Commentary Magazine


Topic: Yusuf al-Qaradawi

The “Moderate” Muslim Brotherhood and the Jews

Middle East analyst Tom Gross brings to my attention this news snippet from Qatar:

The Egyptian Muslim scholar Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, one of the most respected figures in Sunni Islam, refused to attend the inter-faith dialogue conference that opened in Doha last week on the grounds that Jewish representatives had been invited. “I decided not to participate so I wouldn’t sit at the same platform alongside Jews,” Qaradawi told the “Al-Arab” daily of Qatar.

Al-Qaradawi, a Muslim Brotherhood acolyte, has become one of the most famous clerics in the Sunni world because of his gig as the main religion go-to guy for Al Jazeera. For many in the West, he is amoderate,” and indeed was once welcomed into the United Kingdom on those grounds, despite his infamous endorsement of suicide attacks in the wake of 9/11.

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Middle East analyst Tom Gross brings to my attention this news snippet from Qatar:

The Egyptian Muslim scholar Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, one of the most respected figures in Sunni Islam, refused to attend the inter-faith dialogue conference that opened in Doha last week on the grounds that Jewish representatives had been invited. “I decided not to participate so I wouldn’t sit at the same platform alongside Jews,” Qaradawi told the “Al-Arab” daily of Qatar.

Al-Qaradawi, a Muslim Brotherhood acolyte, has become one of the most famous clerics in the Sunni world because of his gig as the main religion go-to guy for Al Jazeera. For many in the West, he is amoderate,” and indeed was once welcomed into the United Kingdom on those grounds, despite his infamous endorsement of suicide attacks in the wake of 9/11.

Some analysts insist on describing the Arab-Israeli conflict as the core grievance in the Middle East. Anything else is tangential, the thinking goes, until diplomats can force Israel to make enough concessions to the Palestinians and perhaps other Arabs in order to bring peace. Once the grievance is addressed, the reason for terrorism and Islamic radicalism will fade away.

For many in the region, however, the problem is not Israel but rather the existence of non-Muslims and especially Jews in the region and beyond. In October 2002, for example, Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah quipped, “If they [the Jews] all gather in Israel, it will save us the trouble of going after them worldwide.” Qaradawi’s refusal to participate in an interfaith discussion in an Arab country if Jews were present is yet one more exhibit of the core problem in the region: Islamist intolerance and not only the silence of the United States in confronting it, but the willingness of U.S. diplomats to look away in order to avoid creating an obstacle to a dialogue which—despite their wildest ambitions—will never bear fruit.

It will take a generation or more to have any impact, but until the United States puts educational reform and combating religious incitement front and center of its policy in the region, any other diplomacy is just wasted effort and ineffective against a growing tidal wave of intolerance and hate.

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Stay Engaged with Tunisia

As Max Boot implies, riot-torn Tunisia is not predestined for any particular future. The U.S. response will matter to the outcome. The sclerotic Ben Ali regime has been under rhetorical fire from dissidents for years due to its corrupt, repressive character, but there is no evidence of an organized opposition bent on armed revolution. No ideological red flags are waving over Tunisia; there may be groups encouraging the outbreak of unrest, but there has been no accelerating drumbeat from a well-defined radical organization like the plotters of the Iranian revolution in 1979. The riots in Tunisia mirror the fears in Algeria, Libya, Egypt, and Jordan over a common set of economic woes: rising food and gas prices and high unemployment.

But while Tunisia may not be experiencing a centrally directed ideological revolt, the political conditions are not quiescent there. If pluralism and consensual government are to take hold, the U.S. will have to interest itself in the process. The usual suspects — the Muslim Brotherhood, al-Qaeda — have stakes in Tunisia already. The principal opposition group, al-Nadha (“Renaissance”), is an affiliate of the Muslim Brotherhood. Its leader, Rachid Ghannouchi (not to be confused with the prime minister, Mohamed Ghannouchi, who took power on Friday), is an exile in Britain, a biographical detail that echoes the history of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. But Ghannouchi’s profile as a Sunni Islamist leader is more similar to that of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Yusuf al-Qaradawi; Ghannouchi endorses terrorist groups like Hamas but spends most of his time writing, lecturing, and attending conferences.

