The Intelligent American’s Guide To Islamism

The current winds of change in the Middle East is a welcome whiff of fresh air in the region, but the hasty promotion of democracy, could plunge the region deeper into the ”dark side”, bringing the Moslem Brotherhood to power in Egypt, Syria, Jordan, and elsewhere. While some in Washington are ready to take on this risk, many (of us) liberals in the region, worry about the dangerous unintended consequences.

The Muslim Brotherhood (MB’s) (established in Egypt in 1928), is the best organized political force in many Arab countries. It is a radical transnational organization which aims to take over the Islamic world in order to establish a Caliphate, is the best organized political force in many Arab countries. . Such a Caliphate, a religious militarized state will be the base to wage war against the infidel West.

And for our own societies, in the Middle East and Arab world, rule by the MB’s would undoubtedly result in: less freedom, increased state-ownership, segregated class-rooms, as well as the fact that a non-Muslim could never become president. It could also very well result in the reimplementation of punishments such as stoning, lashing, and cutting off the hands of thieves.

I have tried in this article to summarize the political thinking of the MB’s in thirteen points, in the hope that it will help shed some light on an issue many people in the world today need to understand.

Unlike Western democracies, which guarantee the political participation of every citizen regardless of ideology, opinion or religion, the MB’s makes the political participation of individuals in society subject to the principles of Islamic Shari’a. And while the legislative branch of government monitors the actions of the State to ensure that they conform to the rules of democracy, the actions of the State are monitored by the MB’s to ensure that they conform to the rules of Islamic Shari’a.

The MB’s guarantee freedom of belief only for the followers of the three revealed [Abrahmic] religions. The MB’s position on the question of religious minorities can be summed up in the insistence that a non-Muslim can never become president and that non-Muslims will be subject to the principles of Shari’a on which the entire legal system will be based.

While Western democracies guarantee the absolute freedom of the individual as long as it does not impinge on the freedom of others, the MB’s set freedom of thought within the strict parameters of a moral code derived from the Shari’a. They call for the restoration of hisbah, which allows a private citizen to prosecute any individual who commits an act he considers a breach of the Shari’a even if the plaintiff himself has not been personally injured by such act. The right of hisbah was recently exercised by a private citizen in Egypt against respected intellectual Nasr Hamed Abu Zeid, whose writings he considered as running counter to the teachings of Islam. The court found for the plaintiff, ruling Abu Zeid an apostate and ordering him to divorce his wife.

In Western democracies, women enjoy the same political rights as men: they can hold public office and participate in political life without any restrictions based on gender. But as far as the MB’s are concerned, women’s political participation would be limited to municipal elections; there is no question, for example, of a woman ever becoming head of state. To further marginalize women and exclude them from any meaningful role in public life, the MB’s call for educational curricula to include material that is appropriate for women, tailored to suit their nature and role and insist on a complete segregation of the sexes in the classrooms, in public transportation and in the workplace.

The MB’s call for the establishment of an economic system based on the respect of private property. At the same time, however, they insist that it be based on the principles of Islamic Shari’a, which criminalizes bank interest. They also call for state ownership of public utilities.

Contrary to the system of government applied in a democracy, which is based on the peaceful rotation of power through elections, the MB’s call for a system of government based on the principles of Shari’a and the revival of the Islamic Caliphate.

The freedom of association enjoyed by civil society organizations in a democracy would, in an Islamist system, be conditional on their adherence to the strictures of Shari’a.

The MB’s oppose the notion of a state based on democratic institutions, calling instead for an Islamic government based on the Shura [consultative assembly] system, veneration of the leader and the investiture of a Supreme Guide. In this they are close to the model established by Khomeini in Iran, which enables diehard conservatives (a group to which the Supreme Guide certainly belongs) to nip any process of reform or renewal in the bud.

Over the last fifty-seven years, the MB’s have opposed all attempts to reach a peaceful resolution of the conflict. The MB’s will never recognize the existence of Israel as legitimate.

The MB’s call for the establishment of a constitutional and legal system based on the principles of Shari’a, including the application of corporal punishments in the penal code [stoning, lashing, cutting off the hands of thieves, etc.]

The MB’s have never condemned the use of violence against civilians except when it is directed against Muslim civilians.

Finally, progress in the modern world is realized by two tools, science and modern management. These are two disciplines that the Brotherhood has not thea foggiest idea about. Instead, it promulgates a retrograde ideology, which can be deadly for sustainable economic development, growth in investment, and equality.

For liberals in the Middle East like myself, promoting democracy in the Middle East is imperative. It is something that will benefit humanity. And undoubtedly, if the right steps are taken, democracy has every chance to flourish in Middle Eastern societies. However, a hasty transformation, is likely to be disastrous for the forces of progress in Egypt and equally in the Middle East, and fits well with the words of the historian Daniel Boorstin, who warned that planning for the future without a sense of history is like planting cut flowers to humanity. If the right steps are taken, Middle East people (as Professor Bernard Lewis repeatedly expounded) are capable of enabling democracy to flourish in the Middle East societies. However, a hasty transformation is likely disastrous for the forces of progress in Egypt and equally in the Middle East.