John Ware on the Mus­lim Brother­hood

The Jewish Chronicle - - FRONT PAGE - John Ware

LAST APRIL, the Prime Min­is­ter or­dered a re­view into the Mus­lim Brother­hood here in Bri­tain. It’s not be­fore time. Documents un­cov­ered by US law en­force­ment agents in 2004 showed that the Brother­hood had planned to launch a stealthy “kind of grand Ji­had in elim­i­nat­ing and de­stroy­ing the Western civil­i­sa­tion from within… so that… God’s re­li­gion is made vic­to­ri­ous over all other reli­gions.” One doc­u­ment ear­marked 29 Is­lamic or­gan­i­sa­tions to help the Brother­hood “ex­pand the ob­ser­vant Mus­lim base” as a first step to this fan­tas­ti­cal goal, in­clud­ing fund­ing Ha­mas.

The US au­thor­i­ties broke up the plot. There is, how­ever, com­pelling ev­i­dence that the Amer­i­can blue­print was par­tially repli­cated here. Un­like the Amer­i­cans, the Bri­tish au­thor­i­ties seem just to have shrugged their shoul­ders.

Now Mr Cameron wants to know what “wider in­flu­ence” the Brother­hood has had “on UK so­ci­ety” and the his­tory of its in­volve­ment here.

The Brother­hood as an or­gan­i­sa­tion was founded in Egypt in 1928 with the slo­gan: “The Qu­ran is our con­sti­tu­tion. The Prophet is our leader. Ji­had is our way. Death for the sake of Al­lah is our great­est wish.”

Since then, the or­gan­i­sa­tion has mor­phed into a wider, frag­mented move­ment across much of the globe, in­clud­ing Bri­tain.

As pre­pos­ter­ous as the Brother­hood’s “grand ji­had” might seem, it has been echoed by the move­ment’s age­ing, de facto spir­i­tual leader, Sheikh Yusuf Qaradawi. Europe’s des­tiny, he says, is to be con­quered by Is­lam, “not by the sword” but by peace­ful pros­e­lytis­ing.

The more per­ti­nent ques­tion is: what has been the im­pact of the Brother­hood move­ment’s at­tempt to “ex­pand the ob­ser­vant Mus­lim base” here in Bri­tain to main­stream ef­forts to cre­ate a mean­ing­ful com­mon life be­tween Mus­lims and non-Mus­lims?

The im­me­di­ate trig­ger for the Cameron re­view was the es­cape to Lon­don of Brother­hood lead­ers from Cairo af­ter the mil­i­tary over­threw Egypt’s first demo­crat­i­cally elected Brother­hood govern­ment. The Egyp­tian govern­ment has said the Brother­hood there have links to gun­men who have shot po­lice­men.

The Brother­hood em­phat­i­cally de­nies this, in­sist­ing they are com­mit­ted to democ­racy.

For many, the Brother­hood re­mains a co­nun­drum: how can their com­mit­ment be rec­on­ciled with their ver­sion of Is­lam which makes no distinc­tion be­tween Is­lam as a spir­i­tual faith and a po­lit­i­cal ide­ol­ogy?

Some say that, be­cause Tu­nisia’s elected Brother­hood govern­ment peace­fully ceded power to a sec­u­lar care­taker govern­ment, demo­cratic shoots can grow from the Arab Spring.

Scep­tics counter that the Brother­hood plays a long game and that their leading ide­o­logues still be­lieve the world is ul­ti­mately des­tined to be re­or­gan­ised around Is­lam, with the Qu­ran as the sole ba­sis for govern­ment and law.

The Cameron re­view will also ex­am­ine the south Asian cousin of the Brother­hood Move­ment — the Is­lamist Ja­maat e Is­lami, which en­joys greater sup­port among Bri­tish Mus­lims than its Arab equiv­a­lent. Though un­tainted by the 2004 plot, the Ja­maat was cre­ated by an In­dian the­olo­gian Sayyid Abul A’la Maududi, who wrote that Mus­lims were obliged to es­tab­lish the sovereignty of God on earth.

