Animosity towards western countries was already prevalent amongst both the Sunni and Shia Middle Eastern countries after the First World War. The occupying western powers began the modernisation of these countries by the setting up of non religious schools and institutions which fuelled these feelings.
The secularisation of the ex Sunni Caliphate by Atatürk in 1923 set the scene that brought about the rise of radical Islam and its conflict with the Judeo Christian world in the west. His creation of a Turkish national republic and a modern, secular society formed a major part of the inspiration and acted as a catalyst that impelled the Islamist movement amongst the Muslim intelligentsia in Egypt during the early twenties.
The separation of church and state is the distance in the relationship between organized religion and the nation state. The greater that distance the less power and influence can be exerted by the clergy and the more freedom there is from religious dogma. It is this process that is termed secularisation.
The Muslim Brotherhood was founded in 1928 by Hassan al-Banna, along with six workers of the Suez Canal Company to promote the implementing of traditional Islamic sharia law and renewal of an Islamic ethos of altruism and civic duty, in opposition to British imperial rule and to political and social injustice. After Banna launched the Muslim Brotherhood, branches were set up throughout the country each running a mosque, a school and a sporting club, its membership grew rapidly.
The organisation initially focused on educational and charitable work, but quickly grew to become a major political force, playing a prominent role in the Egyptian nationalist movement particularly in the fight to rid Egypt of British colonial control and cleanse it of all Western influence, while promoting their particular version of Islam.
The organization was to return Egypt, the Middle East, and eventually the world to “proper” subservience to Islam as ordained by Allah. “Allah is our objective. The Prophet is our leader. The Qur’an is our law. Jihad is our way. Dying in the way of Allah is our highest aspiration.” Motto of the Muslim Brotherhood (Al-Ikhwan al-Muslimun in Arabic). Its most famous slogan, used worldwide, is: “Islam is the solution.”
Links to the Nazis began during the 1930s and were close during the Second World War, involving agitation against the British, espionage and sabotage, as well as support for terrorist activities orchestrated by Haj Amin el-Hussaini in the British Mandate of Palestine, as confirmed by a wide range of declassified documents from the British, American and Nazi German government archives, as well as from personal accounts and memoirs from that period. Reflecting this connection the Muslim Brotherhood also disseminated Hitler’s Mein Kampf and The Protocols of the Elders of Zion widely in Arab translations, helping to deepen and extend already existing hostile views about Jews and Western societies generally.
By the late 1940s, the group is estimated to have had 500,000 members in Egypt, and its ideas had spread across the Arab world. At the same time, Banna created a paramilitary wing, the Special Apparatus, whose operatives joined the fight against British rule and engaged in a campaign of bombings and assassinations.
During the early twenties, prior to the rise of the “Brotherhood” there appeared a group of Muslim scholars who identified events in Turkey as the beginning of what in their eyes was a dangerous historical process. The most influential amongst them being Sayyid Qutb an Egyptian author, educator, Islamic theorist, poet, and later to become the leading member and ideologue of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood in the 1950s and 60s.
Author of 24 books, including novels, literary arts critique and works on education, he is best known in the Muslim world for his work on what he believed to be the social and political role of Islam, particularly in his books Social Justice and his Islamic political manifesto, Ma’alim fi al-Tariq (Milestones). His magnum opus, Fi Zilal al-Quran (In the shade of the Qur’an), is a 30-volume commentary on the Qur’an.
Qutb together with other Muslim intellectuals realised that the process of secularisation which had begun in western societies five hundred years earlier had now begun in the Islamic world with events in Turkey and was gaining momentum.
They knew that for the first time in the 1,500 years of Islamic rule a Muslim country had removed power from the church and separated it from the state. This process coupled with the activities of western countries in modernising the Middle East and the apparent weakness of Muslim countries to resist, constituted the beginning of the end of the control of Islamic clerics over the people and their lives.
Sayyid Qutb is the one man who could be considered the ideological grandfather of Osma bin Laden and the other extremists who surround him. Even though most of his observations and criticism were levelled at the Muslim world, Qutb is also known for his intense disapproval of the society and culture of the United States, which he saw as obsessed with materialism, violence, and sexual pleasures. He has been described by followers as a great thinker and martyr for Islam.
