Reshuffling the Deck in the Middle East

A man shuffling a deck of cardsCSP, By Kyle Shideler:

The New York Times wrote on Friday offering a brief glimpse at an underreported front in inter-Islam civil war currently spreading across the Middle East:

Yemen’s Shiite rebels on Friday overran an al-Qaida stronghold after days of battling the militants for the city in the country’s central heartland, a Yemeni official and a tribal leader said. The capture of the city of Radda, in the in the province of Bayda, came with the help of a Yemeni army commander, the two said. The Shiite rebels known as Houthis have been fighting both al-Qaida militants and Sunni tribes over the past few days. The rebels, who in September gained control of the capital, Sanaa, earlier this week overran a key Yemeni port city on the Red Sea.

The action, mirrored similar instances in the past when units in Yemen’s army suspected of links with former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, a Houthi ally, facilitated stunning rebel advances from their home base in northern Saada province. The army commander who helped the Houthis in Radda is said to be a loyalist of the ousted Saleh, who was deposed after the country’s 2011 uprising. Saleh and his party have joined ranks with the Houthis against a common enemy — the Islamist Islah party and its allied tribe of Al-Ahmar, traditional power brokers in Yemen.

Also Friday, fierce clashes erupted in Ibb province, nearly 200 kilometers (125 miles) south of Sanaa between the Houthis and tribesmen allied with the Islah party, leaving eight dead, according to other security officials in the province.

The Islah Party is Yemen’s branch of the Muslim Brotherhood. It’s co-founder is Abdul_Majeed al-Zindani, who is a specially designated global terrorist, and an original spiritual mentor of Osama Bin Laden.

President Obama referred to Yemen and Somalia as models of success to be emulated in Syria. And while my CSP colleague Nik Hanlon handedly covered the problems with the Somalia comparison, Yemen is indeed an apt model for comparison, although not in the way meant by the President. In Yemen the struggle is between Shia militia fighters- backed by Iran and on behalf of a President who was ousted in Western -championed Arab Spring- are advancing against the joint forces of Al Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood. The same is true in Syria, where Muslim Brotherhood-linked fighters, such as the Islamic Front, fight side by side with Al Qaeda-linked Ahrar Al-Sham and AQ’s Syrian affiliate Jabhat al Nusra against Iranian IRGC and Shia Militias on behalf of Bashar Assad.

As in Yemen and Syria, so too in Libya, although instead of Iranian-linked Shia, the “counterrevolution” in Libya is led by a former general of Qaddafi’s, Khalifa Haftar, sponsored by Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Egypt in a fight against Al Qaeda’s affiliate Ansar al-Sharia-Libya, and the Muslim Brotherhood-backed militias. The same U.A.E air force that was trumpeted as a partner in the air strikes against ISIS,  conducted air strikes against the Libyan rebels with whom the U.S. had partnered against Qaddafi. But then, in this conflict ironies abound, as when Saudi Arabia bombs the “barbaric” ISIS in airstrikes launched in part following the beheading of Americans, while engaging in a rash of beheadings of their own.

Analysts who examine the current situation as a series of national struggles in separate countries have missed the boat entirely. Everywhere across the region, scores are being settled, and battle lines being drawn and redrawn. What is at stake is not just who will be the next leader of Syria, or Libya, or Yemen. It’s who will be represented as the leader(s) of Islam. Will they be Sunni or Shia? Does ISIS represent a Kharijite deviation as the Muslim Brotherhood accuses, or are the Ikhwan a Murji’ah deviation as ISIS concludes? Do they both represent a takfiri deviation, as the governments Saudi, Egypt and U.A.E and their state-sponsored clerics declare or are these same governments the apostate regimes that ISIS/AQ/MB claim them to be?

These are deeply profound doctrinal questions which are being hashed and rehashed in online screeds over the intricacies of Shariah law, but which will ultimately be settled with violence, just as they have been historically settled for hundreds of years.

For our purposes,  we should realize that the internecine conflict currently being waged does not mean that any of these forces are ultimately pro-Western or allies to be trusted. The same governments which are fighting ISIS paid for the mosques, staffed by Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated imams, at which the current group of ISIS fighters with Western passports were educated and indoctrinated. The Syrian rebels- including Muslim Brothers, that are fighting Assad and ISIS were also providing security for an Al Qaeda cell- The so-called Khorasan Group- whose purpose was a mass casualty attack on U.S. or allied soil. The Shia militias fighting ISIS on the outskirts of Baghdad were the ones using Iranian-manufactured Explosively Formed Penetrators (EFPs) to kill hundreds of Americans. The Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps leading the defense of Baghdad against ISIS also taught Al Qaeda how to use truck bombs to carry out the U.S. embassy attacks.

And on and on.

The reshuffling of the deck will continue in the Middle East for the time being, and it’s important to track the players, and understand their doctrinal differences and the basis for their conflict. But that is not the same as imagining that one of them represents a trump card for the West to play.

Saudis Must Stop Exporting Extremism

1534157424 (1)ISIS Atrocities Started With Saudi Support for Salafi Hate

New York Times, By

ALONG with a billion Muslims across the globe, I turn to Mecca in Saudi Arabia every day to say my prayers. But when I visit the holy cities of Mecca and Medina, the resting place of the Prophet Muhammad, I am forced to leave overwhelmed with anguish at the power of extremism running amok in Islam’s birthplace. Non-Muslims are forbidden to enter this part of the kingdom, so there is no international scrutiny of the ideas and practices that affect the 13 million Muslims who visit each year.

Last week, Saudi Arabia donated $100 million to the United Nations to fund a counterterrorism agency. This was a welcome contribution, but last year, Saudi Arabia rejected a rotating seat on the United Nations Security Council. This half-in, half-out posture of the Saudi kingdom is a reflection of its inner paralysis in dealing with Sunni Islamist radicalism: It wants to stop violence, but will not address the Salafism that helps justify it.

Let’s be clear: Al Qaeda, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, Boko Haram, the Shabab and others are all violent Sunni Salafi groupings. For five decades, Saudi Arabia has been the official sponsor of Sunni Salafism across the globe.

Most Sunni Muslims around the world, approximately 90 percent of the Muslim population, are not Salafis. Salafism is seen as too rigid, too literalist, too detached from mainstream Islam. While Shiite and other denominations account for 10 percent of the total, Salafi adherents and other fundamentalists represent 3 percent of the world’s Muslims.

Unlike a majority of Sunnis, Salafis are evangelicals who wish to convert Muslims and others to their “purer” form of Islam — unpolluted, as they see it, by modernity. In this effort, they have been lavishly supported by the Saudi government, which has appointed emissaries to its embassies in Muslim countries who proselytize for Salafism. The kingdom also grants compliant imams V.I.P. access for the annual hajj, and bankrolls ultraconservative Islamic organizations like the Muslim World League and World Assembly of Muslim Youth.

After 9/11, under American pressure, much of this global financial support dried up, but the bastion of Salafism remains strong in the kingdom, enforcing the hard-line application of outdated Shariah punishments long abandoned by a majority of Muslims. Just since Aug. 4, 19 people have been beheaded in Saudi Arabia, nearly half for nonviolent crimes.

M_Id_364974_beheadingWe are rightly outraged at the beheading of James Foley by Islamist militants, and by ISIS’ other atrocities, but we overlook the public executions by beheading permitted by Saudi Arabia. By licensing such barbarity, the kingdom normalizes and indirectly encourages such punishments elsewhere. When the country that does so is the birthplace of Islam, that message resonates.

I lived in Saudi Arabia’s most liberal city, Jidda, in 2005. That year, in an effort to open closed Saudi Salafi minds, King Abdullah supported dialogue with people of other religions. In my mosque, the cleric used his Friday Prayer sermon to prohibit such dialogue on grounds that it put Islam on a par with “false religions.” It was a slippery slope to freedom, democracy and gender equality, he argued — corrupt practices of the infidel West.

This tension between the king and Salafi clerics is at the heart of Saudi Arabia’s inability to reform. The king is a modernizer, but he and his advisers do not wish to disturb the 270-year-old tribal pact between the House of Saud and the founder of Wahhabism (an austere form of Islam close to Salafism). That 1744 desert treaty must now be nullified.

The influence that clerics wield is unrivaled. Even Saudis’ Twitter heroes are religious figures: An extremist cleric like Muhammad al-Arifi, who was banned last year from the European Union for advocating wife-beating and hatred of Jews, commands a following of 9. 4 million. The kingdom is also patrolled by a religious police force that enforces the veil for women, prohibits young lovers from meeting and ensures that shops do not display “indecent” magazine covers. In the holy cities of Mecca and Medina, the religious police beat women with sticks if they stray into male-only areas, or if their dress is considered immodest by Salafi standards. This is not an Islam that the Prophet Muhammad would recognize.

Salafi intolerance has led to the destruction of Islamic heritage in Mecca and Medina. If ISIS is detonating shrines, it learned to do so from the precedent set in 1925 by the House of Saud with the Wahhabi-inspired demolition of 1,400-year-old tombs in the Jannat Al Baqi cemetery in Medina. In the last two years, violent Salafis have carried out similar sectarian vandalism, blowing up shrines from Libya to Pakistan, from Mali to Iraq. Fighters from Hezbollah have even entered Syria to protect holy sites.

Textbooks in Saudi Arabia’s schools and universities teach this brand of Islam. The University of Medina recruits students from around the world, trains them in the bigotry of Salafism and sends them to Muslim communities in places like the Balkans, Africa, Indonesia, Bangladesh and Egypt, where these Saudi-trained hard-liners work to eradicate the local, harmonious forms of Islam.

What is religious extremism but this aim to apply Shariah as state law? This is exactly what ISIS (Islamic State) is attempting do with its caliphate. Unless we challenge this un-Islamic, impractical and flawed concept of trying to govern by a rigid interpretation of Shariah, no amount of work by a United Nations agency can unravel Islamist terrorism.

