Qaradawi and the Ships of Fools

My posts about the Muslim Brotherhood, al Banna and Qutb prompted my interlocutor, AJK, to reply again at length. Again, he has replied in a very civil fashion.

You may ask why I feel it important to take his point of view so seriously. I take it seriously because his opinions are widely held. Robert S. Leiken and Steven Brooke, for example, made the case for engagement with what they describe as the moderate Muslim Brotherhood in Foreign Affairs in 2007. This piece has been influential.

The authors argue–correctly–that the Islamic world is not a monolith. They argue–correctly–that the United States should support and engage moderates. And they suggest–unfathomably–that the Muslim Brotherhood represents the kind of moderation we should support and engage. 

AJK entertains the notion that Qutb should be understood as a creature of his time and a product of the torments he suffered at the hands of Nassar’s regime:

how much he actually was a member of the Brotherhood is dubious. Also, remember that end date, 1966. You know what part of the 1966 world order is still relevant in 2010? Pretty much none.

AJK, fine. For the sake of argument, let’s throw out al Banna and Qutb. Products of their time, fine. Irrelevant to the contemporary Muslim Brotherhood–let’s say they are. 

So how do you plan to account for Yusuf al-Qaradawi? 

Qaradawi has an excellent claim to be the de facto spiritual leader of the contemporary Ikhwan–not the Ikhwan of 1966, but the Ikhwan of 2011. He was asked for the second time to assume formal leadership of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood in 2004; he turned it down out of a desire–his words–not to tie himself down to “any movement which might constrain my actions, even if this is the Muslim Brotherhood under whose umbrella I grew and which I so defended.”

AJK, please–be honest with yourself. Does this look moderate to you?

Among positions held without a doubt by Qaradawi: Female genital mutilation? Recommended. ”Whoever finds it serving the interest of his daughters should do it, and I personally support this under the current circumstances in the modern world.” Death for apostates? Yes. The Taliban’s tearing down of the Buddha statues? About time someone did something about idol-worship. Homosexuals and fornicators? Kill them. Equal rights for women? Oh, he’s very in favor of those: He believes women are just as suited to be suicide bombers as men.

He’s moderate, I suppose, in the sense that he stresses that you should only beat your wives lightlyand only as a last resort. It’s fine to kill pregnant Israeli women, he says; their unborn babies, after all, could grow up to join the Israeli Army. He favors the killing of “all Americans, civilian or military” in Iraq. The Holocaust, he says, was divine punishment–although the Jews really do exaggerate their suffering with that whole business. 

The question to ask, obviously, isn’t whether Qaradawi is a moderate. The question is how we could even be asking that question.

And yet we are asking that question. 

There is for some reason a long list of prominent fools, influential fools, who maintain despite all evidence and reason that Qaradawi is a moderate. John Esposito writes with the rhetorical equivalent of a straight face that Qaradawi is a supporter of a “reformist interpretation of Islam and its relationship to democracy, pluralism and human rights.” CAIR, of course, apologizes for him. Qaradawi is a trustee of the Oxford University Center for Islamic Studies. Really roll that last one over in your mind. How could such a thing be? Watch that video again and tell me–how could such a thing be?

The producer of The Lord of the Rings and The Matrix, Barrie Osborne, apparently hired Qaradawi as a consultant for a movie about Mohammed. No, this isn’t a sick joke. He thinks this will promote interfaith understanding.

The Los Angeles Times: Qaradawi is a “prominent moderate cleric.” The Christian Science Monitor : Qaradawi is a “moderate Egyptian cleric.” The Washington Post : Qaradawi is a “popular Islamic cleric who is often seen as a moderate voice in the Arab world … a “maverick” who is “seen as a voice of moderation … “seeking to create a new, moderate current in Muslim thinking.” 

And these are the words of moderation by the lights of these august organs of the press, apparently:

Oh Allah, take the Jews, the treacherous aggressors. Oh Allah, take this profligate, cunning, arrogant band of people. Oh Allah, they have spread much tyranny and corruption in the land. Pour Your wrath upon them, oh our God. Lie in wait for them. Oh Allah, You annihilated the people of Thamoud at the hand of a tyrant, and You annihilated the people of ‘Aad with a fierce, icy gale. Oh Allah, You annihilated the people Thamoud at the hand of a tyrant, You annihilated the people of ‘Aad with a fierce, icy gale, and You destroyed the Pharaoh and his soldiers – oh Allah, take this oppressive, tyrannical band of people. Oh Allah, take this oppressive, Jewish, Zionist band of people. Oh Allah, do not spare a single one of them. Oh Allah, count their numbers, and kill them, down to the very last one.

