This strain of Islam rejects political engagement, which puts it in opposition to the country's largest Islamist group, the Muslim Brotherhood. Although Egypt's authoritarian government welcomes this avoidance of politics, the Salafist strain is potentially problematic because of its tendency to see other Muslims and non-Muslims as inferior, a stance that disposes some to adopt violent tactics.
"While this trend is non-violent," writes Brooke, "their rigid conception of belief, occasionally antagonistic posture toward religious minorities, and tendency to withdrawal from society" have led some observers to warn of increased "social violence."
Brooke says that many analysts had put Egyptian society's increasing conservatism in recent years "at the feet of the Muslim Brotherhood. But I think there are deeper dynamics going on.... And as America tries to figure out this Islamist dilemma, I think it's important to understand that there is a spectrum there."
Maqdisi inspired jihadis worldwide
But it is the Maqdisi dispute that has caught the most attention from experts following jihadi politics.
According to the Militant Ideology Atlas, a study of jihadi writings put out in 2006 by West Point's Combating Terrorism Center, Maqdisi's writings inspired jihadis all over the world. He was respected not only for his intellect and learning, but also because he had spent time in prison. Released in March 2008, he is currently under house arrest in the Jordanian town of Zarqa.