The battle against political Islam is ideological

July 26, 2013 by  
Filed under newsletter-world


“This book may prove to be the most important one you will read this year” Washington Times review

“This book may prove to be the most important one you will read this year” Washington Times review

Egypt, July 25, 2013: In Fighting the Ideological War, a book of essays to which I contributed and that I co-edited, I argued that Islamism (or political Islam) can be defeated only by challenging its ideology. The West has been extremely reticent to associate the terrorist activity and political extremism of Islamists with the teachings of Islam, when in fact the ideology they espouse is deeply rooted in Islamic texts; hence their effectiveness in attracting devout Muslims to the cause.

The Islamist movement has been sponsored for years by wealthy Gulf States such as Saudi Arabia and Qatar, and their efforts appeared to have paid off with the political success of Islamist parties in the aftermath of the Arab Spring. It seemed that the Islamist goal of enforcing sharia law had triumphed over the call of liberal secularists, who had brought about the Arab Spring, for Western rights and freedoms.

But the fall of Mohammad Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt has changed the landscape once again, with the secularists now holding the upper hand and political Islam in total disarray.

The movement is fracturing, losing support from within and without as divisions between the Islamists emerge.

A group of around 1,400 within the Brotherhood in Egypt has launched a petition of no confidence in the group’s supreme leader, Mohamed Badie. Ahmed Yehia, a lawyer and co-ordinator of the new movement, “Brotherhood Without Violence”, said:

We have to regain the trust of the public by returning to the old tolerant, non-violent way and dealing with the public as we always have, through social services.

Islamist parties enjoyed political success following the Arab Spring

Islamist parties enjoyed political success following the Arab Spring

The Salafist al-Nour party in Egypt backed the removal of Morsi, and, surprisingly, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates have supported the military transitional regime with a US$12 billion aid package.

Western governments have not been persuaded by the Brotherhood’s argument that Morsi was removed in a coup; US President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron have avoided any explicit criticism of the military takeover.

The Brotherhood is thus essentially defeated and isolated in Egypt, and its failure has ramifications for the Islamist cause elsewhere, such as Turkey, which has aspired to become a regional role model for new like-minded regimes, andSyria, where Islamists are waging war against President Bashar al-Assad.

It would be premature to write off the movement completely. The question now is, how will the Brotherhood respond?

The group seems highly unlikely to bow out graciously, as its violent clashes with the security forces during protests over Morsi’s ouster indicate. It has refused an invitation by Egypt’s interim president Adly Mansour to take part in national reconciliation meetings with all political forces, saying it will not enter into any talks until Morsi is released and reinstated as president.

Spokesman Ahmed Aref said:

We ask that whoever opposes us not trivialise us as a weak enemy. We have accumulated much experience since our founding more than 80 years ago. We have been through hardship that others cannot even imagine. We have strong institutional work based on preaching and educational values, and thus we can be a bitter enemy.

Having first been forced out of government and then refused to take part in the transitional process, the Brotherhood will most likely go underground, where it was previously kept for years, and look to create mayhem.

One of Egypt’s most popular newspapers, El Watan (“The Nation”), published on 5 July the final dialogue between General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and Mohammad Morsi, which took place on 2 July shortly before Morsi’s removal. As Sisi explained that the military was backing the Egyptian people and putting Morsi under arrest, the latter replied:

Don’t think the Brotherhood is going to stand by if I leave office. They will set the world on fire.

A violent fight-back is already underway, with attacks against Christians, military targets and other perceived enemies, which could develop into a full-blown civil war.

The Brotherhood is trying to justify its response by saying that it is contending for “legitimacy”, an argument that could attract support both at home and abroad. The group is likely to ramp up the religious rhetoric, telling Muslims that it is their duty to join the cause.

Egypt’s interim leaders and secular campaigners must not allow the fallen Brotherhood to attract sympathy from the people and must continue to challenge the group’s ideology.

The masses have made it clear that they do not support an Islamist agenda for the country and have exposed the key political failing of the Brotherhood: its inability or unwillingness to include and protect those who do not share its values.

The Egyptian people have taken a strong stand for freedom, but the battle is not yet won. As the country looks to hold elections in around six months’ time, the secularists must this time win the war of ideas, demonstrating how a secular democracy, while not a perfect system, offers equality and rights for all.

If they can secure their position in Egypt, this will give confidence to their counterparts in neighbouring lands. The West must help, by getting to grips with and countering the Islamist ideology that opposes secular values of freedom and democracy.

– dr. patrick sookhdeo

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