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My Muslim Brotherhood threads gave rise to a bit of confusion about which book I was talking about. Obviously, I made a mistake in assuming that everyone on Ricochet was reading every word I write, 24 hours a day. Now that I think about it, that’s more than a bit silly and self-involved. A beginner’s mistake, really. Sorry, I’m learning on the job. On the bright side, I’m not the President of the United States.
Let me gather all those threads in one place, so we can get organized.
What I’m leading up to here is a plea for more awareness of the history and role of the Muslim Brotherhood. Al Qaeda is a household name, but most Americans are only dimly aware of the Brotherhood.
This makes no sense. It leads to national security and foreign policy absurdities–such as Obama inviting members of the Brotherhood to attend his 2009 al-Azhar speech in Cairo. These are true enemies of the West. They are as dangerous as al Qaeda if not more, and their reach is certainly wider. They have no business getting anywhere near an American president.
Without understanding what they are and what they’re after, you cannot properly understand what’s going on in universities throughout the West: The words “Qaradawi is now a trustee at Oxford University’s Centre for Islamic Studies” will not chill you to the quick, as they should.
You will not understand why the IIIT network is hugely significant, or why the Malaysian government goes insane when the West fails to appreciate that opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim is not a martyr but an Islamist who played a key role in establishing this network.
You will not grasp the significance of the presence of Muslim Brotherhood activists on the Mavi Marmara or why this link between the IHH and Turkey’s AKP government should have the world on red alert.
You will not be able to understand what has happened in Europe, or why figures such as Tariq Ramadan should meet with our deepest skepticism because of his ties to the Brotherhood:
What most European politicians fail to understand is that by meeting with radical organizations, they empower them and grant the Muslim Brotherhood legitimacy. There is an implied endorsement to any meeting, especially when the same politicians ignore moderate voices that do not have access to generous Saudi funding. This creates a self-perpetuating cycle of radicalization because the greater the political legitimacy of the Muslim Brotherhood, the more opportunity it and its proxy groups will have to influence and radicalize various European Muslim communities. The ultimate irony is that Muslim Brotherhood founder Hassan al-Banna dreamed of spreading Islamism throughout Egypt and the Muslim world. He would have never dreamed that his vision might also become a reality in Europe.
The Brotherhood is the key. Saudi financing has given it an almost unimaginable reach. And most Americans have no clue what it is, to the point of not even recognizing the name–an unawareness that is, as far as I can see, a national security emergency.
I have differences with McCarthy’s approach and with the Team B-II approach. I think it’s a terrible mistake to use the word “Islam” and “Islamism” interchangeably. (The term “Islamism” is also inadequate, but at least it suggests a distinction.)
McCarthy’s entirely correct that Islamism is mainstream, rooted in Muslim scripture and favored by many prominent Islamic commentators. No one who knows anything about the subject would disagree.
But there is also significant dissent from this view in the Islamic world. Those who dissent from it are our friends and allies. Why on earth should we pronounce categorically, say, that “In Islam, homosexuality and adultery are capital offenses,” if there are practicing Muslims who think otherwise? Are we truly saying that we’re more qualified to interpret the Koran and all of its associated scholarship than Muslims who have come to another conclusion? Why would we shoot ourselves in the foot this way?
This isn’t a mere semantic quibble. We are at war with several interpretation of Islam, not all of Islam. Those who adhere to the most dangerous interpretations of Islam are the world’s foremost murderers of other Muslims. It’s insane to say to Muslim victims of Islamism that in fact, Islam is monolithic and it endorses their persecutors’ ideology.
And how far are we prepared to go in our willingness to declare our position on authentic Islamic theology–do we think the texts and scholars support the idea that the chain broke with the 12th Imam? How about the consecration of the number seven: Is that the true Islam or heterodoxy? Ata versus Hasan al-Basari–where do we stand on that? Asharism–that seem about theologically right to us?
Me, I’m staying out of the Koranic exegesis business. If you say you’re a Muslim, as far as I’m concerned, you’re a Muslim. If you say you can find scriptural and historic justification for a world view that allows you peacefully to co-exist with the West, that’s good enough for me. The last thing I’m going to tell you is, “No, you’ve got it wrong, if you’re a real Muslim you have to kill Jews.” That’s idiocy.
This is my main criticism of the Team B-II approach. But it shouldn’t obscure the overwhelmingly important point: The exclusive focus on terrorism is, precisely as McCarthy puts it, myopic. Because yes, there’s dissent from the extremist positions in the Islamic world, but there’s a hell of a lot of support for them, too, and al Qaeda is, as he puts it, just the most crude and obvious form of the threat.
The Team B answer is to focus on the notion of Islamic law in our definition of “moderation.” Moderates, they say, don’t merely reject terrorism per se, they reject the entire notion of an Islamic law that takes precedence over secular law.
I’m absolutely agreed that focussing on the latest terrorist outrage du jour leads people to overlook the significance, for example, of massive Saudi donations to Georgetown University and to fail to understand what a sinister and insidious effect this is apt to have on the foremost feeder school for American diplomacy. It’s also why the world overlooks developments that cannot lead to anything good in places such as Turkey and Malaysia.
But the words to focus on are not Islam and Sharia–they’re Muslim Brotherhood and Saudi money. Those words give us a much more precise understanding of who, and what, are the problems. They suggest a much more coherent and targeted policy response.
I don’t want anyone in the White House who can’t answer the question I asked about the Muslim Brotherhood without resorting to Google.
I can afford to learn on the job. The president can’t.