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 lightly--and 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.