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The Lives of Hasan al Banna & Syed Qutb.

The Muslim Brotherhood (Ikhwan al Muslimeen) was founded by Hasan al-Banna (1906-1949) in the Egyptian town of al- Isma’iliyyah in 1928. The son of an Azharite scholar, who earned his livelihood by repairing watches, Hasan al-Banna showed from his early
school-days an inclination and great zeal for calling people to Islamic values and traditions. His strong sense of religiosity and spiritual awareness drove him to join the Hasafiyyah tariqah, one of many Sufi tariqahs that were widespread in Egypt at that time. Even though he was not formally associated with this tariqah after he founded the Ikhwan, he, nevertheless, maintained a good relation with it, as indeed with other Islamic organizations and religious personalities, and persisted in reciting the litanies (awrad, pl. of wird) of this tariqah until his last days. Though Hasan al-Banna joined a modern-type school of education, he promised his father that he would continue to memorize the Qur’an, which he did, in fact later, at the age of twelve. While at school, he took part in the activities of some religious associations and clubs which were promoting it and calling for the observance of Islamic teachings .

Sayyid Qutb: The Karl Marx of the Islamic Revolution

Leslie Evans

Sayyid Qutb (October 9, 1906-August 29, 1966), the Egyptian literary critic, philosopher, and theorist of the contemporary jihadist movement is only becoming a familiar name in the West in recent years, but his voluminous writings have had and continue to have enormous impact in the Muslim world. It is not an overstatement to say that it is hardly possible to understand the reasoning and goals of the Islamic militants without some familiarity with the outlook Qutb (pronounced KUH-tahb) enunciated.
A search of Amazon.com returns no less than seven books in English about Sayyid Qutb as well as collections of his writings and many of his own books in translation. The two works touched on here are only a random sampling of a very large literature which is again but a minute fraction of what exists in Arabic. These two are quite different in scope and attitude. Adnan Ayyub Musallam, a Palestinian native of Bethlehem, holds a doctorate from the University of Michigan
and is currently professor of history, politics, and cultural studies at Bethlehem University in the West Bank. His generally sympathetic but critical biography concentrates on the evolving politics of Qutb’s affiliations and thought. The quite brief and more critical piece by Paul Berman for the New York Times looks at Qutb’s theology and helps to clarify his argument with Christianity and Western secularism.
Brilliant from his earliest youth, Sayyid Qutb was an unlikely figure to serve as the inspiration for a global revolutionary movement. Although for a brief period he was a member of the militant Muslim Brothers, where he served as an editor not as an organizer, he spent most of his life as a lone intellectual. Where Marx, the theorist of world communism, labored in the British Museum, Sayyid Qutb wrote his most influential works in an Egyptian prison, where he spent most of the last eleven years of his life, until his execution by the Nasser government in 1966. Even his turn to Islam in any serious way did not take place until he was past forty, yet in prison in his fifties he produced a controversial rethinking of the religion that reverberates around the world.
Qutb was born in the village of Musha, between Cairo and Aswan into a family of small landowners. He was sent to the local madrasa, the government school, rather than the still more religious kuttab, the Islamic school, but he won a contest between the two schools for the best memorization of the Qur’an. He recalled his life there in his only biographical work, “Child from the Village,” recording local customs and superstitions. From that period he acquired a belief in the world of spirits that he carried with him all his life

In the Shadow of an Arab Caesar: Sayyid Qutb and the Radicalization of Modern Islamic Fundamentalism