Saudi Arabia created the monster that is Salafi terrorism. It cannot now outsource the slaying of this beast to the United Nations. It must address the theological and ideological roots of extremism at home, starting in Mecca and Medina. Reforming the home of Islam would be a giant step toward winning against extremism in this global battle of ideas.

New Sunni Insurgency in Iraq

20140125_map503BY :

Largely ignored by the global media, Iraq today stands on the brink of a renewed Sunni insurgency.  The emergent insurgency in Iraq is following the same sectarian pattern as the civil war in Syria and the growing violence in Lebanon. It also involves many of the same local and regional players.

The rising violence in Iraq is not, however, simply the result of a spillover from the Syrian war. It derives also from internal Iraqi dynamics. But these are themselves in significant ways comparable to the Syrian and Lebanese situations.

Over 9000 people were killed in fighting in Iraq in 2013.  This is not yet up to the levels of violence just prior to the surge, in the very worst days of the insurgency against U.S. forces and the sectarian bloodletting that accompanied it.  But it’s the highest since 2007.  This year, more than 2000 people have already lost their lives as a result of political violence in Iraq.

As of today, a coalition of Sunni insurgent groups control the city of Fallujah in Iraq’s Anbar province west of Baghdad.  The city of Ramadi  remains partially in insurgent hands, though its southern districts have been re-conquered by government forces in recent days.

Nor is the violence confined to Anbar province.  Rather, car bombings have become a near daily occurrence in Baghdad, and insurgent activity against Iraqi security forces and non-Sunni civilians is taking place in Nineveh, Mosul, Kirkuk and elsewhere in areas of high Sunni Arab population.

So who are these insurgents, and why have events in Iraq reached this crisis point?

As in Syria, a myriad of insurgent groups have emerged. But there are two main forces. These are ISIS (Islamic State in Iraq and Syria) and the Naqshbandi Army.

ISIS emerged in Iraq in 2004, and for a time constituted the official franchise of al-Qaeda in the country.  Under the leadership of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who was killed by U.S. forces in 2005,  it became renowned for its brutal methods.

ISIS experienced a resurgence during the Syrian civil war, and today it controls much of Raqqa province in eastern Syria, including Raqqa city.

In February, 2014, ISIS was “expelled” from al-Qaeda because of its insanely brutal methods in northern Syria, which have included, for example, execution of civilians for smoking, and for swearing.

This movement is now an active force on the insurgent council that now governs Falluja.  Its fighters also rove freely in the vast deserts of western Anbar, making the desert highways unsafe for travelers and government forces.

Read more at Gloria Center

Also see:

Muslim anti-Semitism is only decades old, Obama claims

2014-01-17T162147Z_1_CBREA0G19GH00_RTROPTP_4_USA-EDUCATION-e1390000075233The Quran’s words created and maintain Islamic anti-Semitism, which is so ubiquitous that even sects of Sunni and Shia Muslims who are trying to kill each other agree that Jews are to blame for their fighting –  Andrew Bostom

By Neil Munro:

Experts are scoffing at President Barack Obama’s apparent belief that widespread Muslim hatred of Jews is only decades old.

“Obama reveals that he has no idea, or doesn’t want to give the impression that he has any idea, about the reality of Islamic anti-Semitism,” said Robert Spencer, the author of many books on Islamic ideas and director of Jihad Watch.

“Anti-Semitism is hard-wired into Islam,” from its origins before 700, said Andrew Bostom, author of three books about Islam, including “The Legacy of Islamic Antisemitism,” which lists centuries of anti-Semitic hatred, murders, pogroms and apartheid-like discrimination.

Intellectuals, politicians and diplomats are loath to admit the centrality of anti-Semitism in Islamic beliefs, because it fuels conflict with Israel and the West and it can’t be fixed by Westerners, Bostom said. ”You’re dealing with an intractable situation, and people hate intractable situations,” he said, adding “diplomats are the worst.”

In an interview with The New Yorker magazine, Obama described the Muslim hatred of Israel as byproduct of recent fights, not as a consequence of Islam’s doctrinal objection to any Jewish government.

“With respect to Israel, the interests of Israel in stability and security are actually very closely aligned with the interests of the Sunni states,” Obama said.

The “Sunni states” are nations populated by Arabs who believe in the mainstream Sunni version of Islam. In contrast, Iran advocates the Shia version of Islam, which is endorsed by roughly 10 percent of Muslims.

“What’s preventing them from entering into even an informal alliance [against Shia-run Iran] with at least normalized diplomatic relations is not that their interests are profoundly in conflict but the Palestinian issue, as well as a long history of anti-Semitism that’s developed over the course of decades there, and anti-Arab sentiment that’s increased inside of Israel based on seeing [Jewish] buses being blown up,” Obama said.

“If you can start unwinding some of that, that creates a new equilibrium,” he said.

“The Palestinian issue,” is the refusal by Muslims to recognize the right of Jews to have a Jewish government in the historically Jewish homeland around Jerusalem.

However, the refusal to recognize Israel is entwined with Islamic anti-Semitism, which Obama claimed “has developed over the course of decades there.”

Obama’s “course of decades” comment “ignores the numerous anti-Semitic teachings of the Quran and other Islamic texts — most notably the Quran’s designation of the Jews as the worst enemies of the believers,” Spencer said.

For example, Spencer cited the fifth chapter of the Quran, which declares that “If [Jews] believed in Allah and the Prophet and that which is revealed unto him, they would not choose them for their friends. But many of them are of evil conduct. Thou wilt find the most vehement of mankind in hostility to those who believe (to be) the Jews and the idolaters.”

Read more at Daily Caller

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Andrew Bostom makes the case that Islamic anti-Semitism and the ideological motivation for jihad began with the Quran:

I was privileged to join Clare Lopez, Mark Langfan, and Dr. Walid Phares for this panel presentation jointly sponsored by The Endowment for Middle East Truth and the Center for Security Policy

Using photos, text, and clips, the video depicts how jihadism, and canonical Islamic antisemitism motivate the relentless effort to destroy the State of Israel from a shared Sunni-Shiite perspective. Featured, prominently, is an end of times messianic theme re-activated with fervor in Islam, for at least a century now, since the advent of the modern Zionist movement. Uniquely Shiite “infidel impurity” (so-called “najis”) regulations and their impact are also explored in the context of centuries of Iranian Shiite theocratic rule.

These motifs are illustrated, from the Sunni perspective by:

  • The founder of the Palestinian Arab Muslim jihadist movement, ex-Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Hajj Amin el-Husseini, via his 1937 proclamation seeking to galvanize the global Muslim umma (or community) for a jihad to annihilate Palestinian Jewry, a decade before modern Israel came into existence. El-Husseini’s proclamation, which some deemed a “fatwa,” hinged upon Koran 5:82, which declares that the Jew’s harbor inveterate hatred toward Muslims, and the apocalyptic canonical tradition of Islam’s prophet Muhammad that maintains the messianic age will be ushered in by the annihilation of the Jews.
  • A repetition of this end of times canonical tradition of Jew-annihilation, 75 years later, by the current Palestinian Authority Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Muhammad Hussein, during a January 9, 2012 sermon
  • A May 10, 2013 sermon at Sunni Islam’s Vatican equivalent, Al-Azhar University, and its mosque, by Muhammad Al-Mahdi, a senior scholar and head of the Sharia Association at  Al-Azhar, invoking both Koran 5:82 and the same end of times canonical tradition of Jew-annihilation
  • An October 25, 2013 interview by Sunni Islam’s Papal equivalent, Al-Azhar Grand Imam Ahmed al-Tayeb, also invoking Koran 5:82

Doctrinal Shiite jihadism, and Islamic antisemitism in Iran, including the unique (and dehumanizing) impurity regulations, since the nation became a Shiite theocracy during the Safavid era (i.e., at the beginning of the 16thcentury), were characterized next, past as prologue to our era, and the current Rouhani Presidency. This material—the remainder and bulk of the presentation—includes:

  • A concise formulation of jihad by the jurist al-Amili (d. 1621)
  • Description of the “najis” impurity regulations by the Ayatollah Khomeini of his era, al-Majisi (d. 1699), from Majlisi’s treatise,“Lightning Bolts Against the Jews” 
  • The chronic, ugly consequences of those regulations over centuries for Jews, in particular, captured by the first hand account of French observer Claude Anet, from 1905
  • Ayatollah Khomeini’s statements on jihad, Jews and Jew-annihilation, martyrdom, and takiya, i.e., sacralized Islamic dissimulation, 1942-1989
  • Statements sanctioning Israel’s destruction by alleged “moderate” Iranian Presidents Khatami, Rafsanjani, and Rouhani
  • The disturbing views on “infidel impurity” and Jew-annihilation by much ballyhooed “Green Movement” inspiration, the late Ayatollah Ali Montazeri
  • A clear and forthright encapsulation of the Iranian regimes’ ideology vis a vis Israel—again riveting on Koran 5:82, and Islamic messianism—by current Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s representative in the Iranian Martyr Foundation, Mohammad Hassan Rahimian
  • The poignant, experientially wise observations of Iranian Jewish exile, Farideh Goldin, born (1953) and raised in the Shiraz Iran Jewish ghetto

 

How the Arab Spring Unleashed Al Qaeda

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The Arab Spring did to the Middle East what WWI did to Russia and Eastern Europe. Al Qaeda, like the Bolsheviks, plans to pick up the pieces. The new Soviet Union may be an Islamic state that stretches across the Middle East while the Salafi preachers and thugs terrorizing Europe play the role of Communist infiltrators in the West. And another world war may be here before we even know it.

By Daniel Greenfield:

Open up a national newspaper and flip to the stories about the Middle East. The daily toll of bombings and shootings, starving refugees and demolished cities have little resemblance to the cheerful stories about the transformation of the Middle East that were running during the boom days of the Arab Spring.

There isn’t much mention of the Arab Spring anymore. The same media outlets that were predicting that the Middle East was about to turn into Europe have fallen silent. They are eager to forget their own lies.

