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Posts Tagged ‘الإخوان المسلمون’

Supporters of Islamism often make the fatuous claim that Hamas is not a terrorist organisation citing Khaled Mashaal, head of the Hamas Political Bureau in Damascus’ assertion that:

To underline the preposterous nature of this argument, in the same interview with Der Spiegel, Mashaal claims that Hamas militants do not ‘kill’; rather, they ‘resist’ (“Hamas does not kill; instead, it resists an occupation. There is a difference between killing and resistance.”)
 
Hamas is a terrorist organisation; of that there can be no doubt.  The United Kingdom, the United States, the European Union, and many other countries have designated Hamas as such.  Of course, some apologists will claim that some countries such as Australia and the UK, only proscribe Hamas’ so-called military wing, the Izz ad-Deen al-Qassam Brigades, and not the rest of the organisation.  Whilst this is strictly true, there is plenty of evidence to suggest that members of the Hamas security apparatus and Hamas armaments find there way into the possession of al-Qassam Brigades operatives very easily.  This is to say nothing about the place of al-Qassam within the overall Hamas command structure, or its cooperation with and influence over the other individuals and entities within the Hamas organisation.    

In the same vein that Hamasniks claim that the al-Qassam Brigades do not necessarily reflect the ideology and beliefs of the organisation as a whole, apologists for the Muslim Brotherhood, wishing to ‘decontaminate’ the Islamist brand by disassociating it from terrorism and the espousal of violence, claim that Hamas is not part of the Global Brotherhood.

However, the facts prove otherwise: Hamas is part of the Global Muslim Brotherhood network.  It was founded by Muslim Brothers (Sheikh Ahmed Yasin, Abdel Aziz al-Rantissi and Mohammad Taha), and it was Yasin’s Islamic Centre organisation (itself a Muslim Brotherhood-front – see p.16) that laid the foundations for the movement he eventually established in 1987, at the time of the first Palestinian Intifada, with the help of Brotherhood cash.  Furthermore, Yasin, revered as Hamas’ spiritual leader to this day, was  the leader of the Muslim brotherhood in the Gaza Strip.

Article 2 of the Hamas charter states that:

The Islamic Resistance Movement [Hamas] is one of the wings of the Muslim Brotherhood in Palestine.

Article 8 provides the Hamas movement’s slogan:

Allah is its target, the Prophet is its model, the Koran its constitution: Jihad is its path and death for the sake of Allah is the loftiest of its wishes.

This is the same motto as that of the Muslim Brotherhood (الله غايتنا والرسول قدوتنا، والقرآن دستورنا، والجهاد سبيلنا، والموت في سبيل الله أسمى أمانينا) [see Mitchell’s The Society of the Muslim Brothers – p.193-4].

According to Robert Satloff, Hamas was originally conceived ‘in order to provide a vehicle for the MB’s participation in the violent confrontation against Israel without exposing the Brotherhood and its wide network of social welfare and religious institutions to Israeli retaliation.’  This provided the Brothers with a convenient outlet for their hatred of Israel and a ready-made testing bed for their vision of an Islamic State.  Indeed, without this antipathy to the Israeli state, as Satloff puts it, Hamas would have no reason to exist and ‘would simply revert to being the Muslim Brotherhood [in Palestine]’.

The MB plays an important role in Hamas’ geopolitics, directing, not just providing support for, the Islamic Movement’s domestic and foreign policies:

Hamas has three circles of leadership. The first circle consists of local leaders inside the West Bank and Gaza. The most famous of these – Sheikh Ahmed Yassin and Abdul Aziz Rantisi – were killed by Israel in recent years; their place has been filled by others, such as Mahmoud al-Zahar and Ismail Haniyeh. The second circle includes Hamas’s external leadership, a “political bureau” that includes Khaled Mashal and Mousa Abu Marzouk. The third circle consists of the international leadership of the global Muslim Brotherhood movement, which includes respected Brotherhood figures such as Muhammad Akef, head of the Egyptian MB, and Yusuf al-Qaradawi, the Qatari-based Muslim scholar cum television star. These three circles each have different spheres of responsibility. Considerable evidence indicates that both the insiders and the outsiders play a central role in the determination of Hamas strategy on terrorist operations against Israel and the solicitation and disbursement of funds for that purpose. In other arenas, the inner circle is more responsive to the daily concerns of Palestinian life and builds up Hamas’s political standing in the territories through its fight against corruption and its support of social welfare activities; the outer circle maintains contact with Hamas’s international supporters and funders, including leadership of other terrorist organizations and Iran. As for the outermost circle of global MB leaders, they are likely to begin to exert greater authority over the strategic direction Hamas takes now that Hamas has registered such a historic achievement for the global Islamist cause.

During the period after the previous incumbent, Muhammad Magdy Akef, announced that he would be stepping down, the former leader of the Muslim Brotherhood in Europe, Kamel el-Helbawy, told al-Quds al-Arabi that Hamas PM Ismail Haniyeh should get the post to ‘support the Palestinian issue and Gaza’.

After the election of the new Supreme Guide of the MB, Dr Muhammad Badie, at the beginning of the year, Haniyeh pledged allegiance to him (bay’ah).  This is the Islamic custom when a new leader must secure the support or consensus (ijma’) of the Islamic community; elders in that community then give an oath of allegiance to the overall leader (traditionally the Caliph or Sultan).

