Hasan al-Banna in the Letter of teachings, which is still one of the key documents in the Muslim Brotherhood curriculum, explained the meaning of jihad in the following way: “By jihad, I mean that imperative duty until the day of Resurrection which is reflected in the following saying of the Messenger of Allah – praise and benediction of Allah upon Him: “Whoever dies without carrying out a military expedition, or wishing to do so, dies a pre-Islamic death.” Its lowest degree is the heart’s abhorrence of evil, and its highest degree is fighting in the path of Allah. Between these two degrees are other forms of jihad: jihad with the tongue, pen, hand, and speaking a word of truth to the unjust authority. The call can survive only with jihad. The more lofty and far reaching is the call, the greater is the jihad in its path. The price required to support it is immense, but the reward given to its upholders is more generous: ‘And strive in the Way of Allah as you ought to.’ By this you know the meaning of your slogan ‘Jihad is our path’.”
Jihad by court is another form of “intermediate” jihad and is a modern and aggressive form of jihad through legal means. It is the Westernised and pseudo-democratic form of the Islamic institution called hisba which is derived from the Qur’anic order upon every Muslims of “commanding good and forbidding wrong”: “Ye are the best of peoples, evolved for mankind, enjoining what is right, forbidding what is wrong, and believing in Allah. If only the People of the Book had faith, it were best for them: among them are some who have faith, but most of them are perverted transgressors” (Qur’an 3: 110).
Jihad by court is one of the favourite means of the organizations and individuals ideologically linked with the Muslim Brotherhood in the West and sometimes is connected with the accusation of islamophobia. The strategy is clear: any journalist, writer, intellectual, academic, activist or any newspaper, organisation, association criticising or exposing an MB individual or organisation is very likely to be sued for defamation. The Legal Project, based in the USA, has given a very useful definition of this tactic: “Such lawsuits are often predatory, filed without a serious expectation of winning, but undertaken as a means to bankrupt, distract, intimidate, and demoralize defendants. Plaintiffs seek less to prevail in the courtroom than to wear down researchers and analysts. Even when the latter win cases, they pay heavily in time, money, and spirit. As counterterrorism specialist Steven Emerson comments, “Legal action has become a mainstay of radical Islamist organizations seeking to intimidate and silence their critics.” Islamists clearly hope, Douglas Farah notes, that researchers will “get tired of the cost and the hassle [of lawsuits] and simply shut up.”
This has been going on for years in Europe and the US. In some countries there are Western lawyers representing generations of leaders of political Islam from Yusuf Qaradawi to Rached al-Ghannouchi, from Tariq Ramadan to the UOIF, from the global Muslim Brotherhood to national organisations.
Only a few recent examples. On September 4, the Police Tribunal in Lille found Soufiane Zitouni guilty of non-public defamation and non-public insult toward the Lycée Averroès in Lille, linked with UOIF and his president Amar Lasfar, for an email he had sent colleagues accusing the school’s leadership of being a “hypocritical vipers’ nest.” The court assessed that Zitouni did not substantiate his claim and thus found him guilty. In a press communiqué, Averroes high school welcomed the court’s decision against Zitouni’s guilty verdict: “The Lille Court sentenced Soufiane Zitouni and found him guilty of defamation and insults against the Lycée Averroès.” It further stated that “this decision comes after a report from the Ministry of National Education which demonstrated no violation of the Republic’s values.” In the same press release the Lycée “mistakenly” wrote that Zitouni was condemned for public defamation instead of “non-public defamation”.
The court judgement has been an apparent victory for the Lycée, that however did not dare to sue Zitouni for his articles on Liberation where he exposed the methods and the contents of classes in the high school. A few days later, Mohamed Louizi, another prominent critic of the MB in France, announced on his Facebook page that he was being sued for public defamation by the President of the Association Lycée Averroès, Amar Lasfar for a series of critical articles he published last Spring on his Mediapart blog. If found guilty, he could be liable for a fine of up to 12,000 Euros.
On July 29, 2015, the Italian newspaper Il Giornale launched a call to financially support its journalist Magdi Cristiano Allam after an Italian court ordered him to pay more than 8,000 Euros because he linked the Italian Union of Islamic Organisations in Italy (UCOII) with the MB and Hamas during a TV program in 2006. Although I do not agree with his political choices and his harsh stand against Islam, Magdi Cristiano Allam was condemned to death by Hamas and has been living under the protection of the Italian Ministry of Interior since 2003 as a result. During the program, he accused the Muslim Brotherhood of being at the origin of his death sentence.
Allam has been one of the staunchest accusers of the MB network in Italy and has been for years the target of the jihad by court, led by the Italian lawyer Luca Bauccio who counts among his clients Rached Ghannouchi, Tariq Ramadan, Yusuf Qaradawi, Youssef Nada and all Italian leaders of political Islam.
Another example is the lawsuit that was initiated by the Union of the Islamic Organizations of France and the Great Mosque of Paris against “Charlie Hebdo” for republishing the Danish cartoons about Muhammad is one of the most famous examples of this kind of jihad. In March 2008, the Paris Court of Appeals rejected all the accusations as, the cartoons, “which clearly refer only to a part not to the whole Muslim community, cannot be considered neither an outrage nor a personal and direct attack against a group of people because of their religious faith and do not go beyond the limits of freedom of expression.” However, the deadly attack against Charlie Hebdo on January 2015 confirms that jihad by court can turn out to be the green light to more radical organisations that decide to use less democratic means.
The French Court acted in a responsible and sensible way, but what happened to “Charlie Hebdo,” and keeps on happening to many writers and journalists should lead us to conclude that: first, the attacks of “jihad by court” do not come from all Muslims, they come from so-called “Islamic communities and organizations”, that usually are simple non-profit associations which do not represent anybody but themselves, and from individuals and organizations who protect themselves by attacking the others in the name of freedom and defamation.
In Europe and the US there is a long list of people who have been victims of jihad by court: from Daniel Pipes to Fiammetta Venner, from Mohammed Sifaoui to Magdi Cristiano Allam, from Soufiane Zitouni to Heiko Heinisch, from Souad Sbai to Mohamed Louizi. Most of them perfectly know political Islam, its actors and strategies. Some of them have also been in the past active members of political Islam. However, Western judges have not realised yet that anti-defamation laws have been exploited by political Islam in the West to silence the other, that political Islam is not Islam and does not represent the majority of Muslims living in Europe.
Last but not least, Western judges and law makers should realise that jihad by court is one of the new strategies to implement not only Hasan al-Banna’s Letter of teachings, but also the motto of the Muslim Brotherhood represented by the following Qur’anic verse: ““And prepare against them whatever you are able of power and of steeds of war by which you may terrify the enemy of Allah and your enemy and others besides them whom you do not know [but] whom Allah knows. And whatever you spend in the cause of Allah will be fully repaid to you, and you will not be wronged” (Surat al-Anfal, 60).
Jihad by court is the non-violent, but aggressive way to “terrify the enemy of Allah and your enemy.”