Monday, April 04, 2011

Observations on the Egyptian Paradox: The Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamic Umma, Unity and the Non-Islamic Islamic State

Continuing Observations on Egypt's Paradox...

In the run up to the referendum, the MB pushed it's supporters to vote "yes" for the referendum, largely to push the elections ahead so that they could maintain their advantage.  However, their reasons to their general mass was to "protect Article II" which states that Islam is religion of the state and Shariah the basis of law.  

In a nation that is at least 83% of the population, this may make some sense, but as usual the MB's reasons have little to do with the general consensus of the people and more to do with their agenda which is to institute and Islamist government.  They do not want to be seen enforcing this over the will of the people or going above the law.  A common tactic by past undemocratic forces who use the democratic process to take power then use the devices of law and democracy, along with claims that they need to secure the population against crimes such as general "thuggery" and criminal behavior.  Criminal behavior as defined by the ruling power.  In this case, the hope of the Muslim Brotherhood to take power in the People's Assembly.

Egypt and countries the world over have seen this all before.

They are consistently framing their arguments that the "liberals" want to destroy Islam in Egypt.  That is it's own paradox.  In a nation that is 83% Muslim and managed to remain so even under the auspices of the past regime, it is difficult to imagine how any force inside Egypt could manage to wipe out the faith of some 65 million Egyptians by removing the phrase "Islam is the official religion of Egypt" or even by removing Shariah as the basis of law.  

Surely, in such a nation with such a Muslim majority, the people elected to represent the citizens will be a majority of Muslims with a Muslim reference to culture and law.  Meaning that most laws would likely reference Islamic society and laws.  If the nation enacted laws protecting the rights of the citizens to freedom of religion and freedom of speech, the practice of Islam as a faith could not be eradicated.  It would have the room to proselytize and minister to it's faithful without interference from the state.  

That, however, is not what the Muslim Brotherhood wants.  This isn't really a matter of protecting Islam in it's extensive, universal and singular teachings nor the great body of Muslims within Egypt or anywhere else.  Because, while the five pillars of Islam may be universal within the religion and the Qu'ran never changing and infallible, the beliefs of all Muslims are not "singular".  They are multi-dimensional.  Not just between the observant Muslim and the back slider or even between the Shia, the Sunni and Sufi, to name a few, but the very schools of jurisprudence that guide the various Imams and the message within the mosques.  

Within Sunni Islam there are four schools of thought, or jurisprudence, depending on what scholar of what era in what scholarly university in what ever emirate of the existing caliphate at the time such a scholar lived in and wrote.  Such frames of reference obviously influenced each of these great thinkers on Islam in deciding which haditha and sunna were important or to be considered to abrogate any other.  Influencing Imams who attended the religious universities that supported one of the schools of thought, thus perpetrating multiple trends within Sunni Islam alone.  Much less the Shia with their twelve rightly guided Kalifas and various schools of thought.  

Casual readers of the Iraq and Iran situation might not know that there is a battle going on between the Shia school of thought in Qom, Iran and the school of thought, currently headed by al Sistani, in Najaf, Iraq.  They are both "twelvers", believing in the twelve rightly guided Kalifas, but the Iranian version believes that the Mahdi is returning any day now and the Najaf school does not.  

That is the reason that al Sadr, the Shia militant that plagued Iraq nearly as much as the Al Qaeda Salafi brigades, went to Qom to finish his religious studies when he had not done so under Sistani's Najafi school.  Sistani had instructed the Shia to remain calm and participate in the elections while the Iranian backed al Sadr was all afire with fighting the invaders.  That is the reason as well that al Sadr's militia referred to themselves as the Mahdi Brigade.  He was not only a "twelver", but a student of Qom that has been infiltrated by the apocalyptic strain of Mahdi-ism that the current "president" of Iran, Ahmedenijad, is an adherent. 

What does Iraq and Iran have to do with Egypt?  The same issues are at play under the cover of political triangulation and the revolution. The Muslim Brotherhood really isn't interested in a pluralistic Islam, much less a pluralistic civil state.  

The Muslim Brotherhood "old guard" and the MB Youth have been struggling over the ruling that MB members could only join the newly formed Freedom and Justice Party.  A young Brother suggested, politely, that the Brotherhood should remain an organization that focused on teaching the "right way" of Islam and leave the politics to the individual's conscience.