The links between Hamas, therefore, and in particular the political bureau led by Khaled Mashaal in Damascus, and the Global Muslim Brotherhood extend to more than just ideology.  It would be disingenuous to portray Hamas as an entirely separate organisation, despite its relative autonomy on the ground in Gaza.  Both the Egyptian MB and Hamas form part of a global movement underpinned by Ikhwani ideology with support networks stretching to North America, Europe and South Asia.  What is not entirely certain is the degree to which the various local manifestations of the Brotherhood movement are directed by the mother organisation, and whether the Supreme Guide of the Egyptian MB, Muhammad Badie, is the leader of the Global Brotherhood as well. 

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Shaykh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, the some-time spiritual leader of the Muslim Brotherhood and Islamist ideologue, has broken his heretofore conspicuously-observed silence  on the trials and tribulations surrounding the appointment of the MB’s 8th Supreme Guide, Muhammad Badie, in an interview with Egypt’s al-Shorouk newspaper.  This is the first time that al-Qaradawi has tackled the thorny issue of ledership election since al-Shorouk reported last November his assertion that the failure to promote the reformist Essam el-Erian to the organisations’s Guidance Bureau was a ‘betrayal of da’wah, the MB and the Ummah’  made on his own website.  al-Qaradawi wrote a letter to al-Shorouk, which they duly published, opting for a more conciliatory approach towards the conservatives within the MB amidst the furore that his widely-reported comments had made.

I’ve included a summary of the main points dealing with the Brotherhood below:

– Muhammad Badie should be the Supreme Guide of ALL the Brothers; making use of reformists Muhammad Habib and Abdul Moneim Abul-Futouh.

– Gamal Mubarak should announce his withdrawal from the presidential race.

– Egypt must have a true democracy to regain its place in the world.

– The tribulations of the Ikhwan are over now that the election of the Supreme Guide has taken place [he refused to say any more].

– Badie should make it his business to protect the cause of reform and renewal and not to become a prsioner of any one school of thought.

– Praised the ‘balanced’ and ‘reasonable’ nature of Badie’s acceptance speech and urged him to continue in this vein if he wants to see change with regard to the Egyptian state and its apparatus.

– Essam el-Erian and the rest of the brothers should assist Abul-Futouh and Habib after their ‘demotion’ in the elections. 

H/T MEMRI

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According to reports (عربي English), Dr Muhammad Badie, a veterinarian and self-professed conservative once imprisoned for 9 years, has been elected the 8th Supreme Guide of the Muslim Brotherhood.  He replaces Magdi Akef who, in an unprecedented but widely reported move, chose to step down.

Information on Dr Muhammad Badie’s background can be found here.

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Having avoided posting up until now on the Muslim Brotherhood’s much-publicised travails, I’ve decided to do my best to put Magdy Akef’s ‘quasi-resignation’ in context.

Firstly, for a Supreme Guide to retire is unprecedented – they usually pop their clogs (or have them popped for them in the case of the founder, Hasan al-Banna) in situ.  Secondly, Akef had already announced that he would be retiring from his role as the Supreme Guide of the Brotherhood.  And thirdly, Egyptian politics is entering a period of exceptional uncertainty: both parliamentary and presidential elections are to be held within the next two years, and, with President Mubarak expected to step down, there will be a new president for the first time in over a quarter of a century.

These are strange times indeed for the Ikhwan as they attempt to manoeuvre in the face of a renewed crackdown on their activities both domestically and internationally, and try to consolidate and improve on the successes they enjoyed in the last parliamentary elections in 2005.

There has been a great deal of speculation surrounding the future of the world’s most powerful Islamic political movement for some time.  Most of that speculation has centred on the future direction of the movement, as the reality of turgid domestic Egyptian politics has dawned on the party’s members.  The furore that surrounded Akef’s supposed resignation seemed to confirm what many analysts were thinking: here was the first outward manifestation of a leadership struggle between younger, more progressive activists and their more conservative co-members.

Akef allegedly clashed with conservatives on the Guidance Council over the appointment of senior member Essam al-Erian, a renowned dove within the organisation.  His nomination came in the wake of the recent death of Muhammad Hilal, a hawkish member of the Guidance Council, which first ignited tensions amongst the leadership.

The direction the Brotherhood takes could have much wider implications: the group is the largest opposition movement in Egypt (with some sources estimating membership at half a million Egyptians), though officially banned. Furthermore, as a pan-Islamic organisation, it is highly influential beyond Egypt’s borders as the father of Islamist movements across the Arab and Muslim world — including the Palestinian militant group Hamas.

But perhaps the two most important developments in this saga, have been the high profile criticism by the influential cleric and sometime Brotherhood ‘spiritual leader’, Yusuf al-Qaradawi, of the decision to reject al-Erian’s candidacy, and the statement released by the MB Youth Wing in response to media storm following Akef’s reported resignation.

Al-Qaradawi, called the decision a ‘betrayal of da’wah, the party and the Ummah one and all’.  However, Dr Mahmoud Ghazlan, a hawkish member of the Guidance Council, in a strongly worded letter to the shaykh retorted, “If you must interfere, then do so as a matter of principal, values and etiquette, and try to put out the flames of conflict.”