What can I do, what can I say, to persuade people to read what Qaradawi is saying? AJK, do you truly think that when he says “down to the very last one,” he does not mean me? That he does not mean you? 

The question, “How could people advance Qaradawi as a moderate?” can be answered both in a brief but accurate way–they are fools–and in a deeper way. In a deeper way, there is indeed a sense in which he’s a moderate in so far as he is not Osama bin Laden. He denounces al Qaeda–ergo, he’s a moderate! The al Qaeda fringe in turn denounces him for his truck with such ideas as there being circumstances under which Jews might be tolerated. Ergo, he’s a moderate! If you want to despair, have a look at this website, where Qaradawi is reviled for his heretical softness. I suppose if that’s all you read, you could come away thinking that Qaradawi must be the one to get behind here; after all, if they think he’s the enemy, he must be our friend, right?

It is a classic case of defining deviancy down: Only by comparison with men who have destroyed the Twin Towers and every living soul in them on network television could Qaradawi look moderate. 

Qaradawi is not a historic artifact but a contemporary of profound influence. It is inconceivable that a rational person could embrace him as a moderate. If Qaradawi is a moderate, the word has no meaning. Qaradawi’s anti-Westernism, anti-Semitism, radical misogyny and support for terror is so extensively documented and so unequivocally clear that no one who wishes to be in contact with reality could possibly deny it. Anyone can make himself familiar enough with Qaradawi’s thought to establish this beyond any shadow of a doubt, and can do so in less than half an hour. He has been extensively filmed, recorded, translated. His writings and speeches are all over the Internet. And yet fool after fool rushes to call him a moderate, and we are talking prominent fools, influential fools.How? Why? Why does this go unchallenged?

It is an utter nonsense to claim that Qaradawi speaks for all Muslims. In October 2004, 2,500 Muslim intellectuals from 23 countries delivered a petition to the United Nations condemning Islamic theologians who promote fundamentalism, intolerance and violence. Qaradawi’s name was on it. He was listed as one of the “sheikhs of death.” 

Any association with Qaradawi should be the political kiss of death among people who hold Enlightenment values dear. Everyone should know that “associated with Qaradawi” means not moderate. 

But CAIR, despite apologizing for Qaradawi, is considered a legitimate voice.  

Qaradawi is the president of the Union of Good, a worldwide collection of charities unquestionably linked to the financing of terrorism. It has transferred tens of millions of dollars to Hamas directly, which has been used to finance suicide bombing. The IHH–which dispatched the Mavi Marmara–is part of Qaradawi’s Union of Good. This seems to ring no bells and prompt no one to the obvious conclusions. 

Malaysia’s Anwar Ibrahim pops up in photos with Qaradawi and describes the greatest influences on his thought as Qutb and al Banna. This seems to ring no bells and prompt no one to the obvious conclusions. I could go on like this, example after example, of the world’s unwillingness to see the obvious–but I don’t know if it makes any difference. If you don’t want to see it, you don’t.

AJK, I absolutely believe that moderate, peaceful and tolerant Muslims exist. You and I are surrounded by them. They are my friends; they are my neighbors. I believe many are genuinely devout, or genuinely struggling to be. I believe as well that they adhere to theologically cogent and plausible interpretations of Islam. I do not believe Islam itself is incompatible with secularism, modernity and human rights. But I surely believe the Muslim Brotherhood is. 

Qaradawi is the leading theologian of the Muslim Brotherhood today, and what a betrayal of genuine moderates it is to lend any cover of legitimacy to them. 

We threw out al Banna and Qutb for the sake of argument. Now it’s time to bring them back. There is something in the thinking of the Muslim Brotherhood, obviously, that is consistent. It is not moderation. 

 

  1. Paul A. Rahe
    C

    We threw out al Banna and Qutb for the sake of argument. Now it’s time to bring them back. There is something in the thinking of the Muslim Brotherhood, obviously, that is consistent. It is not moderation.

    This was very informative and, alas, not surprising to me at all.

