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Fact-checking the Muslim Brotherhood

by Jared Israel

[Posted March 4, 2011]

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In February 2011, the New York Times published two major opinion pieces ("op eds") by spokesmen for the leadership of the Muslim Brotherhood, arguing that the Brotherhood is and always was peaceful, tolerant, pluralistic, although with an Islamic orientation to be sure. [1]

Western readers are of course at a disadvantage reading these op eds because how is a non-Egyptian to know if they are telling the truth?  On the one hand, one would like to believe the Brotherhood really does want peace, tolerance and democracy.  On other hand, if they don't, it is obviously in their interest to lie.

One way to determine if the Brotherhood's claims can be trusted is to test one important assertion whose truth can be easily evaluated.  If that claim is true, the rest may be trueIf that claim is false, how can one trust any of the rest?

Let us take a quote from "What the Muslim Brothers Want," the February 9, 2011 op ed by Essam El-Errian, a leading member of the Brotherhood's guidance council. El-Errian makes the claim, of decisive importance, that:

"Our principles, clearly stated since the inception of the movement in 1928, affirm an unequivocal position against violence."
[My emphasis – J.I.]
-- See footnote
[1]

The Muslim Brotherhood's principles were set down by Hassan Al-Banna, the Brotherhood's founder, who led the organization from its founding in 1928 until his death in 1949. To test the veracity of the above assertion, I consulted Hassan Al-Banna's treatise, "On Jihad." It is easily accessed in a good translation on a Canadian Muslim youth website, at https://web.archive...web.youngmuslims.ca/online_library/books/jihad
(If the above link is down, go to www.tenc.net/archive/jihad.htm )

Al-Banna's treatise is a polemic against Muslims who argue that the most important meaning of jihad is struggle against one's ego, with Al-Banna explicitly stating that the main and most important form of jihad is violence for Allah:

"The verses of the Qur'an and the Sunnah summon people in general (with the most eloquent expression and the clearest exposition) to jihad, to warfare, to the armed forces, and all means of land and sea fighting."
[Parenthesis from original – J.I.]
-- "On Jihad," by Hussan Al-Banna
ibid.

In Al-Banna's teaching, armed struggle for Allah represents the supreme achievement of earthly (and eternal!) life:

"The ummah that knows how to die a noble and honourable death is granted an exalted life in this world and eternal felicity in the next. Degradation and dishonour are the results of the love of this world and the fear of death. Therefore prepare for jihad and be the lovers of death. Life itself shall come searching after you."
[My emphasis – J.I.]
--
ibid.

Lest you mistakenly conclude that this is simply rhetoric, with no effect in the real world, take a look at this video of clips from Palestinian Authority TV, which have the theme, echoing the words of Al-Banna, "Ask for death, the life will be given to you." (This quotation appears at 1:52 in the video.)

This Palestinian Media Watch documentary video "Ask for Death" can be viewed online at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=68EIDtpImrA

It is worth noting that Hamas is the official Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, and that the Palestinian Authority is controlled by Fatah, organized by subordinates of Hajj Amin al Husseini, the late leader of the Muslim Brotherhood in Palestine.

According to Al-Banna, jihad is not only the greatest possible achievement of individual Muslims, it is also the key to solving all problems of mankind because it is the way to institute universal Islamic rule, and Islam is what mankind needs:

[Excerpt from Al-Banna starts here]

Islam allows jihad and permits war until the following Qur'anic verse is fulfilled:

‘We will show them Our signs in the universe, and in their ownselves, until it becomes manifest to them that this (the Qur'an) is the truth.’

(Surat al-Fussilat (41), ayah 53)

People have for some time now ridiculed this but today these same people acknowledge that preparation for war is the surest way to peace! Allah did not ordain jihad for the Muslims so that it may be used as a tool of oppression or tyranny or so that it may be used by some to further their personal gains. Rather jihad is used to safeguard the mission of spreading Islam. This would guarantee peace and the means of implementing the Supreme Message.

[My emphasis – J.I.]
-- ibid.

[Excerpt from Al-Banna ends here]

In other words, war is justified until everyone in the world realizes the truth of the Qur'an, and indeed it is precisely through its victory in jihad that the Qur'an's alleged truth "becomes manifest to them."  Islam is the destination and jihad is the motor force by which mankind approaches the destination. 