For their part, the Youth Wing used their statement to call for unity, to stress their support for the Supreme Guide and announce the holding of ‘youth conference’ some time in the near future:

Letter of the Muslim Brotherhood Youth:

We followed the recent events that have occurred in the Guidance Bureau, so we decided to have a position and opinion to be announced to the group and to the public because we are the sons of this group and we are proud of it and its civilized approach. We have the honor to belong to such a group and we are the most concerned with its progress and strength. We are keen on making it the bridge that our country can use to cross from the atmosphere of tyranny and injustice to that of freedom and progress and we sum our opinion up in this statement:

1 – We declare our appreciation and esteem for our guide and leader, Mohamed Mahdy Akef, and his leadership of the group and appreciate his effort and all the moves to maintain our presence, and the progress he achieved during his term in the Guidance Bureau and we call on him to maintain his active presence at the head of the group until he finishes his term [in January].

2 – We all respect the mechanisms of the shura (Guidance Bureau) and their results, with emphasis on the policy of openness and transparency, where regulations governing the rules of internal procedures are announced, and equality in all situations and not allowing the door for different interpretations and personal interpretations, which negatively affect the group.

3 – The unity and cohesion of our construction is one of the constants that we would not allow to be affected, so we fear that such events would lead us to severe forms of advocacy passed in other countries and therefore the duty of everyone now is to bridge the gap and ensure the safety of the spirit of logical brotherhood and to maintain objectivity away from emotions.

4 – It is not acceptable at all that some people question the guide’s [Akef] respect to shura and democracy, as he was the finest example in this respect when he insisted on changing the old regulations and the internal organization of elections and entrenched this principle. He then asked not to be given the responsibility of heading the group, to leave the opportunity to others.

5 – We call on the leadership to review its internal regulations and to modify it in a practical manner that is commensurate with the nature and requirements of the stage we are going through.

6 – We are stressing the need to improve the media performance of the group, and to make it better than it is now, in order not to repeat the poor performance, and this contradiction that has emerged in the Brotherhood’s media performances to the current events. In a way this has worsened the image of the group! We also stress that the media attaché of the group needs a comprehensive review with the seizure of media statements of the leaders and figures. We also need to determine an official spokesman for the group in order to avoid the conflicts that we saw in these recent events.

7 – We thank all the media, which dealt with professionalism and objectivity to the events with the rejection of attempts by some media that became addicted to harming the Muslim Brotherhood and we hold ourselves responsible for what happened and allowed some others to use distortion and fabrication against the movement.

8 – We confirm that solving this issue should be in a practical and objective manner to ensure non-recurrence of the problem and not to exacerbate the accumulations of it, and we are confident that the leadership is keen on this, like everyone else.

9 – We emphasize that the Muslim Brotherhood is a national Egyptian movement of community-based and public efforts since it was founded by Imam Hassan al-Banna, and is concerned with public issues and all important issues to every Egyptian and everyone who is interested in the moderate civilized Islamic project, so the society should interact with us as the largest popular movement seeking reform and change in Egypt.

10 – We aim that the next period would be the start of a boom in the national movement to meet the expectations of millions of Egyptians who rely on the Muslim Brotherhood and its role in reform and change.

We wish to take this opportunity to announce an important step, in which we wish to please the good of the homeland and of the movement and the project as a whole. Hereby we declare the launch of the first electronic conference for the youth of the Muslim Brotherhood, which will be in the near future and will discuss the most important issues of concern to the group, to present visions aimed at reform and development.

Youth of the Muslim Brotherhood

Dissent, debate, rivalry and resignations are all part and parcel of the democratic process.  That two politicians rarely agree, in spite of the best efforts of spin doctors to create the façade of party unity, is one of the most enduring aspects of party politics; it’s a healthy sign that issues are being debated, compromises are being sought, and policies formulated with input from all sides of the debate.  In the run up to the elections, despite Akef’s claim that the Brotherhood will not field a candidate for the presidency, it will be interesting to see if the movement can adapt, compromise and move forward progressively or whether it remains ossified; wedded to a current of Islamist thought that has gained little for the movement over the last three quarters of a century.

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Time to clear out the favourites that have been burning a hole in my browser since before the August break.

Hossam Tammam, who runs the IslamOnline spin-off Islamyoon.com and is an expert on Islamist movements, most notably the Muslim Brothers (read his book – تحولات الإخوان المسامين), explains the rationale behind the Egyptian government’s recent crackdown on the Brother’s finances:

In the case known as the “international organisation”, which started in June 2009, the government seems to be targetting MB economic power once again. Prosecutors have indicted several MB-affiliated businessmen, charging them with money laundering and receiving funds from abroad to finance the outlawed group. 

And finance, under the pious smokescreen of Islamic finance, is the lynchpin of Islamist groups like the MB’s strategy to support their own activities and re-Islamise society.  In fact, as noted by most commentators, the MB and its founder Hassan al-Banna were instrumental in the development of Islamic economic models:

The origins of all Islamic economic and financial regulatory organizations, including the AAIOFI’s date back to the 1920s invention of Muslim Brotherhood (MB) founder Hassan Al-Banna, who designed political, economic, and financial infrastructures to enable Muslims to fulfill a key form of jihad mandated by the Koran (Al Jihad bi-al-Mal — financial jihad) “you… should strive for the cause of Allah with your wealth and your lives….” – 61:10-11.

He viewed finance as a critical weapon to undermine the infidels — and “work towards establishing an Islamic rule on earth.” To do that, he understood that Muslims must create an independent Islamic financial system to parallel and later supersede the Western economy.

Al-Banna’s contemporaries and successors (such as the late Sayed Qutb and current Yusuf Qaradawi) set his theories and practices into motion, developing sharia-based terminology and mechanisms to advance the financial jihad — “Islamic economics,” finance and banking.

