Archive for the ‘Muslim Brotherhood’ Category

Taj Hashmi
The Daily Star | July 26, 2014

(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.xii

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)

(Part 2 of 3 part series)

Despite some similarities between Wahhabism and Qutb’s support for violent jihad, Wahhabism did not influence him ideologically. Initially he was an admirer of America, but his two-year-long exposure to the country was enough to turn him into its bitter critic. He supported the Nasser-led military revolution against the pro-Western Egyptian monarchy. However, Nasser and Qutb had different visions for Egypt; the former championed secular Arab Nationalism and the latter favoured “Islamic” rule. Qutb also favoured transformation of the entire world through “global jihad.” He believed that jihad was not defensive but an offensive total war against non-Muslims and whatever represented jahiliyya or ignorance. In short, Qutb considered truce or peace undesirable and continuous “jihad” the most desirable thing for a good Muslim.i

In view of the apparent transformation of the MB into a “pro-democracy” party, Tariq Ali believes it to be “not too different from Christian Democratic Parties in Western Europe.”ii Former CIA agent and author Bruce Riedel, among others, believes that since the MB “has long renounced violence” there is nothing to fear this Islamist outfit.iii President Carter expressed similar views. However, Anthony Martin seems to be right that since Egypt like other Muslim nations in the region has thoroughly embraced “fundamental Islam,” Carter’s optimism about the MB smacks of his lack of understanding of Islamism in the Arab World.  ivThe MB has not given up its transnational jihad. We should not forget the legacy of the MB, which is anything but democratic. It aims at establishing a “global caliphate” through violence. I think “the true intentions of the Brotherhood are far more sinister than the lovely speeches” its leaders give; and that they “dream of a worldwide, all powerful Islamic Caliphate;” and that “they look forward to the day they can tear up the peace treaty with Israel.” vThen again, the MB leaves no stone unturned to project itself as a liberal democratic organisation. Its webpage conveniently projects Bin Laden’s criticism of the organisation for discarding Sayyid Qutb’s hard-line policy, in support of MB’s “liberal credentials.”vi

The MB’s radical offshoots have been more dangerous than the parent organization. These include the Al Gama’a al-Islamiyya in Egypt, al Takfir wal Hijra in the Arab World, Hamas in Gaza and last but not least, al-Qaeda. Many analysts believe that the MB has ceased to be an Islamist threat; and Salafist al-Nour is a bigger threat to peace than the pro-MB Freedom and Justice Party of Egypt, which captured 47% of votes in the parliamentary elections of 2011/12. President Mohamed Morsi asserted in April 2012 that he was for a “United States of Arabia” with Jerusalem as its capital. He, however, gave mixed and contradictory signals about his party’s actual aims and objectives.vii In short, at least in rhetoric, the MB is not a political party but a movement for “global caliphate” through “jihad.” Some scholars ridicule people who consider the MB as “moderate Islamist” and “democrat.” They find Obama administration’s perception of the MB as “largely secular” and “pluralistic” problematic. One analyst asserts that the party has neither denounced “jihad” against “takfir” (“who have denounced Islam”) nor has it renounced the concept of establishing an “Islamic State” by force. Morsi is said to have asserted that he would conquer Egypt “for the second time, and make all Christians convert to Islam, or else pay the jizya.”viii

Although there are uncertainties about the future of Shariah and the MB in Egypt and their implications on democracy, human rights, women, non-Muslims, and Western interests in the country,ix there is hardly any Arab country — from Morocco to Iraq –without MB followers and active members. Interestingly, although primarily a Sunni Muslim organisation committed to establishing a Sunni “global caliphate,” the MB has Shiite followers and sympathisers in Iran and elsewhere. Even Chechen rebels in Russia consider the MB their role model. Thousands among the Muslim Diasporas in North America and Europe are MB sympathisers. Although Hafiz al-Assad crushed the MB during the 1982 Hama uprising by killing around 25,000 Syrian sympathisers of the outfit, yet thanks to American and Arab League support, the MB regained some lost ground in Syria during the anti-Bashar Assad rebellion in 2012.x  Then again, the MB in Syria is not an independent entity. It heavily relies on guidance from MB leaders in Cairo.xi