It is the teaching of "right Islam" that is concerning the Muslim Brotherhood and has been their concern for many decades, stated in their charters and various papers.  It has been the focus of most of the strains of Islam throughout the history of the faith.  Most occurred under the guise of political struggle for control of the caliphate beginning with the death of Mohammed (PBUH).  Today it is a struggle between various organizations and even states.  All of them claiming to be the strain, sect, organization or state that practices "right Islam".  All of them attempting to dominate the space that is Islam and the Islamic Umma (Muslim People) through whatever methods available.  Mostly da'wa or proselytizing, but also through state control and propagation of religion.  

As is the case in Saudi Arabia where they not only control the selection of Imams and Grand Sheikhs, the building of mosques, the religious education in schools and even the decisions made by the Grand Sheikhs, but they spread their message far and wide with copious amounts of money, building mosques and sending preachers all around the globe.  That is exactly what the Muslim Brotherhood would like to accomplish in Egypt.  Not quite as heavy handed, but through a similar fashion of controlling the state, retaining Islam as the official religion and Shariah as the law.  Gaining control of the mosques through retaining government control and subsidizing.  

They are not interested in protecting and propagating just any Islam, nor the monolith that is greater Islam, but the Muslim Brotherhood's strain of Islam based on the Hanafi school of jurisprudence.  The power over the ministry and departments that over see the building of mosques and the appointment of Imams or preachers insures that it is the Brotherhood's ideology that will be propagated, regardless of the leanings or strains of faith within Egypt's Muslim Population.

No one is supposed to talk about these schisms.  Muslims are all Muslims, part of the monolith that is Islam and the Islamic Umma.  There is an insistence that Islam, a religion boasting one billion adherents around the globe and growing, is constantly under attack from forces outside.  Thus, the demand for a "unity".  A demand that is supposed to keep the Islamic Umma silent about these divisions even as the struggle to gain dominance of one sect or strain over the teaching and practice of Islam plays out in the public sphere.  

Witness the Salafis in Alexandria and other areas of Egypt becoming more outspoken and more active attempting to achieve hisbah, or forcing Muslims and non Muslims to adopt to their socio-religious beliefs.  They are burning down liquor stores, accusing women of being prostitutes if they are out alone or without at least a hijab (they would prefer a niqab), and murdering other Muslims for not praying when they should.  They are burning down Sufi shrines and Christian Churches.  At this rate, they may well be planning to go into any of the other mosques in Egypt and plant their own "right thinking" Imam, by force, as they have attempted to do in several other countries.  Particularly in times of upheaval.

Qaradawi, a Muslim Brotherhood associated religious leader, recently called the Salafi strain "stagnant" and "extreme".  Qaradawi, though widely revered among the Brotherhood, is not exactly a main stream Imam.  Further, the Brotherhood is showing it's displeasure with the Salafi groups in small ways.  The MB recently canceled a debate at a university with a Salafi scholar.  The University claimed that it was to avoid a confrontation between the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafi youth.  The question left unasked and unanswered is why there would be a confrontation between these two groups?

A Salafi leader recently claimed that all of these acts do not represent the Salafi and that the media, headed by some unknown "liberal" kabal, is orchestrating an attack on the Salafi to discredit the group.  It is interesting that this is the same argument that is being used by the Muslim Brotherhood.  Not only are the "liberals" and "media" organizing attacks against the Brotherhood, but attacks against Islam and Muslims in general.  Even as the Brotherhood is orchestrating virtual and verbal attacks on the Salafi.  No violence between the groups has been reported.

Apparently, reporting each groups' activities, meetings and their own words is "an attack".

The Salafis are only one visible aspect of this struggle to dominate Islam, Sunni Islam, in Egypt.  The Salafis are an easy target as they are both reviled and feared by the west as well as many Muslim Egyptians.  The Salafis and these unnamed, faceless "liberals" are a useful tool in gathering the rest of the Egyptian Muslim population under the Brotherhood's banner.  They are using the age old cry for "unity" and a good dose of fear to silence any internal opposition within their organization and the Umma and cover their actual intent.  An intent that is not only to impose some form of Islamic State on Egypt, something that a recent poll suggested would not be opposed by many Muslim Egyptians, but to impose the Brotherhoods ideology, their strain of the Hanafi school, on the rest of Egypt's Sunni Muslims.

Whether this intent to control the mosque through the government is apparent to the rest of Egypt's multi-dimensional Muslim population is the question.  This is the same tactic that the previous regime used to control religion within Egypt.  It is the same tactic that Gaddafi used in Libya, the one used by the Khomeinis in Iran and the same in Saudie Arabia.  That is only a few of the obvious states, none of them "free" as Egypt is attempting to become.  By controlling the religious institutions and the strain of Islam that is being preached, the Brotherhood, through the auspices of government agencies, would seek to control the conscience of the majority of the people.  That would bring the majority of Egyptians under the Brotherhood's political and religious control insuring their domination for years to come.

