Wednesday,26 September, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1245, (7 - 13 May 2015)
Wednesday,26 September, 2018
Issue 1245, (7 - 13 May 2015)

Ahram Weekly

Muslim Brotherhood violence

Deception, opportunism and the use of force did not emerge from the Muslim Brotherhood because of crackdowns. They are inherent in its outlook, writes Haitham Abu Zeid

Hassan Al-Banna and Sayed Qotb
Hassan Al-Banna and Sayed Qotb
Al-Ahram Weekly

The Muslim Brotherhood’s educational curriculum includes a collection of books that promote takfiri ideas and violence, and condemn democracy as a Western innovation that is unacceptable in Islam.

The literature is geared towards preparing Muslim Brotherhood members to be perpetually on the alert and prepared to use terrorism against their political opponents, on the grounds that they pose an obstacle in the path to the establishment of the Islamic state.

It follows that the violence and destruction that Egypt experienced following the ouster of former president Mohamed Morsi was not a spontaneous reaction to government repression or a security crackdown against the largest underground organisation in the Islamic world.

Over the past 40 years, every Muslim Brotherhood member has studied a set of books assigned by their organisation’s leadership with the purpose of indoctrinating them in an ideology that condemns society as heretic, calls for the establishment of a theocratic state led by the Muslim Brotherhood and justifies all means to attain this aim, including recourse to force, intimidation and sowing instability and economic havoc.

The backbone of the curriculum consists of the works and letters of Muslim Brotherhood founder Hassan Al-Banna, its first theoretician, Sayed Qotb, the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood leaders Said Hawwa and Mohamed Munir Al-Ghadban, and the former Muslim Brotherhood thinker Fathy Yakin.

Muslim Brotherhood members studied the ideas contained in this literature at weekly indoctrination sessions and semi-periodic meetings with the high and mid-level leadership.
In the 1970s, after then President Anwar Al-Sadat released Muslim Brotherhood members who had been imprisoned under President Gamal Abdel Nasser, they reverted to studying the letter of instructions set out by the founder of the organisation’s paramilitary wing.
Written in the style of military commands, the letter addresses members of the organisation as though they were soldiers in barracks awaiting orders to carry out without question.
The ideas with which Muslim Brotherhood members are inculcated can be summed up as four central concepts: the organisation, secrecy, provisionality and force. All Muslim Brotherhood educational and training methods contribute to ingraining these ideas in the hearts and minds of members, which helps account for the sharp decline in the moral, cultural and artistic facets of the Muslim Brotherhood “community”.

To the Muslim Brotherhood, the organisation is an end in and of itself, rather than just a channel for assembling or proselytising. According to its literature, belonging to that organisation is a religious duty without the performance of which no Muslim’s faith is “complete”.
Hassan Al-Banna laid the underpinnings of the sacredness of the organisation when he made membership contingent on a declaration of allegiance coupled with a religious oath. Members thus sworn in become the property of the organisation as they are bound to dedicate their time, money and even lives to it.
Sayed Qotb accorded major importance to the concept of the organisation, which he envisioned as the “vanguard of the Islamic revival” that would be charged with the mission of reinstating the Muslim ummah, which he believed had been effaced from the surface of the earth.
In his attempts to press home the need to become a member of the organisation and work within its ranks, Al-Banna contended that the Muslim Brotherhood offered all the advantages and benefits of other religious groups and missions. In Our Call, he wrote: “The Muslim Brotherhood is a general comprehensive call that leaves no worthy portion of any calling without comprehending it and referring to it.”

The Syrian Muslim Brotherhood ideologue Said Hawwa wrote: “The Muslim must belong to an organised group and that organisation must be worthy. Upon contemplation one finds that the Muslim Brothers are the ones who discerned this path and proceeded down it.”

As though working in concert with other Muslim Brotherhood ideologues to underscore the need to join the organisation, Fathy Yakin, in his book, What my Affiliation to Islam Means, writes: “To belong to the Islamist movement is to belong to this religion and to obey the command of God and aspire to His mercy and approval.”

Secrecy is fundamental cornerstone of the Muslim Brotherhood organisation. It did not arise in response to security measures or persecution at the hands of ruling regimes; it has always been there, as a cardinal principle that is driven home to members of the Islamist movement.

Yakin, in his abovementioned book, writes: “The movement must not reveal all its plans and organisations. There is no benefit in this at all. Indeed, to do so would be a manifestation of ignorance of Islam and it would expose the movement and its members to the cunning of its enemies.”

Munir Ghadban, in The Operational Course, emphasises secrecy on several occasions. On page 50, he stresses: “It is essential to preserve the secrecy of the organisation and to choose a secrete centre for assembling, out of view from others, where the soldiers can meet with each other and meet their commanders.”

