By Barry Rubin
This is one of those obscure Middle East events of the utmost significance that is ignored by the Western mass media, especially because they happen in Arabic, not English; by Western governments, because they don’t fit their policies; and by experts, because they don’t mesh with their preconceptions.
This explicit formulation of a revolutionary program makes it a game-changer. It should be read by every Western decisionmaker and have a direct effect on policy because this development may affect people’s lives in every Western country.
OK, cnough of a build-up? Well, it isn’t exaggerated. So don’t think the next sentence is an anticlimax. Here we go: The leader of the Muslim Brotherhood has endorsed anti-American Jihad and pretty much every element in the al-Qaida ideology book. Since the Brotherhood is the main opposition force in Egypt and Jordan as well as the most powerful group, both politically and religiously, in the Muslim communities of Europe and North America this is pretty serious stuff.
By the way, no one can argue that he merely represents old, tired policies of the distant past because Badi was just elected a few months ago. His position reflects current thinking.
Does that mean the Egyptian, Jordanian, and all the camouflaged Muslim Brotherhood fronts in Europe and North America are going to launch terrorism as one of their affiliates, Hamas, has long done? No.
But it does mean that something awaited for decades has happened: the Muslim Brotherhood is ready to move from the era of propaganda and base-building to one of revolutionary action. At least, its hundreds of thousands of followers are being given that signal. Some of them will engage in terrorist violence as individuals or forming splinter groups; others will redouble their efforts to seize control of their countries and turn them into safe areas for terrorists and instruments for war on the West.
When the extreme and arguably marginal British Muslim cleric Anjem Choudary says that Islam will conquer the West and raise its flag over the White House, that can be treated as wild rhetoric. His remark is getting lots of attention because he said it in English in an interview with CNN. Who cares what he says?
But when the leader of the Muslim Brotherhood says the same thing in Arabic, that’s a program for action, a call to arms for hundreds of thousands of people, and a national security threat to every Western country.
The Brotherhood is the group that often dominates Muslim communities in the West and runs mosques. Its cadre control front groups that are often recognized by Western democratic governments and media as authoritative. Government officials in many countries meet with these groups, ask them to be advisers for counter-terrorist strategies and national policies, and even fund them.
President Barack Obama speaks about a conflict limited solely to al-Qaida. And if one is talking about the current military battle in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Yemen that point makes sense. Yet there is a far bigger and wider battle going on in which revolutionary Islamists seek to overthrow their own rulers and wage long-term, full-scale struggle against the West. If it doesn’t involve violence right now it will when they get strong enough or gain power.
More than three years ago, I warned about this development, in a detailed analysis explaining, “The banner of the Islamist revolution in the Middle East today has largely passed to groups sponsored by or derived from the Muslim Brotherhood.” I pointed out the differences—especially of tactical importance—between the Brotherhood groups and al-Qaida or Hizballah, but also discussed the similarities. This exposure so upset the Brotherhood that it put a detailed response on its official website to deny my analysis.
Yet now here is the Brotherhood’s new supreme guide, Muhammad Badi giving a sermon entitled, “How Islam Confronts the Oppression and Tyranny,” translated by MEMRI. Incidentally, everything Badi says is in tune with the stances and holy books of normative Islam. It is not the only possible interpretation but it is a completely legitimate interpretation. Every Muslim knows, even if he disagrees with the Brotherhood’s position, that this isn’t heresy or hijacking or misunderstanding.
Finally, this is the group that many in the West, some in high positions, are urging to be engaged as a negotiating partner because it is supposedly moderate.
What does he say?
–Arab and Muslim regimes are betraying their people by failing to confront the Muslim’s real enemies, not only Israel but also the United States. Waging jihad against both of these infidels is a commandment of Allah that cannot be disregarded. Governments have no right to stop their people from fighting the United States. “They are disregarding Allah’s commandment to wage jihad for His sake with [their] money and [their] lives, so that Allah’s word will reign supreme” over all non-Muslims.
–All Muslims are required by their religion to fight: “They crucially need to understand that the improvement and change that the [Muslim] nation seeks can only be attained through jihad and sacrifice and by raising a jihadi generation that pursues death just as the enemies pursue life.” Notice that jihad here is not interpreted as so often happens by liars, apologists, and the merely ignorant in the West as spiritual striving. The clear meaning is one of armed struggle.
–The United States is immoral, doomed to collapse, and “experiencing the beginning of its end and is heading towards its demise.”
–Palestinians should back Hamas in overthrowing the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank and unite in waging war on Israel.
