The absurd and manifestly disingenuous attempt by Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, to portray the Muslim Brotherhood as a “largely secular” organization was, as if some covert signal to sycophants all over America, the advent or at least the leading line of a chorus of voices attempting to rehabilitate the reputation of the Muslim Brotherhood.
Consider The Week:
Its leaders now renounce violence, at least publicly. The Brotherhood says its call to jihad is spiritual, and that it believes in advancing Islam through politics and teaching. Its members in parliament are educated professionals who have proved to be competent and savvy legislators, open to compromise. In fact, the group’s insistence on nonviolence caused Egyptian surgeon Ayman al-Zawahiri to leave the Muslim Brotherhood in the late 1980s and eventually join Osama bin Laden as al Qaida’s No. 2. Hamas, the militant Palestinian group that controls the Gaza Strip and strongly advocates violent struggle, began as an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood. But Hamas’s ties to the Egyptian group are now tenuous.
Next, consider Philip Mudd writing at The Atlantic (former Deputy Director of the Counterterrorist Center, and the FBI’s first-ever Deputy Director for National Security).
Regarding the Brotherhood, many in the U.S. worry about its anti-Israeli views and its suspicion not only of secular governments but of the entire proposition of the separation of church and state. However, the Brotherhood’s role in our now decade-long campaign against al-Qaeda and its affiliates doesn’t appear prominently in the U.S. debate. It should, especially for those who accept the maxim that the enemy of an enemy is a friend. If we’re looking for friends, especially Arab friends, to help us fight al-Qaeda on the ideological front that has been our most significant shortfall, we might look to the Brotherhood. In the U.S., we are apt to wrongly conflate Islamist movements. Some overlap among movements is clear: al-Qaeda and the Brotherhood have common roots going back to the evolution of the Islamist movement in Egypt almost 90 years ago. They both abhor the state of Israel and the rise of Brotherhood influence in Arab governments could reduce support for a two-state solution. But lost in this simple mixing of Islamist strains is the fact that these two versions of Islamism are at each other’s throats, openly and frequently.
Ashley Bates writing at Mother Jones has almost jubilant notions for what the Muslim Brotherhood can accomplish.
Several other researchers I spoke to concurred that Muslim Brotherhood elected officials have exerted a democratizing influence; that much is consensus “not just with Egypt scholars but with scholars from across the Arab world,” according to Bruce Riedel, a Middle East analyst at the Brookings Institution.
Academics disagree, however, on the degree to which a Brotherhood-led government would protect Egypt’s secular freedoms. The Brotherhood is sharply divided between pragmatic, open-minded moderates and hard-line conservatives bent on spreading fundamentalist Islamic teachings.
Stacher maintains that continued repression would only empower the hardliners. By contrast, he says, “if everyone has free range to participate, what we’ll see from the Muslim Brotherhood is an increasing pragmatism. And this will drown out those conservative voices.”
The love even extends to the nominally leftist Christianity Today, where Bob Kubinec actually suggests that Egypt’s Christians might actually be safer if the Muslim Brotherhood were a part of the ruling government.
What the Brotherhood is more known for in Egypt is its calls for reforming the regime, including promoting an independent judiciary and fighting corruption in government. An op-ed published Thursday in The New York Times by a member of the Brotherhood’s leadership defined succinctly their mission: “We aim to achieve reform and rights for all: not just for the Muslim Brotherhood, not just for Muslims, but for all Egyptians.” The debate about the Muslim Brotherhood is not whether they currently support democratic reform in Egypt, but whether they will still support reform after they are in government.
To explain how an Islamic group became committed to democratic reform, something of their long and obscure history in Egypt must be understood. While it is true that some of Al Qaeda’s top leaders came from the group, including the notorious Ayman al-Zawahiri, for most of the group’s history the leadership has focused on reforming the Egyptian state, not fighting international jihad …
It was the periodic jailing of the Muslim Brotherhood’s leaders that drove some of the movement’s members to extremism … the measures used by the regime to suppress dissent are without a doubt part of the reason why the Brotherhood became dangerous. Beating with electric cables is the surest way to radicalize a human being—if they survive the torture.
Yet something truly remarkable happened in the early 1980s with the Brotherhood: the leadership voluntarily renounced violence and chose to participate in the political order.
Analysis & Commentary
These commentaries betray a horrible ignorance of the fundamental nature of the Muslim Brotherhood, and rather than conflating Islamist movements, as Mudd charges, I suggest that he (and the others) conflate policy and strategy with tactics. It’s a beginner’s blunder, but a dangerous one.
Muslim brothers can advocate peaceful jihad of the soul to those who would listen, but equally assert the right to violent subjugation of non-Muslims to Sharia law due to the doctrine of abrogation where, if a verse revealed at Mecca contradicts another revealed later at Medina, the Medinan verse takes precedence. But whether in the Qu’ran or the Hadith, there are copious verses which support the notion of violent jihad.