Early 1930s MB attempts to establish Islamic banking in India failed. Egyptian president Gamal Abdul Nasser shut down the second attempt, in 1964, after only one year, later arresting and expelling the Muslim Brothers for attempts to kill him. Saudi Arabia welcomed this new wave Egyptian dissidents, as did King Saud bin Abdul Aziz earlier waves in 1954 and 1961. Their ideas so appealed to him and his clerics that in 1961, Saud funded the MB’s establishment of the Islamic University in Medina to proselytize their fundamentalist Islamic ideology, especially to foreign students.

In 1962, the MB convinced the king to launch a global financial joint venture, which became the cornerstone and engine to spread Islam worldwide. This venture created charitable foundations, which the MB oversees.

The first were the Muslim World League (MWL) and Rabitta al-Alam al-Islami, uniting Islamic radicals from 22 nations and spinning a web of many other charities with hundreds of offices worldwide. In 1978, the kingdom backed another MB initiative, the International Islamic Relief Organization (IIRO), which with all these “charities” are implicated for funding al Qaeda, the 9/11 attacks, Hamas and others.

These “charities” are used to advance the political agenda set forth by the MB. “I don’t like this word ‘donations’,” Qaradawi told BBC Panorama on July 30, 2006.

“I like to call it jihad with money, because God has ordered us to fight enemies with our lives and our money.”

In 1969, the Saudis convened Arab and Muslim states to unify the “struggle for Islam,” and have, ever since, been the OIC’s major sponsor. The 56 OIC members include Iran, Sudan, and Syria. Based in Jeddah “pending the liberation of Jerusalem,” the OIC charter mandates and coordinates “support [of] the struggle of the Palestinian people…recovering their rights and liberating their occupied territories.”

So, with Islamist movements such as the MB employing Shari’a-tinted economics to finance themselves, pay for projects and, on a more strategic level, demonstrate proto-Islamic statecraft in the test bed of the real world: Islamic economic models would engender support for an Islamic system amongst the people and serve as the paradigm for a future Islamic state or states.

As Tammam writes:

Since its inception the MB has been big on finance. On a purely theoretical level, MB founding father Hassan El-Banna said the group should be an “economic company” just as it is a “Salafi inspiration, a Sunni method, a Sufi revelation, a political organisation, a sports society, a cultural league and a social idea”.

The fundamental importance of Islamic finance to all Islamist politico-religious movements has not escaped them.  Islamists justify their willingness to employ a hybrid Western-Islamic model to bring about the Islamisation of society by recourse to the Qur’an.

So-called Jihad bil-Mal or Financial Jihad (fundraising for needy Muslims, supporting the mujahideen and ensuring the victory of Islam) draws inspiration from a series of well-known verses in the Qur’an:

“Go forth, light-armed and heavy-armed, and strive with your wealth and your lives in the way of Allah! That is best for you if ye but knew.” – al-Tawba (Repentance), Chapter 9, verse 41

Those who believe, and have left their homes and striven with their wealth and their lives in Allah’s way are of much greater worth in Allah’s sight. These are they who are triumphant.” – al-Tawba (Repentance), Chapter 9, verse 20

“O ye who believe! Shall I show you a commerce that will save you from a painful doom? Ye should believe in Allah and His messenger, and should strive for the cause of Allah with your wealth and your lives. That is better for you, if ye did but know.” – al-Saff (the ranks, battle arrays), Chapter 61, verse 10-11

The (true) believers are only those who believe in Allah and His messenger and afterward doubt not, but strive with their wealth and their lives for the cause of Allah. Such are the sincere.” – al-Hujraat (the private apartments, the inner apartments), Chapter 49, verse 15

Alms are only for the poor and the needy, and the officials (appointed) over them, and those whose hearts are made to incline (to truth) and the (ransoming of) captives and those in debt and in the way of Allah and the wayfarer; an ordinance from Allah; and Allah is knowing, Wise.” – al-Tawba (Repentance), Chapter 9, verse 60

All Islamic scholars are unanimous in their interpretation of these verses regarding the centrality and importance of financial jihad as part of Allah’s jihad commandment to Muslims. Some interpretations note the verses’ internal order, in which “wealth” precedes “lives,” as evidence of the significance of financial jihad and, in certain circumstances, its precedence over self-sacrificing jihad. In his Islamic edict on jihad in Chechnya, al-Shuaibi determined that the “significance of financial jihad is not inferior to self-sacrificing jihad, being even more important.”

Dr. Hussein Shehata, a professor at al-Azhar University in Cairo, explains the uniqueness of the financial jihad commandment as being “a trial of strength of Muslim faith” and “a means to purify the soul from stinginess.” Through financial jihad, according to Shehata, Allah gives wealthy Muslims the opportunity to allocate some of their money for da’awa (literally, the call for Islam), the Islamic effort to teach or to convert people to Islam.

Dr. Ajeel Jassem al-Nashami, secretary general of the International Organization for Zakat (Islamic alms) in Kuwait, argued that donations made by Muslims for zakat should be funneled to finance jihad warfare in Palestine against Israel. In his interpretation of the Quranic verse (al-Tawba, Chapter 9, verse 60), he noted that Allah determined eight ways for using zakat for the benefit of Muslims, four of them designated to support jihad and the other four aimed at helping the needy.