Research

“We are the umma of the believers, living within a jahili society. As a community of believers we should see ourselves in a state of war with the state and the society. The territory we dwell in is the House of War.”1 These were the words of Sayyid Qutb in an Egyptian military court in April, 1966 before he and two of his companions were sentenced to death by hanging. The offense; conspiring against the government and plotting its overthrow, the evidence used by the state prosecutors in the trial, besides ‘confessions,’ a book, Qutb’s final piece of literature, Ma‘alim fi al-Turuq, Signposts.2 This study does not set out to be a thorough analysis of the political and religious ideology of Sayyid Qutb. Rather it is an attempt to identify the political and social climate in Egypt as the primary motivation which led to the development of Qutb’s radical interpretations of Islam. Notions of Arab nationalism and Arab socialism dominated the political discourse of Qutb’s Egypt and hearts and minds were enraptured by promises of its populist leader, Gamal Abdel Nasser. This chapter in Arab history from the early 1950’s until the late 1960’s is etched in historical memory as the era of pan-Arabism. However, it was also a vital period in the evolution of fundamentalist Islam into its more radical form which first expressed itself in the 1970’s and is until today at the base of radical fundamentalist Islamic thought worldwide. This piece will
demonstrate the principal role played by Sayyid Qutb in this transformation and reveal that radical interpretations of Islam were given impetus to develop in Egypt during this period due to the nature of Nasser’s regime

Political Islam in the Middle East

Are Knudsen

This report provides an introduction to selected aspects of the phenomenon commonly

referred to as “political Islam”. The report gives special emphasis to the Middle East, in

particular the Levantine countries, and outlines two aspects of the Islamist movement that may

be considered polar opposites: democracy and political violence. In the third section the report

reviews some of the main theories used to explain the Islamic resurgence in the Middle East

(Figure 1). In brief, the report shows that Islam need not be incompatible with democracy and

that there is a tendency to neglect the fact that many Middle Eastern countries have been

engaged in a brutal suppression of Islamist movements, causing them, some argue, to take up

arms against the state, and more rarely, foreign countries. The use of political violence is

widespread in the Middle East, but is neither illogical nor irrational. In many cases even

Islamist groups known for their use of violence have been transformed into peaceful political

parties successfully contesting municipal and national elections. Nonetheless, the Islamist

revival in the Middle East remains in part unexplained despite a number of theories seeking to

account for its growth and popular appeal. In general, most theories hold that Islamism is a

reaction to relative deprivation, especially social inequality and political oppression. Alternative

theories seek the answer to the Islamist revival within the confines of religion itself and the

powerful, evocative potential of religious symbolism.

The conclusion argues in favour of moving beyond the “gloom and doom” approach that

portrays Islamism as an illegitimate political expression and a potential threat to the West (“Old

Islamism”), and of a more nuanced understanding of the current democratisation of the Islamist

movement that is now taking place throughout the Middle East (“New Islamism”). This

importance of understanding the ideological roots of the “New Islamism” is foregrounded

along with the need for thorough first-hand knowledge of Islamist movements and their

adherents. As social movements, its is argued that more emphasis needs to be placed on

understanding the ways in which they have been capable of harnessing the aspirations not only

of the poorer sections of society but also of the middle class.

Islamist Parties : why they can’t be democratic

Bassam Tibi

Noting Islamism’s growing appeal and strength on the ground, many

Western scholars and officials have been grasping for some way to take

an inclusionary approach toward it. In keeping with this desire, it has

become fashionable contemptuously to dismiss the idea of insisting on

clear and rigorous distinctions as “academic.” When it comes to Islam

and democracy, this deplorable fashion has been fraught with unfortunate

consequences.

Intelligent discussion of Islamism, democracy, and Islam requires

clear and accurate definitions. Without them, analysis will collapse into

confusion and policy making will suffer. My own view, formed after

thirty years of study and reflection regarding the matter, is that Islam and

democracy are indeed compatible, provided that certain necessary religious

reforms are made. The propensity to deliver on such reforms is what

I see as lacking in political Islam. My own avowed interest—as an Arab-

Muslim prodemocracy theorist and practitioner—is to promote the establishment

of secular democracy within the ambit of Islamic civilization.

In order to help clear away the confusion that all too often surrounds

this topic, I will lay out several basic points to bear in mind. The first is

that, so far, Western practices vis-`a-vis political Islam have been faulty

because they have lacked the underpinning of a well-founded assessment.

Unless blind luck intervenes, no policy can be better than the assessment

upon which it is based. Proper assessment is the beginning of

all practical wisdom.