But beyond being woefully unprepared even to begin to assess militant Islam and its worldwide adherents, a recurring theme with these commentators is that there is a battle going on within the Muslim Brotherhood, and that engagement of them will win the day for the more “moderate” voices.
But Andrew McCarthy points us back to the Organization of the Islamic Conference and what they believe.
Today, the OIC is Islam’s central point of union against the unfaithful. Those who insist that the 1,400-year-old dividing line between Muslims and non-Muslims is ephemeral, that all we need is a little more understanding of how alike we all really are, would do well to consider the OIC’s Cairo Declaration of 1990. It is the ummah’s “Declaration of Human Rights in Islam,” proclaimed precisely because Islamic states reject the 1948 Declaration of Human Rights promulgated by the United Nations under the guidance of progressives in the United States and the West. That is, the leaders of the Muslim world are adamant that Western principles are not universal.
The Declaration makes abundantly clear that this civilization is to be attained by adherence to sharia. “All rights and freedoms” recognized by Islam “are subject to the Islamic Shari’ah,” which “is the only source of reference for [their] explanation or clarification.” Though men and women are said by the Declaration to be equal in “human dignity,” sharia elucidates their very different rights and obligations — their basic inequality. Sharia expressly controls freedom of movement and claims of asylum. The Declaration further states that “there shall be no crime or punishment except as provided for in Shari’ah” — a blatant reaffirmation of penalties deemed cruel and unusual in the West. And the right to free expression is permitted only insofar as it “would not be contrary to the principles of Shari’ah” — meaning that Islam may not be critically examined, nor will the ummah abide any dissemination of “information” that would “violate sanctities and the dignity of Prophets, undermine moral and ethical Values, or disintegrate, corrupt or harm society, or weaken its faith.”
Americans were once proud to declare that their unalienable rights came from their Creator, the God of Judeo-Christian scripture. Today we sometimes seem embarrassed by this fundamental conceit of our founding. We prefer to trace our conceptions of liberty, equality, free will, freedom of conscience, due process, privacy, and proportional punishment to a humanist tradition, haughty enough to believe we can transcend the transcendent and arrive at a common humanity. But regardless of which source the West claims, the ummah rejects it and claims its own very different principles — including, to this day, the principle that it is the destiny of Islam not to coexist but to dominate.
Obama administration officials and the editors at Christianity Today may envision holding hands with Islam and skipping down the Yellow brick road to Shangri La, but the Muslim Brotherhood and signatories to the Organization of the Islamic Conference labor under no such illusions. One thing that the commentators we have cited have in common with the Muslim Brotherhood is the attempt to rehabilitate the image of the Muslim Brotherhood. Their own web site regurgitates the same screed that we see from leftist web sites today in America.
So why do American policymakers and media analysts continue to be governed by a politics of fear? As the bogeyman of Egyptian politics, the Muslim Brotherhood has been labeled a terrorist organization, murderer of Anwar Sadat, ally of Al Qaeda, and the social equivalent of the Taliban.
The reality is that the Brotherhood renounced violence decades ago, but the party’s leadership and rank-and-file alike have continued to pay the cost of this now mistaken association, so carefully perpetuated by the Mubarak regime. Mr. Sadat’s assassin came from a splinter organization called Egyptian Islamic Jihad (the group led by Ayman al-Zawahiri, who would later join forces with Osama Bin Laden). Most of Egypt’s most unreconstructed militants, from Mr. Zawahiri’s Islamic Jihad and the larger Islamic Group, remain in prison.
The interesting thing about the imprisonment of Sayyid Qutb and Ayman al-Zawahiri is that it was done under the reign of Hosni Mubarak, not the Muslim Brotherhood. Mubarak, for whatever else he did or didn’t do, was at least a temporary defeater for radical Islamists in Egypt during his tenure. But the Muslim Brotherhood isn’t above a bit a revisionist history if it helps their causes.
Revisionist history aside, the Muslim Brotherhood has been clear. They want the institution of Sharia law in Egypt, regardless of the lackeys in the West whom they have been able to persuade to take up their cause. As for the Muslim Brotherhood in America and their alleged jettisoning of violence to achieve their ends, the strategy of global domination by the Muslim Brotherhood isn’t the same thing as moderate tactics to effect that end. To conflate the two is a category error.
To be sure, the Muslim Brotherhood has many thousands of appendage and related efforts, including supposedly humanitarian and altruistic assistance organizations. But they are all aimed at one thing. We know what that one thing is because they have told us.
The FBI had been investigating the Muslim Brotherhood for years, but their first big break came several years ago with the search of one of the Brotherhood leaders’ homes in Annandale, Virginia, following his arrest on suspicion he had cased the Chesapeake Bay Bridge and other bridges for possible terrorist attack. There, in a sub-basement of suspect Ismail Elbarasse’s basement, FBI agents uncovered a stash of secret manifestos, charters and other documents revealing the depth of the conspiracy.
After translating the Arabic-written papers into English, investigators realized they had seized the archives of the U.S. branch of the militant International Muslim Brotherhood.