Praising the merits of financial jihad, Muslim scholars also rely on Islamic tradition (hadith) attributed to the Prophet Mohammad, which assures Muslims who donate money for jihad the same reward in Heaven as the mujahideen themselves. According to hadith: “One [Muslim] who equips a person on his way to raid [the enemy’s camps] in Allah’s path [jihad] is considered to have the same status as the raider [mujahid]. One [Muslim] who substitutes [the raider] concerning his family and [taking care of their needs] with good deeds is considered to have the same status as the raider [mujahid].”

In practical terms, financial jihad is designed to sustain self-sacrificing jihad and enable it to achieve its goals on the battlefield. Dr. Abdullah Qadiri al-Ahdal, a Saudi professor at al-Medina University, referring to the duty to support the Palestinian mujahideen, determined that “financial jihad applies to all of us [Muslims] in accordance with each person’s capability. No excuse can dismiss anyone from donating money to the mujahideen and their families…as they are in urgent need of food, medication, clothing, weapons, and other [basic] necessities of life.”  Al-Ahdal views financial jihad as a vital means for the mujahideen in financing their military activity (purchasing weapons, etc.) and at the same time in securing proper social conditions for the families of the mujahideen, who are willing to sacrifice their lives for the sake of Islam.

In another fatwa, Hussein Shehata argues that financial jihad is designed to assure mutual indemnity among Muslims and the commitment of Muslims to their warriors. According to Shehata, Muslims are committed to “financially support the families of the mujahideen who joined the call for jihad and left behind them their women and children….They [the families] are in desperate need of money and basic necessities of life such as food, drink, and accommodation.” Shehata explains that the financial jihad commandment given by God is intended “to calm the mujahideen’s [worries] by demonstrating that there are those [Muslims] who practice financial jihad and do not skimp on money for their families, even if they have fallen on the battlefield or their houses are damaged or destroyed.”

In Seventy Ways to Support the Chechen Jihad, published on the official website of the Chechen mujahideen, the importance of financial and material donations is emphasized. The Chechen mujahideen called upon Muslims to support jihad in Chechnya against the “Russian enemy” in any way possible, and to begin by transferring financial and material support.

39 Principles of Jihad, a book by Mohammad bin Ahmad al-Salem that appears on websites affiliated with al-Qaeda, offers readers an opportunity to comprehend the broad meaning of the concept of jihad as interpreted by Muslim scholars. Jihad is not only an expression of violent action against infidels, but comprises diverse acts that every Muslim is commanded to perform in order to sustain jihad. Eight of the 39 principles deal with various aspects of financial jihad:

  • Financing jihad – Muslims can join in jihad by donating to jihad and the mujahideen. The donation’s value is determined by its quality and destination and not only by the amount of money given.
  • Supplying the fighters’ needs – Believers who are unable to take part in jihad (for instance, women and the handicapped) can perform their duty by supplying money and equipment to the mujahideen. By doing so, the donor is considered mujahid and deserves the same reward.
  • Taking care of the mujahideen’s family – Believers who support the mujahideen’s family are considered mujahid and deserve half of their reward. On the other hand, neglecting the mujahideen’s family may bring them misfortune and death by the hand of God.
  • Assisting the families of the fallens – by supplying the special needs of orphans and widows.
  • Assisting the families of prisoners and wounded warriors – by supplying their necessities.
  • Collecting funds for the mujahideen – Money is the lifeline of jihad. Its importance also stems from the action of gathering donations, which arouse the spirit of jihad in the hearts of believers. There are many ways to carry out this duty: at mosques, public venues, family gatherings, charity events, monthly donations, or by urging the wealthy to open their hearts to the mujahideen.
  • Granting charity donations to the mujahideen – who enjoy priority in Islam.
  • Financing medical treatment for wounded mujahideen.

The MB, as the archetypal Islamist movement, continued to expand its economic activities until a backlash and subsequent bloody crackdown under Nasser ensured that their economic activities in Egypt were minimal.  Tammam again:

On a more practical note, El-Banna wasted no time in forming a number of companies and economic enterprises, most of which were either directly helpful to MB activities or related to his pan-Islamic vision. El-Banna believed in a national liberation movement with an Islamic orientation, and this vision influenced the type of investment on which MB companies focussed. He formed a mining company and a textile company at a time when Egypt was still a major supplier of raw cotton to British factories. We don’t know whether those companies were owned by the MB itself or by individuals affiliated with it, or a mix between the two. But we know that the MB was allowed to own companies at the time.

Private ownership, legitimately earned profit and ethical finance were all in vogue at a time when Nasser and the vanguard of the Free Officers had espoused a pan-Arabist socialist political and economic model.

As the MB’s activities were outlawed under Nasser, the subsequent exile of various key MB members allowed them to acquire new skills and knowhow heretofore unavailable to them in Egypt.  By acquiring contacts and financing in the Gulf and in Saudi Arabia, the Brotherhood and its members pioneered what became some of today’s most important Islamic financial institutions.  They were ideally poised at the onset if the Sadat era to take advantage of the new found economic optimism and restructuring overtaking Egypt:

MB capital acted without delay, investing in housing, health, education, transport, food and many other services. By the end of the 1970s a new class of MB-affiliated businessmen was taking shape in Cairo. A network of businesses linked with the group soon emerged. The MB was particularly active in real estate investment, medical supplies, school supplies, automobiles and food production. All of these areas were once monopolised by the state but were now open for private investment. MB economic activities filled up part of the gap left behind by the withdrawal of the state, making the transition to a market economy less painful for the public.

Soon the MB tried its hand at tourism, especially organised pilgrimages to Mecca, management and training, electronics and information technology. The man who organised the MB’s branching out into these new fields of economic activities was Khairat El-Shater. He was one of the first MB businessmen to venture into management (having formed the Umma Centre in the late 1980s) and computers (the well- known Salsabil Company).

