It is now fairly widely acknowledged that what was hoped for in Egypt after its “Arab spring” revolution began is increasingly unlikely to happen. Namely the emergence of a secular and democratic government which will bring stability, peace and prosperity to its nation. The rise of the Muslim Brotherhood wasn’t unexpected to those who understood the dynamics of such revolutions. Nature abhors a vacuum. Power does as well. When the Mubarak regime fell, it created just such a power vacuum. And just as with nature, something was bound to fill that vacuum. In situations like the one in Egypt, that’s usually the most organized and ruthless group available. Unsurprisingly, that group was the Muslim Brotherhood, and Egypt, like a good number of other states in the area, appears to be headed down the long road to Islamic fundamentalism where Islam and sharia dominate the culture with the usual results.
As Libya goes through the final throes of ousting a dictator, one has to ask what the dominant group might be to fill the power vacuum created there. We know the Transnational National Council (TNC) is that supposed vehicle for taking power. But who are they?
Claire Lopez at Big Peace does a little research and gives us an idea. First, she starts by reading the proposed constitution put forward by the TNC and points to the reality that document promises :
Part of that reality is actually on full display with the online posting of Libya’s “Draft Constitutional Charter for the Transitional Stage. As the equally level-headed Dr. Andrew Bostom wrote in his 22 August 2011 posting, “the salient feature of Libya’s new draft constitution is Part 1, Article 1: Islam is the Religion of the State, and the principal source of legislation is Islamic Jurisprudence (Sharia).” [emphasis added]
For those still unsure of what is actually happening in Libya, that Article, which places Islamic law (shariah) at the very top of the constitution, means that principles Jeffersonian republicans consider foundational to a democratic system—such as equality, individual freedom, pluralism, tolerance, minority protections, consent of the governed, natural rights/natural law derived through exercise of human reason, independent (secular) judiciary, and a vibrant free press—even if mentioned later in the draft text, have no real validity. It is what comes first and is stated explicitly in the constitution that carries the real weight. In Libya’s case, that means Islamic law.
Among some that revelation will elicit the reply, “well we don’t know that. We don’t know that such a declaration will really have the effect that critics are claiming”. Of course, you have to deny the reality in the vast majority of states in the Middle East where Islam is the state religion and sharia the legal system to say such a thing.
Secondly, Libya is a country with no real experience with western democracy, philosophy or ideals. For at least 40 years, individual rights have been trampled. “Natural law” consisted of Gaddafi dictating and the people obeying. The organs of such a hoped for revolutionary change simply don’t exist in Libya. But what does exist is an organization of Islamists bent on taking power. What one has to realize is they believe what they are going to try to do is what is best for both the country and the people. And they have help:
Those taking over are no less a cause for concern: as Walid Phares points out in his insightful Fox News analysis of 23 August 2011, the Libyan TNC is a motley crew comprising “former diplomats, bureaucrats, and military officers from the old regime” as well as “politicians and leaders from movements and groups from the political left, Marxists, Socialists, Arab Nationalists, liberals and Islamists.” As in Egypt and elsewhere across the region, however, it is the proponents of shariah who are the best organized and most determined to impose their agenda in the post-revolutionary milieu. Their push for power in Libya already is underway, openly supported by Yousuf al-Qaradawi and the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, and will accelerate from positions within the TNC as its grip on the country is consolidated.
Emphasis mine and an argument I’ve been making prominently since Egypt. There is nothing at all to indicate that it will be any different in Libya. What most in the West, who have a different take on the involvement of religion in everyday life means, is that Islam is woven into the very fabric of the life of most adherents and is more than something they do once a week. It is going to be interesting to see how NATO and the US handle this, but when all is said and done, I expect to see another “Islamic Republic” in place, mostly hostile to the West and Israel and with its people again under the boot heel of another form of dictatorship – this time religious in nature.