But it was the Arab Spring that unleashed this horror. The Arab Spring was not an outburst of popular democratic sentiment. It was a power struggle of a clearly sectarian nature. It was the rise of Sunni Islam under the black and white Salafist flags.

Obama and his people favored takeovers by “moderate” Salafi groups that appeared to accept Western ideas such as democracy and modernization. The “moderate” Salafis however worked closely with their “immoderate” Salafi cousins playing a game of Good Salafi and Bad Salafi with America.

The “moderate” Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt opened the door for Al Qaeda in the Sinai. Its Syrian branch, along with other “moderate” Salafist militias in the Free Syrian Army, fought alongside the Al-Nusra Front which was then Al Qaeda in Syria.

The takeovers led to civil war in Egypt and Syria and escalated a sectarian regional conflict between Sunnis and Shiites. The biggest beneficiary of the Arab Spring was Al Qaeda in Iraq.

Al Qaeda in Iraq had defined itself by the killing of Shiites. Its murder of Americans took second place to its fanatical hatred of Shiites. Its killing sprees had alienated other Muslims at a time when America was seen as the central enemy. But the Arab Spring had made the Islamic terrorist group relevant again.

Iraq’s government tilted toward its Shiite roots as the Arab Spring split the region down the middle creating no room for middle ground. Peace in Iraq had depended on locking Al Qaeda out with a political alliance between Sunnis and Shiites. Bush had made that alliance temporarily work. Obama, who had repeatedly denounced the Iraq Surge, washed his hands of it as quickly as he could.

The Arab Spring helped kill what was left of that alliance as Sunni-Shiite civil wars moved the arc of history in the direction that had been carved out by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi during the Iraq War. Al Qaeda in Iraq was no longer seen as a bunch of homicidal lunatics. They had become visionaries.

The media had chosen to wipe Al Qaeda in Iraq out of the headlines after Obama’s victory. The withdrawal cemented the silence.

When Obama claimed that he needed to fight Al Qaeda in Afghanistan where it was hardly a presence, instead of in Iraq where it was still a menace; they didn’t ask many questions. Buried in the news stories were reports that Obama knew that Al Qaeda had ceased to be a major player in Afghanistan.

If Obama had been a Republican, there is no doubt that those stories would have turned into a major issue and the issue into a narrative about a president who lied about a war.

But Obama was a Democrat and those stories and the stories about Al Qaeda in Iraq escalating its attacks remained no more than background noise. Iraq was yesterday’s news. Tomorrow’s news was the Cairo speech and the Arab Spring. Terrorism was over. The tyrants were falling. A new wave of change was coming. And the region would never be the same.

Change did indeed come.

The Arab Spring split the region more sharply than ever across Shiite and Sunni lines. Syria became the fault line in the bloody end of the Arab Spring. And Al Qaeda made its biggest power play yet.

Mali showed that Afghanistan was yesterday’s news. Al Qaeda franchises no longer needed to rely on a Taliban to carve out a territory for their training camps. They could become their own Taliban and seize an entire country.

It took the French to stop them in Mali after the disastrous Libyan War; the most destructive effort at implementing the Arab Spring. But the question is who will stop Al Qaeda in Syria?

The various branches of Al Qaeda and their allies may win in Syria. And Syria is not Afghanistan. It has huge stockpiles of advanced weapons, dwarfing the Gaddafi stockpiles that have already caused a great deal of damage, not to mention the chemical and biological weapons that it will likely hold on to despite the brokered disarmament deal. Syria even had an infant nuclear program.

Al Qaeda in Iraq, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, now envisions a vast territory under its rule. It is surging in Syria and Iraq and has reached into Lebanon to strike at Hezbollah. There is little to mourn about Sunni and Shiite terrorist groups killing each other, but it would be wishful thinking to imagine that a vastly expanded Al Qaeda with access to advanced weaponry and cities full of manpower will not eventually direct that weaponry at the United States.

Read  more at Front Page

 

Why Sunnis Fear Shiites

missile_2By  Hillel Fradkin & Lewis Libby:

The recent Arab revolts in the Middle East and the concomitant “Islamic Awakening” have not merely shaken up the order of an already violent and unstable region. They have reanimated the bloodiest and longest-running dispute in Muslim politics: which branch of Islam, Sunni or Shia, is to rule the Muslim polity. This rivalry dates back some 1,300 years to the death of Muhammad, and while it has occasionally been set aside for reasons of expedience, it has never been resolved. The continuing conflagrations following the mislabeled Arab Spring, increasingly shaped by this ancient Sunni–Shia tension, are set to rage on indefinitely. Affairs in the Middle East are accelerating back to the old normal: a state of hot holy war.

The seemingly internal conflict in Syria has become the war’s central front. Sunni and Shia alike have been drawn into the conflict as the Syrian tragedy has unfolded. Inspired by the revolts in Tunisia, Libya, and Egypt, in March 2011 Syrians—a predominantly Sunni population—mounted initially peaceful protests against the rule of the Shia-offshoot Alawite regime headed by Bashar al-Assad. Secure in his support from the extremist Iranian regime, Assad responded with great brutality. His opponents responded in kind, fueled by money and arms from their Sunni patrons in the Gulf Arab states and by Sunni Islamists from both the Muslim Brotherhood and al-Qaeda. They fear what they have taken to calling, with alarm, the “Shia crescent.” The term connotes a swath of Iranian Shiite influence across the Arab world and, via Syria, to the shores of the Mediterranean Sea. Syria functions as Iran’s direct operational link to its terrorist arm Hezbollah and to the Shiite plurality in Lebanon. It borders Iraq, whose Shiite majority may be radicalized, and Turkey, whose Sunni leadership can be monitored and checked.

As the Syrian revolt proceeded, sectarian elements came to the fore. The momentum frequently shifted back and forth between the Iranian-backed Assad and the Sunni rebels. But this past spring, when Assad’s fortunes waned, Iran doubled down. It arranged for Shiite Hezbollah and Iraqi Shiite “volunteers” to join the fray directly and massively, tipping the battle for Syria into Shiite hands. Iran is now winning what one Iranian officer has described as “an epic battle for Shiite Islam.”

As this has gone on, the willful retraction of American influence in the region has fanned both Iranian ambitions and Sunni fears. The Middle East is well versed in the posturings and weaknesses of foreign sovereigns. In Shiite and Sunni eyes alike, President Barack Obama’s proposed deals relating to Syrian chemical weapons and Iran’s nuclear program translate into large gains for radical Shiism.

It is tempting, naturally, for Americans to stay out of a fight between two holy armies who oppose the United States and its allies. To put it very mildly, neither radical Shiite nor radical Sunni groups share our values or serve our interests. Still, as a practical matter, this does not mean that one of our enemies is not a more potent threat than the other. Of all the distasteful regimes in the region, only Iran’s has defined itself from its foundation as our mortal enemy and acted accordingly ever since. Moreover, Iran’s capacity to pursue hostile action toward America is currently growing. Thus, Iran presents the more serious threat to our well-being. If it emerges the victor in the fight for the future of political Islam and regional dominance, American interests will probably be endangered to an extent not seen since the Cold War. This is especially true if an Iranian victory is coupled with the regime’s attainment of a nuclear weapon. Not only will America’s ally Israel be under constant threat of annihilation, but American influence in the Middle East will be made hostage to credible Iranian policy blackmail. And yet, given the current status of the Sunni–Shia conflict, this is where we’re headed. “Iran grows more powerful day by day,” Iranian President Hassan Rouhani recently gloated. It’s hard to disagree.

There are several reasons for thinking that radical Shiism, as manifested in the Iranian regime, might continue to dominate and ultimately win this holy war. First, the Shiite camp enjoys the advantage of the more-or-less unitary leadership of Iran. Perhaps in time internal Iranian opposition could challenge the regime in Tehran, but for now the ayatollahs seem to have stifled any such efforts. Outside Iran, some Shiite clerics in Iraq reject the Khomeinist doctrine of the “Rule of the Jurisprudent,” but this “quietist” school of Shiism is not interested in governing its Persian neighbors and, in any case, is frequently undermined by other clerics working in Iraq on Iran’s behalf. So the concentrated center of Shiite power remains in Iran and is, moreover, strengthened by the support of outside non-Muslim powers—principally Russia and China.

By contrast, the Sunni camp is profoundly divided, and therefore weak. This weakness is manifest in the split among the Sunni Islamist forces fighting Assad in Syria. The result is increasingly frequent military fights between sides, to say nothing of the ongoing fights with more secular Sunni militias.

Beyond Syria, things are scarcely more cohesive for Sunnis. The Sunni nations of Arabia and the Gulf lack the size and reach of Iran. They have provided money and arms to the Sunni rebels fighting Assad, but as they themselves support different Islamist groups inside Syria, they’ve also contributed to the infighting. What’s more, the broader conflicts among these countries have derailed joint efforts.

The unsettled condition of Sunni-majority Egypt, the world’s largest Arab country, has had a demoralizing and divisive effect as well. While ousted Muslim Brotherhood President Mohamed Morsi had suggested that Egypt might provide greater support for the Syrian opposition, that proposal proved so unpopular it might very well have been a contributing factor in his removal by the Egyptian military. The new regime has made clear that it wants no part of the Syrian civil war.

Read more at Commentary Magazine

 

Iraqi Shiite Militia Leader Watheq Al-Battat: I Would Support Iran in a War against Iraq

 

The Mosque: Center of Religion, Politics and Dominance

by Clare M. Lopez:

Islamic-style authoritarianism is the dominant characteristic shared by both the military and the Muslim Brotherhood, theocrats and non-theocrats: one or the other must be dominant. The cannot share power. One side or the other must come out on top. Both of these conflicts, in Syria and Egypt, are, at their base, about the inseparability of Mosque and State in Islam, and the burning zeal of those believers who have no tolerance for Arab and Muslim regimes they see as allowing the two to function apart.