Unlike MB investment under Hassan El-Banna, which was part of a national liberation quest (forming a textile company under British occupation was a daring act, in the same league as the nationalisation of the Suez Canal), investment in the liberalisation period took on a consumerist nature. As of the 1990s, the largest MB investments were directed at luxury housing and North Coast tourist resorts.

Although the Brothers have performed an important economic  role both domestically and abroad, this could not translate into corresponding success in the public domain, where the MB remains a banned political organisation.  Instead, MB members themselves became successful businessmen in their own right and acquired the wealth and privilege to use as clout on behalf of the Brethren and the ideology to which they espoused.  People like Khairat El-Shater:

El-Shater was the only exception. A brilliant businessman, El-Shater also had immense organisational skills that placed him at the top of the MB’s organisational hierarchy (he is currently the second deputy of the general guide). El-Shater is the first MB leader to combine economic and organisational power. As such, he is more than a businessman and a successful MB leader, and his influence within the MB is substantial.

The mystique surrounding the group’s wealth has been generated partly by the presence of several rich individuals at the heart of the MB leadership.  Moreover, the movement has all but dissolved its capital assets in Egypt save for a few schools, banks and charitable institutions; financial clout now rests in the hands of members who must contribute approximately 8 per cent of their wealth to the Brotherhood every year.

The increasingly blurred distinction between Brotherhood coffers and private wealth has meant the government using their legal and authoritative muscle to freeze and even confiscate the private assets of several wealthy individual members of the MB.

What’s interesting is that Nasser’s crackdown on his fellow revolutionaries and the eventual enforced isolation of various MB personalities in Europe and America during the 1950s, 60s and 70s prior to their return and the movements initial resurgence under Sadat, have contributed to the group’s financial portfolio and their fundraising and investment overseas.  A full set of accounts for the global organisation and its various offshoots would reveal just how wealthy the Brothers are.

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Great post over at The Spittoon from Rashad Ali on the scriptural and moral legitimacy of the Islamist-espoused pan-global Caliphate.  I’ve reproduced it below in full (Thanks Rashad!  Excellent work!):

Hizb ut-Tahrir; Jamaat-e-Islami; Ikhwan al-Muslimeen and al-Qaeda all have, as a fundamental aim; the establishment of a global dictatorship under the rule of one Caliph, an autocrat, who will impose one interpretation of the Shar’iah over the entire globe. They intend to do this through unifying countries where there already exists Muslim majorities then launch a worldwide international effort at expanding this state through diplomatic and hostile means i.e. warfare.

For them, there is a religious duty (fard) in which there is no dispute, that there must be a single caliphate encompassing the whole globe. There is no room for different interpretations, and anyone differing with them – especially the likes of the Hizb, and al-Qaeda, are upon Kufr – unbelief and apostates from Islam. In fact they would argue that all the Muslim scholars who have abandoned engaging in political activity for the sake of establishing such a super-state are upon misguidance, and Kufr, even if on the whole the Muslim jurists take the position, that there are different opinions on this issue, which are legitimate opinions – Ijtihadaat – and therefore we cannot start accusing others of being on un-Islamic positions for holding different views.

The fact is whilst mainstream religious scholarship prefers unity to disunity, and an ideal of unified peaceful relations, it recognizes the practical and political reality that has existed throughout our history, that we have always had different states and empires. Scholarship has always recognized that there differences in all such issues which warrant recognition. Barking on about the obligation of having a leader/caliph/head of state- all of which carry the same meaning according to groups like Hizb ut-Tahrir, is not the same as proving that Muslim scholars historically or presently support the forceful unification of Muslim majority countries or expansionist states in the World. This is a false representation of classical and modern scholarship.

First of all, Muslim scholars have differed over the necessity of having a single political leadership. Rather it was considered acceptable to many scholars.

Secondly, rejecting the concept of having a caliph and Imam or leadership was considered as erroneous (this should be differentiated form the notion of an expansionist state), but not Kufr. In fact, it was considered a form of extremism amongst classical scholars to exaggerate the issueof caliphate as their many differences upon such issues.

Thirdly, political rebellion in order to remove leaderships by force, coup or militant means or through political agitation was considered heresy, and fisq (transgression) and an aspect of deviant sectarian cultiures such as the Khawarij; deemed outside of the way of mainstream Islamic teaching; which is where the seperation from classical tradition and Islamist ideological activism originates.

A question arise though about the apparent clear cut evidences from prophetic tradition which are often cited to clearly oblige the necessity of one caliph and forbid multiple rulers. It is then claimed that such rules are clear cut and definitive (Qati) permitting no other interpretations.

Methodological principles

The founder of Hizb ut-Tahrir Taqi ul-Din al-Nabhani explains in volume 3 of Shakhsiya Islamiya page 186, in the chapter titled ‘Mafhoom ul-Shart’ (the concept of the condition/conditional clause):

“The mafhoom al-Shart is when the rule depends upon something which has come in any of the forms of the conditional clause such as ‘if/when’ or any meaning implying a condition. It indicates the negation of the ruling when such a condition is not realised/is absent”
Nabhani also states that absolute and general statements would be restricted by conditional clauses, or in fact more generally by the denotation (mantooq) as well as the connotation (mafhoom) of the speech.

