argue that Islamic parties like the Muslim Brotherhood and the Palestinians’ Hamas are too willing to compromise their religion for political gain.
Its preachers often glorify martyrdom and jihad—or holy war—but always with the caveat that Muslims should not launch jihad until their leaders call for it. The idea is that the decision to overturn the political order is up to God, not the average citizen.
But critics warn that Salafis could easily slide into violence.