The trove of papers exposes the jihadist inner workings of the U.S. Brotherhood, and outlines its broader conspiracy of infiltrating and destroying the American government “from within.”
One secret document found during the raid of Elbarasse’s home lays bare the Brotherhood’s ambitious plans for a U.S. takeover, replacing the U.S. Constitution with Shariah, or Islamic law.
Written in 1991 by another U.S. Brotherhood agent, Mohammed Akram Adlouni, the strategy paper describes the group’s long-term goal of “sabotaging” the U.S. system. It’s a blueprint for a stealth “grand jihad.” Under the heading, “The role of the Muslim Brother in North America,” it states:
The Ikhwan must understand that their work in America is a kind of grand jihad in eliminating and destroying the Western civilization from within, and ‘sabotaging’ its miserable house by the hands of the believers, so that it is eliminated and Allah’s religion is made victorious over all other religions.
Thus do idiotic comparisons of the threat of Sharia law with Boy Scout law by the likes of Professors at the U.S. Army War College play directly into the hands of those who would eventually undermine that very professor’s right to academic freedom. That comparison also betrays a gross ignorance of recent important national security revelations such as the Muslim Brotherhood strategy paper.
Another mistake by many when attempting to understand the Muslim Brotherhood is in assuming that adherence to sharia law is voluntary, when in fact, it is only voluntary while Muslims are not in the majority or do not yet have enough power to legislate sharia as state law. In Saudi Arabia, this is what sharia law looks like.
After a 14-year-old Bangladeshi girl named Hena Begum was forcibly raped, kicking and screaming, by a 40-year-old married man on Sunday, Jan. 30, a Shariah court the next day sentenced her – the rape victim – to receive 100 lashes for having engaged in an illicit “affair.” Henna was given no chance to appeal, and the sentence was carried out immediately. After between 70 and 80 lashes, the little girl collapsed into unconsciousness and was taken to the hospital – where she bled to death.
Islamic apologists will tell you such an atrocity is an abuse of Shariah law, or the excess of some remote, rural tribal council. Hogwash. Rape victims are frequently flogged and imprisoned under Shariah, as when a Saudi court in early 2009 sentenced a 23-year-old female who had been gang-raped by five men to 100 lashes and a year in jail. Her crime? Accepting a lift from a man who drove her against her will to his house and took turns, with four of his friends, raping her. Same with a 2007 case where the Saudi Justice Ministry sentenced a girl gang-raped by seven men to six months in prison and 200 lashes.
Speaking of Saudi Arabia, who can forget when the kingdom’s “religious police” allowed 15 young girls to die horrible deaths when a fire broke out in their school in Mecca on March 11, 2002? The religious police, or Mutaween, literally blocked firefighters from saving the girls because they weren’t dressed in the proper Islamic way for girls and women to be seen outdoors. With helpless firemen watching, the religious police literally beat the girls – those who were not wearing their headscarves or abayas – back into the inferno.
The willingness to engage in politics isn’t in itself a meaningful repudiation of the tendencies to domination by militant Islam, for as Rashad al-Bayoumi explains, “political work is an integral part of Islamic work, for Islam is a comprehensive religion and politics is part of general Islamic work.” For those who doubt what that looks like, consider the recent words of a senior member of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, Kamal al-Halbavi.
“Given the recent developments in the region, we need unity among the Muslim countries and Iran can play an important role in this regard,” Halbavi said on Sunday, addressing a conference in Tehran dubbed ‘Islamic Awakening in Arab World’.
He also called Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad his favorite leaders in the world, and said, “He is the bravest man in the Muslim world and we (in Egypt) need innocent, honest and brave leaders like him.”
Despite the alleged war between Sunni and Shi’a Islam, the love between Iran and the Muslim Brotherhood is mutual. Omar Suleiman knows the threat and has told General Petraeus that “Egypt suffers from certain Iranian interference through its satellites Hamas and Hezbollah, Iran’s support of the Muslim Brotherhood. We can only hope for Iran to stop supporting the Muslim Brotherhood.” If the highest ranking intelligence official in Egypt knows the threat of the Muslim Brotherhood, isn’t it a bit strange that sycophants in the U.S. sing the praises of moderate brothers? Do Muslims and intelligence officials in Egypt perhaps know a bit more about the Muslim Brotherhood than we do?
Regardless of the Muslim Brotherhood strategy paper and its disagreement with most of the American commentaries today on the Muslim Brotherhood, the temporary tactic of moderation is only a means to an end. The beginner’s mistake we discussed earlier has to do with subdividing the Islamist movement based on the specific subset of tactics being implemented in order to effect the desired end. The Muslim Brotherhood is smart. They haven’t limited their attack to a single approach, but you can be assured that they all work – and war – towards the same end, i.e., the imposition of sharia law on Muslim and non-Muslim alike, and subjugation of the world to Allah. If liberals in the U.S. see it as enlightened to be illiberal and advocate sharia law in America, then the Muslim Brotherhood is happy to have them on their side – at least for the present.
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