News reports out of Syria are airing graphic footage of extensive interior damage to the historic Khalid Ibn Al-Walid Mosque in Homs. Syrian government troops, backed by Hizballah fighters, captured the mosque from Free Syrian Army (FSA) forces on July 27, 2013 in heavy fighting that has engulfed the northern Homs neighborhood of Khaldiyeh.

Although the mosque holds little strategic value to the Sunni rebels, it holds great symbolic status as the centuries-old mausoleum of Khalid Ibn Al-Walid, revered by Muslims as a companion of Muhammad, as well as commander of the Islamic military forces that conquered Syria after the defeat of the Christian Byzantine forces at the 636 CE Battle of Yarmouk. Syrian television footage showed the dome of the mausoleum had been knocked out in the recent fighting, causing heavy fire damage to the interior, with debris strewn across the floor. Clearly, the mosque assault by Syrian forces loyal to the Alawite regime of Bashar al-Assad, with back-up support from Shi’ite Hizballah, was intended to incite intra-Islamic sectarian rage from the Sunni rebels.

 

The Khalid Ibn Al-Walid Mosque in Homs, Syria, as photographed in 2008. (Source: Noura Raslan)

The extent to which that objective will now be met remains to be seen, but is reminiscent of the February 22, 2006 bombing of the great golden-domed Shi’ite Askaria Mosque in Samarra, Iraq, by al-Qa’eda elements, under the command of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. That carefully-calculated outrage is credited with igniting a savage multi-year civil war in Iraq, which, tragically, appears to be breaking out anew: July 2013 attacks on mosques and worshippers have killed at least 700.

Unfortunately, Iraq and Syria are but the current-day iterations of a 1,300-year-old blood feud over who has the greater legitimacy to rule over the Islamic ummah [Nation of Islam]: Shi’ites or Sunnis. After the 632 CE death of Islam’s traditional founder, the companions and bloodline descendents of Muhammad disagreed—vehemently—over whom should be granted the allegiance of his followers, with all the power the position of Caliph entailed. Then, as now, there was never any question about invoking the consent of the governed, or acknowledging the status or natural worth of the individual, to contribute to the political functioning of the Islamic state. As described so starkly by the Greek-American political scientist P.J. Vatikiotis, and cited here by Andrew Bostom, the essentially authoritarian, autocratic ethos of Islam “may be lasting, even permanent,” and shackles its adherents to an endless “No Exit” cycle of coup, counter-coup, revolution and oppression. Shi’ite and Sunni are doomed to internecine combat over the centuries because both Islamic sects are bound to an ideology based on dominance, not good faith mutual concessions or participatory collaboration. The name of this power-obsessed ideology is Islam. As a belief system, it is deeply bound up with the compellingly spiritual dimensions of Islam and cannot be separated from them, but nevertheless, as ideology, prioritizes the political dimensions.

Read more at Gatestone Institute

Shias: The Arab Spring’s Latest Victims

by Raymond Ibrahim:

The U.S.-sponsored “Arab Spring” continues to expose itself as a Sunni supremacist takeover.  While the indicators are many—from the al-Qaeda Benghazi consulate attack to the ongoing persecution of Christian minorities—attacks on Shia Muslims are also on the rise.

Syria: Toddler reportedly chained to a fence and made to watch jihadis kill her Shia parents

In Syria, where foreign Sunni jihadis, supported and armed by the United States, are attacking all non-Muslims—Christians are prime and obvious targets, and reports of church attacks, abductions of Christians, and their slaughter are many—Shias, who are seen as “false Muslims,” are naturally also under attack. For example, Salafi Sheikh Yasir al-‘Ajlawni recently issued a fatwa saying that those Muslims fighting to topple secular president Bashar Assad and install Sharia law are free to “capture and have sex with” all non-Sunni women, specifically naming President Assad’s sect, the Alawites, as well as the Druze and other Shia branches.

Days ago, popular news outlet, Syrian Truth, posted a photo of a toddler living in the Deir ez-Zor Governate in eastern Syria, along the Iraq border, who was reportedly tied with chains to a fence from where she witnessed the killing of her Shia mother and father at the hands of the Sunni jihadis making the ranks of the “Free Syrian Army.”  Syrian Truth correctly describes them as takfiris, that is, Muslims who, like al-Qaeda, accuse—and slaughter—other Muslims, in this case, Shias, for not being “true” Muslims.

And now in Egypt, where Shias make roughly one percent of the nation, a Sunni mob reportedly numbering in the thousands—also described by Arabic reports as takfiris—attacked the home of the spiritual father of Egypt’s Shia, Sheikh Hassan Shehata, killing him and four of his followers, and wounding dozens of other Shias that had congregated at his home. The mob descended on his residence last Sunday, savagely beating him and his followers with sticks, before setting his house on fire.

Watch the graphic video (also embedded below) as the mob beats the men and drags Shehata’s bloodied body all over the street. According to the general manager of Hawamdia Hospital in Giza, where the Shia leader was taken after his beating, “when Sheikh Hassan Shehata arrived to the hospital, he appeared to be slaughtered from his neck, in addition to several injuries around his body … the rest of the bodies had several injuries as well as skull fractures.” Another report mentions “numerous puncture wounds and severe bruising.”

Eyewitnesses told Ahram newspaper that police stood by and did nothing to stop the attack—just as they invariably do when Egypt’s Christian Copts and their churches are attacked.

Egypt: Shia cleric Hassan Shehata, before and after

Much of these recent attacks on Shias come in response to Salafi clerics—Salafis are ultra “purest” Sunnis—whipping their followers into frenzies against the Shias, especially in the context of the Syrian war.   Countless clerics are calling on Sunni Muslims to go to Syria to join the battle against President Assad, not to mention Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood president himself, Muhammad Morsi, who recently condemned Assad, cutting all ties with Syria.

Thus the “Arab Spring” is proving to be an Islamic takeover by the largest and strongest Islamic faction—Sunni supremacists—who are cleansing the lands of all “non-believers,” from indigenous Christians like Egypt’s Copts to all Shia branches.  While apathetic Americans living a world away may think this has little to do with them, it is well to connect the dots and realize that all this is prelude to the resurrection of the caliphate—the chief goal of Sunni Islam, whether for the “moderate” Muslim Brotherhood or al-Qaeda.  And the caliphate exists for one ultimate purpose: to expand, until, in the words of Koran 8:39, “all religion is for Allah,” interpreted to mean, until Islamic Sharia law governs the entire world.

Uncle Sam and the Saudi Crescent

bush-abdullahBy Diana West:

“World Must Unite Against US-Saudi-Israeli Proxy War in Syria” is the headline over a piece at Infowars by Tony Cartalucci, a reporter whose work on Uncle Sam’s entanglement in jihad I’ve read with interest before. The piece makes a moral argument against the war on Assad that I find rather less transfixing than the ghastly spectacle of what he further describes as the US-UK-Saudi-Qatari alliance fighting this war. Call me ethno-centric, but I keep going back to the basic question: What is Uncle Sam doing running around with sharia allies remaking the Middle East into sharia-terror states?

Cartalucci connects some important dots — literally — by lining up data amassed in 2007 to indicate the Syrian centers from which Al Qaeda fighters entered Iraq with today’s “rebel” centers, where the CIA is providing weapons and other assistance. His caption beneath a graphic illustration sums up:

West Point’s Combating Terrorism Center’s 2007 report, “Al-Qa’ida’s Foreign Fighters in Iraq” indicated which areas in Syria Al Qaeda fighters filtering into Iraq came from. The overwhelming majority of them came from Dayr Al-Zawr in Syria’s southeast, Idlib in the north near the Turkish-Syrian border, and Dar’a in the south near the Jordanian-Syrian border. (Right) A map indicating the epicenters of violence in Syria indicate that the exact same hotbeds for Al Qaeda in 2007, now serve as the epicenters of so-called “pro-democracy fighters” and also happen to be areas the US CIA is admittedly distributing weapons and other aid in.

The morality of taking Assad down aside, what is Uncle Sam doing supporting jihad again? We watched this treacherous pattern take shape in Libya where, to my mind, the moral argument against the West’s war on Qaddafi is stronger given that the West betrayed Qaddafi. The West brought down an enemy-turned-ally by switching sides to provide crucial support to the jihad forces that would triumph. And while we’re on the subject of morality, it seems amiss to omit the colossal moral argument to be made against the world war waged by innumerable proxies to destroy Israel. Speaking of Israel, its headliner role in the Syria perfidy doesn’t quite materialize in Cartalucci’s piece, which may be due to the case I’ve picked up along the way that the Israelis would prefer, as a military matter, to see Assad remain in power rather than a Muslim-Brotherhood-Al-Qaeda-jihad revolution. But at this point of world craziness who knows?

Cartalucci’s main point of interest, however, is that the current US policy to arm al Qaeda and Muslim Brotherhood jihadists to overthrow Assad goes back to 2007. We must go back to the Bush administration to pick up the policy trail.

He writes:

While the West has attempted to reclaim Syria as part of its sphere of influence for decades, concrete plans for the latest proxy war were laid at least as early as 2007. It was admitted in 2007 that the US, Saudi Arabia, and Israel conspired together to fund, arm, and direct sectarian extremists including militants “sympathetic” to Al Qaeda, particularly the Muslim Brotherhood, against the governments of Iran and Syria. In Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Seymour Hersh’s 2007 New Yorker article,  “The Redirection: Is the Administration’s new policy benefiting our enemies in the war on terrorism?” the conspiracy was described as follows:

To undermine Iran, which is predominantly Shiite, the Bush Administration has decided, in effect, to reconfigure its priorities in the Middle East. In Lebanon, the Administration has coöperated with Saudi Arabia’s government, which is Sunni, in clandestine operations that are intended to weaken Hezbollah, the Shiite organization that is backed by Iran. The U.S. has also taken part in clandestine operations aimed at Iran and its ally Syria. A by-product of these activities has been the bolstering of Sunni extremist groups that espouse a militant vision of Islam and are hostile to America and sympathetic to Al Qaeda.