Islamist Parties : going back to the origins

Husain Haqqani

Hillel Fradkin

How should we understand the emergence and the nature of Islamist parties? Can they reasonably be expected not just to participate in democratic politics but even to respect the norms of liberal democracy? These questions lie at the heart of the issues that we have been asked to address.
In our view, any response that is historically and thus practically relevant must begin with the following observation: Until very recently, even the idea of an Islamist party (let alone a democratic Islamist party) would have seemed, from the perspective of Islamism itself, a paradox if not a contradiction in terms. Islamism’s original conception of a healthy Islamic political life made no room for—indeed rejected—any role for parties of any sort. Islamist groups described themselves as the vanguard of Islamic revival, claiming that they represented the essence of Islam and reflected the aspiration of the global umma (community of believers) for an Islamic polity. Pluralism, which is a precondition for the operation of political parties, was rejected by most Islamist political
thinkers as a foreign idea.
As should be more or less obvious, the novelty not only of actually existing Islamist parties but of the very idea of such parties makes it exceptionally difficult to assess their democratic bona fides. But this difficulty merely adds another level of complication to a problem that stems from the very origins of Islamism and its conception of the true meaning of Islam and of Islam’s relationship to political life

STRATEGIES FOR ENGAGING POLITICAL ISLAM

SHADI HAMID

AMANDA KADLEC

Political Islam is the single most active political force in the Middle East today. Its future is intimately tied to that of the region. If the United States and the European Union are committed to supporting political reform in the region, they will need to devise concrete, coherent strategies for engaging Islamist groups. Yet, the U.S. has generally been unwilling to open a dialogue with these movements. Similarly, EU engagement with Islamists has been the exception, not the rule. Where low-level contacts exist, they mainly serve information-gathering purposes, not strategic objectives. The U.S. and EU have a number of programs that address economic and political development in the region – among them the Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI), the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), the Union for the Mediterranean, and the European Neighborhood Policy (ENP) – yet they have little to say about how the challenge of Islamist political opposition fits within broader regional objectives. U.S. and EU democracy assistance and programming are directed almost entirely to either authoritarian governments themselves or secular civil society groups with minimal support in their own societies.
The time is ripe for a reassessment of current policies. Since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, supporting Middle East democracy has assumed a greater importance for Western policymakers, who see a link between lack of democracy and political violence. Greater attention has been devoted to understanding the variations within political Islam. The new American administration is more open to broadening communication with the Muslim world. Meanwhile, the vast majority of mainstream Islamist organizations – including the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, Jordan’s Islamic Action Front (IAF), Morocco’s Justice and Development Party (PJD), the Islamic Constitutional Movement of Kuwait, and the Yemeni Islah Party – have increasingly made support for political reform and democracy a central component in their political platforms. In addition, many have signaled strong interest in opening dialogue with U.S. and EU governments.
The future of relations between Western nations and the Middle East may be largely determined by the degree to which the former engage nonviolent Islamist parties in a broad dialogue about shared interests and objectives. There has been a recent proliferation of studies on engagement with Islamists, but few clearly address what it might entail in practice. As Zoé Nautré, visiting fellow at the German Council on Foreign Relations, puts it, “the EU is thinking about engagement but doesn’t really know how.”1 In the hope of clarifying the discussion, we distinguish between three levels of “engagement,” each with varying means and ends: low-level contacts, strategic dialogue, and partnership.

Islamist Parties : participation without power

Malika Zeghal

Over the last two decades, social and political movements grounding their ideologies in references to Islam have sought to become legal political parties in many countries of the Middle East and North Africa. Some of these Islamist movements have been authorized to take part lawfully in electoral competition. Among the best known is Turkey’s Justice and Development Party (AKP), which won a parliamentary majority in 2002 and has led the government ever since. Morocco’s own Party of Justice and Development (PJD) has been legal since the mid- 1990s and commands a significant bloc of seats in Parliament. In Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) has never been authorized to form a political party, but in spite of state repression it has successfully run candidates as nominal independents in both national and local elections.
Since the early 1990s, this trend has gone hand-in-hand with official policies of limited political liberalization. Together, the two trends have occasioned a debate about whether these movements are committed to “democracy.” A vast literature has sprung up to underline the paradoxes as well as the possible risks and benefits of including Islamist parties in the electoral process. The main paradigm found in this body of writing focuses on the consequences that might ensue when Islamists use democratic instruments, and seeks to divine the “true” intentions that Islamists will manifest if they come to power.

