Muslim Brotherhood, Jamaat-e-Islami and global jihad | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, July 26, 2014 / LAST MODIFIED: 01:53 AM, March 08, 2015

Muslim Brotherhood, Jamaat-e-Islami and global jihad

Muslim Brotherhood, Jamaat-e-Islami and global jihad

(Part 1 of 3 part series)

JEWS and Christians ... should be forced to pay Jizya [poll tax] in order to put an end to their independence and supremacy so that they should not remain rulers and sovereigns in the land. These powers should be wrested from them by the followers of the true Faith [Islam], who should assume the sovereignty and lead others towards the Right Way. That is why the Islamic state offers them [non-Muslims] protection, if they agree to live as Zimmis by paying Jizya, …. it is the duty of the true Muslims to exert their utmost to bring an end to their wicked rule and bring them under a righteous order. Abul A'la Maududi, Founder of the Jamaat-e-Islami

The Muslim Brotherhood has not changed; only Western opinion of it has. As it was since its founding in 1928, the group is committed to empowering and spreading Sharia law -- a law that preaches hate for non-Muslim “infidels,” especially Islam's historic nemesis, Christianity, and allows anything, from lying to cheating, to make Islam supreme. Raymond Ibrahim, Middle East Forum, June 25, 2012

Overview: Muslim quest for alternative orders
American presidents from Eisenhower to Obama have been responsible for the phenomenal rise of Islamist forces throughout the Muslim World. Hillary Clinton and some top American diplomats and politicians have publicly admitted that the Cold War exigencies had led their country to support Islamist forces, including the Afghan Mujahedeen and those who later founded al-Qaeda. We also know that in 1953, while Eisenhower flirted with the ayatollahs on the eve of the CIA-led military coup that toppled a democratically elected government in Iran, both Carter and Reagan legitimised General Zia ul-Haq's pro-Jamaat-e-Islami Islamist military dictatorship in Pakistan (1977-1988). American leadership during Eisenhower and Nixon years preferred the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) to Nasser, for the latter's avowedly anti-Western and anti-Israeli stand, and his close ties with the Soviet Union. America continued to support the soft-on-Islam President Anwar Sadat and the MB till the killing of Sadat by Islamist radicals in 1981. Some critics of American foreign policy also portray the MB as an offshoot of the CIA. MB founder Hassan al-Banna's son-in-law Said Ramadan (father of Tariq Ramadan) is said to have been a CIA agent in the 1950s.i  Many analysts believe that the Cold War understanding between America and Islamists -- the MB, Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) and Afghan Mujahedeen -- did not end with the end of the Cold War. They believe that MB leaders in Egypt and Syria, including Dr. Morsi, are pro-American.ii  As a Western analyst puts in plain words, America and its allies are “funding, arming, while simultaneously fighting al-Qaeda from Mali to Syria” to serve their long-term geo-political interests in the Muslim World.iii  In view of the controversial role America, Nato and its allies have been playing in the various conflict zones of “jihad” and “counter-jihad” in northwest and east Africa, Middle East and Afghanistan, one has reasons to believe that the West has been playing a dubious role. As for example, on the one hand we find top US leaders, Nato and ISAF commanders telling the world that they are fighting terrorists/insurgents in Afghanistan, and on the other, we find them acquiescing in to the public cultivation of poppy and narcotic trade in and beyond Afghanistan, which benefit drug lords, Taliban and al-Qaeda.

Irrespective of whether Mohamed Morsi and top MB leaders have had ties with America or not, the ground reality is that the average Egyptian Muslims do not favour either America or Israel. And thanks to decades of civil and military dictatorship (1952-2011), the Egyptians never had the exposure to liberal democracy and human rights. Thus, for the bulk of Egyptian Muslims, Islamism or political Islam has emerged as the main alternative to military dictatorship, and as the most powerful ideology to ensure civil liberty and human rights. However, as we know from people's experience of living under Shiite and Sunni theocracies in countries like Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Afghanistan and to some extent, in Pakistan, Islamism never ensures civil liberty, human rights and democracy. In view of this, I am briefly introducing the MB,  JI, al-Qaeda, Khomeinism/ Iranian Islamism, Taliban, Wahhabism and some minor Islamist outfits in the Muslim World to facilitate the understanding of the impending threat of militant Islam and “Muslim Democracies” in the Muslim World. Ominously, Muslim majority countries -- from West Africa to North Africa, and the Middle East to South and Southeast Asia -- have been going through turbulent phase of their history and on the threshold of big transitions towards modernism and good governance (if not democracy) in the post-Cold War era of Globalization and the promised “New World Order.”