It is gen­er­ally ac­cepted that Maudud­ists founded the UK Is­lamic Mis­sion (UKIM) in 1962. To­day the Old­ham-based UKIM still says it is a so­cial and po­lit­i­cal “ide­o­log­i­cal move­ment” which ex­ists to “mould the en­tire hu­man life ac­cord­ing to Al­lah’s re­vealed Guid­ance.”

How­ever, UKIM’s claims that all this is aimed at pro­mot­ing “har­mony in so­ci­ety and the en­tire world” were un­der­mined in 2007 when a Chan­nel 4 in­ves­ti­ga­tion showed the UKIM host­ing ex­trem­ist preach­ers. One was recorded as urg­ing Mus­lims to “help us win the fight against the Kuf­far [un­be­liev­ers]… in ev­ery depart­ment of life”. An­other said Mus­lims in Bri­tain had to “live like a state within a state” and con­tinue to preach “un­til you be­come such a force that the people they just sub­mit to you, hands up, un­til you be­come strong enough to take over”.

Al­though Ja­maat e Is­lami-in­spired or­gan­i­sa­tions con­trol just three per cent of mosques, a gov­ern­ment­pub­lished re­port has said that the “JI helped to cre­ate and sub­se­quently dom­i­nate the lead­er­ship” of the or­gan­i­sa­tion that de­scribes it­self as the “na­tional rep­re­sen­ta­tive” of Bri­tain’s very di­verse Mus­lims — the Mus­lim Coun­cil of Bri­tain.

In parts of Bri­tain, there are signs of a grow­ing re­li­gious con­ser­vatism among the rapidly grow­ing Mus­lim pop­u­la­tion, who ap­pear in­creas­ingly re­sis­tant to as­sim­i­late into the ma­jor­ity cul­ture, as most other mi­grants have over time.

Nei­ther the MCB nor UKIM seems con­cerned that treat­ing more and more cit­i­zens on the ba­sis of their faith rather than com­mon ci­ti­zen­ship might be a sig­nif­i­cant ob­sta­cle to cre­at­ing a so­ci­ety which is gen­uinely co­he­sive.

It is true that, on some cul­tural dif­fer­ences like fe­male gen­i­tal mu­ti­la­tion, sex­ual groom­ing, and forced mar­riage, the MCB has spo­ken out. But they have tended to fol­low the de­bate — not lead it.

Their boy­cott of Holo­caust Me­mo­rial Day also burned bridges built up with the Jewish com­mu­nity over decades.

IN 2007, the MCB tried to in­ject a con­ser­va­tive ver­sion of Is­lam into state ed­u­ca­tion with a list of mul­ti­ple re­quire­ments. Some were in­tro­duced in Birm­ing­ham state schools, re­cently ad­judged by Of­sted to have so nar­rowed the cur­ricu­lum and ex­po­sure of their Mus­lim pupils to other cul­tures and faiths that they were be­ing badly pre­pared for life in mod­ern Bri­tain. Un­der the in­flu­ence of the Ja­maat’s Bangladeshi branch, Tower Ham­lets, the Lon­don bor­ough which is home to 80,000 Bri­tons of Bangladeshi her­itage, has changed pro­foundly over the last three decades.

With ever more women cov­ered with full-faced veils, Tower Ham­lets has be­gun to look more like the Saudi cap­i­tal, Riyadh, than Dacca, the rel­a­tively sec­u­lar cap­i­tal of Bangladesh.

The Ja­maat dom­i­nate the in­flu­en­tial East Lon­don Mosque, and while it has con­trib­uted to use­ful so­cial wel­fare pro­grammes, judg­ing by some speak­ers to whom the mosque still gives plat­forms, its def­i­ni­tion of ex­trem­ism still con­flicts with the one used by the govern­ment’s Pre­vent strat­egy, chal­leng­ing the ide­o­log­i­cal nar­ra­tive of ter­ror­ism.

The Brother­hood move­ment’s Arab wing in the UK con­trols even fewer mosques than the Ja­maat. Al­though both have pro­moted Is­lamist ide­ol­ogy, the prin­ci­pal fo­cus of the Arab Broth­ers has been Ha­mas.

They have es­tab­lished a pow­er­ful and ac­tive Ha­mas sup­port net­work, which has its ori­gins with the ar­rival in Manch­ester of rad­i­calised Pales­tinian stu­dents in 1979.