Resolving America’s Islamist Dilemma: Lessons from South and Southeast Asia

Shadi Hamid
U.S. efforts to promote democracy in the Middle East have long been paralyzed by the “Islamist dilemma”: in theory, we want democracy, but, in practice, fear that Islamist parties will be the prime beneficiaries of any political opening. The most tragic manifestation of this was the Algerian debacle of 1991 and 1992, when the United States stood silently while the staunchly secular military canceled elections after an Islamist party won a parliamentary majority. More recently, the Bush administration backed away from its “freedom agenda” after Islamists did surprisingly well in elections throughout region, including in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the Palestinian territories.
But even our fear of Islamist parties—and the resulting refusal to engage with them—has itself been inconsistent, holding true for some countries but not others. The more that a country is seen as vital to American national security interests, the less willing the United States has been to accept Islamist groups having a prominent political role there. However, in countries seen as less strategically relevant, and where less is at stake, the United States has occasionally taken a more nuanced approach. But it is precisely where more is at stake that recognizing a role for nonviolent Islamists is most important, and, here, American policy continues to fall short.
Throughout the region, the United States has actively supported autocratic regimes and given the green light for campaigns of repression against groups such as the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, the oldest and most influential political movement in the region. In March 2008, during what many observers consider to be the worst period of anti-Brotherhood repression since the 1960s, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice waived a $100 million congressionally mandated reduction of military aid to Egypt. The situation in Jordan is similar. The Bush administration and the Democratic congress have hailed the country as a “model” of Arab reform at precisely the same time that it has been devising new ways to manipulate the electoral process to limit Islamist representation, and just as it held elections plagued by widespread allegations of outright fraud
and rigging.1 This is not a coincidence. Egypt and Jordan are the only two Arab countries that have signed peace treaties with Israel. Moreover, they are seen as crucial to U.S. efforts to counter Iran, stabilize Iraq, and combat terrorism.

A Post-election Re-reading of Islamist Political Thought

Roxanne L. Euben

Barack Obama’s post-election rhetoric regarding the “Muslim world” has signaled a critical paradigm shift from his predecessor. The new president’s characterization of the United States in his inaugural address as a “nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus and nonbelievers”; his formulation, invoked in several different contexts, that America will offer a hand of friendship to a Muslim world willing to “unclench [its] fist”; the emphasis on his own mixed lineage and experience living in Muslim countries; his pledge to close the Guantánamo Bay prison camp; his interview with Al Arabiya; and the promise to address the Muslim world from a Muslim capital during his first 100 days in office, all suggest a deliberate attempt to shift away from the hardening rhetoric of a new Cold War between the West and Islam and reframe American foreign policy toward Muslim societies.1 Obama’s rhetoric has enormous symbolic importance even if it has yet to issue in dramatic departures from previous U.S. foreign policies regarding, for example, Hamas or Iran’s nuclear program. At this particular juncture, its significance lies less in the specific policies it may presage or the greater sensitivity to Muslim sensibilities it reveals than in its underlying logic: implicit in these rhetorical gestures is the understanding that, as Obama put it in his interview with Al Arabiya, “the language we use matters,” that words and categories do not simply reflect but also create the world in which we live.