Hersh also cited US, Saudi, and Lebanese officials who indicated that, “in the past year, the Saudis, the Israelis, and the Bush Administration have developed a series of informal understandings about their new strategic direction,” and that, “the Saudi government, with Washington’s approval, would provide funds and logistical aid to weaken the government of President Bashir Assad, of Syria. The report would also state:

Some of the core tactics of the redirection are not public, however. The clandestine operations have been kept secret, in some cases, by leaving the execution or the funding to the Saudis, or by finding other ways to work around the normal congressional appropriations process, current and former officials close to the Administration said.

Mention of the Muslim Brotherhood already receiving aid even in 2007 was also made:

The Syrian Muslim Brotherhood, a branch of a radical Sunni movement founded in Egypt in 1928, engaged in more than a decade of violent opposition to the regime of Hafez Assad, Bashir’s father. In 1982, the Brotherhood took control of the city of Hama; Assad bombarded the city for a week, killing between six thousand and twenty thousand people. Membership in the Brotherhood is punishable by death in Syria. The Brotherhood is also an avowed enemy of the U.S. and of Israel. Nevertheless, Jumblatt said, “We told Cheney that the basic link between Iran and Lebanon is Syria—and to weaken Iran you need to open the door to effective Syrian opposition.”

There is evidence that the Administration’s redirection strategy has already benefitted the Brotherhood. The Syrian National Salvation Front is a coalition of opposition groups whose principal members are a faction led by Abdul Halim Khaddam, a former Syrian Vice-President who defected in 2005, and the Brotherhood. A former high-ranking C.I.A. officer told me, “The Americans have provided both political and financial support. The Saudis are taking the lead with financial support, but there is American involvement.” He said that Khaddam, who now lives in Paris, was getting money from Saudi Arabia, with the knowledge of the White House. (In 2005, a delegation of the Front’s members met with officials from the National Security Council, according to press reports.) A former White House official told me that the Saudis had provided members of the Front with travel documents.

Cartalucci sums up:

The Wall Street Journal in 2007 would also implicate the Muslim Brotherhood and more specifically, the so-called “National Salvation Front,” in its article, “To Check Syria, U.S. Explores Bond With Muslim Brothers.”

It is clear that the US, Saudi Arabia, and Israel planned to use sectarian extremists against the nation of Syria starting at least as early as 2007, and it is clear that now these sectarian extremists are carrying out the destruction of Syria with a massive torrent of weapons and cash provided by the US and its regional allies, just as was described by Hersh’s report.

Recalling long ago Bush administration burblings about a “Sunni crescent” in the Middle East, I retrieved the following article from the London Telegraph dated December 14, 2006. This, more or less, may mark the debut, or, at least, a debut of the pro-Sunni policy that continues to undergird Middle East policy — disastrous for the US, but, whaddya know, a boon for Saudi Arabia. (Links from the original.)

The Telegraph reported:

Saudi Arabia would respond to an American withdrawal from Iraq by funding and arming Sunni insurgents to prevent them being massacred by Shia militias, the kingdom has told the White House.

The blunt warning, which diplomatic sources said was delivered by King Abdullah to Vice President Dick Cheney in Riyadh just over a fortnight ago, raises the spectre of an Iraqi civil war triggering a conflict between Sunni and Shia states across the Middle East.

Funny how King Abdullah was always delivering blunt warnings to the Bush administration — and funny how they were always taken to heart.

Read more at Diana West’s blog

Has Obama Gone Soft on Hamas?

obama-hamas-1024x769Front Page- By :

Before Obama’s trip to Israel, he met with two organizations that support Hamas. And one of those organizations provided him with pro-Hamas proposals.

During his trip, his language suggested that his administration was softening its line on Hamas, calling on it not to engage in violence, rather than condemning it.

Elder points out the difference between the way that Obama talked about Hamas and Hezbollah. When referring to Hamas, Obama said;

“That’s why we have made it clear, time and again, that Israel cannot accept rocket attacks from Gaza, and have stood up for Israel’s right to defend itself. And that’s why Israel has a right to expect Hamas to renounce violence and recognize Israel’s right to exist.”

Obama Inc. actually pressured Israel into calling off a ground assault, but let’s skip over the fact check. While Obama does say that Israel has the right to defend itself, he does not condemn Hamas.

Instead he makes a ‘peace process’ like statement that Israel has the right to expect Hamas to renounce violence. (This is not quite the same thing as Obama saying that he demands that Hamas do this.) The statement is meaningless except as a prelude to negotiations. Rather than rejecting Hamas’ existence, Obama is proposing terms on which Israel should negotiate with Hamas.

On the other hand when it comes to Hezbollah, Obama offered a strong condemnation;

I think about five Israelis who boarded a bus in Bulgaria, who were blown up because of where they came from; who were robbed of the ability to live, and love, and raise families. That’s why every country that values justice should call Hezbollah what it truly is – a terrorist organization. Because the world cannot tolerate an organization that murders innocent civilians, stockpiles rockets to shoot at cities, and supports the massacre of men, women and children in Syria.

Apparently the world can tolerate Hamas… but not Hezbollah.

What’s the difference? Focus on the last 10 words. Hamas is part of the Sunni coalition and linked to the Muslim Brotherhood. It’s on the “right side” of the Syrian Civil War. Hezbollah is part of the Shiite coalition. It’s on the “wrong side” of the Syrian Civil War.

And this isn’t a one off. Here is how Obama discussed Hamas in his Ramallah press conference with Abbas.

I would point out that all this stands in stark contrast to the misery and repression that so many Palestinians continue to confront in Gaza — because Hamas refuses to renounce violence; because Hamas cares more about enforcing its own rigid dogmas than allowing Palestinians to live freely; and because too often it focuses on tearing Israel down rather than building Palestine up.  We saw the continuing threat from Gaza again overnight, with the rockets that targeted Sderot.  We condemn this violation of the important cease-fire that protects both Israelis and Palestinians — a violation that Hamas has a responsibility to prevent.

This is being described as a condemnation, but really it’s Obama treating Hamas like a legitimate government that he expects to behave according to American standards.

It’s long way from treating Hamas like a terrorist group. This actually represents the growing legitimization of Hamas.

 

Fall of Assad May Herald Dangerous Iran-Brotherhood Pact

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad talks to Egypt's President Mohamed Mursi (R) after his speech during the 16th summit of the Non-Aligned Movement in Tehran, August 30, 2012. (Photo: Reuters)

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad talks to Egypt’s President Mohamed Mursi (R) after his speech during the 16th summit of the Non-Aligned Movement in Tehran, August 30, 2012. (Photo: Reuters)

By Ryan Mauro

A shift is taking place in the Middle East that may culminate in a powerful Iranian-Muslim Brotherhood alliance. The two are killing each other in Syria right now, but an emerging split in the Sunni bloc offers an opportunity for them to make amends once the fight is over.

The Sunni bloc has devolved into two factions, separated by their relationship with the Muslim Brotherhood. Egypt is now governed by the Brotherhood and has passed a Constitution that institutes Sharia (Islamic) Law. Qatar lavishly blesses the Brotherhood, though it is led by a monarchy that the U.S. considers an important ally.

Sultan Sooud Al-Qassemi writes, “Qatar is today the Muslim Brotherhood’s banker and personal financier, bankrolling its budget and investing heavily in the group’s project.” It is home to Al-Jazeera, the anti-American “news” network where Brotherhood spiritual leader Yousef al-Qaradawi has his own weekly show. Qatar has come to the economic rescue of Brotherhood-run Egypt and supported the Libyan Islamists’ bid for power. The Qatari Royal Family is supporting the Brotherhood but, like the Saudis, is bound to regret it one day.

The other faction is led by pro-U.S. Sunni governments that oppose both Iran and the Muslim Brotherhood. The loudest member of this faction is the United Arab Emirates, which is arresting suspected Brotherhood operatives and publicly called for an anti-Iran/Brotherhood alliance in October. The police chief of Dubai is especially forceful in his language, warning that the Brotherhood has a plan to try to wrest control from the Gulf monarchies by 2016.

The Jordanian government is in the anti-Brotherhood bloc as well. King Abdullah II is trying to outmaneuver the Jordanian Brotherhood by embracing its more secular-oriented opponents. Jordan just held elections and there was high turnout even though the Brotherhood endorsed a boycott. The Brotherhood is trying to capitalize on Jordan’s economic troubles, prompting the United Arab Emirates to urge the Gulf Cooperation Council to provide financial aid. Interestingly, the Emirates haven’t delivered on its pledge of $3 billion in aid for Egypt.

The Saudi Royal Family is just as concerned about the Brotherhood but is less vocal about it. The Saudi government still supports the Islamist ideology, but fears its manifestation in the form of the Muslim Brotherhood and Al-Qaeda. In February 2011, the Saudi government ordered libraries to get rid of books by Brotherhood founder Hassan al-Banna and the Brotherhood cleric that inspired Al-Qaeda named Sayyid Qutb.

The split within the Sunni bloc is reflected in Syria. The Sunni bloc agrees with supporting the rebels in general, but the Saudis and Qataris are supporting rival elements within the Syrian opposition. Qatar is backing the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood, while a rebel military official says the Saudis “don’t want any ties to anything called Muslim Brothers.”

Read more at Radical Islam

Behind the Lines: A Gulf apart

By JONATHAN SPYER

Gulf monarchies are sharply divided on how to respond to the Muslim Brotherhood threat. While Saudi Arabia, UAE see the Brotherhood as a danger to stability, longevity of the monarchies, Qatar embraces it as an ally.

Egypt's Morsi meets with Qatari PM al-Thani Photo REUTERS

Saudi and United Arab Emirates security forces recently apprehended a 10-man  cell linked to the Muslim Brotherhood that was active in the UAE. The cell,  according to Gulf media reports, was engaged in raising money for the Muslim  Brotherhood in Egypt, propagandizing among Egyptians residing in the UAE and  gathering information on the UAE’s defense facilities. It was also reported as  being in “constant communication” with its parent movement in Cairo.