“It is permitted to restrict the the mantooq (the meaning of the denotation of the speech), by the mafhoom (the connotations of the speech), whether this is when it is the in the meaning of the statement and in harmony with it (mafhoom al-muwafaqa) or divergent from it (mukhalafa)” [such as the the conditional clause – he gives an example to substantiate this]. (Chapter: restricting the Mantooq by the Mafhoom, page 255)

Hadith about one leader and how they have been interpreted

So for example the hadith wherein the prophet is reported to have said as narrated by Sahih Muslim:

“whoever comes to you, and you are united under one man, and seeks to cause political dissention and separate your community (jama’ah), fight him”

This would apply when united under a single leadership. This would then restrict the meaning of other general texts which imply a single leadership according to nabhani’s principles of interpretation, i.e. the specific meaning would be then understood to restrict the general implications of other texts such as “if the pledge is given to two Caliphs, fight the latter” as applying under a single leadership, not when there are many different states and leaderships already.

Imam al-Nawawi comments on the above hadith in the chapter ‘the ruling of segregating the affair of the Muslims when they are united’,

“Whoever come to you and you are united…” stating that this refers to “those who rebel (kharaja) against the leader…”(!!) (page 444 of al-Minhaj bi-Shar’h Sahih Muslim bin al-Hajjaj, Dar al-Marifa, Beirut – Lebanon).

He also states regarding the second hadith that “generally scholars have agreed that you can not contract two caliphs… there is however the probability of the opinion of Imam al-Haramayn”. (page 445) He explains that there is a possibility of differet opinions in this matter. He states

“This is outside of the definitive matters (kharij min al-Qawati). And Maziri (the well known Maliki commentator on Imam Muslim’s collection of hadith) has narrated this Qawl (opinion) on some of the later scholars of Principle, including Imam al-Haramayn”. So it is the position of Imam al-Haramayn that it is permitted to have multiple political leaders. Imam al-Nawawi is not of this view and he states “though it is an irregular position and conflicts with the views of the early scholars and the apparent, absolute meaning of the text.” (page 435).

The important point is that it is not a definitive issue, it is subject to opinion and Ijtihad. Imam al-Haramayn is however one of the most widely accepted scholars agreed upon to reach the position of a Mujtahid Imam, and was the celebrated teacher of of revered Imam al-Ghazali.

What was Imam al-Haramayn al-Juwayni’s point of view? He explained this clearly in his text ‘al-Ghiyath al-Umam fi Tiyath al-Zulam’ where he explained:

“I do not deny the permissibility of appointing (two leaders) according to the need (haja) and enforcing both of their executive decisions as a religious duty. This however is a time without an overall Imam.”

People have misconstrued his words, as implying that this is only when it is impossible. This is absolutely false. Not just frpom the quotation itself, which is that it is according to the need (not even necessity), but Imam al-Haramayn explains in the following sentence, “if they agree to appoint an Imam over them, it is a right for the two leaders to submit to the decisions of this Imam in a manner he deems appropriate” He goes on to discuss to Imams in two separate countries, not one would have claim to the leadership of all the Muslims. [(pp 168-169 Muassas al-Rayan edition)]

al-Amir al-San’ani explains that in the statement:

“’Whoever left obedience to the Imam and separated from the community and then died, then his is a death of pagan ignorance.’…the phrase, ‘…left obedience…’, means obedience to the Caliph with whom there is agreement. And the implication here is that the Caliph referred to is that of a particular region because the people have never gathered together behind a single Caliph in all the lands of Islam since the time of the Abbasid State . Rather, the people of every region were independent with someone presiding over their affairs. If the hadith was taken to mean the overall Caliph which the people of Islam had united behind, then there would have been no benefit in the saying” [Subul al-Salaam, (volume 3, page 499)]

Imam Shawkani also held this view:

“As for when Islam spread and its territories expanded and its regions became distant [from each other], then it is known that in all of these regions loyalty was given to an Imam or Sultan… So there is no harm in the multiplicity of Imams and Sultans and it is obligatory for those people in whose land his orders and prohibitions become effective to give obedience to him after having giving bay’ah (a pledge of allegiance) to him. It is the same for the people of all the other regions.”

Shawkani goes on to say, someone not understanding this will not benefit from the presentation of the dalil (scriptural proofs) as he won’t “be able comprehend it”. [al-Sayl al-Jarrar (volume 4, page 512)]

Rejecting Imamate in principle

As for making the issue of political leadership a central aspect of faith, and declaring Kufr on ideas and people on the basisi of such ideas, or even for rejecting the whole notion of having any kind of political leadership, this is considered a characteristicof extremists. As Imam al-Ghazali stated:

“Know, however that error regarding the status of the Caliphate, whether or not establishing this office is a (communal obligation), who qualifies for it, and related matters, cannot serve as grounds for condemning people as Unbelievers. Indeed Ibn al-Kaysan denied that there was any religious obligation to have a Caliphate at all; but this does not mean thathe must be branded an Unbeliever. Nor do we pay any attention to those who exaggerate the matter of Imamate and equate recognition of the Imam with faith in God and His Messenger. Nor do we pay any attention to those people who oppose these people and brand them Unbelievers simply on the basis of their doctrine of on the Imamate. Both of these positions is extreme. For neither of the doctrines in question entails any claim that the Prophet perpetrated lies.” ‘On the Boundaries of Theological Tolerance in Islam’ Abu Hamid al-Ghazali’s Faysal al-Tafriqa by Sherman A. Jackson, Oxford.

