Archive for October, 2010

Although IslamOnline still exists (we’re still awaiting the English section mind you), a new website, brought to us by the founders of IslamOnline, is with us: OnIslam promises to be everything that the old IslamOnline was.  And best of all, they’ve brought back the only portal dedicated to Islamist movements on the net, al-Islamyoon.

You can read more on the developments that led to the change of personnel, and the setting up of OnIslam, here.



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Participation not confrontation (مشاركة لا مغالبة).  This is the slogan adopted for the Muslim Brotherhood’s parliamentary election campaign 2010, in which Brothers, standing as independents much as they did in 2005, will contest 30% of the seats up for grabs in the Majlis ash-Shaab.  The decision to contest the elections was announced today by the Supreme Guide, Muhammad Badie (you can read his speech here).

Expect the results of the election to be used by both sides (supporters and detractors of the MB) as a litmus test for the relative success or failure of political Islam.

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In last week’s risâlah to the Brothers, Dr Muhammad Badi, the Supreme Guide, had this to say to those sceptical of the merits of armed ‘resistance’:

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. (وما أحوجهم أن يدركوا أن الإصلاح والتغيير الذي تنشده الأمة لا يمكن تحقيقه إلا بالجهاد والتضحية وصياغة جيل مجاهد يحرص على الموت كما يحرص الأعداء على الحياة.)

Source: IkhwanOnline; IkhwanPress

There can be no doubt about where the Muslim Brotherhood stands on terrorism in order to execute its long-term goals.  Its much-vaunted renunciation of violence is but one tactic in a long-term strategy to create the conditions necessary for Islamist hegemony in the Middle East and elsewhere.  One cannot be a member of this organisation and be considered a ‘moderate’.


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The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace have set up a micro-site to cover the upcoming Egyptian parliamentary and presidential elections.  It’s very informative; even if it does sanitise the Brotherhood to a certain extent, and there’s an intriguing interview with Dr Essam el-Arian (the reform-minded Brother much-loved by Western commentators sympathetic to the movement), conducted back in May, posted there.

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Soner Cagaptay, who is always worth reading on all things Turkish, has an article today at the Washington Institute speculating on Turkey’s future direction.  His thesis is basically that Turkey continues to flatter to decieve under the Islamist AKP: whilst the country entered EU accession negotiations under the party back in 2005, seeking EU membership was merely a pretext for sanitising the party’s Islamist brand of politics.  By contrast, some see the AKP’s commitment to Islamism as ‘one of values and identity rather than Islamic law’ pointing to the recent constitutional referendum victory that has moved Turkey away from intervention by the so-called ‘guardians of secularism’, the armed forces, but towards a judiciary likely to be more amenable to the AKP government.  Whatever your view, those with an interest in Islamic politics and the future direction of political parties and quasi-political organisations with Islam as their guiding principle will be watching the machinations of the AKP over the next few years with interest.

Elsewhere, although his passing was not remarked by this blog, I feel that now would be a suitable time to draw readers’ attention to this study by Martin Kramer on Grand Ayatollah Husayn Fadlallah.

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The title of this post is also the title of a new book co-authored by Amr Hamzawy and Nathan Brown (it’s also the raison d’être of this blog).  The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace held an event featuring the authors last Wednesday, whilst the Project on Middle East Democracy (POMED) kindly provided an overview of the discussion (see here for the full report).  According to POMED, Brown had this to say:

He then explained that the conversation would focus on the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and Hamas, two groups that, while outwardly similar, were inherently different.

Different?  How can this be?  Both the MB in Egypt and Palestinian Hamas are part of the same broader Islamist movement.  Indeed, Hamas is part of the Global Muslim Brotherhood.  Of course, in their different contexts, both organisations pursue different tactics: Hamas, as a genocidal terrorist organisation, has the freedom to institute Islamic law within its Gaza fiefdom and conduct terrorist operations against Israel; the Egyptian MB are a proscribed organisation and must work within the confines of a closed, authoritarian system where their members are frequently arrested and imprisoned – it is simply not in the MB’s interests to pursue the same guerilla campaign for which they were banned in the first place.   Were the situation reversed, there is no doubt in my mind that the Brothers would revert to type and install an Islamic theocracy.  Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood are the same movement with the same ideology and goals.

The Brotherhood seeks peaceful change, while Hamas has an armed wing. The Brotherhood focuses primarily on Egyptian issues, rarely stepping into foreign policy, while Hamas is the center of international attention.

Again, any perceived differences in tactics are purely illusory.  The Egyptian MB had (see p.30 and passim) and continues to possess an armed wing.  The Brotherhood also maintain a network of contacts and sympathisers throughout the West, such as in London, where a political bureau and publishing house is to be found.  Yes, Hamas, like the Egyptian MB, concentrates primarily on the dynamics of their own political context; but both organisations enjoy a network of supporters and sympathetic ideologues that act in accord with the Islamic movement as a whole. 

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Some of us forget that Islamism, in particular the political strain, has been with us for a very long time.  Lord Cromer for instance, second, perhaps, only to Lord Curzon, as the archetypal Imperial colonial administrator-in-chief, had some prescient and insightful things to say about the then emerging phenomenon over a century ago.  His words will resonate with supporters of liberal democracy everywhere:

Panislamism almost necessarily connotes a recrudescence of racial and religious animosity. Many of its adherents are, I do not doubt, inspired by genuine religious fervour. Others, again, whether from indifference verging on agnosticism, or from political and opportunist motives, or – as I trust may sometimes be the case – from having really assimilated modern ideas on the subject of religious toleration, would be willing, were such a course possible, to separate the political from the religious, and even possibly from the racial, issues. If such are their wishes and intentions, I entertain very little doubt that they will find them impossible of execution. Unless they can convince the Moslem masses of their militant Islamism, they will fail to arrest their attention or to attract their sympathy. Appeals, either overt or covert, to racial and religious passions are thus a necessity of their existence in order to ensure the furtherance of their political programme.


Panislamism almost necessarily connotes an attempt to regenerate Islam on Islamic lines – in other words, to revivify and stereotype in the twentieth century the principles laid down more than a thousand years ago for the guidance of a primitive society. Those principles involve a recognition of slavery, laws regulating the relations of the sexes which clash with modern ideas, and, which is perhaps more important than all, that crystallisation of the civil, criminal, and canonical law into one immutable whole, which has so largely contributed to arrest the progress of those countries whose populations have embraced the Moslem faith.

It is for these reasons, independent of any political considerations, that all who are interested in the work of Egyptian reform are constrained to condemn Panislamism. More than this, the utmost care has to be exercised lest any natural and very legitimate sympathy for genuine Nationalism may not be unconsciously attracted towards a movement which is, in reality, highly retrograde and deserving of but scant sympathy. It is at times not easy to recognise the Panislamic figure under the Nationalist cloak.

See http://www.scribd.com/doc/38558264/Lord-Cromer-on-Pan-Islamism

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