Rachid Ghannouchi has been largely silent during the past week’s unrest, giving no indication that he has specific political intentions. But he would be a natural focus of interest for regional governments — Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Italy, France — that are on the alert to influence developments in Tunisia. Attempts at influence by Tehran are a given as well: Ghannouchi was an early supporter of the 1979 revolution and has maintained his ties to Iranian clerics. Tunisia severed relations with Iran in the 1980s over the Islamic Republic’s penchant for fomenting unrest, but diplomatic and economic ties have been restored over the past decade. These ties include an Iranian cultural center in Tunis (referenced here and here), an entity that in other regional nations has been a means of introducing paramilitary operatives and Islamist recruiters. Read More

As Max Boot implies, riot-torn Tunisia is not predestined for any particular future. The U.S. response will matter to the outcome. The sclerotic Ben Ali regime has been under rhetorical fire from dissidents for years due to its corrupt, repressive character, but there is no evidence of an organized opposition bent on armed revolution. No ideological red flags are waving over Tunisia; there may be groups encouraging the outbreak of unrest, but there has been no accelerating drumbeat from a well-defined radical organization like the plotters of the Iranian revolution in 1979. The riots in Tunisia mirror the fears in Algeria, Libya, Egypt, and Jordan over a common set of economic woes: rising food and gas prices and high unemployment.

But while Tunisia may not be experiencing a centrally directed ideological revolt, the political conditions are not quiescent there. If pluralism and consensual government are to take hold, the U.S. will have to interest itself in the process. The usual suspects — the Muslim Brotherhood, al-Qaeda — have stakes in Tunisia already. The principal opposition group, al-Nadha (“Renaissance”), is an affiliate of the Muslim Brotherhood. Its leader, Rachid Ghannouchi (not to be confused with the prime minister, Mohamed Ghannouchi, who took power on Friday), is an exile in Britain, a biographical detail that echoes the history of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. But Ghannouchi’s profile as a Sunni Islamist leader is more similar to that of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Yusuf al-Qaradawi; Ghannouchi endorses terrorist groups like Hamas but spends most of his time writing, lecturing, and attending conferences.

Rachid Ghannouchi has been largely silent during the past week’s unrest, giving no indication that he has specific political intentions. But he would be a natural focus of interest for regional governments — Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Italy, France — that are on the alert to influence developments in Tunisia. Attempts at influence by Tehran are a given as well: Ghannouchi was an early supporter of the 1979 revolution and has maintained his ties to Iranian clerics. Tunisia severed relations with Iran in the 1980s over the Islamic Republic’s penchant for fomenting unrest, but diplomatic and economic ties have been restored over the past decade. These ties include an Iranian cultural center in Tunis (referenced here and here), an entity that in other regional nations has been a means of introducing paramilitary operatives and Islamist recruiters.

Meanwhile, al-Qaeda in the Maghreb (AQIM) has seized on the Tunisian unrest as a pretext for issuing audio appeals and a recruiting video. There is no evidence AQIM is organized for operations on a large scale, nor is the seizure of political power an al-Qaeda method. But any period of internal disorder in Tunisia will be an invitation to AQIM to ramp up its efforts there.

Tunisia sits on a crucial geographic chokepoint — the Strait of Sicily — in the central Mediterranean Sea. The U.S. and Europe can get away with shrinking navies while the Mediterranean coast is held by well-disposed governments. But Tunisia is one of a handful of nations in the world that could single-handedly turn a maritime choke point into an oversize international security problem. A radicalized Tunisia would have even greater security implications than a radicalized Libya or Algeria; the geography of a strait is a stern taskmaster. And Iran’s history of interest in the choke points on which the West relies for commerce and naval power (see here and here) suggests that the leadership in Tehran is fully aware of those implications and will do what it can to exploit them.