On page 116, he writes: “The Islamist movement should not reveal all its cards and rely on the existence of a democratic climate. It must keep a portion of its individuals, its organisation, activities and centres secret so that they are not eliminated should it occur to the forces of jahiliya (pre-Islamic ignorance) to pounce on them.” Perhaps this sheds light on the term “sleeping cells” that has come into currency to refer to the workings of secret Muslim Brotherhood operatives in various places.

Particularly revealing about Muslim Brotherhood attitudes and methods of interacting with society and political forces, Ghadban writes: “Nothing is a more powerful tool for the Islamist movement than to adopt a facade of stupidity in its dealing with its allies and enemies, so as to learn their plans while pretending ignorance of these plans.” He adds: “The movement should place some of its men in the ranks of the enemy.”

The concept of provisionality is critical to Muslim Brotherhood thought as it forms the general framework for the organisation’s behaviour, decisions and discourse. To understand this concept is to understand the Muslim Brotherhood’s way of thought and its intentions.

It is on the idea of “provisionality” — temporarily accommodating the exigencies of the present in order to attain an ulterior goal later on — that the Muslim Brotherhood gives promises it intends to break and makes commitments it never intends to fulfil.

The famous Fairmont Hotel agreement is a perfect illustration of how the Muslim Brotherhood applied the concept. The agreement took place in that interval just before the final round of the presidential elections in 2012, in which Mohamed Morsi and Ahmed Shafiq would be racing neck-to-neck.

Morsi and Muslim Brotherhood officials pledged to meet the demands of liberal and revolutionary forces in exchange for them backing him in the polls. Once Morsi won, the Muslim Brotherhood reneged on its pledges.

To the Muslim Brotherhood, “provisionality” means that it can adopt a discourse and stances that serve its interests in accordance with the given circumstances of a particular political phase, despite the possible detrimental impact of its behaviour on the general welfare of society and even if this entails deliberate lies and deception.

Muslim Brotherhood literature speaks of “the rhetoric of vulnerability” and the “rhetoric of empowerment.” The first affects a pretence of good will and acceptance of the other; the second emerges when the Muslim Brotherhood has achieved power and is no longer afraid to reveal its true aims and intentions.

In Signposts on the Road, Sayed Qotb refers to provisionality as a facet of faith that designates the means and methods for each phase from the birth of the vanguard of the Islamic revival to the phase of empowerment, the overthrow of tyrants, and the destruction of ruling political regimes or their subjugation in order to compel them to pay tribute.

The Muslim Brotherhood regards recourse to force as essential to its survival. The speeches of Muslim Brotherhood leaders from the podium at the Rabaa Al-Adawiya sit-in exposed the falsehood of 40 years of their pretence of rejecting violence, accepting the concept of the citizen state and respecting the will of the people. All that was provisional rhetoric.

When the inevitable clash came between the Muslim Brotherhood and the state and society, the Muslim Brothers revealed their true face, and all the ideas that they had been raised on in their organisation’s ideological incubators surfaced.

Muslim Brotherhood literature confirms that violence is an authorised instrument. In fact, members are brought up to anticipate the right moment for using it. Other discourse within the Muslim Brotherhood family instils its members with violent notions such as that which holds that the awaited Islamic state will only arise after a fierce battle between right and wrong. Such ideas are embraced by the concept of “deferred violence”, which is to say the violence that must occur when the time is ripe.

Muslim Brotherhood founder and first supreme guide Hassan Al-Banna defined the Muslim Brotherhood concept of force in his message to the Muslim Brotherhood Fifth Congress: “The first level of force is the force of faith and creed. Then follows the force of unity and association. After these two comes the force of muscle and weapons. The [Muslim Brotherhood] group can not be described as strong unless all these senses of force are combined.”

He also said: “The Muslim Brothers use practical force when no other means serves and when they are confident that they are fully equipped with faith and unity. And when they use this force they will be honourable, frank and give warning first.”

Munir Al-Ghadban is especially frank on the subject on numerous occasions in The Operational Course. Page 87 is particularly revealing: “The Islamist movement may not be able to totally uproot jahiliyya. In fact, political, social and international circumstances dictate that the route to power is through constitutional institutions and freedom and elections at a time when the military force of the Muslims can do no more than to protect that freedom.”

On terrorist activities against “heretic regimes”, Al-Ghadban is equally explicit: “When some of the factions of the Islamist movement declare war against the tyrants they become fearsome and feared by the enemy and the adversary hastens to ally with them.

“It would be good for the Islamist movement to be trained in this tactic when it confronts its enemies so that its strike is painful, the operation causes quakes and terror fills hearts, or the heretical regime falls.”

The writer is a political analyst.

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