The MB is ambivalent about its methods of capturing power: (a) It believes in Islam to be a “complete system” to regulate every aspect of a Muslim’s private and public affairs; (b) It is not a nationalist but a “supranational” organisation, aiming at establishing a global caliphate where Shariah will remain the “sole basis of government”; (c) As Sayyid Qutb explains, the MB considers the world beyond the realm of Islam as jahiliyya or “ignorance,” which could only be transformed into the “Kingdom of God” through “physical power and jihad” by outmanoevring the “wicked powers of Jews and Christians”; (d) There are, however, MB leaders who disagree with Qutb’s radicalism. Some Al Azhar sheikhs even declared him a “deviant.” Nevertheless, Sayyid Qutb’s writings have profoundly influenced radical “Brothers” and al-Qaeda supporters.

Although it is difficult to foresee if Egypt will become another “Iran” or “Algeria” in the near future, yet there is every likelihood that Islam if not Islamism will mould Egypt’s domestic and foreign policies in the coming years. And this development will not be palatable to either America or Israel. Although the creation of Israel did not hurt Egypt economically, yet Egyptians fought four wars against Israel. The vast majority of Egyptian Muslims — irrespective of their ideology and level of commitment to their faith — are unwilling to recognise Israel. A country without any liberal democratic traditions, with more than a quarter of unemployed youth, poverty and unequal distribution of wealth, and last but not least, under the growing influence of Islamist supremacists, Egypt is destined to rise as a “flashpoint” of “global jihad.” The apparently transformed Muslim Brotherhood with a new name, Freedom and Justice Party since April 2011, has not renounced the old MB credo: “God is our objective; the Quran is our constitution, the Prophet is our leader; Jihad is our way; and death for the sake of God is the highest of our aspirations.”xii  Despite its setbacks in the wake of the July 2013 military coup that toppled the Morsi regime, one cannot rule out the re-emergence of the MB with new vigour, and possibly with a new name.

In view of the phenomenal rise of the MB in Egypt, as we have no reasons to be optimistic about the country’s peaceful transition to democracy, so do we have no reason to be that alarmist about an immediate Islamisation of the polity. The country is sharply polarised between Islamists and secular Arab nationalists who believe in Christian-Muslim understanding. However, in view of the growing violence against Christians and liberal Muslims since the overthrow of Mubarak, it was evident soon after Morsi’s election as the president that he would not be able to appease liberal Muslims, Christians, Islamist extremists and the powerful Egyptian military at the same time. Morsi’s decision to welcome President Ahmadinejad of Iran, who was “deeply unpopular with Egyptian citizens and political players,” on February 5, 2013 was his “strange gamble,” as one analyst has rightly pointed out.xiii Morsi’s hobnobbing with the Iranian regime, which is a bête noire to America and Saudi Arabia, was a big factor behind the overthrow of his regime through a mass upheaval-cum- military takeover. There is no reason to believe that the July coup was purely a military takeover by Mubarak loyalists and anti-Islamist forces in the country. Secretary John Kerry indirectly confirmed his country’s tacit support for the military rulers of Egypt, who he praised restoring democracy in the country.xiv

The ongoing bloody conflict between MB followers on the one hand and the military, Salafists and liberal Egyptians on the other, has all the potentials to drag Egypt into a long-drawn civil war. Egypt does not have any leader with Nasser’s charisma, foresight and honesty to nip Islamists in the bud. He not only dissolved the MB after the first signs of its support for terrorism and radical Islamisation of Egypt, but he also arrested some 15,000 MB members and executed many, including Sayyid Qutb. We may agree with the view that: “It would have been so much easier to stop Hitler, say before [italics in original] he crossed the Rhine — but how many voices were there then insisting he was just a tin-pot dictator who would never be a serious threat to anyone?”xiv

