The Egyptian cabinet has ratified a law establishing the Supreme Council for Combating Terrorism and Extremism (SCCTE), modifying Presidential Decree 355/2017 which created the National Council for Combating Terrorism and Extremism.
The cabinet said the SCCTE will act to motivate state institutions and society to eradicate terrorism and trace its funding.
“The name change, requested by council members, is more appropriate to the council’s role and responsibilities,” Brigadier General Khaled Okasha, security affairs expert and council member, told Al-Ahram Weekly. He added that President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi had stressed the council’s role extends beyond consultation “since it is comprised of decision-makers such as the prime minister, parliamentary speaker, and ministers of interior, defence and Waqf.”
The presidential decree also named the grand imam of Al-Azhar, the head of the Coptic Orthodox Church, the ministers of youth, social solidarity, foreign affairs, telecommunications, justice, education and higher education, the head of General Intelligence, director of the Administrative Control Authority and influential public figures as council members.
The 2017 decree stipulated the president of the republic should head the council which will convene every two months. Yet since being set up in July last year the council has met only twice.
“This could be because of the presidency’s busy schedule with national projects,” says Okasha.
Al-Sisi ordered the creation of the council after meeting with the National Defence Council following terrorist attacks targeting Saint George’s Church in Tanta and Saint Mark’s Church in Alexandria on Palm Sunday last year.
During its two meetings the council has discussed the roots of extremism, including the school curricula, and has recommended a training programme for preachers, says Okasha. It has also drawn attention to the ways in which prisons have become a recruiting ground for terrorists.
Parliament’s Defence and National Security Committee has already studied the law, one MP told the Weekly.
The new legislation was drafted by the presidency, a source close to the council said. “The July presidential decree contained all the details about the council, its formation, mechanism and role. The law is based mainly on the decree,” he added.
* This story was first published in Al-Ahram Weekly