Elsewhere in the text Al-Banna quotes various Islamic scholars, concluding that all agree that there are two types of jihad.  There is jihad to spread the word of Allah, which is fard kifayah (an obligation which a community fulfils if some members engage in this jihad every year), and there is jihad to take back lands once but no longer ruled by Islam (Kashmir, Chechnya, Israel, but also one would imagine Spain, Portugal, Southern Italy, much of  India, the Balkans, Hungary, African and Asian states that are not under proper Islamic control, and so on), or to defeat attempts to conquer Islamic lands, both of which are fard ‘ayn (an obligation in whose fulfillment all members of a Muslim community must participate in some way.)

Clearly, Al-Banna does not advocate "non-violence." And clearly, El-Errian is familiar with Al-Banna's works, which are required reading for all members of the Muslim Brotherhood, not to mention their top leaders.

Now, Muslim Brotherhood leader El-Errian could have written that the Brotherhood was founded and led (from 1928 until his death in 1949) by an Imam who not only saw holy war as acceptable, but who saw it as the most important aspect of Muslim life; that, yes, the Brotherhood had been teaching his treatise "On Jihad" for many decades, but that now the Brotherhood has rejected the Imam's teaching.

Then El-Errian could present a) evidence of the supposed rejection and b) explain why the Brothers now think Al-Banna was wrong.  But since El-Errian does none of the above; since instead he tells the soothing lie that –

"Our principles, clearly stated since the inception of the movement in 1928, affirm an unequivocal position against violence."
[My emphasis – J.I.]
-- "What the Muslim Brothers Want," The New York Times

– then how can anyone trust his other claims about believing in democracy, not wishing to force Islamism on Egypt, and so on? 

Indeed, how can we believe his claim, made at the outset of his op ed, that recent anti-government actions in Egypt have been the work of ordinary people, meaning people independent of the Brotherhood, with the Muslim Brotherhood being humbly:

"committed to joining the national effort toward reform and progress."
ibid.

Let us end with pictures, since they are worth so many words.  Here is the image with which the New York Times chose to illustrate El-Errian's Brotherhood apologia:

Illustration posted on The New York Times website at http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/10/opinion/10erian.html
(C) Brian Rea/The New York Times, 2011.  Reproduced here for educational purposes.  For Fair Use Only.

Soothing, n'est-ce pas? The Brotherhood believes in soft jihad; swords into ploughshares, or, more accurately, into vegetation; etc. 

Now here is the image as it actually appears, today, March 4, 2011, in the real world, that is on the official Arabic language home page of the Muslim Brotherhood, permanently posted as the Brotherhood's symbol, on the upper right of the page:

Icon of the Muslim Brotherhood, posted on the upper right of their official Arabic language homepage at  http://www.ikhwanonline.com/new/Default.aspx
(C) Muslim Brotherhood, 2011.
 Reproduced here for educational purposes.  For Fair Use Only.

No cute bird.  No New Agey vegetation. Crossed steel and a Koran. Allah's word, implemented via the two types of jihad.

In other words, the ideas of Hassan al-Banna. 

It is perfectly obvious why El-Errian lies, is it not?  When the U.S. government (not to mention the governments of Australia, the UK, Germany, and so on) are furiously pushing one into power, it is awkward to inform Western citizens that one believes in violence to establish universal Islamic rule. Does the butcher confide his plans to the meat cow?

But what explains the behavior of the New York Times?

-- Jared Israel
Emperor's Clothes
March 4, 2011

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Footnotes and Further Reading

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[1] Here are the links to the articles cited in this text:

Al-Banna's essay "On Jihad" can be read at the archive.org backup of a Canadian Muslim youth website, at https://web.archive...web.youngmuslims.ca/online_library/books/jihad
(If the above link is down, go to www.tenc.net/archive/jihad.htm )

Essam El-Errian's February 9, 2011 op ed, "What the Muslim Brothers Want," can be read at http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/10/opinion/10erian.html

The Times op-ed by Hassan Al-Banna's grandson, Tariq Ramadan, "Whither the Muslim Brotherhood?" published February 8, 2011 can be read at http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/09/opinion/09iht-edramadan09.html?pagewanted=all

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You may send this article or the link to any person or Internet list. You may post any TENC article on the Internet as long as you cite Emperor's Clothes as the source, credit the author(s), and state the URL, which in this case is
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To receive Emperor's Clothes articles by email, subscribe to the TENC Newsletter. Just send a blank email with SUBSCRIBE in the subject line to emperorsclothes@tenc.net  You will receive a confirmation email within a day.  (If you don’t, please check your email filter.) Please reply to that email and add emperorsclothes@tenc.net to your personal address book.

The Emperor's New Clothes (TENC) * www.tenc.net