The MB is very different from other political parties. One just cannot become a member without going through a five/eight-year stringent indoctrination process to prove one’s loyalty and commitment to its ideology. Very similar to the Jamaat-e-Islami, the MB believes in gradual infiltration of its ideology among the masses and portrays itself a believer in democracy. During the anti-Mubarak movement in Egypt, “far from emulating Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, they [MB leaders] channeled Thomas Paine, calling for civil liberties, religious equality, and an end to Mubarak’s dictatorship.”xvi As one senior Jamaat-e-Islami leader of Bangladesh told me in 1991, the Jamaat would come to power through “other means” not elections, it seems Mohamed Morsi conveyed the same message to his interviewer in 2010: “Our program is a long-term one, not a short-term one. If we are rushing things, then I don’t think that this leads to a real stable position.”  Irrespective of what we believe about the MB, (a) its alleged “long-term” plan for establishing Islamic theocracies across the Middle East; (b) its suspected American connections (America is said to have undertaken the project to promote MB, JI in South Asia and Saudi Wahhabism to contain Iran and Islamist extremists like al-Qaeda), we cannot ignore what the grassroots in the Muslim World really want. They sometimes go ahead of their leaders and do things beyond their expectations and control. The grassroots across the Muslim World want democracy, freedom, human rights and dignity, not theocracy and American hegemony.

i Natana J. Delong-Bas, Wahhabi Islam: From Revival and Reform to Global Jihad, Oxford University Press, New York 2004, pp.218-65
ii British Marxist writer Tariq Ali’s interview, Outlook Magazine, April 23, 2012 (accessed May 21, 2012)
iii Bruce Riedel, “Don’t Fear Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood”, Daily Beast, January 27, 2011 (accessed May 22, 2012)
iv Anthony Martin, “Does Carter’s statement on the Muslim Brotherhood miss the point?”, The Examiner, February 27, 2011 (accessed May 22, 2012)
v “Truth Or Consequences -The Two Faces Of The Muslim Brotherhood. Part Two”, The Inquisitr, April 14, 2012, (accessed May 22, 2012)
vi Marwan Bishara, “Islam can not always be blamed: It appears Islam is not an appropriate scapegoat after all”, January 19, 2010  (accessed May 15, 2012)
vii Al-Nas TV (Egypt) – May 1, 2012 – 04:18,;; BBC News 30 April 2011: “Muslim Brotherhood sets up new party Mohammed al-Mursi insisted the new party would not be theocratic”,  
viii Raymond Ibrahim, “The Evils of the Muslim Brotherhood: Evidence Keeps Mounting”, Middle East Forum, , June 25, 2012 (accessed June 26, 2012)
ix Nathan J. Brown, “Egypt and Islamic Sharia: A Guide for the Perplexed”, Carnegie Endowment, May 15, 2012, (accessed May 17, 2012)
x  “Syria’s Muslim Brotherhood is gaining influence over anti-Assad revolt”, Washington Post, May 12, 2012
xi Eric Draitser, “ Syria, Egypt and Beyond: Unmasking the Muslim Brotherhood”, Counterpunch, December 13, 2012
xii (accessed February 24, 2013)
xiii Max Fisher, “Mohamed Morsi’s strange gamble on Iran and Ahmadinejad”, Washington Post, February 5, 2013
xiv “Kerry Says Egypt’s Military Was ‘Restoring Democracy’ in Ousting Morsi”, New York Times, August 2, 2013
xv Raymond Ibrahim, “Muslim Brotherhood: ‘Impose Islam … Step by Step’”, Middle East Forum,” June 26, 2012 (accessed June 26, 2012)
xvi  Eric Trager, “The Unbreakable Muslim Brotherhood: Grim Prospects for a Liberal Egypt”, Foreign Affairs, September/October 2011
xvii  Eric Trager,“The Muslim Brotherhood’s Long Game: Egypt’s Ruling Party Plots its Path to Power”, Foreign Affairs, July 5, 2012.

Published: 12:00 am Sunday, July 27, 2014


Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) in Pakistan and Bangladesh