Qutb travelled through America from 1948 to 1950 where he aimed for further studies in educational administration and worked in several different institutions including what was then Wilson Teachers’ College in Washington, D.C., Colorado State College for Education in Greeley, as well as Stanford University. He also travelled extensively, visiting the major cities of the United States and spent time in Europe on the return journey to Egypt.
He was shocked at what he considered the moral and spiritual degeneracy he observed, stating that “No one is more distant than the Americans from spirituality and piety.” Many Western observers see him as a key originator of Islamist ideology and an inspiration for violent groups such as Al Qaeda. Qutb’s first major theoretical work of religious social criticism, Al-‘adala al-Ijtima’iyya fi-l-Islam (Social Justice in Islam), was published in 1949, during his time in the West.
In the meantime the Muslim Brotherhood had not been idle; in November 1948 police seized an automobile containing the documents and plans of what is thought to be the Brotherhood’s “secret apparatus” with names of its members. The seizure was preceded by an assortment of bombings and assassination attempts by the “apparatus”. Subsequently 32 of its leaders were arrested and its offices raided. The next month the Egyptian Prime Minister, Mahmud Fahmi Nokrashi, ordered the dissolution of the Brotherhood for attacking British and Jewish interests.
On December 28, 1948 Egypt’s prime minister was assassinated by a Brotherhood member a veterinary student named, Abdel Meguid Ahmed Hassan, in what is thought to have been retaliation for the government crackdown. Banna denounced the killing, but he was subsequently shot dead in 1949 by an unknown gunman believed to have been a member of the security forces. Al-Banna was succeeded as head of the Brotherhood by Hassan Isma’il al-Hudaybi, a former judge.
In 1952, members of the Muslim Brotherhood were accused of taking part in arson that destroyed some “750 buildings” in downtown Cairo — mainly night clubs, theatres, hotels, and restaurants frequented by British and other foreigners, that marked the end of the liberal, progressive, cosmopolitan Egypt.
1952 also saw the end of colonial rule following a military coup d’etat led by a group of young officers calling themselves the “Free Officers”. The Brotherhood backed the military coup that overthrew the monarchy; the Ikhwan played a supporting role. Anwar al-Sadat who became president in 1970 and was one of the “Free Officers” was in liaison with the Brotherhood. They initially co-operated with the new government, but relations soon soured as the junta was unwilling to share power or lift martial law and clashed with the Brotherhood.
After the attempted assassination of Gamal ‘Abd al-Nasser, in 1954, a member of the secret apparatus of the Brotherhood was accused by the authorities of being the perpetrator of the attempt on Nasser who then abolished the Brotherhood and imprisoned and punished thousands of its members.
Qutb’s role was important, because there had been an ideological vacuum in the Muslim Brotherhood since its leader Hasan al-Banna had been assassinated in 1949, and in 1952, Qutb was elected to the leadership council of the Brotherhood.
An important conerstone of Sayyid Qutb‘s work was his use of the Islamic concept of jahiliyya. This term is used in Islam to characterize the days before Muhammad’s revelation, and before him it primarily just meant “ignorance” (of Islam). But after him, it also acquired more explicitily the concept of “barbarism” (due to a lack of Islamic principles):
“Thus, a society whose legislation does not rest on divine law (shari’at allah) is not Muslim, however ardently its individuals may proclaim themselves Muslim, even if they pray, fast, and make the pilgrimage.”
“How must the Islamic resurrection begin? A vanguard must resolve to set it in motion in the midst of jahiliyya that now reigns over the entire earth. That vanguard must be able to decide when to withdraw from and when to seek contact with the jahiliyya that surrounds it.”
Qutb thus brought about a new way for modern Muslims, dissatisfied with their condition, to look at society. He provided an ideological framework in which they could use principles of Islam, rather than Western categories like capitlaism, socialism, democracy, etc., in order to fight against what they perceive as unjust government.
After the failed attempt to assassinate President Gamal Abdul Nasser in 1954, the Ikhwan were blamed, banned, and thousands of members imprisoned and tortured. The group continued, however, to grow underground.
Many members of the Brotherhood were held for years in prisons and concentration camps during Nasser’s rule. In 1964 there was a minor thaw when Qutb was released from prison only to be arrested again along with his brother Muhammad in August 1965, when he was accused of being part of a plot to overthrow the state and to assassinate the President and other Egyptian officials and personalities. The trial culminated in a death sentence for Qutb and six other members of the Muslim Brotherhood and on 29 August 1966, he was executed by hanging transforming him into a martyr for many people across the region.