Incidentally, what Melanie Philips has written on this issue fits perfectly here:
–Rational calculations of the kind applied by the West to its adversaries, mirror-imaging, assuming that Muslims won’t act in a revolutionary and even suicidal manner want a better future for their children, etc., do not apply to the Islamist movement:
“Allah said: ‘The hosts will all be routed and will turn and flee [Koran 54:45].’ This verse is a promise to the believers that they shall defeat their enemies, and [that the enemies] shall withdraw. The Companions of the Prophet received this Koranic promise in Mecca, when they were weak… and a little more than nine years [later], Allah fulfilled his promise in the Battle of Badr….Can we compare that to what happened in Gaza?….Allah is the best of schemers, and that though Him you shall triumph. Islam is capable of confronting oppression and tyranny, and that the outcome of the confrontation has been predetermined by Allah.”
This says: It doesn’t matter how long the battle goes on, how many die, how much destruction is unleashed, how low your living standards fall, how unfavorable the odds appear to be, none of that is important or should deter you.
In the real world, of course, the Islamists are unlikely to win over the long run of, say, 50 or100 years. But those views do mean that these 50 or 100 years are going to be filled with instability and bloodshed.
Equally, Badi’s claims do not mean all Muslims must agree, much less actively take up arms. They can have a different interpretation, simply disregard the arguments, and be too intimidated or materialistic or opportunistic to agree or to act. Yet hundreds of thousands will do so and millions will cheer them on. And by the same token, neither the radical nor the passive will assist in moving toward more moderation or peace or compromise.
Well, will the problem go away if people in the West condemn “Islamophobia” or make concessions or apologize or produce a just peace? No.
His words provide some important points for people in the West to consider:
“Resistance is the only solution…. The United States cannot impose an agreement upon the Palestinians, despite all the means and power at its disposal. [Today] it is withdrawing from Iraq, defeated and wounded, and it is also on the verge of withdrawing from Afghanistan. [All] its warplanes, missiles and modern military technology were defeated by the will of the peoples, as long as [these peoples] insisted on resistance – and the wars of Lebanon and Gaza, which were not so long ago, [are proof of this].”
First, the more the likelihood that U.S. policy might obtains a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians, the more anti-American violent activity will be sparked among the Islamists and their very large base of support, the more Iran and Syria will sponsor terrorism. Desirable as peace or even progress toward peace might be, the West should have no illusions about those things providing regional stability, and they will produce more instability.
Second, U.S. actions of apology, concessions, and withdrawals—whether or not any of the specific steps are useful or desirable—they are interpreted by the Islamists and by many in the Middle East as signs of weakness which should spark further aggression and violence. There are hundreds of examples of this reaction every month. Here’s a leading moderate Saudi journalist explaining how many Iraqis and other Arabs are viewing the U.S. withdrawal from Iraq means that it is turning the country over to Iran. Wrong but an accurate show of that very common Middle East way of thinking.
Indeed, this last factor explains the Brotherhood’s timing. Note that he says nothing about fighting Egypt’s government, which won’t hesitate to throw the Brotherhood leaders into prison and even to torture them. Still, the coming leadership transition in Egypt, with the death or retirement of President Husni Mubarak, seems to offer opportunities.
The new harder line coincides with the Brotherhood’s announcement that it will run candidates in the November elections, another sign of its confidence and increased militancy. The Brotherhood is not a legal group but the government lets members run in other parties. Its candidates won about 20 percent of the vote in the last elections, especially impressive given the regime’s repressive measures. If the Brotherhood intends to defy Egyptian law now there will be confrontations, mass arrests, and perhaps violence.
Most important of all, however, Badi and many others sense weakness on the part of the West, especially the U.S. leaders, and victory for the Islamists.
Even former British Prime Minister Tony Blair is warning about such things. Blair comes from the British Labour Party. Many conservatives understand these issues. But the West can never respond successfully without a broader consensus about the nature of the threat and the need for a strong response. Where are Blair’s counterparts in the left-of-center forces in North America, the kind of people who played such a critical role in confronting and defeating the previous wave of anti-democratic extremism, Communism?
This new hardline signals
1. Increased internal conflict in Egypt, the start of a decade-long struggle for power in the Arabic-speaking world’s most important country.
2. The likelihood that more Brotherhood supporters in the West will turn to violence and fund-raising for terrorism.
3. The true nature of the radical indoctrination–preparing people for future extremism and terrorism–in the mosques and groups they control.
4. A probable upturn in anti-American terrorist attacks in the Middle East and Europe.
In August 1996, al-Qaida declared war on America, the West, Christians and Jews. Nobody important paid much attention to this. Almost exactly five years later, September 11 forced them to notice. Let it be said that in September 2010 the Muslim Brotherhood, a group with one hundred times more activists than al-Qaida, issued its declaration of war. What remains is the history of the future.