Maulana Abul Ala Maududi (1903-1979), an Indian-born madrassah-educated journalist, author and political thinker was the founder of the Jamaat-e-Islami or Party of Islam. It came into being in 1941 in British India. Maududi started the organisation with a view to promoting Islamic values and practices in the light of his way of interpreting the Quran and hadis. He was a maverick. His ideas were quite radical and different from the mainstream Sunni ulama or clerics in the Indian Subcontinent. Interestingly, like most leading Muslim clerics in British India, he was opposed to the concept of Pakistan, as he did not believe that Mohamed Ali Jinnah, a secular Shiite Muslim, along with his “Anglo-Mohamedan” associates, would establish an “Islamic State.” He knew it well that Jinnah and his associates strove for a “Muslim” not “Islamic” Pakistan in Muslim-majority territories to be carved out of British India. Although he decided to stay back in India after the Partition of 1947, with no signs of abatement in the Great Punjab Killing (which started immediately before the Partition), as a Muslim he no longer felt safe in the Indian Punjab and migrated to Pakistan. Afterwards, till his death in 1979, he worked for establishing an “Islamic State” in Pakistan. In early1950s Pakistan went through mass agitations and anti-Ahmadiyya rioting in the Punjab, especially in Lahore. Maududi incited Pakistani Muslims to demand that the Ahmadiyya Muslim community (also known as Qadianis) be declared a “non-Muslim” minority because of their alleged disbelief in Prophet Muhammad as the last prophet of God. The 1953 rioting in Lahore was followed by mass arrests of agent provocateurs; leading among them was the JI chief, Maududi. The court found him guilty and condemned him to death for inciting anti-Ahmadiyya rioting, but soon he got clemency.

We find ideological similarities between the MB and JI. Like Qutb, Maududi also strove for God’s sovereignty. Maududi, however, came up with a new theory of democracy. It was “theo-democracy” or a theocracy run in a democratic manner. He also wanted to establish a caliphate to run the “Islamic system of governance.” In his “theo-democratic” caliphate, minority non-Muslims would remain as zimmis or protected people with inferior rights. Interestingly, he was willing to accept inferior rights or zimmi status for minority Muslims in Hindu-majority India. He also believed that Islam was not just another religion about faith and rituals, but a movement, a comprehensive code of ethics, a government manual and guidance about running our life from cradle to grave. He was quite ambivalent about the concept of jihad. On the one hand, he did not consider jihad to be a holy war, and on the other, he considered the 1965 Indo-Pakistan war a jihad per excellence. Like the MB, JI also believes that Muslims and Islam transcend national boundaries. Considering jihad to be “the best of all prayers” Maududi believed that his “theo-democratic” transnational caliphate was only attainable through “global jihad”. His “theo-democratic” caliphate would be capitalistic with welfare and social justice.i  Interestingly, according to Maududi’s son Sayyid Farooq Haider Maududi, his father established a transnational fascist party in the name of Islam.ii However, despite being influenced by the MB, the FIS in Algeria is not transnational; it has been primarily an Algerian nationalist movement for “Islamo-nationalism”.iii   

Despite their democratic rhetoric and apparent transformation into democratic organisations, the MB and JI believe in millennial Islamic movement to establish their cherished global caliphate or God’s Kingdom, where women and minorities would not enjoy equal rights and opportunities. Their lip service to democracy and apparent acquiescence to secular law reflect their pragmatism, not their transformation into liberal democratic organisations. One finds JI’s fascist blue print in some of its founder Maududi’s writings. His totalitarian “Islamic State” would eventually devour the sovereignty of all neighbouring states run by non-Muslims or not in accordance with Shariah: Muslim groups will not be content with the establishment of an Islamic state in one area alone. Depending on their resources, they should try to expand in all directions…. If their Islamic state has power and resources it will fight and destroy non-Islamic governments and establish Islamic states in their place.iv

He also believed that: Jews and Christians …should be forced to pay jizya [poll tax] in order to put an end to their independence and supremacy…. These powers should be wrested from them by the followers of the true Faith…. the Islamic state offers them protection, if they agree to live as zimmis by paying jizya, but it cannot allow that they should remain supreme rulers in any place and establish wrong ways and establish them on others…. it is the duty of the true Muslims… to bring an end to their wicked rule and bring them under a righteous order.v 

As with fascism, Islamist extremist parties mostly flourish in countries under autocracy and corruption with mass unemployment and poverty. These parties strive for the “Islamist secularisation of society” by raising socio-economic rather than Islamic issues as the biggest problems confronting the Muslim World. Interestingly, unlike the MB, Wahhabis and their ilk, Islamist parties in Turkey seem to be more secular than Islamic. Under secular-educated leadership, they are quite comfortable with traditional Turkish culture, music, food and  Again, Islamist parties do not necessarily flourish under poverty. Some of them grow in affluent societies drawing well-to-do people within their folds. Al-Qaeda is a glaring example in this regard. However, it is difficult to draw a line between Islamist parties that are “designed” and those who have emerged by “default,” due to bad governance and poverty. While al-Qaeda and its ilk are in the “designed” category, ideologically motivated to oppose democracy, human rights and equal rights for women and minorities; pragmatic Islamists like the MB and JI fall in the latter category with ideological orientation as well. They apparently call for democracy and some rights for women and minorities, but oppose the freedom of expression and secular law and institutions. It is noteworthy that America has been trying to make friends with the MB and Jamaat, because they take part in elections and condemn terrorism.vii 

