EL ARISH, Egypt, May 6 â€” The Melahy tribe of northern Sinai is the poorest in the region, its members herding other people’s cattle, farming other people’s land, its very name used as a slur among local Bedouins. And so Nasser Khamis al-Melahy held great promise for his family when he left his sun-baked home here for law school in the Nile Delta.
But he never did practice law. Instead, he returned to this city on the banks of the Mediterranean and, the authorities say, helped set up an Islamist terrorist cell that has staged five suicide attacks in the Sinai, including a triple bombing in the resort town of Dahab last month.
Mr. Melahy’s turn to terrorism is one aspect of the strong undercurrent of anger and tension roiling the Middle East, where disillusionment and hostility toward national governments move many young people to adopt Islam as an identity, supplanting nationality or ethnicity. It also underscores a challenge facing many Arab countries where local customs and heritage are being abandoned by young people who instead adopt the dress, customs and behavior of conservative Islam.