The  arrest of this group has highlighted growing fears in some conservative Gulf  states that the Muslim Brotherhood is now turning its attention to the Gulf  monarchies.

But the monarchies are sharply divided in their response to  the rise of the Brotherhood.

The 2011 to 2012 period brought a  long-awaited windfall of political power for the Muslim Brothers. Franchises of  the movement are now in government power in Tunisia and Egypt. The Brotherhood  is playing a major role in the Western- supported political and military  leaderships of the rebellion in Syria.

The Palestinian branch of the  movement – Hamas – would almost certainly have consumed its Fatah rivals by now  were the latter not protected by Israel and supported by the  West.

Indeed, the real story of the Arab upheavals of the last two years  can be summed up as the replacement of secular nationalist dictatorships by  Sunni Islamist movements, among which Muslim Brotherhood franchises form the  most important element.

The secular nationalist space in the Arab world  has now largely been replaced by an area of Sunni Islamist  domination.

Only one secular nationalist regime – Algeria – remains in  secure existence. The oil-rich monarchies form the next natural  target.

In the Gulf, however, the situation is not simple. Sunni  Islamists and Gulf monarchs are not necessarily natural enemies.

The Gulf  monarchs adhere to and rule in the name of conservative, Sunni forms of  Islam.

The Muslim Brothers may be revolutionaries, but they are also  conservatives, seeking to revive what they present as an authentic form of  Islamic government. In the past, Brotherhood exiles from Egypt and the Fertile  Crescent played a vital role in developing the education systems and manning the  bureaucracies of Gulf states.

This has led to two widely variant Gulf  approaches to the movement.

The first, exemplified by Saudi Arabia and  the UAE, sees the Brotherhood as the most dangerous challenge to the stability  and longevity of the monarchies. The UAE and Saudi Arabia fear the Brotherhood  precisely because its beliefs render it potentially appealing to dissatisfied  elements among the populations of these states.

Last July, Dubai police  chief Dhahi Kalfan (a name familiar to Israelis because of his central role in  the events following the killing of Hamas official Mahmoud Mabhuh in the  emirate), accused the Brotherhood of plotting the overthrow of the Gulf  monarchies.

The latest arrests follow the apprehending of 60 suspected  members of the Brotherhood- linked al-Islah (“Reform and Social Guidance”) movement over the summer in the UAE.

UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah  bin Zayed al-Nahayan said after the arrests that “The Muslim Brotherhood does  not believe in the sovereignty of the state.”

Saudi Arabian Interior  Minister Prince Ahmed bin Abdulaziz, meanwhile, has called the Brotherhood “the  source of all the problems in the Islamic world.” The Saudis, seeking a  counterweight to the Brotherhood in both Egypt and Syria, have thrown their  weight (and financial support) behind ultra-conservative Salafi Islamist  forces.

By contrast, the second approach, of which Qatar is the main  exponent, sees the Muslim Brotherhood as a suitable ally, client and instrument.  Qatar has adopted this strategy with energy and alacrity, as may be observed  from its growing ties with the Brotherhood government in Egypt, support for the  Brotherhood in Libya and Yemen and close links with the Sunni insurgency in  Syria.

Qatar has long provided sanctuary for Muslim Brotherhood members.  In return, the movement has since 1999 refrained from activity within the  emirate. Famously, Doha offered a base of activities for the  Brotherhood-associated Sheikh Yusuf al- Qaradawi, whose enormously influential  broadcasts were put out by the emirate’s satellite channel, Al  Jazeera.

Key current and former staffers at the highly influential Al  Jazeera (which, of course, never criticizes Qatar) are Muslim Brotherhood  members. Among these are Waddah Khanfar, former general manager of Al  Jazeera.

Read more at The Jerusalem Post

Who’s Who in Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood

egyptMuslimBrotherhoodMontage-198x133

By Eric Trager, Katie Kiraly, Cooper Klose, and Eliot Calhoun

Given its growing control over key government institutions and its unmatched mobilizing capabilities, the Muslim Brotherhood will likely remain Egypt’s most consequential political actor for many years to come. But who are the men who make up this uniquely cohesive and secretive “society,” and what impact will they have on the country’s domestic and foreign policy?

 

Introduction

Since Hosni Mubarak’s February 2011 ouster, the Muslim Brotherhood has emerged as Egypt’s most potent political force. It won a decisive plurality in the winter 2011–2012 People’s Assembly elections and a majority in the January 2012 Shura Council elections, thus gaining control over both houses of parliament and the committee that is writing the next constitution. And in June, the group successfully campaigned to elect Brotherhood leader Muhammad Morsi as Egypt’s first civilian president.

Since taking office, Morsi has moved quickly to consolidate the organization’s power, appointing fellow Muslim Brothers to head key ministries and cracking down on media criticism of the group. His boldest moves came on August 12, when he sacked the generals who posed the greatest threat to his authority, promoted new generals who now answer to him, and issued a constitutional declaration that gave him full executive, legislative, and constitution-writing powers. Although Morsi and the Brotherhood may yet face challenges from non-Islamists, Salafists, former regime elements, and, perhaps, the judiciary, the group’s unmatched mobilizing capabilities and control over key government institutions will likely make it Egypt’s most consequential political actor for many years to come.

For this reason, it is worth taking a closer look at the individuals who make up the Brotherhood’s organizational and political leadership. After all, the group views itself not as a political party directed by a single chairman, but as a cohesive “society” that operates on the basis of internal consultation, or shura. Accordingly, its strategic and policy decisions will be guided not only by Morsi and Supreme Guide Muhammad Badie, but also by a team of longtime Brotherhood officials who will coordinate efforts across the various political bodies the group now dominates.
Who are these individuals? While the profiles in this compendium demonstrate that Brotherhood leaders come from many different educational and professional backgrounds, their stories illustrate three important points about the organization.

First, the Brotherhood’s leadership is composed almost exclusively of longtime members. Most were recruited during high school or college and, in many cases, served in top administrative positions within the Brotherhood’s nationwide structure before being promoted to the Guidance Office (the organization’s top executive authority) or nominated for political office. To some extent, this is typical of any political organization: veteran members tend to lead. But for the Brotherhood, having longtime members in top posts ensures that its leaders have all been vetted over the course of decades for their willingness to comply with the internal shura committee’s decisions. This does not mean that internal divisions are impossible, but the tight, time-tested circle in which decisions are made makes this highly unlikely. As a result, the Brotherhood maintains a unity of purpose that other Egyptian political groups have yet to achieve.

Second, in addition to their positions within the group, most Brotherhood leaders were active in important societal organizations under the Mubarak regime, serving on the boards of professional syndicates, heading labor unions, running religious charities, and/or participating in key social clubs. These positions enabled them to build their stature at a time when avenues for more direct political participation were often blocked. Such activity also helped the group expand its outreach networks, through which it gained popular support by providing social services and increasing its recruitment efforts.

Third, almost all of the Brotherhood’s top leaders were directly persecuted under the Mubarak regime, and many served time as political prisoners. To some extent, this enhances their unity, particularly among those who were imprisoned together. More important, it makes them unlikely to tolerate competing centers of power, since the Brotherhood’s ouster could invite a new era of repression against the organization.

Individual profiles suggest other important points about the Brotherhood as well. In particular, the group’s recruitment networks clearly have international reach, since three of its top leaders (including Morsi) came aboard while living in the United States. The Brotherhood’s internal promotion structure is also somewhat nepotistic, given that its top leaders frequently are related to each other through marriage or are professional colleagues. Finally, despite the fact that Brotherhood officials have never run a government ministry or wielded meaningful political power until recently, the group is confident that it has the expertise to lead Egypt because its members come from many different professional backgrounds.

This first installment of Brotherhood profiles examines top figures from the Guidance Office, the Freedom and Justice Party (the group’s political arm), the parliamentary leadership, and members of Morsi’s presidential office. These profiles will be updated as new information surfaces, and new ones will be added over time.

(Note: To see quotation sources and photographs for each individual profiled, download the PDF version of the compendium.)

Index:

  • Saber Abouel Fotouh
  • Salah Abdel Maqsoud
  • Saber Abdul Sadeq
  • Sabri Amer
  • Sheikh Sayyed Askar
  • Khaled al-Azhari
  • Muhammad Badie
  • Muhammad al-Beltagy
  • Amr Darrag
  • Essam al-Erian
  • Mahmoud Ezzat
  • Ahmed Fahmi
  • Ali Fath al-Bab
  • Mahmoud Ghozlan
  • Essam al-Haddad
  • Mahmoud Hussein
  • Saad al-Husseini
  • Hussein Ibrahim
  • Farid Ismail
  • Saad al-Katatni
  • Mahmoud el-Khodary
  • Hassan Malek
  • Muhammad Morsi
  • Mustafa Mosaad
  • Gen. Abbas Mukhaymer
  • Al-Sayyed Negidah
  • Subhi Saleh
  • Akram al-Shaer
  • Khairat al-Shater
  • Ahmed Suleiman
  • Muhammad Tousoun
  • Tareq Wafiq
  • Osama Yassin

Top Leaders

Muhammad Morsi

محمد مرسي

  • Born: August 1951
  • Position: President of Egypt; formerly member of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Guidance Office, parliamentarian (2000–2005), and chairman of the Freedom and Justice Party
  • Education: Doctorate in engineering from University of Southern California (1982), master’s degree in engineering from Cairo University (1978), bachelor’s degree in engineering from Cairo University (1975)
  • Occupation: Engineer

Morsi was first recruited to the Muslim Brotherhood in the United States while studying for his PhD in engineering at the University of Southern California. His children were born in California and are U.S. citizens. After receiving his doctorate in 1982, he taught as an assistant professor at California State University–Northridge until 1985.

