Mainstream Islamists on the March

Category: World Affairs Topics: Muslim Brotherhood, Muslim World Views: 7747

Islamism has become... the primary vehicle and vocabulary of most Islamic political discourse throughout the Muslim world. When Westerners talk about political ideals, they naturally hark back to the Magna Carta, The American Revolution, and the French Revolution. Muslims go back to the Koran and the Hadith to derive general principles about good governance and concepts of social and economic justice... In the end, modern liberal governance is more likely to take root through organically evolving liberal Islamist trends at the grassroots level than from imported Western models of "instant democracy." - Graham E. Fuller, former Vice-Chairman of the National Intelligence Council, CIA

Islamic revivalism is not a new phenomenon. It is ingrained in the very nature of the Islamic message. Consider for example the following incident from its early history. When the Prophet Muhammad was commissioning the young Mu'aad bin Jabbal as judge-administrator to Yemen he posed a series of questions on the relevancy of the Qur'an and Sunnah (the Prophet's conduct). After Mu'aad responded satisfactorily, the final question was what if he does not find an answer in those two sacred sources. "I will use my better judgment" was the prompt response. The Prophet was thereby well pleased that he was delegating the responsibility into the right hands. Thus using ijtihad, reasoned judgment, a variety of movements arose among the Muslim Ummah to respond to the exigencies of their times.

The roots of modern Islamic reform movements could be traced to Jamaluddin al-Afghani (1839-1897) and his disciples Muhammad Abdu and Rashid Rida.

Whereas Islamic thinkers of the times were enamored by modernity, al-Afghani highlighted its contradictory impact. He located the core of historical dilemma in Muslim society, which had been subjected to colonialism: How a colonial society could modernize itself if it had to be free for creativity and originality to take place.

Starting with Muhammad Iqbal and Abul Ala Mawdudi in colonial India, Hassan al-Banna and Sayyid Qutb in Egypt, they responded to this call by transmitting Islam's message from its traditional sources to modern institutions, adapting it to the requirements of times.

Mainstream Islamism is a fundamental political reality in the Arab and Muslim world.

However, it would be wrong to assume that the answer has been uniform or simplistic. Rather, as Graham Fuller (quoted above) correctly reads, it is a complex dynamic phenomenon, responding to the dilemmas and crises of modern world. Islamists are trying to regain equilibrium through the principles of justice and equity for the Muslim world after encountering the painful jolts of colonialism and, recently, globalization.

Mainstream Islamism is a fundamental political reality in the Arab and Muslim world, and wherever relatively free and credible elections have been held, they emerged as the main players. This has been the case since 9/11 in Jordan, Kuwait, Bahrain, Pakistan, Morocco, Turkey and Egypt. This reality should by now be clearly evident to the US administration in the recently carried out elections in Iraq under its occupation, as well as in Palestine under Israeli occupation.

To lump all Islamic expressions under the rubric of fundamentalism is a grave distortion of this phenomenon, and is driven by a specific politically driven agenda rather than ground realities. This is what the US policy documents advocate. For example, see Cheryl Benard's "Civil Democratic Islam" published by the Rand Corporation in 2003 - and, in essence, pitting Muslim against Muslim.

The Muslim Brotherhood and Its Agenda

Demonstration by Muslim Brotherhood supporters in Cairo (AP photo)

In the recent Egyptian elections, the banned but popular Muslim Brotherhood - to avoid aggravating the government - confined itself to contest only 144 of the 454 parliamentary seats. It won 88 seats, or 20% of the current parliament, whereas previously it had only 15 seats, and emerged as the largest opposition front. Other opposition members together won 15 seats.

This happened despite the grave inadequacies of the Egyptian election process. The elections were marred by violence such as police tear-gassing, blocking polling stations, and arresting hundreds of the Brotherhood activists; or with thugs let loose with machetes, knives and guns, while police stood by. Even, observers from the Judges Club who came out to witness the elections were beaten up. And the degree of violence increased progressively in three successive phases of elections - with authorities intent on ensuring results in favor of the ruling National Democratic Party.

The Muslim Brotherhood declared that in the newly constituted parliament, it would seek cooperation with others in the opposition in forming a solid block to bring about the required changes. It stands for laying solid foundations for building a democratic, institutionalized state, built on a separation of powers. It advocates constitutional reforms that render the government accountable and transparent in all its dealings in order to root out the rampant corruption. It also declared that it would work for the abrogation of emergency laws and for the reformation of civil and political rights -freedom of assembly and speech, and freedom to form political parties. It would introduce constitutional changes to limit the term of presidency, and amend laws that govern the formation of parties. Establishing its own legal status would be a critical step.

