The trial of the ousted Islamist president Muhammad Mursi last week, and the violent wave of defiance and protest that preceded, accompanied and followed it, proved beyond doubt the vicious aggressiveness that has become the hallmark of the Muslim Brotherhood
and the Islamists in general. Harsh threats to plague the life of Egyptians with terrorist acts of unprecedented scale were voiced by Islamist leaders, among them the former MP Azza al-Garf.
But violence and terrorism are not new to the MB, as their more than 80-year history testifies. What with the political assassinations of the 1940s and 1950s and up to that of the Egyptian President Anwar Sadat in 1981; the killing of innocent civilians be they mainstream Egyptians, Copts, or tourists; the bombings and fires they set; Islamists have proved that violence is core to their culture.
Recently, Islamists carried out the random shooting by masked motorcyclists at a crowd of Copts in front of a church in Warraq, Giza, where they had gathered to attend a wedding. The tragic incident left five dead, including two girls aged 8 and 12; and 17 injured.
“If not with us, it’s against us”
Islamist thought being dominated by that of the Muslim Brothers (MB) with slight variations in detail but not in principle, it would do good to have a careful look at the MB take on violence.
The Warraq church shooting confirms that the MB regard anyone who disagrees with them to be their enemy. Even Sheikh Ali Gomaa, the former Mufti (one entitled to issue fatwa, an Islamic legal opinion) of Egypt, was declared an infidel by the MB because they did not agree with his fatwas. If a Mufti, a scholar who specialises in Islamic fiqh (Islamic doctrine) is declared infidel, literally granting permission for anyone to assassinate him, how much more then would Christians, liberals or leftists, be seen as prime targets for murder. Another eminent sheikh, Dr Mohamed Hussein al-Dahabi, was declared an infidel in 1977, and was promptly kidnapped and assassinated in the most brutal fashion by an Islamist group, an offshoot of the MB.
Muslims who reject MB rule and support Egyptian national or military institutions may expect the same fate as the Copts whose joy was killed in Warraq. Muslim Sufis or other Muslims who perform spiritual rituals or celebrate mulid (birthday or memory of a saint) may also expect a similar fate, since these time-honoured celebrations are considered heresy in fundamental Islam. Yet such rituals have become mainstream ‘folk religion’ practices in Egypt, and moderate Egyptians see them as uplifting experiences that bring them nearer to Allah, not as heresy. But the MB have declared war on all Egyptians who do not follow their fundamental teachings. It’s “anyone who’s not with us is against us” in action.
Only for Muslims
I make no claim to reading the future, but I surely can read the facts on the ground, and these give rise to deep concerns as to MB policy should they ever regain the supreme hand in Egypt.
Muhammad Habib, the former deputy of the MB explicitly said: “We, the MB, reject any constitution based on civil, secular principles. According to this, Copts could not form a political entity in Egypt. If in power, the MB will write an Islamic constitution according to which non-Muslims would not be appointed to leading positions or the army. It is important to stress that these rights are exclusive for Muslims” (Zamaan, 17 May 2005). This was mentioned in Namouthag al-Dustour al-Islami (Model of the Islamic Constitution) published in London in 1984, which stated that “citizenship is a right for every Muslim alone”.
A statement given by Mahdy Akef, the MB supreme guide from 2004-2010, said: “Ottoman rule in Egypt was not ‘occupation’. If a caliph from Malaysia ruled Egypt it is also no occupation.” He went on to say his notorious declaration: “Toz fi Masr wal-Masriyeen, literally: To hell with Egypt and Egyptians” (al-Karaama, 4 October 2005).
Rules on building churches
Christians being the most flagrant ‘other’ for the MB, it comes as no surprise that many fatwas have targeted them. Major among these are the fatwas regarding the building of churches.