HA­MAS SUPREMO Khaled Mishaal says they were the “first pil­lars of Ha­mas”, build­ing up sup­port “on the out­side” for its of­fi­cial launch in 1987. Stu­dent branches were also es­tab­lished in Europe, the Gulf and Amer­ica. Called the Is­lamic As­so­ci­a­tion of Pales­tinian Youth, the then func­tion­ing Bri­tish branch was among the most ac­tive, and like the oth­ers, part of what a sem­i­nal Ha­mas me­moran­dum has de­scribed as the “Ha­mas Project”.

Char­i­ties were listed as in­te­gral to this “Ji­hadi [strug­gle] project” to re­place Is­rael with an Is­lamic state, by pro­vid­ing food, med­i­cal care and ed­u­ca­tion to gen­er­ate loy­alty and sup­port for “the [Ha­mas] Move­ment” to keep “the flame of Ji­had alight..”

Funds for Ha­mas’s wel­fare net­work were sent from char­i­ties in Bri­tain and Amer­ica es­tab­lished and run by mem­bers of the In­ter­na­tional Mus­lim Brother­hood’s “Pales­tine Sec­tion” whose job was to over­see the “Ha­mas Project.”

From a north Lon­don flat, they also ran a monthly glossy mag­a­zine, Fil­lis­teen al Mus­limah [Mus­lim Pales­tine] which pub­lished heroic pho­to­graphs of sui­cide-belted mar­tyrs.

Within days of 9/11, the Bri­tish au­thor­i­ties were eye­ing up the Broth­ers as “cred­i­ble” non-vi­o­lent ex­trem­ist part­ners against the vi­o­lent ex­trem­ism of Al Qaeda — a role the Broth­ers rel­ished. Play­ing gate­keeper to Bri­tain’s Mus­lims has been a key Brother­hood aim.

An early ap­proach came from MI5 when two of­fi­cers gin­gerly knocked on the door at Fil­lis­teen al Mus­limah to ask if they might pos­si­bly come in for a chat.

Strug­gling to sup­press their guffaws, through the door the Ha­mas­niks told them to come back af­ter they had made an ap­point­ment.

The Blair govern­ment soon re­alised that re­ly­ing on the Broth­ers as in­ter­locu­tors in the bat­tle against vi­o­lent ex­trem­ism was dou­ble-edged.

While the Broth­ers con­demned ter­ror­ist out­rages like 7/7 here at home, as David Good­hart, di­rec­tor of the Demos think tank, says, their own be­liefs were of­ten a “non-vi­o­lent ver­sion” of the vi­o­lent ver­sion: “re­li­giously-in­spired hos­til­ity to for­eign pol­icy, am­biva­lence about Western lib­er­al­ism, and a para­noid be­lief in state sanc­tioned Is­lam­o­pho­bia.”

The false but in­flam­ma­tory griev­ance nar­ra­tive that Bri­tain has been fight­ing a global war di­rected against Is­lam has also been re­in­forced by “Is­lam Chan­nel”, the most pop­u­lar Is­lamic satel­lite TV sta­tion in Bri­tain to­day.

Be­tween pro­grammes, Mus­lims are re­minded again and again that the chan­nel gives a “voice to the voice­less… a voice to the op­pressed.”

By help­ing to pro­mote an ex­treme world view that the West has been en­gaged in a con­spir­acy against Mus­lims, the Brother­hood has helped keep young Bri­tish Mus­lims an­gry — and some­what sep­a­rate.

Some Ha­mas fugi­tives have been given sanc­tu­ary here from Is­rael only to re­pay Bri­tain by us­ing it as a base to work against Bri­tish for­eign pol­icy on Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran and es­pe­cially the Is­rael-Pales­tine con­flict with reg­u­lar trips to ac­tively as­sist Ha­mas lead­ers un­der­mine the — ad­mit­tedly van­ish­ing — prospects of a two-state so­lu­tion.

So far, it is hard to see what ma­te­rial con­tri­bu­tion the Brother­hood move­ment has made to cre­at­ing the har­mo­nious and co­he­sive so­ci­ety they say they want. They do, of course. But on what terms?

John Ware is a free­lance writer and broad­caster


The rad­i­cal Sheikh Yusuf Qaradawi

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