  2. TeeJaw

    “Moderate” is too undefined a term.  As your argument with AJK clearly shows, everyone has their own understanding of it.  

    The real question is where are the Muslims who condemn the violence that is done in their name, and what do they propose to do to stop it?  Will they assist the U.S. Military, the CIA, the FBI, MI6, Mossad, the IDF, etc. by giving information they may have and otherwise cooperate to do whatever they can to stop the suicide bombings and murderous attacks?  If not, then how are they “moderate” under any definition?

    That is exactly what moderate Jews and Christians would be doing if such atrocities against Muslims were being committed in the name of Judaism or Christianity.  If that were the case it would be all of those agencies and more who would be assisting the authorities in the countries where attacks were occurring to find the killers and stop them, probably by annihilating them.  Jewish Rabbis and Christian Ministers throughout the land would be supporting that effort unequivocally.

    Why is not the same to be expected from these Muslim “moderates?”  That question shows the bankruptcy of the word. 

  3. Douglas Pologe

    The CAIR article that you linked to quotes Qaradawi as saying, after the 9/11/2001 attacks “Our hearts bleed for the attacks that has targeted the World Trade Center, as well as other institutions in the United States”. Based on this, my guess is that Qaradawi can be relatively moderate, depending on who he’s dealing with.

    Writers who define him in such a manner are presumably included in the category of those that he is willing to be accommodating with.

  4. Claire Berlinski
    C
    TeeJaw : The real question is where are the Muslims who condemn the violence that is done in their name, and what do they propose to do to stop it?  Will they assist the U.S. Military, the CIA, the FBI, MI6, Mossad, the IDF, etc. by giving information they may have and otherwise cooperate to do whatever they can to stop the suicide bombings and murderous attacks?  If not, then how are they “moderate” under any definition?

    TeeJaw, when the British Foreign Office sponsors Qaradawi to come to a Hamas conference in Istanbul–and they did–the question becomes not “Why aren’t the moderates cooperating with us,” but “Why are we cooperating with the radicals to crush the moderates.” I’ve previously offered many examples of moderates doing their damnedest to cooperate with us and being completely ignored by the media and by our government. At some point, I have to conclude that those who don’t want to see the moderates are as deliberately blind as those who don’t want to see the radicals. Beats me why. 

  5. Underground Conservative

    Let me guess, his supporters say, “He just says that to indulge the people on the street. He doesn’t really mean that.”  

    Often, people reach out to particular leaders because they fear that the alternative is worse. I can’t imagine what would be considered worse than what you posted.  What society is he actually proposing that could coexist with us?  

    The difficulty is that moderate leaders must be able to draw a group that is willing to follow them. The firebrands still seem to have the monopoly on attracting the masses. I’d be tempted to say that if the masses in the Muslim world were more exposed to the merits of a Western society, they’d be more likely to give a listen to a moderate. However, the existence of so many apologizers in the Western world completely destroys that theory.  Claire, I’m as perplexed as you.  I don’t get it. I can only fall back to the idea that humanity allows fundamental flaws to exist just as universally as fundamental truths. That’s the “beauty” of our existence.

  6. Okan Altiparmak
    TeeJaw : The real question is where are the Muslims who condemn the violence that is done in their name, and what do they propose to do to stop it?  Will they assist the U.S. Military, the CIA, the FBI, MI6, Mossad, the IDF, etc. by giving information they may have and otherwise cooperate to do whatever they can to stop the suicide bombings and murderous attacks?  

    The real question is whether the the U.S. Military, the CIA, the FBI, MI6 (not the Mossad or the IDF – they know better) will consider a truly moderate Muslim “a Muslim.” This statement also unfairly assumes that Muslims who condemn the violence that is done in their name know exactly what the Islamists are doing and are involved in the Islamist schemes. How would they? What they know, they tell, but hardly anyone listens. Example? Dr. Zuhdi Jasser in the USA, many moderates that I have seen on Arabic TV who are never put on Western TV and the secular Muslims in Turkey. When did the US government listen to any of them? Instead, as Claire has pointed out, the Muslim Brotherhood advises the US and the UK governments.

  7. TeeJaw
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.

    the question becomes  ”Why are we cooperating with the radicals to crush the moderates.” I’ve previously offered many examples of moderates doing their damnedest to cooperate with us and being completely ignored by the media and by our government. At some point, I have to conclude that those who don’t want to see the moderates are as deliberately blind as those who don’t want to see the radicals. Beats me why.  · Jan 9 at 10:27am

    Aren’t they the same group?  And perhaps the answer is the left using Muslims against the right, because the enemy of my enemy is my friend.