Islamist parties : Three kinds of movements

Tamara Cofman

Between 1991 and 2001, the world of political Islam became significantly more diverse. Today, the term “Islamist”—used to describe a political perspective centrally informed by a set of religious interpretations and commitments—can be applied to such a wide array of groups as to be almost meaningless. It encompasses everyone from the terrorists who flew planes into the World Trade Center to peacefully elected legislators in Kuwait who have voted in favor of women’s suffrage.
Nonetheless, the prominence of Islamist movements—legal and illegal, violent and peaceful—in the ranks of political oppositions across the Arab world makes the necessity of drawing relevant distinctions obvious. The religious discourse of the Islamists is now unavoidably central to Arab politics. Conventional policy discussions label Islamists either “moderate” or “radical,” generally categorizing them according to two rather loose and unhelpful criteria. The first is violence: Radicals use it and moderates do not. This begs the question of how to classify groups that do not themselves engage in violence but who condone, justify, or even actively support the violence of others. A second, only somewhat more restrictive criterion is whether the groups or individuals in question
accept the rules of the democratic electoral game. Popular sovereignty is no small concession for traditional Islamists, many of whom reject democratically elected governments as usurpers of God’s sovereignty.
Yet commitment to the procedural rules of democratic elections is not the same as commitment to democratic politics or governance.

Islamist Parties : A boon or a bane for democracy?

Amr Hamzawy

Nathan J. Brown

What role do Islamist movements play in Arab politics? With their popular messages and broad followings within Arab societies, would their incorporation as normal political actors be a boon for democratization or democracy’s bane? For too long, we have tried to answer such questions solely by speculating about the true intentions of these movements and their leaders. Islamist political movements in the Arab world are increasingly asked—both by outside observers and by members of their own societies—about their true intentions.
But to hear them tell it, leaders of mainstream Arab Islamist movements are not the problem. They see themselves as democrats in nondemocratic lands, firmly committed to clean and fair electoral processes, whatever outcomes these may bring. It is rulers and regimes that should be pressed to commit to democracy, say the Islamists, not their oppositions. We need not take such Islamist leaders at their word. Indeed, we should realize that there is only so much that any of their words can do to answer the question of the relationship between these movements and the prospects for democracy.
While their words are increasingly numerous (Islamist movements tend to be quite loquacious) and their answers about democracy increasingly specific, their ability to resolve all ambiguities is limited. First, as long as they are out of power—as most of them are, and are likely to remain for some time—they will never fully prove themselves. Many Islamist leaders themselves probably do not know how they would act were they to come to power.

Political Islam: Ready for Engagement?

Emad El-Din Shahin

The voluminous literature on reform and democratization in the Middle East region reveals a number of facts: a main obstacle to reform is the incumbent regimes that have been trying to resist and circumvent genuine democratic transformations; political reform cannot be credible without integrating moderate Islamists in the process; and external actors (mainly the US and the EU) have not yet formulated a coherent approach to reform that could simultaneously achieve stability and democracy in the region. This paper explores the possibilities and implications of a European engagement with moderate Islamists on democracy promotion in the region. It argues that the EU approach to political reform in the Middle East region needs to be enhanced and linked to realities on the ground. Political reform cannot be effective without the integration of non-violent Islamic groups in a gradual, multifaceted process. It should be highlighted that the process of engagement is a risky one for both the EU and the Islamists, yet both stand to gain from a systematic dialogue on democracy. To reduce the risks, the engagement with political Islam should come within a broader EU strategy for democracy promotion in the region. In fact, what the Islamists would expect from Europe is to maintain a
consistent and assertive stand on political reforms that would allow for a genuine representation of the popular will through peaceful means.
In this regard, a number of questions seem pertinent. Does the EU really need to engage political Islam in democratic reforms? Is political Islam ready for engagement and will it be willing to engage? How can an engagement policy be formulated on the basis of plausible implementation with minimal risks to the interests of the parties involved?

ISLAMIST MOVEMENTS AND THE DEMOCRATIC PROCESS IN THE ARAB WORLD: Exploring the Gray Zones