The good news is that a newly liberal, consensual government in Tunisia would be the best outcome for U.S. interests as well as for Tunisians. But we will have to actively encourage that outcome if we want to see it. The forces working against it are sure to multiply.

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Turkish Flags

Turkey’s sharp turn against Israel under Islamist Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan has been much noted in the last couple of weeks. But a just-released report from Israeli analysts clarifies how close the flotilla confrontation of May 31 came to being a Turkish incitement to armed conflict.

The report was issued by Israel’s Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center, or Malam, a private contractor that works with government intelligence agencies and is sometimes used to make disclosures to the public. Based on the material gathered in the flotilla incident by the IDF and other government agencies, Malam concluded that the Turkish government knew in advance of the Turkish Insani Yardim Vakfi (IHH) activists’ intention to fight the Israeli navy.

The IHH group of 40 boarded M/V Mavi Marmara in Istanbul without being subjected to the security checks all other participants went through. The group was equipped with communications gear, gas masks, and security vests decorated with Turkish flags. IHH operatives used the ship’s upper deck as a headquarters, prohibiting other passengers from visiting it. Once onboard, the IHH group began pillaging the ship for the makeshift weapons with which its members attacked the Israeli commandos during the May 31 boarding. According to the Malam report:

Bülent Yıldırım, the leader of the IHH … was on the Mavi Marmara and briefed group members about two hours before the Israeli Navy intercepted the ship. Their main objective was to hold back soldiers by any means, and to push them back into the sea.

The Haaretz summary continues:

Files found on laptops owned by the IHH members pointed at strong ties between the movement and Turkey’s prime minister. Some of the activists even said that Erdogan was personally involved in the flotilla’s preparations.

The more we know, the less sudden or unexpected appears Erdogan’s latest threat to bring a Turkish naval escort to Gaza. In retrospect, the situation looks more like one engineered by Erdogan to justify a confrontation with Israel than mere opportunism. Erdogan’s profile as a moderate statesman has been eroding for some time, of course, as exemplified in his performance during the March 2010 Arab League Summit and his growing ties to Iran. But in light of his most recent actions, a little-remarked passage in a Muslim Brotherhood conference in January becomes freshly informative.

The conference in question took place in Beirut and was the seventh of the al-Quds (Jerusalem) conferences sponsored by Yusuf al-Qaradawi, spiritual leader of the Muslim Brotherhood. In addition to concluding with the usual screed against Israel, the conferees addressed “special thanks” to Tayyip Erdogan and former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad of Malaysia, whose Perdana Global Peace Organization went on to sponsor three of the nine vessels in the recent Gaza flotilla, including M/V Rachel Corrie. Qaradawi is the founder of the Union of Good, the umbrella Islamist funding organization of which IHH is a member, and which Israel banned in 2002 due to its ties to terrorism.

Now Erdogan’s threat to bring a naval escort to Gaza coincides with the Union of Good’s announcement that it will send a convoy to Gaza through the Rafah crossing, recently opened by Egypt. Erdogan’s posture has gone well beyond rhetorical radicalism. Defense Secretary Gates’s comment yesterday — “Turkey … was pushed … by some in Europe refusing to give Turkey the … organic link to the west that Turkey sought” — seems particularly ill-formulated in light of Erdogan’s purposeful and unmistakable posture. Even if Gates’s analysis were more accurate, it’s not relevant. The time for recrimination is past. Reacting to current reality is all that matters.

Turkey’s major opposition leader, Kemal Kilicdaroglu, has voiced strong criticism of Erdogan’s actions; the prime minister’s policies that undermine secularism and suppress political dissent are coming under increasing fire at home. The next national election is not until mid-2011, however. There’s a lot of time left for Erdogan to sponsor flotillas. According to an IHH “journalist” quoted by Haaretz, the recent flotilla is just the first of many.

Turkey’s sharp turn against Israel under Islamist Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan has been much noted in the last couple of weeks. But a just-released report from Israeli analysts clarifies how close the flotilla confrontation of May 31 came to being a Turkish incitement to armed conflict.