I guess, perhaps, it is a function of being brought up during the Cold War and watching one "people’s revolution" after another – each promising democracy, freedom and enlightened rule – turn into murderous and oppressive regimes which has me highly suspicious of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) in Egypt.
I’m also fascinated and perplexed by those who would accept at face value the MB’s declarations in that regard. Carefully reading the words of MB leaders doesn’t at all leave me with a warm fuzzy feeling. Instead I see much of the West falling hook, line and sinker for pernicious propaganda designed to fool them into believing something that isn’t at all in evidence.
For instance, Dr Muhammad Badie is the new leader of the MB. From their English language site (which I understand is much less inflammatory than their Arabic language site) he is quoted:
He concluded by telling reporters that the movement was open to new ideas hence their promoting of reform. The Brotherhood rejects violence and aims to achieve gradual reforms in a peaceful and constitutional way.
“We totally reject violence and denounce it in all its forms," the new leader concluded. [Emphasis mine]
Sounds great. Of course he is quoted as saying things like this on the MB Arabic website:
-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.
Mr. “non-violence” advocating … violence, as recently as October of last year.
Flip over to a little controversy of words between Conor Friedersdorf and Andy McCarthy. Friedersdorf is upset about the way McCarthy worded a particular claim in a recent article. In it McCarthy says, "Hamas is not merely colluding with the Muslim Brotherhood. Hamas is the Muslim Brotherhood." . Friedersdorf responds with:
When Andy McCarthy says that The Muslim Brotherhood is Hamas, the point he’s making is that we can anticipate how the group will act if it comes to power in Egypt, because we know how Hamas acts in Gaza, and the two groups are the same. In contrast, Eli Lake doesn’t believe we can know how the Muslim Brotherhood will act in Egypt if it comes to power, he describes a moderate faction of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt that is quite different from Hamas, and even in the clip you cite, he isn’t arguing that The Muslim Brotherhood is Hamas – he is arguing that one of its chapters – the one in Gaza – is Hamas, and that an Egyptian government headed by the Muslim Brotherhood might strengthen the hand of Hamas in its ongoing conflict with Israel.
Note the irrelevance of the argument in terms of the big picture. The fact remains, and even Friedersdorf admits it, that the Gaza chapter of the Muslim Brotherhood is Hamas – a violent terror group (and one which fits perfectly in the new MB leaders “jihadist” framework, no?) We can quibble about whether or not that chapter represents the MB as a whole or not, but the fact remains, it gives total lie to the claim of the MB’s new leader eschewing violence (as do his own words, of course). You see, when it comes to Israel, the MB makes an exception to this declaration.
Don’t believe me? Here’s a translated clip of Muhammad Ghanem, Muslim Brotherhood Representative in London, calling for civil disobedience, including "halting passage through the Suez Canal … and preparing for war with Israel"
Here’s an interview with Khaled Hamza, the editor of the Muslim Brotherhood’s official website. He is described by the interviewer as “a leading voice of moderation within the party, and is central to its youth-outreach efforts.”
One of the things the MB has talked about is “secular government”. They’re for it, well, sort of. I mean that’s what they talk about, but what do they mean when they say it? Well, here’s what they mean:
So the Brotherhood would support the maintenance of a secular government?
When the Muslim Brotherhood uses the word "secular," it does not mean no religion — we are talking about what we call a "civilized state." [emphasis mine]
Uh huh … and what makes a “civilized state?” Read between the lines, people.
Here’s the former MB leader introducing the new MB leader:
Akef addressed a word to the press conference, which had convened for the historical announcement of the eighth Chairman of the Muslim Brotherhood Movement. He asserted that the movement was bound by a set of regulations however were and still are open to reform and progress suitable to specific incidents and specific times stressing that flexibility is a must for the success of any trend.
He called on the members of the movement to holdfast to its cause and not to waver or flinch in the face of possible oppression and tyranny. "Continue in your cause with head held high and follow through with integrity and reciprocated respect so that the banner of Islam may be raised. Support your leaders who are as one within your ranks". [emphasis mine]
There’s your “civilized state”.