  8. Kenneth
    Okan Altiparmak

    Yet the Western media and governments keep ignoring the truly moderate (ordinary) Muslim masses. · Jan 9 at 11:05am

    Yeah, that’s because in the West, we tend to judge people by their acts and we haven’t seen any action by any significant number of Muslims that persuade us of their “moderation”. 

    The United States has sacrificed upwards of a million of our sons and daughters in the cause of freedom.  Where’s the analogy among the world’s Muslims?

  9. Chris Johnson

     ”

    TeeJaw

    …Will they assist the U.S. Military, the CIA, the FBI, MI6, Mossad, the IDF, etc. by giving information they may have and otherwise cooperate to do whatever they can to stop the suicide bombings and murderous attacks?  If not, then how are they “moderate” under any definition?”

    I think there may be another aspect that seems less philosophical and more visceral.  Anybody with even a modest awareness of the issues must also be aware that (Mossad and IDF excepted), the listed entities are rife with “advisors” that are tied back to the Muslim Brotherhood and also full of leakers.  A “moderate” approaching these entities may not be a suicide bomber, but may be suicidal.

  10. M1919A4
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.: My posts about the Muslim Brotherhood, al Banna and Qutb prompted my interlocutor, AJK, to reply again at length. Again, he has replied in a very civil fashion.

    Ma’am,  I think that that is the obligation of every gentleman when conversing with a lady; and, I thought that it was a condition of participating in Ricochet.  I am somewhat taken aback that you found it necessary to comment upon it. 

    Pray assure me that it was only as a convention of politeness and not an expression of surprise.  Mayhap it was a reaction from being too long amongst the Mohammedans, if they truly treat ladies as you have shown us that some say is appropriate. 

  11. TeeJaw

    There is the example of the Christmas panty bomber’s father who gave information about his don to the CIA that was ignored.  There may be other examples.  If so, they are heartening.  Would that there were more.  The CIA unfortunately is too politicized these days to be effective.  The CIA should send its agents to the NYPD for re-education.

  12. Okan Altiparmak
    Dave Molinari: The difficulty is that moderate leaders must be able to draw a group that is willing to follow them. The firebrands still seem to have the monopoly on attracting the masses. I’d be tempted to say that if the masses in the Muslim world were more exposed to the merits of a Western society, they’d be more likely to give a listen to a moderate. 

    Dave, the reason the masses in the Muslim world are not following moderate leaders is because most are dictatorships that support or let the radicals dominate. On the other hand, in Turkey where the radicals have not dominated, now they have a chance because Western governments have been overly supportive of the ruling (moderate-looking, but still) Islamist party, which has gradually been lifting the impediments that stood in the way of radical Islam. These have been the results of the West consulting the Muslim Brotherhood in dealing with Islamic nations. Of course, Islam is a matter for Muslims to solve, but a little help from the West would not hurt. Yet the Western media and governments keep ignoring the truly moderate (ordinary) Muslim masses.

  13. Underground Conservative

    Thanks for the specifics Okan.  I think we are in agreement. I did end my quote that you chose with “However, the existence of so many apologizers in the Western world completely destroys that theory.”  I hope that squares us.

  14. AJK
    M1919A4

    Pray assure me that it was only as a convention of politeness and not an expression of surprise.  Mayhap it was a reaction from being too long amongst the Mohammedans, if they truly treat ladies as you have shown us that some say is appropriate.

    Mon cher rifle, considering how ready many are to attack people with whom they disagree, any politeness should be highlighted and praised. I have to say, I’ve enjoyed typing with Ms. Berlinski, and I usually shy from political debate because of namecalling.

    That said, of course, I disagree. I’ve made a point not to use “moderate” for the exact reason TeeJaw stated. It doesn’t mean much.

    As for al-Qaradawi? The only source of him being asked to be chairman of MB is…al-Qaradawi. One would think the official English organ of MB would say if they wanted him.

    The way I see, Islamic politics is foremost politics. Al-Qaradawi has his own mission beyond MB’s and has a brand beyond MB’s. He’s a complex (and not particularly friendly) man, but he’s not MB.

    More later, when I’m not working 14-hour days.