The report was issued by Israel’s Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center, or Malam, a private contractor that works with government intelligence agencies and is sometimes used to make disclosures to the public. Based on the material gathered in the flotilla incident by the IDF and other government agencies, Malam concluded that the Turkish government knew in advance of the Turkish Insani Yardim Vakfi (IHH) activists’ intention to fight the Israeli navy.

The IHH group of 40 boarded M/V Mavi Marmara in Istanbul without being subjected to the security checks all other participants went through. The group was equipped with communications gear, gas masks, and security vests decorated with Turkish flags. IHH operatives used the ship’s upper deck as a headquarters, prohibiting other passengers from visiting it. Once onboard, the IHH group began pillaging the ship for the makeshift weapons with which its members attacked the Israeli commandos during the May 31 boarding. According to the Malam report:

Bülent Yıldırım, the leader of the IHH … was on the Mavi Marmara and briefed group members about two hours before the Israeli Navy intercepted the ship. Their main objective was to hold back soldiers by any means, and to push them back into the sea.

The Haaretz summary continues:

Files found on laptops owned by the IHH members pointed at strong ties between the movement and Turkey’s prime minister. Some of the activists even said that Erdogan was personally involved in the flotilla’s preparations.

The more we know, the less sudden or unexpected appears Erdogan’s latest threat to bring a Turkish naval escort to Gaza. In retrospect, the situation looks more like one engineered by Erdogan to justify a confrontation with Israel than mere opportunism. Erdogan’s profile as a moderate statesman has been eroding for some time, of course, as exemplified in his performance during the March 2010 Arab League Summit and his growing ties to Iran. But in light of his most recent actions, a little-remarked passage in a Muslim Brotherhood conference in January becomes freshly informative.

The conference in question took place in Beirut and was the seventh of the al-Quds (Jerusalem) conferences sponsored by Yusuf al-Qaradawi, spiritual leader of the Muslim Brotherhood. In addition to concluding with the usual screed against Israel, the conferees addressed “special thanks” to Tayyip Erdogan and former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad of Malaysia, whose Perdana Global Peace Organization went on to sponsor three of the nine vessels in the recent Gaza flotilla, including M/V Rachel Corrie. Qaradawi is the founder of the Union of Good, the umbrella Islamist funding organization of which IHH is a member, and which Israel banned in 2002 due to its ties to terrorism.

Now Erdogan’s threat to bring a naval escort to Gaza coincides with the Union of Good’s announcement that it will send a convoy to Gaza through the Rafah crossing, recently opened by Egypt. Erdogan’s posture has gone well beyond rhetorical radicalism. Defense Secretary Gates’s comment yesterday — “Turkey … was pushed … by some in Europe refusing to give Turkey the … organic link to the west that Turkey sought” — seems particularly ill-formulated in light of Erdogan’s purposeful and unmistakable posture. Even if Gates’s analysis were more accurate, it’s not relevant. The time for recrimination is past. Reacting to current reality is all that matters.

Turkey’s major opposition leader, Kemal Kilicdaroglu, has voiced strong criticism of Erdogan’s actions; the prime minister’s policies that undermine secularism and suppress political dissent are coming under increasing fire at home. The next national election is not until mid-2011, however. There’s a lot of time left for Erdogan to sponsor flotillas. According to an IHH “journalist” quoted by Haaretz, the recent flotilla is just the first of many.

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Welcome to The 18th Century

Many Muslims in London are reeling over yesterday’s mayoral victory for conservative Boris Johnson. After the terrorist attacks of 7/7, Johnson wrote “When is someone going to get 18th century on Islam’s medieval ass?”

18th century? That kind of radical modernization is a bit too much for groups like muslims4ken, which threw its support behind incumbent Ken Livingstone. “How YOU can help save us from a Zionist Mayor,” was the catchphrase employed by the Muslim Public Affairs Committee, which also supported Livingstone. (One commenter on the MPAC’s website wrote “Not wanting Londoners to get blown to bits. That is reason enough for not wanting a Zionist Mayor.”)