The level of support for Islamism varies from country to country. Islamist organisations and movements like the Muslim Brotherhood and Wahhabism flourish better in countries lacking in political freedom and democratic institutions than in free and democratic countries. Islamist organisations-cum-movements, such as the MB and Wahhabism, fill in the political and cultural space in countries without political parties and secular socio-cultural associations and institutions. Thus Islamist organisations are well entrenched throughout North Africa and Middle East. Although relative political and cultural freedom in Pakistan (even under military dictators) have allowed the proliferation of non-Islamic (if not totally secular) political parties and cultural organisations, yet Islam being the raison d'être for the creation of the state has special political importance in the country. Islamism has lesser space in the political arena of Bangladesh as the country emerged out of Pakistan in the name of secular Bengali nationalism, which was a departure from Islam-based state ideology of Pakistan.

Far from being united under a common banner, the Muslim militants are least capable of challenging Western hegemony. Again, they have more intra-Muslim conflicts to sort out before they can pose any substantial threat to Western civilisation. As there are “flashpoints” so are there “dormant volcanoes” in the Muslim World. Most importantly, Islamists proliferate under autocratic regimes, which by default or design promote Islamism. Examples abound. While Saudi Arabia promotes Wahhabi Islam as the state ideology to legitimise Saudi autocracy, military dictators in Pakistan and Bangladesh legitimised Islamism (although not the militant version of it) in league with “Islam-loving” politicians and clerics to legitimise military rule. Islamism flourished by default in countries like Egypt and Iran, where disgruntled Muslims and the relatively free (and influential) clerics clung to Islamism for an alternative order. This explains the rise of the MB and Khomeini.

Muslim Brotherhood (MB)
The understanding of Islamist “flashpoints” of “global jihad” requires an understanding of major Islamist movements, their brief history, ideologies and strategies. We may begin with the MB or Ikhwanul Muslemeen, the most prominent Islamist party in the world, which may be considered as “the mother of al-Qaeda.” It had a humble beginning. Hassan al-Banna (1906-1949), son of an imam and mosque teacher in Cairo, used to repair watches, and having interest in Islamic traditions wrote books on Islam. In March 1928, the 22-year-old Banna founded the Society for Muslim Brothers and within ten years it drew 500,000 Egyptians as active members. By 1945 the figure rose to two million. Thanks to 9/11 al-Qaeda seems to have stolen the thunder, while the MB remains the most organised and largest transnational Islamist organisation in the world.

It is noteworthy that 19th century Islamic thinker Jamal al-Din Afghani's Egyptian “great-grand-disciple,” Hassan al-Banna was the founder of the MB; and Banna's disciple, Sayyid Qutb directly inspired Ayman al-Zawahiri “who in 1967 established the first jihadist cell in the Arab world.”iv   Despite al-Banna's non-violent “Fifty-Point Manifesto” of transnational Islamic reforms, the MB during the 1940s and1950s under the leadership of Sayyid Qutb was out and out a transnational “jihadist” organisation championing violence and intense hatred against the West, non-Muslims and “deviant” Muslims. However, as later the MB discarded political violence and terrorism, some analysts believe that instead of changing the existing political system, it ended up being changed by the system. Some even believe that since the MB renounced violence as a means to capture political power in the 1980s, despite its name it is “largely secular.”v Some analysts believe the post-Mubarak Egypt and other Arab nations are most likely to be “post-Islamist” democracies in the coming Despite the growing surge of Islamism in Egypt, there is no likelihood of an MB-al-Qaeda understanding. As the MB leaders do not approve of terrorism, al-Qaeda despises them as nothing but “cowards, aliens, deviants, Crusaders and Jews.”vii  

Nevertheless, the average Egyptian Muslims since the debacle of the 1967 War against Israel, and especially since the death of Nasser in 1970, have turned Islamic. While in the 1970s, one would hardly come across an Egyptian woman in hijab; today almost 95% of them wear it considering it an Islamic requirement. Interestingly, one week after the overthrow of Mubarak, hardcore MB leader Imam Qaradawi told thousands of cheering Egyptians at the Tahrir Square in Cairo that their revolution had remained “unfinished;” Islamists must takeover the country's administration.viii  Although the Brotherhood has discarded violent means to capture power, it is still a formidable political force as Mubarak stifled the growth of liberal democratic parties during his rule. The Brotherhood has similarities with the JI in South Asia. Indian (Pakistani after 1947) Islamist Maulana Maududi (1903-1979), who founded the Jamaat-e-Islami (Party of Islam) in 1941, was influenced by the Brotherhood. His writings later influenced MB leaders and activists. However, the Jamaat and Brotherhood have differences as well. While Maududi admired fascism, Banna had admiration for socialism and wanted social justice for the poor. Interestingly, although the Egyptian Brotherhood holds a supranational ideology, most Islamist outfits, such as the FIS in Algeria, have been primarily “Islamo-nationalist” movements.ix   