In an interview before elections, Muhammad Habib, second in command for the Brotherhood, clarified its stance regarding enacting Sharia laws. That the Sharia is for the good of the society, but its stringent laws are applicable after the society is reformed. "We must first create a spiritual society. The citizen must be granted full rights - psychological, mental, moral, material to live as human, with his rights and honor and humanity respected."

With regard to women's rights, the Muslim Brotherhood stands for their equal partnership in voting, running for offices, determining policies, decision-making, and in monitoring of all affairs of the Ummah.

Regarding minorities, such as Christians, they should have full citizenship rights and could work themselves up in all areas without exception.

In an Islamic Egypt the legislation passed must be in accordance with the requirements of Islam. The representatives of the people, elected freely and fairly by popular vote, would govern such a state. The winning parties would be obliged to implement their specific platform and program during their term in office, and the people would have the right to vote them out if they do not meet their requirements.

The US View of the Muslim Brotherhood

"If the administration was not prepared to play hardball with the Egyptian dictator, why lay down specific conditions for him to flout?"

Successive American administrations have been particularly apprehensive of the Islamic movements - fearing they would jeopardize US regional interests - and have gone on to support the co-opted authoritarian regimes. Accordingly, the US supports Mubarak, who raises the specter of "The Other Alternative" (the epithet for Islamists) - meaning the Brotherhood would come to power whenever the question of reform is raised. While Bush has severally acknowledged it was such a support of dictators that generates Islamic radicals, yet beyond empty rhetoric, he and his administration have followed the same ruinous policy.

The US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice visited Egypt three times and outlined criteria by which the fairness and openness of elections would be judged. Stating that the presidential and parliamentary elections "must meet objective standards that define every election," she criticized Mubarak's emergency decrees, and that "international monitors must have unrestricted access to their jobs."

Mubarak did none of the above.

Robert Kagan, a senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace wrote in a column in The Washington Post of September 4, 2005: "Of course, it is always easier to give strong speeches than to implement them... But it is not as if the United States lacks leverage - to the tune of more than a billion dollars a year in aid. If the administration was not prepared to play hardball with the Egyptian dictator, why lay down specific conditions for him to flout?"

Perhaps it is due to the concern that it "might produce a victory for the Muslim Brotherhood, the most popular opposition party" Kagan wrote. If so, "Bush officials should stop talking so much about democracy and go back to supporting the old dictatorship. It was precisely that kind of logic (that) helped produce so much radicalism.

"If the decisive moment in Egypt passes without change, many will ask what exactly, is new about the administration's approach. Arab peoples watching carefully to see whether Bush is serious about his commitment to democracy will have reason to doubt it."

Hamas and the US

Here we must interject on behalf of the Islamist Hamas, recently winning a landslide victory in Palestine under Israeli occupation. The US administration labels Hamas a terrorist organization. This, while Israel daily commits much more egregious acts of terrorism on Palestinians, including targeted assassinations that recently the Israeli Defense Minister threatened to extend to elected Hamas leadership. Despite this, Israel has the unwavering support of the US, and Palestinians are getting punished by cutting off all humanitarian assistance for exercising their right of democratic elections in their own land.

The Islamists fully realize and acknowledge the genuine interests of the United States and Europeans in the region. Their stand on issues of concern, such as Arab- Israeli conflict is well known, yet they aim at dialogue to reconcile all differences.

It is time for the US administration to see the writing on the wall, change its policies towards Arabs and Muslims, and adopt a course that best serves its wider interest-the friendship of more than 1 billion Muslims worldwide. What Muslims are asking for is not special favors or handouts, but justice, equity and fairness in dealing with them. Islamists are part of the future for the Arab and Muslim world, and their participation in the political process is the best hope for their societies.

Siraj Islam Mufti, Ph.D. is a researcher and freelance journalist. He frequently contributes articles to the,, Islamic Circle of North America, Muslim American Society, and United Association for Studies and Research.

  Category: World Affairs
  Topics: Muslim Brotherhood, Muslim World
Views: 7747

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Older Comments:
I just want to say how the terrorist such as Osama made my life pathetic. Muslims should understand the meaning of Jihad. The meaning of Jihad is war with the evil in us. That is the holy war. I feel shameful to share my religion with such people like Osama and other islamic people who support him and call him Allah's messenger.
Osama is not a muslim! He is a sick pathetic person who has killed innocent people! I just dont understand why religions cant be one. Its One God who has made all of us.