Livingstone, elected as an independent in 2000 and reelected as a Labour candidate in 2004, embraced radical clerics such as Yusuf al-Qaradawi and seemed to consider “Islamophobia” a greater threat to England than Islamism. Not two weeks after the 7/7 bombings, Livingstone told Sky News, “Given that the Palestinians don’t have jet planes, don’t have tanks, they only have their bodies to use as weapons.”

One can see why Islamists are heartbroken about Livingstone’s departure. Johnson is no great shakes, himself. (He’s written in favor of Western technical support for Iranian nukes). But for Livingstone, all the world is a maligned Palestine and the Westerner’s first order of business is to apologize.

The most telling bit of election analysis comes from Asim Siddiqui at comment is free:

The last time I recall the “Muslim vote” being mobilised so counter-productively was in the US during the 2000 presidential elections when American Muslims were urged to vote for George W Bush (against Al Gore and Joe Lieberman). It was felt that an Al Gore victory, coupled with an assassin’s bullet, would leave a Jewish, and presumed pro-Israel candidate, as president. Instead, they got Bush and Cheney! How’s that for a counterproductive strategy?

In other words, if Muslims knew how sympathetic George Bush was going to be towards Israel, they would have been better off taking their chances on a Jewish vice president. It’s disturbing that Muslim radicals, in London and stateside, weigh every candidate’s utility in achieving the destruction of Israel and the enactment of a Palestinian right of return.

Many Muslims in London are reeling over yesterday’s mayoral victory for conservative Boris Johnson. After the terrorist attacks of 7/7, Johnson wrote “When is someone going to get 18th century on Islam’s medieval ass?”

18th century? That kind of radical modernization is a bit too much for groups like muslims4ken, which threw its support behind incumbent Ken Livingstone. “How YOU can help save us from a Zionist Mayor,” was the catchphrase employed by the Muslim Public Affairs Committee, which also supported Livingstone. (One commenter on the MPAC’s website wrote “Not wanting Londoners to get blown to bits. That is reason enough for not wanting a Zionist Mayor.”)

Livingstone, elected as an independent in 2000 and reelected as a Labour candidate in 2004, embraced radical clerics such as Yusuf al-Qaradawi and seemed to consider “Islamophobia” a greater threat to England than Islamism. Not two weeks after the 7/7 bombings, Livingstone told Sky News, “Given that the Palestinians don’t have jet planes, don’t have tanks, they only have their bodies to use as weapons.”

One can see why Islamists are heartbroken about Livingstone’s departure. Johnson is no great shakes, himself. (He’s written in favor of Western technical support for Iranian nukes). But for Livingstone, all the world is a maligned Palestine and the Westerner’s first order of business is to apologize.

The most telling bit of election analysis comes from Asim Siddiqui at comment is free:

The last time I recall the “Muslim vote” being mobilised so counter-productively was in the US during the 2000 presidential elections when American Muslims were urged to vote for George W Bush (against Al Gore and Joe Lieberman). It was felt that an Al Gore victory, coupled with an assassin’s bullet, would leave a Jewish, and presumed pro-Israel candidate, as president. Instead, they got Bush and Cheney! How’s that for a counterproductive strategy?

In other words, if Muslims knew how sympathetic George Bush was going to be towards Israel, they would have been better off taking their chances on a Jewish vice president. It’s disturbing that Muslim radicals, in London and stateside, weigh every candidate’s utility in achieving the destruction of Israel and the enactment of a Palestinian right of return.

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Livingstone, Confused

In 2004, London Mayor Ken Livingstone—who has long held a soft spot in his heart for terrorists of the Muslim and (perhaps of weightier concern to his constituents) Irish variety—welcomed the fanatical Egyptian cleric (and al-Jazeera commentator) Yusuf al-Qaradawi to his city for a conference (see this great anti-Livingstone advertisement). Peter Tatchell, the heroic gay rights campaigner and anti-Islamist advocate, as well as Livingstone’s most vocal and persistent critic on this issue, offered this brief and all-encompassing summary of the Islamist “scholar”:

Qaradawi supports female genital mutilation, wife-beating, the execution of homosexuals, destruction of the Jewish people, suicide bombing of innocent civilians, and the punishment of rape victims who do not dress with sufficient modesty.

