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Backgrounder: Jamaat al-Islamiyya
Also known as: Gama'a al-Islamiyya, Al-Gama'at; Egyptian al-Gama'at al-Islamiyya; Islamic Gama'at; Islamic Group, Jama'a Islamia

Council on Foreign Relations

Author: Holly Fletcher

Updated: May 30, 2008


Jamaat al-Islamiyya is a radical group that seeks to install an Islamic regime in place of the secular Egyptian government. According to the State Department's 2007 Country Report on Egypt, the group is responsible for the deaths of dozens of foreign tourists in Egypt in the 1990s. It has been listed as a terrorist organization by the U.S. State Department since 1997. Although the group has not carried out an attack in over a decade and the Egyptian-based leadership has rejected violence, some members of a more extreme faction are alleged to have connections to al-Qaeda. A spiritual leader who is aligned with the extreme faction of Jamaat, Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman, was convicted and jailed in the United States as the perpetrator of the 1993 World Trade Center attacks.

What is the history and ideology of Jamaat al-Islamiyya?

Jamaat al-Islamiyya, which means "the Islamic Group," is Egypt's largest Islamist militant organization and has a presence both in Egypt and abroad. As a radical offshoot of the much older and more grassroots-oriented Muslim Brotherhood, the group has been active since the 1970s. According to the State Department, Jamaat attracts young unemployed graduates and students from urban areas but operates primarily in the southern governorates of Egypt.

Historically, members have campaigned to overthrow the secular Egyptian government and replace it with an Islamic regime. Jamaat used violence within the country to influence a popular movement supporting an Islamic regime and refused to consider a political compromise. The group is best known for the Luxor attack in 1997 that killed fifty-eight foreign tourists and four Egyptians. Attacks on tourists, however, put the group on the fringe of society as the country began to suffer economically from a decrease in tourism.

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Copyright 2008 by the Council on Foreign Relations. This material is republished on with specific permission from the Reprint and republication queries for this article should be directed to

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