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November 19, 2013

Why I do not believe in the Muslim Brotherhood's ideology

As Muslims, we are ordered to follow one person, who is the Prophet Muhammed. However, Islam is all about independent reasoning, we are ordered to think and reflect and the doors to 'Ijtehad' are wide open in Islam as long as you acquire enough knowledge and reasoning skills.

But Hasan Al-Banna the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood had written a 50-point manifesto in 1936, which is blindly believed and followed by all members and supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood around the world.

The manifesto included Al-Banna’s interpretation of Islam to establish his own version of an Islamic Utopia.

The first point of Al-Banna’s manifesto and one of the most interesting points in my opinion is:  “An end to party rivalry, and a channelling of the political forces of the nation into a common front and a single phalanx.”

Al-Banna advises against parliamentary or a multi-party system and replaces it with a one phalanx. It is compelling that the word phalanx is used heavily by fascist social and political systems.

The interpretation of a single-party state is the manifestation of dictatorship, where people’s voices are silenced. While it is cool to have a good guy dictator, but what will be the situation when you have a power-obsessed maniac in charge, who shows his true face after fooling so many innocent people. 

On the other hand, who said that multi-party system cannot be implemented in kingdoms and monarchies?

The previous mentioned point is at utmost conflict with the democratic nature of Islam. At the time of the four Caliphs, the decision making process involved representatives of the society with all its diverse groups. There was a prominent place to differences in opinions and points of views.

According to Al-Banna’s interpretation, these differences are political opposition which should be eliminated by any mean even if it was by assassination. In 1940, the Muslim Brotherhood established militant training camps in the Mukatam Hills near Cairo and other places in Upper Egypt. That militant carried on several assassination and terror missions throughout the history of the organization to silence and terrorize oppositions.

Al-Banna took the previous point much further in a following point related to youth groups and the inspiration of the latter with zeal on the bases of Islamic jihad.

While the concept of Islamic jihad is holy and noble, Al-Banna and his followers considered all their opposition enemies of Islam.

No matter the nature of differences between them and their opposition, they categorized oppositions as infidels.

At the time of the inception of the Brotherhood, there was a war in Palestine and an internal armed resistance against the British occupation of Egypt, which might gave a real reason to engage in Islamic jihad.

However, the Brotherhood maintained that belief and extended it to include any sort of opposition even if it was opposition in political ideas of fellow Muslims. They also extended their Islamic jihad to include Egyptian Christians and Jews and carried out several terrorist attacks and the use of weapons against civilians.

Despite that Al-Banna emphasized in his manifesto on the Islamic position towards non-Muslim minorities in his lengthy introduction of his 50-point plan; downplayed the religious differences; and recognized other Islamic sects through the the Association for Rapprochement between the Islamic Legal Schools established by Shiekh al-Azhar Mahmoud Shaltout.

However the downplayed speech contradicted the armed wings’ terrorist attacks and other ruthless violence towards minorities throughout the history of the Brotherhood.

Hassan Al-Banna was obsessed with ‘surveillance’. He advocated in his manifesto that surveillance must be imposed on personal conduct, the fulfilment of the religious duties – he advocated severe punishment based on his proposed moral censorship if infringed (such as breaking the fast of Ramadan, wilful neglect of prayers), and public places such as summer vacation areas and cafés; and strict censorship of theatre, newspapers, books, radio and broadcasting.

This point in particular is in contradiction to the Islamic principle that states that: “There is no compulsion in religion; truly the right way has become clearly distinct from error” (The Holy Quran, Chapter 2, Verse 256). 

We might force people to act in specific manner that conform to our beliefs if we have the power to exert our own methods and way of life, but we will never be able to force people’s hearts to believe in our beliefs if they do not.

When God opens one’s heart to Islam, rituals become an act of love not just a burden or an obligation.

Parents might choose to enforce some rules at their children around fulfilling religious duties; however, the whole society cannot act like parents or the older brother of mature adults who are fully responsible of their own actions in front of the Almighty.

When we force religious duties, we only create a nation of hypocrites, who do the act to avoid punishment or criticism. Faith must be developed by an enlightened mind not a scared heart.

One of the interesting points in the 50-point manifesto is: “26- Consideration of ways to arrive gradually at a uniform mode of dress for the nation.”

Just a quick scan of the Egyptian movies at that era (Egypt was the second country to have movies after Britain) one can recognize several dress codes in the street.

Al-Banna himself had photos while dressed in the traditional dress code of Al-Azhar, and other photos while dressed in a modern suit, necktie and a Tarbush.

Throughout the modern history, only political fascist nations had/have national unified dress code like the Manchu dress imposed by the Qing Dynasty as a form of social control in 1912.

It is also unknown in Islamic history that the Prophet or his companions imposed any sort of dress code. It was a matter of personal preference and acceptable social norms within Islamic boundaries and specifications adhering to the modesty that promoted by Islam.

The second last point that made me pause for a long time is Al-Banna recommendation of the “Treatment of the problem of women in a way which combines the progressive and the protective, in accordance with Islamic teachings, so that this problem - one of the most important social problems - will not be abandoned to the biased pens and deviant notions of those who err in the directions of deficiency or excess.”

Al-Banna did not identify what is the ‘problem of women’ or explain why women are a problematic issue in the Egyptian society at that time.

However, his statement played a strong role in shaping his followers’ perception of women, even women themselves. Instead of giving women the same status Islam gave them, they were considered a problem.

In his generalized statement he decided that all the attempts to solve the ‘problem of women’ are biased and deviant. Once more, Al-Banna expressed his deep belief that only his ideas will work and there is no place for others to give their perceptions and views.

We can understand why Al-Banna’s followers have the extremist views when it comes to women, although they show different views to the West for political gains.

I kept the most important point to the end; Nationalism.

Al-Banna wrote some strong statements when discussing the concept of homeland and nationalism. He praised some European countries such as Germany and Italy for their patriotic spirit.

He also divided nationalism into three spheres: own country, other Islamic countries, and the Islamic Empire. This gives a hazy picture of how Muslim Brotherhood’s loyalty is channeled.

In an arbitrary situation, if an Islamic country invaded another and promised Muslim Brotherhood to grant all their wishes, in whose side will they fight? This exactly what drove Al-Banna to accept British aid to advance his movement as the Suez Canal Company managed by Britain funded the first Muslim Brotherhood mosque that was built in Ismailiyya in 1930. 

At the end , I emphasize that Muslim Brotherhood is a secret political organization that takes the religion as a cover and a tool to recruit as many as they can of those Muslims who wants to engage in social and religious activities.

Al-Banna’s ideology is used to channel the allegiance and fidelity of their members to the organization solely.

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