Far from being an offshoot of Wahhabism, which predates it by almost two hundred years, the MB derived out of a liberal Islamic modernist movement called Pan-Islamism. An avid admirer of European civilisation and French culture, Jamal al-Din Afghani (1838-1897) was the founder of Pan-Islamism. He championed the cause of Muslim unity and freedom of the Muslim World from European colonial rule. Sheikh Muhammad Abduh (1849-1905) was a disciple of Afghani. He, like Afghani, championed liberal Islam and close ties between Islam, Christianity and Judaism. It is noteworthy that Pan-Islamist Afghani's Egyptian “great-grand-disciple,” Sayyid Qutb directly inspired Ayman al-Zawahiri “who in 1967 established the first jihadist cell in the Arab world.”x  In view of this, it appears that al-Qaeda is an offshoot of the MB, not of Arabian Wahhabism. Radical MB followers seem to have embraced Afghani's anti-imperialist Pan-Islamism but with certain modifications. They have totally discarded the non-violent aspect of Pan-Islamism and have gone even several steps ahead of radical MB leaders -- who vacillate between constitutional (peaceful) and unconstitutional (violent) methods -- by declaring an all-out war against the West and its followers, especially among Muslims.

No sooner had the MB come into being than it started promoting terrorism: (a) its leaders disseminated the message of Hitler's Mein Kampf among their followers; (b) in 1948 one MB activist killed Egypt's Prime Minster Nukrashi Pasha; (c) in1952 party workers burnt down around 750 nightclubs, theatres, and hotels in Cairo alone; (d) the same year, it supported the military takeover of Egypt; and (e) last but not least, it advocated establishing a caliphate, stretching from Spain to Indonesia. In short, the MB did not start as a political party but as an Islamist movement for establishing a “global caliphate” through violence.xi  The radical MB leader Sayyid Qutb (1906-1966) was the main proponent of “jihad” against the West. In fact, al Qaeda is a radical offshoot of the MB, not Wahhabism. There are striking similarities between Sayyid Qutb's and al-Qaeda's anti-Western positions. As a schoolteacher in Egypt, he went to a college in Colorado to get a diploma in education in 1948. He wrote books and articles on jihad and on what he thought of American society, politics and culture. He does not have any kind word for America. He despises the American girl; Americans' love for sports, including boxing; their materialism; hypocrisy; haircut; music, and in sum, he declares it mandatory to fight the West and its followers in Egypt and everywhere in the Muslim World. He divides the world between the domains of Islam or wisdom and of un-Islam or ignorance (jahiliyyah) and prescribes offensive jihad, virtually against the whole world.


i Eric Draitser, “Syria, Egypt and Beyond: Unmasking the Muslim Brotherhood”, Counterpunch, December 13, 2012

ii Ibid

iii Tony Cartalucci, “The Geopolitical Reordering of Africa: US Covert Support to Al Qaeda in Northern Mali, France 'Comes to the Rescue'”, Global Research, January 15, 2013

iv Fawaz A. Georges, Journey of the Jihadist: Inside Muslim Militancy, Harcourt, Inc. New York 2006, p.37  

v Abigail Hauslohner and Andrew Lee Butters, “The Brotherhood”, Time, February 21, 2011; Jamie Dean, “What's in a name?” World Magazine, February 12, 2011

vi Asef Bayat, “Egypt, and the Post-Islamist Middle East”, openDemocracy, 08 February, 2011 (accessed February 9, 2011)

vii Christopher Dickey and Babak Dehghanpisheh, “Inside the Brotherhood”, Newsweek, February 14, 2011; “Clarifying the Muslim Brotherhood”,, February 2, 2011 (accessed February 10, 2011)

viii Christian Science Monitor, February 18, 2011

ix Ibid, pp. 129-30  

x Fawaz A. Georges, Journey of the Jihadist: Inside Muslim Militancy, Harcourt, Inc. New York 2006, p.37

xi Richard P. Mitchell, The Society of the Muslim Brothers, Oxford University Press, New York 1993, passim;  Brynjar Lia, The Society of the Muslim Brothers in Egypt: The Rise of an Islamic Mass Movement, 1928-1942, Ithaca Press, Ithaca, NY, 2006, p.53; Jeffrey Herf, Nazi Propaganda for the Arab World, Yale University Press, New Haven, 2009; Lawrence Davidson, Islamic Fundamentalism, Greenwood Press, West Port 1998, pp.77-8

xii Sayyid Qutb, Milestones, Kazi Publications, Chicago 1964, pp. 11-21, 45-6,60-2, 70-2, 82-91; Paul Berman, “The Philosopher of Islamic Terror”, New York Times, March 23, 2003; Robert Irwin, “Is this the man who inspired Bin Laden?”, Guardian, 31 October, 2001; Daniel Burns, “Said Qutb on the Arts in America”, Current Trends in Islamist Ideology, November 18, 2009, vol. 9 (accessed June 7, 2012)

The writer teaches security studies at Austin Peay State University at Clarksville, Tennessee. Sage has recently published his latest book, Global Jihad and America: The Hundred-Year War Beyond Iraq and Afghanistan.

(to be continued tomorrow)

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