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Posts Tagged ‘Muslim Brotherhood’

Khayrat el-Shater, the Muslim Brotherhood’s candidate for the forthcoming Egyptian presidential elections, met with Islamic scholars from the Islamic Legal Body for Rights and Reform (al-hay’at al-shar’iyya lil-huqûq wal-islâh) on Tuesday.

According to the Body’s founding statement, one of their principle goals is:

“The creation of an Islamically-legitimate [râshida] source of authority, which revives the function of clerics and Islamic intellectuals in the Umma (global Islamic community), to support The People who Loosen and Bind [ahl al-hall wal-‘aqd] in strengthening freedoms and ensuring reform.” (إيجاد مرجعية راشدة تُحْيِي وظيفة العلماء والحكماء في الأمة، لمعاونة أهل الحل والعقد في تدعيم الحريات وتحقيق الإصلاح.)

Now, The People who Loosen and Bind is an historical Islamic legal term for those members of a community invested with the power to ‘elect’ a caliph or imam.  It is through this group that a caliph received an oath of allegiance (bay’a) on behalf of the people.

The modern institutional equivalent of the ahl al-hall wal-‘aqd is the legislature or the Majlis al-Sh’ab in the case of Egypt.  It is noteworthy, therefore, given Khayrat el-Shater’s reluctance to speak directly to the media since the annoucement of his candidature, that he paid a visit to this group of clerics and scholars.  Particularly so, given that the Body consists of a cross-section of senior Egyptian ulema; the sort of people likely to endorse or reject his nomination from an Islamic perspective.

At the meeting, Associated France Press reports him making some controversial statements on sharia:

“…Khairat el-Shater, has pledged to press for the implementation of sharia (Islamic law) if elected [and] said implementing the sharia was “his first and final goal,” […] Shater [also] said “he would work to form a group of scholars to support parliament in achieving that goal,”

What’s interesting again is that the Arabic term used at the Body’s website, from which AFP gleaned their information, for ‘a group of scholars’ is ‘majmu’a min ahl al-hall wal-‘aqd‘ (وقد أكد الشاطر أن الشريعة كانت وستظل مشروعه وهدفه الأول والأخير، وأنه سيعمل على تكوين مجموعة من أهل الحل والعقد لمعاونة البرلمان في تحقيق هذا الهدف.).  The use of this term further underscores the importance for Islamists of tradition.

El-Shater’s mention of this ‘group of scholars’ could signal his intention to use the Islamic Legal Body for Rights and Reform.  It will also alarm many who read the Brotherhood’s Draft Party Platform several years ago and noted its reference to the creation of ‘a council of religious scholars’ with the power to veto legislation proposed by the People’s Assembly/Majlis al-Sh’ab.  Could this be the same thing?  It certainly seems so.  If el-Shater is elected, and even if he is not (and becomes PM!), it will be intriguing, not to say worrying, to see what form this ‘group of scholars’ takes.

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During the course of the Arab Spring, we have noted various types of Islamist group emerging into the public sphere.  From the well-organised Muslim Brotherhood and their political party, the FJP, to the newly formed Yemeni Salafist party, the Rashad Union. Muslims of various creeds and affiliations have taken an active part in the political revolutions sweeping the MENA region.

Yet, not all of the Islamists vying for attention belong to parties or established movements.  For some, this is because of a doctrinal aversion to hizbiyya or partisanship; for others, it is simply because they are unaffiliated to any specific theological movement or Islamist grouping.  Khalil al-Anani terms them ‘informal’ Islamists:

“They are not officially affiliated with any Islamist movement. Nor are they keen to establish their own organizations. Ironically, they shunned joining any of the new Islamists parties. Moreover, whereas “formal” Islamists, for example, the MB, ad-Dawa al-Salafiyya, and ex-Jihadists, rushed to formal politics, “informal” Islamists prefer to play outside the official framework.”

Perhaps the archetypal unaffiliated or ‘informal’ Islamist is the Egyptian Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi.  Despite being associated with the Ikhwan, and playing a pivotal role in the initial formation of the Global Muslim Brotherhood Organisation, al-Qaradawi has established a global independent platform for his doctrine of wasatiyya or ‘moderation’ in one’s interpretation of Islam.  Through his appearances on the popular Al Jazeera show Al Sharia wal Hayat, his leadership of the International Union of Muslim Scholars, to the publication of numerous books translated into a multitude of languages, he has been able propagate his ideology to a global audience independently of the Egyptian Brotherhood.

It is the flexibility of operating outside of any formal religious or political organisation that has been a boon for this type of Islamist personality in the wake of the Arab uprisings.  Whilst politico-religious movements such as the Ikhwan and the Salafis have entered parliament, Islamists such as the Egyptian presidential candidate Hazem Abu Ismail, who bridges the gap between the two, have been left untarnished by any controversial pronouncements made by members of either movement, and have built allegiances that cross traditional class and economic boundaries.

It is worth noting that these types of Islamist only represent a short term threat to the political aspirations of the Brotherhood and the Salafi movement; in the long term, these independent Islamists serve to frame the terms of the political debate along Islamic lines.  They broadly share the same goals as these movements in that they wish to see greater Islamic unity, and to see a prominent role for the sharia in the legal systems of their respective countries.

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This isn’t exactly news, but it’s good, nonetheless, to have the Government spell it out in black and white.  From Hansard:

Mr Offord: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent reports he has received of potential links between the UK offices of the Muslim Brotherhood and (a) Hamas, (b) Islamic Jihad and (c) other organisations. [24575]

Alistair Burt: We are aware of reports which suggest that there are significant historic linkages between the Muslim Brotherhood, its overseas affiliates and Hamas. Historically the Brotherhood has presented Hamas as a legitimate resistance movement for the Palestinian people.  The Muslim Association of Britain (MAB) are the Brotherhood’s representative in the UKMAB in the UK publically rejects violence and state that they work for wider Muslim integration into British society.

The Muslim Association of Britain rejects violence?  Oh, that Muslim Association of Britain.

H/T Dave Rich

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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’.

H/T MEMRI 

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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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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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