Back to the Hamza interview:
Do you support the establishment of sharia (Islamic law) in the way the government of Saudi Arabia has established it?
The Brotherhood does not agree with the monarchy in Saudi Arabia, because it is simply not democratic.
So you believe that there has to be a certain way to put sharia into place, but that establishing it through monarchy or by force is unacceptable?
Yes, democracy is the only way.
So the veneer of democracy is to be used to install what they all know they plan on installing – sharia law as a part of a “civilized state”. Once sharia is “chosen”, then they have inoculated themselves against criticism from the West. And, of course, as long as they’re in power, sharia will never be “unchosen”. Democracy is very useful in this way as most of those “people’s revolutions” demonstrated during the Cold War era. Organize for the post-government era so that the MB has the best political organization out there, ban the opposing party (that would be Mubarak’s party which the MB says would be banned from running for office), and win the election. Then implement the agenda:
What role would the Muslim Brotherhood have in creating a new state if it participated in the political process?
We would take part in Parliament and run in the elections for it. [Under Mubarak's ban on the group, members of the Brotherhood must run for office as independents - Ed.) When people choose the Muslim Brotherhood, the West must understand that the people want it. [Emphasis mine]
There you go. And check out this sleight of hand in that same interview. The interviewer asks about the establishment of government in Egypt and whether or not the “Iranian model” is one the MB would follow:
What about the Iranian model?
The Iranians follow the Ayatollah; we do not believe Islam requires a theocracy. In our view, the ulema (clergy) are only for teaching and education — they are out of the political sphere. Iran has some good things, such as elections, but we disagree with all the aggression. We disagree also with the human rights abuses from the government and attacks on the population.
Remember, the former chairman invoked raising the banner of Islam, and this fellow has already told us that “secular” doesn’t mean “no religion”. And anyone who has studied Islam even a little bit understands there is no separation between the religion, law and governance. In fact, that’s how a country becomes a “civilized state”. So this statement is disingenuous at best. So is claiming that the clergy are only “for teaching and education”. And in fact, later on in the interview, he slips a bit. This in a discussion on the role of women in politics:
If the Brotherhood were in power in Egypt, what would be the rights of women to participate in politics? Could a woman serve in Parliament, or as President?
We believe in the complete participation of women in political life — except the presidency.
Except the presidency? Why is that?
Most ulema agree that the president must be a man. Women can run for any political office except president…In Islam there are ideas and options, and Islam says it is possible [for a woman to serve as President], but for now we choose the other option. We say it is a choice, from the religious thinkers or schools of thought. But there are other options and different choices. Some [Islamic] scholars say a woman can be President, but the Muslim Brotherhood, now, at this moment, does not agree with this. Maybe after some years they’d accept this. I think so. For myself, Khaled, I personally think a woman can be President, no problem. [Emphasis mine]
The “ulema agree”? Uh, if they’re just for “teaching and education” who cares? Or are they making "decisions” that government abides by? Sounds like the latter to me. And notice how casually he throws women’s rights to the political process under the bus with “but for now we choose the other option”. What’s to say “we” won’t choose any number of other options for the “civilized state” as decreed by the “ulema”? Stoning. Killing gays and infidels. etc.
Finally, on the subject of violence and Israel:
What about relations with Israel? What would the Brotherhood do regarding the situation between Israel and Palestine?
We think Israel is an occupation force and is not fair to the Palestinians. We do not believe in negotiation with Israel. As the Muslim Brotherhood, we must resist all this. They are an occupation force and we must resist this. Did you see what they do in Gaza, on the flotilla? Israel is a very dangerous force and we must resist. Resistance is the only way, negotiation is not useful at all.
So would the Muslim Brotherhood, if in a position of government, help groups like Hamas?
Do you recognize Israel as a state?
And this guy is a “moderate” and “modernist”.
Beware the wolf in sheep’s clothing – the symbol of many a past “people’s revolution”.