His writings, particularly the 1964 work Milestones, inspired the founders of many radical Islamist groups, including Islamic Jihad and al-Qaeda.
Qutb’s work had advocated the use of jihad (struggle) against jahili (ignorant) societies, both Western and Islamic ones, which he argued were in need of radical transformation.
This framework later bore fruit when President Sadat was assassinated in 1981 after signing a peace agreement with Israel in 1979. The group responsible was Jama’at al-Jihad (“Society of Struggle”), started and run by Muhammad Abd al-Salam Faraj, a former member of the Muslim Brotherhood who felt that the organization had become too passive. He wrote a short book called, The Neglected Obligation (al-Farida al-Gha’ibah), which relied heavily on Qutb’s ideas.
A member of this group, 24-year-old artillery lieutenant Khalid Ahmed Shawki al-Islambuli, and four other members shot Sadat while he was reviewing a military parade. At the time, al-Islambuli shouted “I have killed Pharoh,” a reference to the fact that they considered Sadat a non-Muslim leader. During his trial, he said “I am guilty of killing the unbeliever and I am proud of it.”
The five men were all executed, today, Muhammad al-Islambuli, the brother of President Sadat’s assassin, lives in Afghanistan and was working with Osama bin Laden. Another member of that group was Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri, who was Osama bin Laden’s second-in-command and is considered to be the current head of al-Qaeda, al-Zawahiri only spent three years in prison after he was convicted and has only become more radical in his views.
Like Qutb, Faraj argued that acceptance of a government was only possible and legitimate when that government fully implemented shari’a, or Islamic law. Contemporary Egypt had not done that, and was thus characterized as suffering from jahiliyya. Faraj makes his case that jihad is not only the “neglected obligation” of Muslims, but in fact one of their most important duties:
Why? Because the lack of jihad is responsible for the current situation of Muslims in the world. Their social, economic and political woes are due to the fact that they have forgotten what it means to be Muslims, as well as how to fight against the infidels. Words and preaching won’t be enough, because only force and violence can destroy “idols.”
In 1997 Muslim Brotherhood Supreme Guide Mustafa Mashhur told journalist Khalid Daoud that he thought Egypt’s Coptic Christians and Orthodox Jews should pay the long-abandoned jizya poll tax, levied on non-Muslims in exchange for protection from the state.
As it transpired it was among the Shia Muslims in Iran not the Sunni that the dream of radical Islamists of a resurgent Islamist state became reality when in 1979 Ayatollah Khomeini returned to Iran on February 1. Mass purges of supporters of the Shah began, and hundreds were executed. A revolutionary court set to work almost immediately in a school building in Tehran. Revolutionary courts were established in provincial centres soon after. The Tehran court passed death sentences on four of the Shah’s generals on February 16, 1979 and all four were executed by firing squad. More executions, of military and police officers, SAVAK agents, cabinet ministers, Majlis deputies, and officials of the Shah’s regime followed.
In March of 1979, a referendum was held regarding the new form of government to be established in Iran. Only one form of government, the Islamic Republic, appeared on the ballot, and was approved by 98% of the voters in non-secret elections.
In May 1979 Ayatollah Khomeini created the Pasdaran (Pasdaran-e Enghelab-e Islami, Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps or Revolutionary Guards or IRGC). The Pasdaran was conceived as a force loyal to the Revolution and the clerical leaders, as opposed to the regular army which was thought to be loyal to the civil government. Soon after, Khomeini also ordered the creation of the Basij volunteers. These two groups were to function both as internal police protecting the government, and as a politically reliable army against foreign foes.
The IRGC was also used to foment revolution and “resistance” abroad, particularly in Lebanon, where it helped to found and train Hezbollah. The creation of the Iranian Islamist state fuelled and accelerated the growth of radical militant sects. It was used as proof that the clock could be turned back and that the west had no stomach for the fight.
We are now almost a century on from the onset of a historical process in the Islamic world which will take place regardless of the present set backs. The only question is what price we are willing to pay because of cowardice by allowing fanatical, repressive and regressive forces to delay it. It is not the first time in history that the refusal to acknowledge reality has been adopted in a desperate effort to avoid facing action. Apeasement has been tried many times throughout history but has always failed.