This message is largely for Chuck Smith.... hey there Chuck, Muslims don't fear "biblical christianity," because you can't build a civilization that can threaten Islam on biblical Christianity. YOu can't build a car on pure emotions; and that's what biblical christianity really comes down to, and I can go on.
Islam my friend is a far more potent ideology than anything out there,due to its clarity, simplicity, and justice, but it just needs the right people for it. There is only one empire of faith my friend and Christianity is not it, but I will let you do the guessing as to what faith is ????....uhh uhhhh ISLAM! The West today has a greater debt to the Romans and Greeks (and of course even they are indebted to the Ancient Egyptians, Indians, etc) than Christianity, and just like before, biblical christianity due to many reasons, mainly the tension between its pagan origins and whatever ounce of truth left over from the time of Jesus (PBUH) will necessarly transform itself back to the waterdown version of todays Christianity. If the well is dirty, then my friend, all the water that comes from the well will also be dirty. You see, because of the material advancement of our age, biblical christianity is incapable of offering a morality that can keep pace with this reality. It can work best only in pre-modern, pre-industrialized societies, but the minute they reach the stage that Galileo and others like him reach they will seek the same remedies he and his friends opted for. That of course will be SECULARIZATION and they will only tolerate it (Christianity) in its most waterdown version.

And you know what, as the new biblical christian converts start to reason (start using their brain) Islam will come to bring them back in to the fold of the religion of faith and reason. The religion that lacks the tension apparent in all forms of Christianity, biblical or otherwise.

The only thing that MUSLIMs fear from the WEST is their appetite 4 KILLING UNJU

Is good to hear that the muslim brotherhood are refining their tactics to bringing about an Islamic State. The idea derived from Sayid Qutb writins (e.g "Milestone") of violent revolution and bara'a to all existing govts. is not only outdated but is something in total contradiction to what we observed and learnt from the prophet (SAW), his companions and those that follows their footsteps amongst the first three generations after hijra.

What we really lack in my view is what I may refer to "compelete Aqidah" ie knowing the meaning and abiding by the rulin under Lailaha illal-lah Muhammadul-rasulul-lah. TOTAL submission to Allah and TOTAL obedience to prophet Muhammad (SAW) in all that he did, said or gave silent approval. These submission and obedience is in all matters we feel are right or wrong to our physical beings. As long as the command is "Allah (SWT) says.." or the "prophet (SAW) said.." we execute! And also try as much as possible to inpact this on our families, neighbours and others.

An example to be sighted here is the case of the woman who came to the prophet (SAW) with pregnancy and said she had committed adultery and that the prophet should purified her. The prophet said (after investigation) she should go back and come when she must have delivered. She came back with the infant and asked that the prophet purified her, the prophet asked her to go back until the end of the suckling period. She came back with the child, a cake on the child's hand to indicate that the child is now free of her milk. The prophet now gave the verdict of hudud for her! The point here is that we note the strength of eeman of this woman that made her for almost three years to continue bringing herself for punishment of death even though her name is not in the register of the prophet (SAW), nobody was asked to keep a watch on this woman. What made her to succumb? Its nothing save the STRENGTH OF HER EEMAN.

Therefore strengthene people's eeman other things follow.

Whole article is revolving around sincere plea of Mr.Siraj to western powers to acknowledge the islamists or even suggests, if u want to control muslim world,change your bandwagon support Islamists.

Really, this is apologetic attitude. It is similar to M.K.Gandhi's effort to obtain Viceroy's status in 1920. How interesting, if islamists or muslims( as Mr.Siraj suggests in article) are deprived of justice and equity, we can't beg for it.

Yeah, that sounds really like war cry ! Possible i am part of 'fundamentalists'. Civilized is not dep-ends on how you demand justice, but how you oppress other nations.

Possible, Mr.Siraj and his companies are suggesting to US and the worldpower it is easy to penetrate so called islamists, since with power they are easy to be manipulated.

If anybody demanding for justice, pls atleast keep ur back bone straight and firm.

Islam is the fastest growing faith in the world not because of the third world But for europe russia ... The West. That is even much bigger reality that the christian world already started to deal with and will be dealing more in future ... mr. Chuck Smith

I think I can appreciate how the Islamist movement in India led to the Islamist movement in Egypt.

FYI: Biblical Christianity is the not so secret secret weapon of the west and the world. That is a reality the Muslim world will have to deal with since Biblical Christianity is growing in the US and in the third world.

Why are people making muslims into two groups: Arabs and muslims. Are the Arabs better than the rest of the muslims to be put in a different group? I want the mufti to answer this. Are there two groups in Islam. Some of us who are muslims do not feel like working with the Arab group.