Nageh Ibrahim once spoke of slaying infidels and creating an Islamic state that would stretch from the Nile Delta to the vast deserts of Egypt’s south. Today he lives in a high-rise with a view of the Mediterranean Sea and has the soothing voice of a man who could lead a 12-step program on rejecting radicalism.
Ibrahim’s group, Gamaa al Islamiya, plotted notorious attacks, including the 1981 assassination of President Anwar Sadat and the massacre at an ancient Luxor temple that killed 62 people, mostly tourists, in 1997. He spent 24 years in jail reading the Koran and tempering the rage of his youth.
“We were young and we took extreme measures. But now we’re old men and our time in prison has made us wiser,” he said. “Al Qaeda and Islamic militancy have lost their glamour. Look at what has happened. The young saw that violence didn’t bring change to Egypt, a peaceful revolution did.”