America also has the friendliest tie with Saudi Arabia, where Wahhabism prevails as the state ideology. Despite their anti-Western rhetoric, the MB and JI are inherently pro-Western but pre-modern and anti-modern at the same time. Many of them are no longer the Islamist parties in the strict sense of the expression. The Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami, no longer the Jamaat-e-Islami of Bangladesh, is a good example in this regard. Although it favours establishing “Allah’s Law,” it no longer supports establishing “Allah’s Sovereignty” but Islamic social justice and public welfare only through constitutional means, not violence. The party wants to “enforce God-fearing, honest and efficient leadership” through democratic methods, instead of the inefficient and dishonest ones.viii It is, however, noteworthy that the JI in Bangladesh are involved in the operation of twelve different Islamist parties, including the Islami Oikko Jote, Khilafat Majlis and Khilafat Andolon.ix  Thus proscribing the JI would not end its political influence in Bangladesh. As it has happened in Egypt, the MB since the overthrow of Mubarak in 2011, by adopting a new name, Freedom and Justice Party, is promise-bound to implement the same old Islamist ideology of the MB; the JI in Bangladesh would be doing the same thing in the event of its proscription.

Apprehending silent Western dominance of Arab countries that went through the “Arab Spring,” Samir Amin believes that the right wing Islamist parties like Ennahda in Tunisia and the MB in Egypt will be close allies of the West. He is right that America and dictators like Sadat and Mubarak nurtured Islamist groups in Egypt as last resorts to preserve the status quo. “This is why I argued that political Islam did not belong to the opposition block, as claimed by the Muslim Brotherhood, but was an organic part of the power structure”, asserts Amin.x  Portraying the MB not as an Islamic but primarily as a “reactionary party,” he believes that it “will represent the best security for the imperialist system;” and that the post-Revolutionary Arab countries under political Islam will stagnate for another fifty years or so as what has happened to Islamic Iran. Since Salafism, the fulcrum of the MB, rejects the idea of “liberty” and glorifies fatalist Islam, democracy will remain elusive under Islamist rule. Islamist regimes’ promotion of science, computer and business management does not amount to their promotion of modern education either. Last but not least: “The Muslim Brotherhood and imperialism operate in conjunction, and with a division of tasks. The Muslim Brotherhood needed a ‘certificate’ of democracy, which Obama gave them, and to that end they had to distance themselves from the ‘extremists,’ the Salafis.”xi  Thus, not Islamist MB or JI but Salafist extremists are the biggest threats to liberal democracy and Western interests in the Muslim World.

i Seyyed Vali Reza Nasr, The Vanguard of the Islamic Revolution: The Jamaat-I Islami of Pakistan, University of California Press, Berkeley 1994, pp.3-27, 47-80, 103-47, uploaded July 23, 2011 (accessed December 12, 2012)


iii Oliver Roy, The Failure of Political Islam, I.B. Tauris Publishers, London 1994, pp. 129-30

iv Abul A’la Maududi, Haqiqat-i-Jihad [The Reality of Jihad], Taj Company Ltd, Lahore 1964, p.64

v Abul A’la Maududi, The Meaning of the Qur’an, Islamic Publications Ltd., Lahore 1993, vol 2, pp 183 & 186

vi Graham E. Fuller, The Future of Political Islam, Palgrave-Macmillan, New York 2004, pp.33-6

vii John Mintz and Douglas Farah, “In Search of Friends Among The Foes: US hopes to Work With Diverse Group”, Washington Post, September 11, 2004

viii (accessed February 24, 2013)

ix Kaler Kantho (Bengali daily), February 24, 2013

x Samir Amin, “Political Islam in the Service of Imperialism”, Monthly Review, Vol. 59, Issue 07, December 2000

xi Ibid

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.

Published: 12:00 am Monday, July 28, 2014