Yesterday, at the Guardian’s “Comment is Free” site, in an exercise that truly strains belief, Livingstone published a piece supporting the British Labour government’s attempts to pass a law banning incitement to homophobic hatred.

Livingstone writes:

Consistency in the protection the law provides is essential for two reasons: to provide justice to the individuals concerned, and as a line drawn by society against prejudice. This is the approach I have taken towards the government’s impending Single Equality Act and it is the approach that politicians and government must adopt in providing equal protection against incitement to hatred.

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In 2004, London Mayor Ken Livingstone—who has long held a soft spot in his heart for terrorists of the Muslim and (perhaps of weightier concern to his constituents) Irish variety—welcomed the fanatical Egyptian cleric (and al-Jazeera commentator) Yusuf al-Qaradawi to his city for a conference (see this great anti-Livingstone advertisement). Peter Tatchell, the heroic gay rights campaigner and anti-Islamist advocate, as well as Livingstone’s most vocal and persistent critic on this issue, offered this brief and all-encompassing summary of the Islamist “scholar”:

Qaradawi supports female genital mutilation, wife-beating, the execution of homosexuals, destruction of the Jewish people, suicide bombing of innocent civilians, and the punishment of rape victims who do not dress with sufficient modesty.

Yesterday, at the Guardian’s “Comment is Free” site, in an exercise that truly strains belief, Livingstone published a piece supporting the British Labour government’s attempts to pass a law banning incitement to homophobic hatred.

Livingstone writes:

Consistency in the protection the law provides is essential for two reasons: to provide justice to the individuals concerned, and as a line drawn by society against prejudice. This is the approach I have taken towards the government’s impending Single Equality Act and it is the approach that politicians and government must adopt in providing equal protection against incitement to hatred.

F. Scott Fitzgerald famously wrote that “an intelligent person is one who can hold two contradictory ideas in mind simultaneously.” There’s a degree of truth in that assertion. But this is just ridiculous.

To be sure, hate-crimes laws are in and of themselves a specious proposition: aren’t all violent crimes, in the end, motivated by hatred? Proponents have not sufficiently explained why crimes committed due to the perpetrator’s racism or homophobia—as opposed to his hatred, say, for an ex-lover—should be treated more harshly, and such laws therefore run the risk of valuing certain victims more than others. The proposed law in Britain goes even further by rendering whole categories of speech illegal. Actual hate crimes already are prosecuted more vigorously than other violent crimes.

But the debate about the merits of the suggested law is an academic one and secondary to addressing the unmitigated gall behind Livingstone’s assuming the mantle of gay-rights champion. It’s frankly shocking that an ostensible progressive like Livingstone, who has hosted a prominent religious fascist advocating the execution of gays, would not see the inconsistency in his arguing on behalf of a law to ban incitement to violence against gays.

Normally, the reader comments section at the Guardian is rife with Stalinist apologetics and conspiratorial anti-Semitism. This time, however, the commentators outdo themselves in expressing amazement at how Livingstone could pen such an outrageously oblivious article without any mention of his own affiliations with inciters to homophobic crime. Were this bill law at the time Livingstone welcomed Qaradawi to London, the mayor quite possibly could have been prosecuted under its statues for aiding and abetting incitement to murder. Given his remarkable obtuseness, one cannot help but conclude that the irony of this situation is lost on Livingstone.

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The Brotherhood’s Creed

“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.”

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“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.”

Count me among the unenlightened. Why, if the Brotherhood has embraced democracy, does it not practice it in its own ranks? Its internal procedures are secretive and hierarchical. It is headed by a “general guide,” selected in secret by a small committee for an indeterminate term, usually for life. The current “guide” is Mahdi Akef. “Our understanding of democracy depends on the criteria approved by Islam—namely, values of justice, equality, and consultation—unlike what Americans are trying to convince us [of],” he says. And why should they emulate Western democracy, considering the group’s just grievances against the West? “Western democracies,” Akef writes, “have slammed all those who don’t see eye to eye with the Zionists regarding the myth of the Holocaust.”