Nathan J. Brown, Amr Hamzawy,

Marina Ottaway

During the last decade, Islamist movements have established themselves as major political players in the Middle East. Together with the governments, Islamist movements, moderate as well as radical, will determine how the politics of the region unfold in the foreseeable future. Th ey have shown the ability not only to craft messages with widespread popular appeal but also, and most importantly, to create organizations with genuine social bases and develop coherent political strategies. Other parties,
by and large, have failed on all accounts.
Th e public in the West and, in particular, the United States, has only become aware of the importance of Islamist movements after dramatic events, such as the revolution in Iran and the assassination of President Anwar al-Sadat in Egypt. Attention has been far more sustained since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. As a result, Islamist movements are widely regarded as dangerous and hostile. While such a characterization is accurate regarding organizations at the radical end of the Islamist spectrum, which are dangerous because of their willingness to resort to indiscriminate violence in pursuing their goals, it is not an accurate characterization of the many groups that have renounced or avoided violence. Because terrorist organizations pose an immediate
threat, however, policy makers in all countries have paid disproportionate attention to the violent organizations.
It is the mainstream Islamist organizations, not the radical ones, that will have the greatest impact on the future political evolution of the Middle East. Th e radicals’ grandiose goals of re-establishing a caliphate uniting the entire Arab world, or even of imposing on individual Arab countries laws and social customs inspired by a fundamentalist interpretation of Islam are simply too far removed from today’s reality to be realized. Th is does not mean that terrorist groups are not dangerous—they could cause great loss of life even in the pursuit of impossible goals—but that they are unlikely to change the face of the Middle East. Mainstream Islamist organizations are generally a diff erent matter. Th ey already have had a powerful impact on social customs in many countries, halting and reversing secularist trends and changing the way many Arabs dress and behave. And their immediate political goal, to become a powerful force by participating in the normal politics of their country, is not an impossible one. It is already being realized in countries such as Morocco, Jordan, and even Egypt, which still bans all Islamist political organizations but now has eighty-eight Muslim Brothers in the Parliament. Politics, not violence, is what gives mainstream Islamists their infl uence.

ISLAMIST RADICALISATION

PREFACE
RICHARD YOUNGS
MICHAEL EMERSON

Issues relating to political Islam continue to present challenges to European foreign policies in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). As EU policy has sought to come to terms with such challenges during the last decade or so political Islam itself has evolved. Experts point to the growing complexity and variety of trends within political Islam. Some Islamist organisations have strengthened their commitment to democratic norms and engaged fully in peaceable, mainstream national politics. Others remain wedded to violent means. And still others have drifted towards a more quietist form of Islam, disengaged from political activity. Political Islam in the MENA region presents no uniform trend to European policymakers. Analytical debate has grown around the concept of ‘radicalisation’. This in turn has spawned research on the factors driving ‘de-radicalisation’, and conversely, ‘re-radicalisation’. Much of the complexity derives from the widely held view that all three of these phenomena are occurring at the same time. Even the terms themselves are contested. It has often been pointed out that the moderate–radical dichotomy fails fully to capture the nuances of trends within political Islam. Some analysts also complain that talk of ‘radicalism’ is ideologically loaded. At the level of terminology, we understand radicalisation to be associated with extremism, but views differ over the centrality of its religious–fundamentalist versus political content, and over whether the willingness to resort to violence is implied or not.

Such differences are reflected in the views held by the Islamists themselves, as well as in the perceptions of outsiders.

ISLAM, ISLAMISTS, AND THE ELECTORAL PRINCIPLE I N THE MIDDLE EAST

James Piscatori

For an idea whose time has supposedly come, ÒdemocracyÓ masks an astonishing

number of unanswered questions and, in the Muslim world, has generated

a remarkable amount of heat. Is it a culturally specific term, reflecting Western

European experiences over several centuries? Do non-Western societies possess

their own standards of participation and accountabilityÑand indeed their own

rhythms of developmentÑwhich command attention, if not respect? Does Islam,

with its emphasis on scriptural authority and the centrality of sacred law, allow

for flexible politics and participatory government?

The answers to these questions form part of a narrative and counter-narrative

that themselves are an integral part of a contested discourse. The larger story

concerns whether or not ÒIslamÓ constitutes a threat to the West, and the supplementary

story involves IslamÕs compatibility with democracy. The intellectual

baggage, to change the metaphor, is scarcely neutral. The discussion itself has

become acutely politicised, caught in the related controversies over Orientalism,

the exceptionalism of the Middle East in particular and the Muslim world in general,

and the modernism of religious ÒfundamentalistÓ movements.