If you find Karen Armstrong’s argument that the creators and publishers of the Muhammad cartoons were guilty of “failing to live up to their own liberal values” to be outrageous, you should see the non sequitur that follows: “When 255,000 members of the so-called ‘Christian community’ signed a petition to prevent the building of a large mosque in Abbey Mills, east London, they sent a grim message to the Muslim world: western freedom of worship did not, apparently, apply to Islam. There were similar protests by some in the Jewish community, who . . . should be the first to protest against discrimination.”
What Ms. Armstrong does not say, though she must surely be aware of it, is that the controversy about the building of Europe’s largest mosque in London’s East End has nothing whatever to do with freedom of worship. London already has more mosques than any other city in Europe, and there are no restrictions on the practice of Islam in Britain, any more than there are restrictions in the United States or other western countries. The London Markaz, as the proposed “megamosque” would be known, is not a response to local Muslim communities, but the project of a global Islamist missionary organization, Tablighi Jamaat. The complex would include a mosque and other facilities for 70,000 worshipers—that is 67,000 more than the largest British cathedral—to be built next to the site of the 2012 Olympics. The religious compound is designed to attract Muslim pilgrims from all over the world, and to serve as the “Islamic quarter” for the games. The cost, an estimated £100 million ($200 million) would be paid by Saudi Arabia.
“In the anxious and often fruitless search for Muslim moderates, policymakers should recognize that the Muslim Brotherhood presents a notable opportunity.” So write Robert S. Leiken and Steven Brooke in “The Moderate Muslim Brotherhood” in the March-April issue of Foreign Affairs. (Leiken, a friend of mine, is an expert on Central America who made important contributions to debates about that region in the 1980′s.)
He and Brooke claim that “jihadists loathe the Muslim Brotherhood . . . for rejecting global jihad and embracing democracy.” Although “critics speculate that the Brotherhood helps radicalize Muslims . . . in fact, it appears that the Ikhwan [i.e., Brotherhood] works to dissuade Muslims from violence, instead channeling them into politics and charitable activities.” Indeed, in its birthplace, Egypt, “the Ikhwan followed the path of toleration” rather than “pursuing a divisive religious or cultural agenda.”
In short, the Muslim moderates for whom we have been searching since 9/11 have been under our noses all along in the guise of the granddaddy of all Islamist organizations. How could we have missed this? “U.S. policymaking has been handicapped by Washington’s tendency to see the Muslim Brotherhood—and the Islamist movement as a whole—as a monolith,” lament the authors. “When it comes to the Muslim Brotherhood, the beginning of wisdom lies in differentiating it from radical Islam and recognizing the significant differences between national Brotherhood organizations.”
Tariq Ramadan, the Swiss Muslim celebrity academic and British government adviser who teaches at Oxford, is complaining again of his exclusion from the United States, where he was unable to take up a chair at Notre Dame. Writing in the Chronicle of Higher Education, he claims that he has been denied a visa “because of my criticism of [the Bush administration’s] Middle East policy and America’s unconditional support for Israel.” He lists an impressive-sounding array of U.S. organizations that “have understood that the real issue is my freedom of speech” and support his legal challenge.
In fact, Ramadan was denied a visa because of his donations to a Palestinian “charity” that supports Hamas. His claim that he was then unaware of this link is implausible, given his record as a hardline Islamist who has repeatedly refused to condemn Palestinian terrorism. In fact, Ramadan has a record of contacts with Islamist terrorists. The Algerian terrorist Djamal Beghal, who plotted to blow up the U.S. embassy in Paris, claimed that he “took charge of preparing the lectures of Tariq Ramadan” while studying with him in Geneva. Ramadan was excluded from France for his contacts with Algerian terrorists, though this ban was later lifted.