If I am unconvinced of the Brotherhood’s democratic convictions, what of Leiken and Brooke’s claim that it represents the antithesis of jihadism? They concede some nuance: “The Brotherhood does authorize jihad in countries and territories occupied by a foreign power. Like in Afghanistan under the Soviets, the Ikhwan views the struggles in Iraq and against Israel as ‘defensive jihad’ against invaders, the Muslim functional equivalent of the Christian doctrine of ‘just war.’”

This is rather like saying that the acts of Jack the Ripper were the “functional equivalent” of courtly love. Just-war doctrine insists above all that war be conducted with discrimination between civilians and combatants. The Brotherhood, by contrast, cheers on suicide bombings, and some of its branches perpetrate them. (Hamas, for example, is the group’s Palestinian wing.)

Just-war doctrine also insists on a compelling cause, the justice of which can be discerned by human reason. But the Ikhwan’s “defensive jihad” is purely selfish. As Akef puts its: “Jihad is an individual duty incumbent upon every Muslim, male and female, if any inch of the land of Islam and the Muslims is occupied.” And what is “the land of Islam and the Muslims”? Here is the answer to be found in the charter of Hamas: “any land the Muslims have conquered by force” constitutes “an Islamic Waqf land consecrated for Muslim generations until Judgment Day . . . in the Islamic sharia (law) . . . because during the times of (Islamic) conquests, the Muslims consecrated these lands to Muslim generations till the Day of Judgment.” I know of no document of the Egyptian Ikhwan that is equivalent to the Hamas charter, but there is little doubt that the Brotherhood’s definition of what constitutes “Islamic Waqf” is identical.

Leiken and Brooke offer the soothing distinction that the Brotherhood supports not holy war but war for land. They quote the Brotherhood’s chief spiritual leader, Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, saying: “the enmity between us and the Jews is for the sake of land only.” But here is Qaradawi’s explication of the significance of the land: “[We] must not allow anyone to take a single piece of land away from Islam. That is what we are fighting the Jews for. We are fighting them . . . in the name of religion, in the name of Islam, which makes this jihad an individual duty, in which the entire nation takes part, and whoever is killed in this . . . is a martyr. This is why I ruled that martyrdom operations are permitted, because he commits martyrdom for the sake of Allah, and sacrifices his soul for the sake of Allah.” [Thanks to MEMRI.]

Throughout the Arab world there exist genuine liberals and democrats, albeit too few. For the most part they distrust the Brotherhood’s intentions and fear its rise. (Here, for example, is Egyptian liberal Tarek Heggy’s take on the group.) Should we talk to the Brotherhood? Sure. But to anoint it as the “moderate” force we have been seeking would mean to betray the true Arab liberals as well as our own critical faculties.

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By far the grandest Islamic place of worship in Britain is the London Central Mosque. At the height of the Battle of Britain in 1940, Winston Churchill offered the site of this splendid building as a gift from the British people to its Muslim citizens. For more than half a century its gleaming golden dome has nestled among the whitewashed Nash terraces in Regent’s Park, whose residents include, among others, the U.S. ambassador. Up to 5,000 people go there for Friday prayers—far more than worship at St. Paul’s Cathedral or Westminster Abbey. Many of the faithful visit the mosque’s bookshop, where they might well pick up DVD’s by those listed on the mosque’s website as its “famous visitors.”

One of these is the American Muslim preacher Sheikh Khalid Yasin, director of the Islamic teaching institute. But Sheikh Yasin is a Wahhabi extremist. His DVD’s denounce the “delusion” of equality for women and demand the death penalty for homosexuals. He accuses the World Health Organization and Christian missionaries of a “conspiracy” to create the AIDS epidemic in Africa and denies that 9/11 had anything to do with “the so-called al Qaeda.”