Today in Turkey the erosion of modern secular laws and institutions continue steadily with ever growing repression and violence being used against the population to a background of show trials of the military.
In Britain the birthplace of European democracy, degenerate sharia courts exist openly, catering to an alien sub culture determined to eradicate long standing and hard fought for values, while effete governments and citizens retreat before backward and nonsensical ideologies mumbling a kind of verbal incontinency about human rights and multiculturalism having been poisoned by the bankrupt mantras of the liberal socialists.
Europe is lurching headlong into a Teutonic economic dictatorship with the individual countries clamouring to sell their sovereignty at cut rate prices free-falling into the abyss of the lowest common denominator seemingly disinterested in or feigning ignorance of the global struggle surrounding them.
While the Muslim world in the Middle East is torn apart limb by limb as one country after another is drawn down into chaos, people who had expectations only a hundred years ago of climbing out from the cesspit of Islamic domination dare not open their mouths as they watch the west surrender its own freedoms won for them by the suffering and blood of their fathers and mothers.
Africa and Indo China are under siege from murdering fanatics exploiting poverty corruption and incompetence.
In Asia vast countries like Pakistan and Afghanistan have been converted into failed states harbouring the terrorists who use them as bases and hiding places between missions.
The retrograde, repressive and fanatical views of religious Muslims have succeeded (by the use of violence and propaganda) momentarily to halt a process in the Islamic world which in the long term will be inevitable. They will fail; it is only a question of time.
Naturally the west which was the example to the likes of Qutb of how theocracies may be brought down over time had to become an enemy and by extension the country which has influenced the world the most since the decline of the British had to be seen as the greatest evil of all, namely; America, “the great devil”.
The principal target of present day radical militant Islamic sects are Muslim countries and their objectives are to force them into a very specific and narrow acceptance of Islam which rules out any chance of power slipping from the hands of the clergy through the influence of western secularism . As part of this process the west is demonised and identified as the source of all evil.
There are many other complex factors involved in the events which are unfolding in front of a western public watching with eyes wide shut unable to grasp what is really happening whilst floundering in a kind of self deprecating narcosis busily dismantling their own freedoms and believing in all the fatuous and empty slogans not only of the intellectually bankrupt socialists and so called liberals but the propaganda of the Islamists to boot.
The fifteen hundred year old hatred between the Sunni and Shia Muslims has yet to come to a head. And while we indulge ourselves in self delusions and appeasement Iran will get the Shia bomb. When that happens both the Shia and Sunni radicals will be armed with atomic weapons. It is important for people to read what the stated objectives of present day radical Islamists are with regard to non Muslim countries.
The choices we shall be offered are submission or surrender but certainly not peace.
Neither Western culture nor its foreign policies or any of the accusations levelled at it is responsible for the rise and success of radical Islamist thinking. It is a reaction within Islamic culture to the begining of the end of backward, outdated and cruel religeous oppression.
Radical Islamist movements have no future and will fail, but unless we are carefull and do not disengage from trying to reason or negotiate with them they will cause us harm from which it will be difficult to recover. They must be made to understand clearly that there is no room for them either in people’s minds or hearts or societies, that they will be opposed at any cost and defeated.
I end with the words of Winston Churchill one of the greatest statesmen of all time, and without doubt unequalled in recent history, he wrote this in 1921:
“Civilisation is confronted with militant Mohammedanism. The forces of progress clash with those of reaction. The religion of blood and war is face to face with that of peace. Luckily the religion of peace is usually the better armed.”
“Individual Moslems may show splendid qualities. Thousands become the brave and loyal soldiers of the Queen: all know how to die. But the influence of the religion paralyses the social development of those who follow it. No stronger retrograde force exists in the world. Far from being moribund, Mohammedanism is a militant and proselytizing faith. It has already spread throughout Central Africa, raising fearless warriors at every step; and were it not that Christianity is sheltered in the strong arms of science – the science against which it had vainly struggled – the civilization of modern Europe might fall, as fell the civilization of ancient Rome.”
“The fact that in Mohammedan law every woman must belong to some man as his absolute property – either as a child, a wife, or a concubine – must delay the final extinction of slavery until the faith of Islam has ceased to be a great power among men.”
He also said:
“Victory will never be found by taking the line of least resistance.”