He then returned to Egypt to teach at Zagazig University, where his colleagues included current Brotherhood deputy supreme guides Mahmoud Ezzat and Mahmoud Ghozlan. Some sources report that Morsi’s rise in the MB began in 2000, when he was elected as a member of the People’s Assembly and served as the Brotherhood’s parliamentary bloc leader from 2000 to 2005. After losing his parliamentary race in 2005 due to Mubarak regime forgery, he became leader of the Brotherhood’s political division. From 2007 onward, he was also the key point of contact between the MB and the regime’s repressive State Security apparatus (and, according to MB political leader Saad al-Husseini, between the Brotherhood and Hamas).

Morsi has been arrested at least twice: he was detained for seven months in 2006 after protesting alongside several judges who had been targeted by the regime, and again during the January 2011 uprising, along with several other Brotherhood leaders. Following the uprising, the MB leadership appointed him chairman of the newly formed Freedom and Justice Party. In April 2012, he was chosen as the group’s backup presidential candidate in the event that its initial candidate, Khairat al-Shater, was barred from running. When Shater was indeed excluded due to a previous conviction, Morsi became the MB’s presidential nominee. In the first round of Egypt’s presidential election, Morsi won 24.78 percent of the vote, securing his position in a runoff against Ahmed Shafiq in mid-June. On June 24, Morsi was declared president, having won 51.73 percent of the vote.

Read the rest at The Washington Institute

Morsi’s Totalitarian Mandate Is Sharia

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By Andrew G. Bostom

Theodore Roosevelt penned these remarkably prescient words in a 1911 letter to his longtime correspondent and friend, Sir George Otto Trevelyan, reflecting upon Roosevelt’s post-presidency visit to Cairo, Egypt, the previous year.

 

The real strength of the Nationalist movement in Egypt … lay not with these Levantines of the café but with the mass of practically unchanged bigoted Moslems to whom the movement meant driving out the foreigner, plundering and slaying the local Christian, and a return to all the violence and corruption which festered under the old-style Moslem rule, whether Asiatic or African.

 

Roosevelt’s concerns about the recrudescence of “old-style Moslem rule” — that is, a totalitarian sharia (Islamic law) not reshaped or constrained by Western law, may now be fully realized a century later.

 

Less than two years after the forced abdication of Egyptian President Mubarak, we appear to be witnessing the ultimate triumph of the electoral ascendancy of vox populi, mainstream Egyptian Islamic parties — and most prominently, the Muslim Brotherhood.  Muhammad Morsi, the Brotherhood’s freely elected presidential candidate, has successfully outmaneuvered a minority coalition of secular-leaning Muslims, and Christians, to orchestrate the passage of a more robustly sharia-complaint Egyptian constitution.

 

Given President Obama’s repeated admonitions (as reported here and here) that Mubarak relinquish power, immediately, during early February 2011, this prior Tuesday, May 19, 2009 confidential assessment of Mubarak by then-U.S. Ambassador to Egypt Margaret Scobey raises profound questions about U.S. actions which facilitated his removal, and the subsequent triumph of Egypt’s sharia supremacists.

 

Mubarak is a classic Egyptian secularist who hates religious extremism and interference in politics. The Muslim Brothers represent the worst [emphasis added], as they challenge not only Mubarak’s power, but his view of Egyptian interests. As with regional issues, Mubarak, seeks to avoid conflict and spare his people from the violence he predicts would emerge from unleashed personal and civil liberties. In Mubarak’s mind, it is far better to let a few individuals suffer than risk chaos for society as a whole. He has been supportive of improvements in human rights in areas that do not affect public security or stability. Mrs. Mubarak has been given a great deal of room to maneuver to advance women’s and children’s rights and to confront some traditional practices that have been championed by the Islamists, such as FGM [i.e., female genital mutilation, sanctioned by not merely “Islamists,” but the predominant Shafiite school of Islamic law in Egypt, leading to rates of this misogynistc barbarity among Egyptian women of 95%], child labor, and restrictive personal status laws.

 

The Hard-Won Local Triumph, and Global Aspirations of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood (Ikhwan)

 

February 18, 2011 marked the triumphal return to Cairo of Muslim Brotherhood (Ikhwan) “Spiritual Guide” Yusuf al-Qaradawi.  Qaradawi’s own words, accompanied by images and actions during this appearance, reaffirmed his obscurantist, albeit mainstream Islamic Weltanschauung of sharia-based, aggressive jihadism, and its corollary — virulent Jew- and other infidel-hatred, which should have shattered the delusive view that the turmoil leading to President Mubarak’s resignation augured the emergence of a modern, democratic Egyptian society devoted to Western conceptions of individual liberty and equality before the law.

 

Qaradawi’s Tahrir Square appearance foreshadowed events that have transpired, predictably, from the subsequent nearly two years ’til now, punctuated by the open ascendancy of the Muslim Brotherhood’s ideology and party affiliates within Egypt and across North Africa and the entire Middle East.  Indeed, Qaradawi’s February 18, 2011 “khutbah,” or sermon, to the adoring Muslim throngs that day reflected the longstanding aspirations of “martyred” Brotherhood founder Hasan al-Banna and was symbolic of an Islamic revival begun earlier by the so-called “Al-Manar modernists” — Jamal Al-Din Afghani, Muhammad Abduh, and Muhammad Rashid Rida — more than a century before Qaradawi took the stage at Tahrir Square.

 

Charles Wendell introduced his elegant 1978 translation of five Al-Banna treatises with a particularly astute summary assessment of the Muslim Brotherhood founder’s Weltanschauung.  Wendell stressed Al-Banna’s seamless connection not only to the Al-Manar modernists, but to traditional Islam itself.  Moreover, Wendell’s concluding observations remain critical to understanding the deep Islamic religious animus towards Israel and the West — so much in evidence today — that Al-Banna and his movement both inspired and reflected.

 

Hasan al-Banna’s fundamental conviction that Islam does not accept, or even tolerate, a separation of “church” and state, or of either from society, is as thoroughly Islamic as it can be. Any attempt to translate his movement into terms reducible to social, political, or religious factors exclusively simply misses the boat. The “totality” created by the Prophet Muhammad in the Medinese state, the first Islamic state, was Hasan’s unwavering ideal, and the ideal of all Muslim thinkers before him, including the idle dreamers in the mosque. His ideology then, before it was Egyptian or Arab or whatever, was Islamic to the core. Since it embraced all aspects of human life and thought, it was at least as much religious as anything else. [Emphasis added.] Practically all of his arguments are shored up by frequent quotations from the Qur’an and the Traditions, quite in the style of his medieval forbears. If one considers the public to whom his writings were  addressed, it becomes instantly apparent that such arguments must still be the most compelling for the vast bulk of the Muslim populations of today. The nagging feeling that Islam must, and very quickly at that, catch up with the West, had even by his time filtered down from above to the masses after having been the watchword of the modernizing intellectual for almost a century. There was also the notion that all these Western sciences and techniques were originally adopted from Islamic culture, and were therefore merely “coming home” — a piece of self-conscious back-patting that was already a cliché of most Muslim political writing[.] … To this [Islamic] revivalist mentality, nothing could be more hateful than further diminution of the lands traditionally dominated by Islam. I believe that much of the fury and unconcealed hatred of the Zionist state which is expressed by the majority of Arabs will become more comprehensible in light of what the Islamic domain as a concept really means to the Muslims, seen through the lens of Hasan’s exposition[.] … [T]he Muslim Brotherhood … had, on the basis of indisputable historical facts and clear religious traditions, a ready-made program for a world crusade that required only actors and a leader. Islam had from the beginning been a proselytizing faith. The error of the Islamic peoples, as Al-Afghani had pointed out forty years before, had been to cease their inexorable forward march, to abnegate their God-ordained destiny[.]

 

Nadav Safran’s 1961 study of modern Egyptian political evolution through 1952 confirmed that already by the late 1930s, Egypt’s inchoate experimentation with a Western cultural orientation and constitutional polity had failed miserably, and the authentic Islamic ideals of the Muslim Brotherhood’s  al-Banna were prevailing.  He provided this summary of the predominant attitudes by then, which:

 

… reawakened hostility against Britain for violating Egypt’s national rights, and deep resentment for its support of the foundation of Israel. … The Muslim orientation had become predominant, and the opposition to the Western culture on the ideological level had become nearly total, even though in practice imitation of the surface aspects of that culture remained[.]

 

The Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood’s popular appeal and resultant political ascendancy were clearly evident at the close of the 1940s. As noted by Richard P. Mitchell, pre-eminent historian of the movement’s late 1920s advent and first quarter century of activities:

 

… by 1948-49, this movement had reached such massive political proportions  as to undermine the claim of the rulers to speak for the Egyptian people. The government’s decision to crush the movement in 1949 was presumably taken because of the organization’s potential threat to the existing political order.

 

Olivier Carré’s 1983 analysis of the profound regional impact of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood since the 1950s described what he termed, aptly, “a striking phenomenon,” which pervaded Egypt, and the Arab Muslim Near East:

 

[W]hen one discusses Islam, as one often does in terms of a social and polit­ical ideal, whether out of religious conviction or because it is in the news, a common language, a sort of conceptual koine [a lingua franca, or widely used language] is found in all Eastern Arab countries — in Muslim schoolbooks, in the speech or behavior of people, whether friends or casual acquaintances, or in press reports on various current events. This common language is derived, ultimately, from the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood of the Nasserist period and also from what I shall call the “new Muslim Brothers” of the 1970s and 1980s

 

Carré concluded with this foreboding observation, borne out dramatically, at present, by the unfolding events of the so-called Arab Spring, most notably in Egypt:

 

[W]e shall eventually come to speak of a Saudi-inspired and directed neo-Ottomanist utopia, socially based on the middle classes of the Arab East, which is not particularly “new” except by virtue of an acculturation drive. Its militant basis will be Islamic politico-religious groupings of which the new Muslim Brothers is the most significant group.