The MB principles for building churches are rooted in a fatwa issued by Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah al-Khateeb, an MB guidance office mufti, and published in the MB mouthpiece, al-Daawa, Issue 56, in December 1980. Even though this may appear to be a long time ago, a fatwa is only rescinded by another fatwa and, since no counter-fatwa was issued, the original still stands. Sheikh Khateeb’s fatwa says:
“The issue is divided into three cases. First, building churches in new districts and residential areas built by Muslims such as today’s Cairo suburb of Maadi, 10th Ramadan Town, and Helwan is prohibited. Second, the same applies to the cities and towns which Muslims took by force, such as Alexandria. Some Islamist scholars claim churches in such places should be demolished because these sites are now owned by Muslims. Third, churches in places taken by Muslims peacefully, through conciliation between Muslims and Christians, may remain, but only in their original state without any additions or renovation, while rebuilding any part that falls down is totally banned.” In short, no new churches may be built, neither old ones renovated, meaning that theses should be left till they fall apart.
The fundamental guidelines also refer to the announcement by Mustafa Mashhour, the MB supreme guide in 1996 – 2002, that Copts must pay jizya (a head tax paid by non-Muslims under Muslim rule) and not be allowed to join the army (Al-Ahram Weekly, 3-9 April, 1997).
No compassionate ties
If the MB hate Copts, they learnt it from their leaders like Ahmed Omar Hashim, who said: “Islam does not prohibit dealing with non-Muslims, but prohibits heartfelt compassion because this should be only between the Muslim and his Muslim brother”, (al-Liwaa’ al-Islami, issue 153).
Dr Hashim, who held a Ph.D. in Islamic fiqh and was vice-dean of the venerable Islamic al-Azhar University, is not the fisherman who in 1992 killed the liberal thinker Farag Fouda, neither is he the plumber who made an attempt on the life of Nobel Laureate Naguib Mahfouz in 1994. Yet his thought, as well as the fundamental thought of many other Islamists, has had a deep influence on many Muslims, among them the assassin of Fouda and the assailant of Mahfouz.
Dr Hashim was MP and government executive when the Syrian writer Haidar Haidar published his novel Walima li-Aashab al-Bahr (A Banquet for Seaweed). The novel was banned in Egypt on grounds of blasphemy, and Dr Hashim used the religious committee in parliament as a platform to demand that the book be burnt. While advising people not to read it, he told a reporter from Rose al-Youssef (19 May 2000) that he had not read it himself. This meant that the great professor had not read the novel but had read what a rookie journalist called Muhammad Abbas had written in the Cairo weekly al-Shaab (28 April 2000) under the headline, “Ministry of Culture publishes a novel reviling the Prophet and attacking the Divine”.
Next target: the world
The roots of violence date back to the first MB guide, Hassan al-Banna—the MB movement was founded by Banna in 1928—who publicly stated that Islam was “the Qur’an and the sword”, and announced that, “authority and power are an integral part of Islamic teaching”. He also made it clear that: “The Islamic homeland transcends national borders or geographical boundaries”. That is why Banna pushed his followers to invade the whole world to spread Islam. “Your role is to lead people and reign over nations,” he wrote, going on to explain that religion “leads Muslims to achieve blessed conquests, makes them guardians of ‘immature people’ and gives them the right to dominate and rule the world.”
The salvation of Egypt is today in the hands of the most important and influential institutions: education and the media. It is a ‘struggle for thought’, to enhance the meaning of loyalty to homeland. Loyalty to religion is an individual loyalty that differs from one person to another, but loyalty to the homeland is shared by all. The modern thinker Khaled Muhammad Khaled (1920 – 1996) wrote that, “Homelands were founded in history before religions; and any loyalty to religion not preceded by loyalty to the motherland is fake” (Rose al-Youssef, 30 October 1951). Will the current ruling regime have the courage to let Muslim and Coptic children attend the same lesson on ethics, where they would be taught among other things verses from the Qur’an and the Bible about love, rather than attend different lessons on religion? Anything other than that is an enhancement of fanaticism.
10 November 2013