Islamist killing in the name of Allah

Islamist violence in Egypt

By Nureddin Sabir
Editor, Redress Information & Analysis

People in the West, from laypersons to academics, journalists and politicians, tend not to associate Islamists with slick public relations or credit them with the ability to fool ostensibly sophisticated Westerners.

Yet, this is precisely what has happened. On television and radio, in newspapers and online, a distinction is often made between “extremist” and “moderate” Islamists, between the jihadists of Al-Qaeda and the “moderates” of the Muslim Brotherhood. In contrast to Al-Qaeda, a noun that is often preceded by the adjective “terrorist”, the Brotherhood is frequently described as “moderate” or even “democratic”.

It is a false distinction.

False dichotomy

In a recent article, “From London to Mansoura: killing in the name of Allah”, Arab affairs analyst and broadcaster Magdi Abdelhadi pulls no punches. “Islamism” – or political Islam – he says,

is a virulent, supremacist ideology prone to violence and which seeks to prevail, with or without democracy. The pragmatists (often referred to as moderates) are as dangerous to Muslims as are the militants. The former use the blunt and lethal instruments of violence, the latter are sly and rely on religiously-sanctioned dissimulation (known as taqiyya) to hide their true intentions.

Abdelhadi highlights the link between the extremist and supposedly “moderate” Islamists by looking at the relationship between Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood and the Al-Qaeda-type group, Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis, which is responsible for the wave of terrorism that has hit Egypt since the ouster of the Brotherhood’s President Muhammad Morsi.

Earlier this month [December 2013], the group released a video tape bragging about its “heroic achievements” against the soldiers of the “infidels” and “renegades”. According to Egyptian newspapers, it was formed by an Islamic militant (Ahmad Salamah Mabrook) who was serving a life sentence when he was pardoned by the ousted Muslim Brothers’ president, Muhammad Morsi, last year…

The videotape (which has now been removed by YouTube) had all the hallmarks of Al-Qaeda propaganda: the Quranic verses taken out of context to justify the slaughter of “kuffar” [unbelievers], mixed with religious chanting interspersed with grainy footage showing attacks on military vehicles. Typically, the accent of the voice-over was from the Arabian peninsula – as if this somehow bolsters its Islamic credentials.

But perhaps more striking than anything else was the link the Al-Qaeda propagandists make between their terrorist attacks in Sinai and the Muslim Brothers’ campaign of public protests and riots on university campuses whose apparent aim is to derail the road map [to democracy in Egypt] and prevent the establishment of a new political legitimacy for the emerging order after the constitutional referendum and subsequent elections due early next year [in January 2014]. This reinforces a widespread suspicion that sees a direct link between at least some Muslim Brothers’ leaders and Bayt al-Maqdis.

“Not in my name”?

Some will argue that the Muslim Brotherhood cannot be held responsible for terrorists claiming to be acting in support of it. However, as Abdelhadi points out, the Brotherhood

has yet to condemn such attacks as acts of terror. It has done so in London and in English. Its response in Arabic is equivocatory, to say the least. The conspicuous absence of public condemnations [has] led some to conclude (plausibly I think) that the violence is being waged on the MB’s behalf to achieve political goals and force concessions from the interim government.

Western apologists for the Muslim Brotherhood may also argue that even if the group’s responsibility for terrorism in Egypt is proven, it has had to resort to, or support, terrorism because it has been left with no other option following the mass popular movement that led to the ouster of Morsi.

This is a flawed argument. As Abdelhadi notes,

Two weeks before the Mansoura outrage [suicide bombing on a police headquarters on 24 December 2013, which killed 16 people and injured many others], and thousands of miles away in the UK a language strikingly similar to that of Bayt al-Maqdis was heard in a London courtroom.

Michael Adebolajo and Michael Adebowale appeared in court charged with killing a British soldier last summer on the streets of south London in Woolwich…

Adebolajo’s apparent reason for committing this heinous crime was that British soldiers had killed Muslims in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Received wisdom has taught us to blame Islamist terrorism on the absence of democracy or freedom of expression in Arab societies. Assuming that was right, why would a Muslim living in a Western democracy such as Britain resort to terrorism to achieve political goals?

Adebolajo is certainly not the only one opposed to British foreign policy. Millions of Britons are [also opposed to British foreign policy]. But they didn’t take up arms against the state, let alone assassinate politicians responsible for the controversial policy.

I think the reason is a lot simpler than that. Time to dismiss the bogus causal link between autocracy and Islamism, and to stop finding excuses for the inherently violent temper of this ideology. Time has come to see it for what it really is. Many other political groups (liberals, communists) were repressed and thrown into jail during Egypt’s modern history [but] they did not take up arms and declare war on the state or kill innocent civilians.

Facing reality

Abdelhadi’s conclusion may appear too stark for the superficially culturally “sensitive” Western elites to utter in public. But for those with first-hand experience of Islamists, it hits the nail on the head.

Islamism is a political ideology that has never shied away from using religiously-motivated violence to achieve political goals. So was the Muslim Brothers in its first decades, and so are many of the militant outfits it has spawned over the years, and so are the people who indoctrinated Adebolajo and his friends in the UK.

Time for the whole world to reassess its relationship with Islamism in all its manifestations. Islamism is a movement and ideology that seeks to separate Muslims from the rest of humanity, and put them on [a] collision course with fellow human beings wherever they live because of its pernicious supremacist teachings.

The difference between the moderates and militants is a difference in degree, not kind. It is politically convenient for the ideology and those who believe in it: in reality, the moderates and the militants reinforce and refuel one another.

We won’t hold our breath waiting for the mainstream media and the political elites in the Western world to face up to this reality any time soon.

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