 

Resilient tenacity and wide, ongoing appeal to Egypt’s Muslim masses enabled the Brotherhood to survive brutal crackdowns under Egyptian autocrats Nasser, Sadat, and Mubarak.  Spring Fever, Andrew McCarthy’s invaluable recent primer, chronicles how the Brotherhood’s current savvy, battle-hardened leadership rapidly capitalized on the Arab Spring “democracy” fervor to finally assume governmental power with the imprimatur of parliamentary and then presidential electoral victories.

Read more at American Thinker

The World View of Hasan al-Banna and the Muslim Brotherhood

20110630_GMBDRMediumby Joseph S. Spoerl

Founded in Egypt in 1928, the Muslim Brotherhood has emerged as a force to be reckoned with, not only in Egypt and the Gaza Strip, where it has won elections and assumed power, but also in Europe and North America, where it has been very successful at forming national Islamic organizations claiming to represent Muslims in non-Muslim countries.1 It is more important than ever to understand this group and its ideology. A natural starting point in this effort is to examine the writings of the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood, the Egyptian Sunni Muslim Hasan al-Banna (1906-1949).2 Al-Banna’s worldview may be summarized in four main propositions: First, Islam is a perfect and complete way of life; second, Islam must be the basis of all legislation; third, Western societies are decadent and corrupt; and fourth, God has commanded Muslims to conquer and rule the earth. Each of these propositions is deeply rooted in the worldview of classical Sunni Islam.

  1. Islam is a perfect and complete way of life.

Al-Banna stresses that “Islam is a perfect system of social organization, which encompasses all the affairs of life.”3 Speaking on behalf of the Muslim Brotherhood, he asserts, “We believe that Islam is an all-embracing concept which regulates every aspect of life.”4 Because Islam is all-encompassing, it is impossible for Muslims to separate politics and religion. Al-Banna advises his fellow Muslim Brothers: “If someone should ask you: To what end is your appeal made? Say: we are calling you to Islam…: government is part of it…. If someone should say to you: This is politics!, say: This is Islam, and we do not recognize such divisions.”5

  1. Islam must be the basis of all legislation.

Because Islam is a complete way of life, encompassing law and politics, all constitutional and positive law must be based on it:

Every nation has a body of law to which its sons have recourse in their legal affairs. This body of law must be derived from the prescriptions of the Islamic Sacred Law, drawn from the Noble Qur’an, and in accordance with the basic sources of Islamic jurisprudence. For the Islamic Sacred Law and the decisions of the Islamic jurists are all-sufficient, supply every need, and cover every contingency, and they produce the most excellent results and the most blessed fruits. If the punishments prescribed by God[note omitted] were carried out, they would be a deterrent dismaying even the hardened criminal…6

It is striking that al-Banna mentions “the punishments prescribed by God” as an example of positive laws that must be derived from Islamic law. These are the so-called hadd punishments (plural hudud), specific punishments like stoning, crucifixion, amputations, or lashes for specific crimes like illicit intercourse, drinking of alcohol, theft, or highway robbery. Under Islamic law, these punishments have a special status because they are directly prescribed by God, either in the Koran or in the teachings of Muhammad.7

As the above quotation makes clear, al-Banna is very scrupulous in adhering to the traditional prescriptions of classical Islamic law. In 1936, al-Banna wrote a letter to King Faruq of Egypt, as well as to the other rulers of Islamic countries, in which he laid out in some detail his program for Islamic government.8 In this letter al-Banna called for

  • “a reform of the law, so that it will conform to Islamic legislation in every branch;”
  • “The diffusion of the Islamic spirit throughout all departments of government, so that all its employees will feel responsible for adhering to Islamic teachings;”
  • “The surveillance of the personal conduct of all [government] employees, and an end to the dichotomy between the private and professional spheres;”
  • Action by Islamic countries to pave the way for the restoration of the Caliphate;9
  • “the imposition of severe penalties for moral offenses” and the prohibition of prostitution, gambling, drinking of alcohol, dancing; and the criminalization of “fornication, whatever the circumstances, as a detestable crime whose perpetrator must be flogged;”
  • “Treatment of the problem of women…in accordance with Islamic teaching” and “segregation of male and female students; “private meetings between men and women,” except for family members, are “to be counted as a crime…”10
  • “The surveillance of theatres and cinemas, and a rigorous selection of plays and films;”
  • “The regulation of business hours for cafes; surveillance of the activities of their regular clients; instructing these as to what is in their best interests…;”
  • “The expurgation of songs, and a rigorous selection and censorship of them;”
  • “The confiscation of provocative stories and books that implant the seeds of skepticism in an insidious manner, and newspapers which strive to disseminate immorality…;”
  • “[P]unishment of all who are proved to have infringed any Islamic doctrine or attacked it, such as breaking the fast of Ramadan, willful neglect of prayers, insulting the faith, or any such act.”
  • “The annexation of the elementary village schools to the mosques…;”
  • “Active instigation to memorize the Qur’an in all the free elementary schools;”
  • “The prohibition of usury, and the organization of banks with this end in view.”

Al-Banna’s program is perhaps more readily understood in the context of a central provision of classical Islamic law, the duty to command the right and forbid the wrong.11 Firmly rooted in the Koran (e.g. 3:104), classical sharia prescribes this as a communal obligation12 of the Islamic umma, and indeed as “the most important fundamental of the religion,” such that “if it were folded up and put away, religion itself would vanish, dissolution appear, and whole lands come to ruin.”13 Gudrun Krämer writes that this Koranic injunction to command the right and prohibit the wrong “was to play a central role in al-Banna’s career as an Islamic activist.”14 The duty to command the right and forbid the wrong amounts to a communal duty of the whole Muslim umma to police the behavior of all is members, intervening verbally and even physically when seeing violations of Islamic law such as drinking wine, eating during Ramadan, playing illicit music, and so forth.15

  1. Western societies are decadent and corrupt.

Al-Banna is acutely aware that his program for Islamic government is radically at odds with Western values, like personal liberty and secular government. In his writings one finds a scathing critique of Western culture in general. He lists what he takes to be the defining traits of Western society, all of which are negative.16 European life and culture “rest upon the principle of the elimination of religion from all aspects of social life, especially as regards the state, the law-court, and the school.” European society is inherently materialistic, retaining its Christianity “only as a historical heirloom.” It is marked by “Apostasy, doubt in God, denial of the soul, obliviousness to reward or punishment in the world to come, and fixation within the limits of the material, tangible existence…”

Other defining marks of European civilization are “licentiousness, unseemly dedication to pleasures, versatility in self-indulgence, unconditioned freedom for the lower instincts, gratification of the lusts of the belly and the genitals, the equipment of women with every technique of seduction and incitement…” European culture is marked by “individual selfishness,… and class selfishness…, and national selfishness, for every nation is bigoted on behalf of its members, disparages all others, and tries to engulf those which are weaker.” Its addiction to usury is a natural expression of its selfishness and materialism.

Al-Banna sums up: “These purely materialistic traits have produced within European society corruption of the spirit, the weakening of morality,”  “impotence to guarantee the security of human society” and “failure to grant men happiness.”

What is worse, the entire Muslim world is being corrupted by Western decadence: Muslim countries are being flooded with Western capital, banks, and companies; Westerners have invaded Muslim lands with “their half-naked women, their liquors, their theatres, their dance halls, their amusements, their stories, their newspapers, their novels.” Westerners have even “founded schools and scientific and cultural institutes in the very heart of the Islamic domain, which cast doubt and heresy into the souls of its sons.”17 This cultural infection of the Islamic world by Western decadence is even more dangerous than the political and military imperialism of the West.18 Consequently, the Muslim Brotherhood has two fundamental goals: “(1) That the Islamic fatherland be freed from all foreign domination,… [and] (2) That a free Islamic state may arise in this free fatherland, acting according to the precepts of Islam…”19

  1. God has commanded Muslims to conquer and rule the earth.

Since divinely revealed law is superior to man-made law; and since Islam is a complete and perfect way of life, encompassing the political sphere; and since materialistic European civilization cannot but cause unhappiness, it follows that Islam must rule the world:

[T]he Noble Qur’an appoints the Muslims as guardians over humanity in its minority, and grants them the right of suzerainty and dominion over the world in order to carry out this sublime commission. Hence it is our concern, not that of the West, and it pertains to Islamic civilization, not to materialistic civilization.20

[I]t is our duty to establish sovereignty over the world and to guide all of humanity to the sound precepts of Islam and to its teachings, without which mankind cannot attain happiness.21

The founding of the Muslim Brotherhood in 1928 is often explained as a reaction against Western imperialism. This is certainly true. However, one searches in vain in al-Banna’s writings for any principled critique of imperialism per se. What al-Banna criticizes is non-Muslim, especially Western, imperialism. For Islamic imperialism al-Banna has only the most effusive praise.22 Imperialism to impose Islamic rule on non-Muslims is altogether to the good. Al-Banna is fully aware that Islam was born not only as a religion but also as an imperialistic ideology mandating the conquest of non-Muslims. The first Islamic conquerors, he writes, “produced the maximal justice and mercy reported historically of any of the nations.”23

Al-Banna is also fully aware that classical Islamic law imposes offensive war to expand the borders of the Islamic state as a communal obligation (fard al-kifaya) on the entire Muslim community.24 Indeed, al-Banna wrote an entire essay “On Jihad25 in which he gives a survey of the Koranic verses and prophetic traditions (hadith) on jihad as well as the teachings of all four of the classical schools of Sunni jurisprudence on this topic. He reaffirms the classical teaching that “Jihad is not against polytheists alone, but against all who do not embrace Islam.”26 “[I]t is obligatory on us to begin fighting with them after transmitting the invitation [to embrace Islam], even if they do not fight against us.”27 Jews and Christians as “People of the Book” are not to be forcibly converted to Islam (unlike polytheists), but are to be forced to pay the jizya or tribute tax, as mandated by the Koran (9:29), as a sign of their humble acceptance of Islamic domination.28 Imperialism, therefore, is an obligation under Islamic law, and is wrong only when carried out by non-Muslims.

Read more at New English Review

Joseph S. Spoerl is professor of philosophy at Saint Anselm College.