To clarify, it is considered a subsidiary branch of fatawa, not a fundamental aspect of religion. Which is why someone denying any aspect of recognising political leaderships is considered by the mainstream scholars to be mistaken, at worst upon a devaint position, but not a non-Muslim or outside the community of believers.

‘Nihayat ul-Su’al fi-Shar’h minhaj ul-Wusul lil-Qadi al-Baydawi ma al-hashiya Salam ul-Wusul li-Sharh al-Nihaya’ authored by Jamal ul-Din al-Asnawi and commentary by Shaykh Muhammad Bakhit al-Muti’ee, Alim ul-Kutub edition states:

“The obligation of appointing an Imam is from the branches of religious rulings (furoo ul-fiqh’hiya), and without a doubt they are not from the fundamentals of religion (Usul ul-Din).” (volume 3 page 92)

Political rebellion in order to forcefully remove leaderships

Imam al-Nawawi explains the orthodox position of the Sunni Muslim scholars:

“We should not challenge nor dispute the legitimacy of the political leqadership, nor come out in difference to them, unless we clearly see a evil perpetrated by them, definitively violating the principle of Islam. If this is seen then this evil should be denounced and you should speak the truth. As for khurooj (rebellion) this forbidden by consensus of all the Muslims.” (page 532).

So what about those who have decided to undertake military means to remove established rulers, despots and tyrants they may be, based upon their interpretation of such evidences? Well let us return to the writings of Imam al-Asnawi, Qadi al-Baydawi and Shaykh Muhammad Bakhit al-Muti’ee.

“Similarly the Khawarij, those who permit the slaughter of Muslims, taking their wealth and their famillies based upon an interpretation and speculative interpretation of the text; they are transgressors (fussaq) in our eyes, though not in theirs…” (volume 3 page 136)

Ironically Imam al-Nawawi (see above) applies the very same hadith stating that the meaning of the hadith which are politicised for their own ends by the likes of Hizb ut-Tahrir, to mean that they should be fought for political rebellion.

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Khalil al-Anani had a piece in the Daily Star the other day, which I missed, on the possible repercussions springing from the Egyptian regime’s ongoing crackdown against the Muslim Brotherhood.  These are the main points of the article:

  • The recent spate of arrests, sympathetic press in independent papers such as al-Masry al-Youm and al-Dustour, as well as the tried and trusted state media, has resulted in the isolation of the Brotherhood in mainstream Egyptian society.  However, the MB have never been more powerful, perhaps not domestically, but abroad and especially in Europe, and the organisation will outlast this particular onslaught.
  • The regime’s relationship with the MB continues to mirror that faced by them under Nasser: having won so many seats in the 2005 parliamentary elections, the MB overstepped the mark somewhat with regards their supposedly accepted ‘quietist’ role in the Egyptian public sphere.  That is, there was an understanding that charitable work and da’wah would be the only fields in which the MB would be allowed to operate.  Post 2005, as the regime’s thoughts started to turn towards the post-Mubarak era and the question of succession, it has been decided to eradicate the Brotherhood once and for all, and in so doing keep the lid on the inevitable power struggle in the wake of President Mubarak’s ‘standing aside’.
  • The MB have been unable to secure a broad-based coalition upon which the fight government oppression and other issues afflicting Egyptian society, and have, in turn, become disconnected from heir grassroots’ support/power base.

Al-Anani outlines seven likely scenarios:

  • The crackdown could lead to mass disruption and civil unrest in the wake of economic turmoil and Egypt’s uncertain political future.
  • The MB’s isolation could have unexpected knock-on effects such as the radicalisation of the organisation.
  • Continued suppression could lead to the disenchantment of the young cadres turning on the MB’s leadership and splitting the organisation.  The recent arrests have been seen by some as akin to the execution of Sayyed Qutb, and have expressed their dissatisfaction at what they see as a lack of political will on behalf of the leadership to confront the Mubarak regime.
  • Arresting moderates in the organisation could secure short-term political capital, but generate long-term problems for the government if the MB left the centre ground.
  • Radical Islamists movements could emerge amidst the MB’s tribulations, groups modelled on al-Gama’ah al-Islamiyyah that espouse violence as means of bridging the void between the state and religion.
  • One possible scenario is the break-up of the MB into smaller, independent groups unfettered by a central command/leadership structure and possible more radical.
  • Finally, the suppression could mirror the period in Algeria in the early 90’s when the Islamists were deprived of political power by a secularist-military alliance that culminated in the bloody feuds that continue to threaten peace in the country today.

It must be said that I disagree with al-Anani over his suggestion that the MB have become isolated from their popular support: those in Egyptian’s miniscule middle classes and more affluent social strata were never likely to endorse them and the recent arrests and consonant media revelations have done nothing to change that.  Furthermore, the MB, despite not being able to capitalise fully on the lack of progress with the so-called Road Map and not forming a coalition with the civil rights movements as we witnessed a couple of years ago, are reaping the rewards of the communications strategy, particularly online.  MB bloggers, as was borne out by the recent Harvard report into the Middle Eastern blogosphere, carry substantial weight domestically and across the Arab world.  Furthermore, the Brotherhood’s alliances abroad, outside of the Middle East, appear to be bearing fruit as meetings with White House officials prior to President Obama’s speech in Cairo and the invitation of several Muslim Brothers to the event itself will testify.

No.  The Brotherhood are a long way from finished yet and, together with Egypt’s burgeoning salafist movement, they have achieved respectable gains in their ongoing efforts to re-Islamise Egyptian society.  The MB are here to stay.

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