Another celebrity imam whose DVD’s are on sale at the mosque is Sheikh Feiz Muhammad, who preaches at the Global Islamic Youth Center in Liverpool, New South Wales. Notorious in Australia for his claim that women who are raped “have nobody to blame but themselves,” Sheikh Feiz is seen in one of his DVD’s imitating a pig: “This creature will say, ‘Oh Muslim, behind me is a Jew. Come and kill him.’ They [the Jews] will be [he makes snorting noises]. All of them. Every single one of them.”

These remarks are similar to those of a third “famous visitor,” the Egyptian Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, a well-known al-Jazeera commentator: “Everything will be on our side and against Jews on [judgment day]. At that time, even the stones and the trees will speak, with or without words, and say: ‘Oh servant of Allah, oh Muslim, there’s a Jew behind me, come and kill him.’”

The former Pakistani ambassador to Great Britain, Wajid Shamsul Hasan, resigned as a trustee of the London Central Mosque in 1996 because he felt it had been taken over by Wahhabism, backed by Saudi money. But a mega-mosque for up to 70,000 worshippers to be built in the East End of London will dwarf the one in Regent’s Park. The London Markaz, funded by the Saudi-backed organization Tablighi Jamaat, will be built next to the site of the 2012 Olympics. If Wahhabi ideology has already taken over the most prestigious mosque in Britain, why is Tony Blair’s government allowing the same thing to happen again on a much bigger scale? As the largest mosque in Europe arises in London, Muslims could be forgiven for supposing that the conversion of Britain to Wahhabi Islam is only a matter of time.

By far the grandest Islamic place of worship in Britain is the London Central Mosque. At the height of the Battle of Britain in 1940, Winston Churchill offered the site of this splendid building as a gift from the British people to its Muslim citizens. For more than half a century its gleaming golden dome has nestled among the whitewashed Nash terraces in Regent’s Park, whose residents include, among others, the U.S. ambassador. Up to 5,000 people go there for Friday prayers—far more than worship at St. Paul’s Cathedral or Westminster Abbey. Many of the faithful visit the mosque’s bookshop, where they might well pick up DVD’s by those listed on the mosque’s website as its “famous visitors.”

One of these is the American Muslim preacher Sheikh Khalid Yasin, director of the Islamic teaching institute. But Sheikh Yasin is a Wahhabi extremist. His DVD’s denounce the “delusion” of equality for women and demand the death penalty for homosexuals. He accuses the World Health Organization and Christian missionaries of a “conspiracy” to create the AIDS epidemic in Africa and denies that 9/11 had anything to do with “the so-called al Qaeda.”

Another celebrity imam whose DVD’s are on sale at the mosque is Sheikh Feiz Muhammad, who preaches at the Global Islamic Youth Center in Liverpool, New South Wales. Notorious in Australia for his claim that women who are raped “have nobody to blame but themselves,” Sheikh Feiz is seen in one of his DVD’s imitating a pig: “This creature will say, ‘Oh Muslim, behind me is a Jew. Come and kill him.’ They [the Jews] will be [he makes snorting noises]. All of them. Every single one of them.”

These remarks are similar to those of a third “famous visitor,” the Egyptian Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, a well-known al-Jazeera commentator: “Everything will be on our side and against Jews on [judgment day]. At that time, even the stones and the trees will speak, with or without words, and say: ‘Oh servant of Allah, oh Muslim, there’s a Jew behind me, come and kill him.’”

The former Pakistani ambassador to Great Britain, Wajid Shamsul Hasan, resigned as a trustee of the London Central Mosque in 1996 because he felt it had been taken over by Wahhabism, backed by Saudi money. But a mega-mosque for up to 70,000 worshippers to be built in the East End of London will dwarf the one in Regent’s Park. The London Markaz, funded by the Saudi-backed organization Tablighi Jamaat, will be built next to the site of the 2012 Olympics. If Wahhabi ideology has already taken over the most prestigious mosque in Britain, why is Tony Blair’s government allowing the same thing to happen again on a much bigger scale? As the largest mosque in Europe arises in London, Muslims could be forgiven for supposing that the conversion of Britain to Wahhabi Islam is only a matter of time.

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