How the Brotherhood would manage to set up this scenario would be by easily winning an uncontested, solid block within the People's Assembly.  They do not need to win a majority of seats as El Erian recently pointed out.  A position of 30 to 35% of the parliament seats against untold numbers of parties in any other seats who refuse to unite to form the governing block, would leave the Brotherhood in control.  They would be the party that would either select the Prime Minister and members of his cabinet or they would have the final approval if some other group did manage to form an alliance.  

Any compromise would likely see the Brotherhood in charge of the cabinet posts and ministries that over see these institutions as they will be the party with a vested interest.

Not only religious institutions, but education institutions where religious scholarship is taught giving the Brotherhood control of religion from the instruction of a preacher, to approving buildings of mosques, to appointment of Imams and even the messages that are preached.  Edging out any other strain or school of jurisprudence and changing the practice of Islam for millions of Muslims forever within Egypt.  All under the disguise of protecting Islam in Egypt by maintaining Article II.

This is why the mixing of religion and government, not just "politics" and "political parties", is dangerous.  It is not only dangerous to Christians, Shia, Bahia, "liberals" or any other minority group who may be forced to adhere to laws that are contrary to their faith or conscience.  It is dangerous to millions of Muslims who do not currently worship or practice Islam under the Brotherhood's strain of the Hanafi school of jurisprudence.  The retention of Article II in the constitution and any ministry that is responsible for organizing any aspect of religion in Egypt, will give the Brotherhood a power that is the power of dictators and kings, not the power of a free people living in a truly free democracy, finally governing their own conscience.  

While the Brotherhood speaks the words of Freedom, insisting they believe in the freedom of religious choice,  the people most under threat by this constitutional article and government control of religion are the millions of non-aligned Muslims who may find themselves dispossessed of their faith.  Not by an outside force or unnamed "liberals", but by the very people who are presenting themselves as the guardians of Islam and Muslims in Egypt: the Muslim Brotherhood.

Meanwhile, no one can speak about this issue in Egypt.  Even the liberals and the Coptic Christians must be silent because any mention of the dangers of mixing religion and state has already been framed by the Brotherhood as an attack on Islam.  The revolutionaries are so concerned about maintaining their own "unity" that any liberal aspect within the movement has been unable to discover or articulate this danger, selling themselves, minority religions and their fellow observant Muslims down the river.  Politicians from every corner that are not the Muslim Brotherhood and who are not interested in imposing religion, are rushing forward to proclaim they are not against Islam underscoring the fact that the Brotherhood still controls the argument over religion and state.

At the recent launch of the Free Egypt Party, Naquib Sawiris, head of Orascom and FEP founder stated that he would rather die than fight a Muslim.  Rather he should have said that he would die to defend the right of every Muslim to practice their faith as they see fit and according to their own conscience.  Every Muslim has the right to choose what mosque they will attend, what Imam they would follow and what message they would receive without the interference of the government in the personal choices of a free people.  That is the promise of freedom to all people in Egypt.

Meanwhile, in other parts of the Egyptian Paradox, the Non-Islamic Islamic State of Egypt...

A spokesman for the Muslim Brotherhood recently said that the MB did not support an Islamic State like Saudi Arabia and Iran.  Meaning of course that they do want an Islamic state in Egypt.  Islamic lite?  One wonders who then can explain the head of the Muslim Brotherhood's Shura Council advocating for a Modesty Police along the lines of Saudi Arabia' Vice and Virtue Police.  

A "police" force that in recent history forced fleeing girls back into a burning school because they were not wearing a hijab.  Many of these girls died and their families were understandably distraught, demanding answers from the government and the king.  The government responded by insisting it was the wrong application of a right practice and that the police were understandably confused.  

The Saudi government did not apologize, instead giving each of the angry families blood money and quietly instructing the Vice and Virtue Police to not be as strict in an emergency situation.  Even Mohammed, (PBUH) did not insist on maintaining restrictions in an emergency. The problem here is that any citizen and human being had to be instructed to place their humanity above their religious beliefs or perceived orders  instead enforcing "death before dishonor" on young girls who couldn't possibly understand why they had to die for lack of an hijab.

Durba insisted that:

"The new police must have a department with limited authorities to arrest those who commit immoral acts,” Durbala told the newspaper.

As if, after thirty years under a police state, what Egypt needed was another security force running around, wasting Egyptian money on "modesty police" when he people can barely afford to buy bread and intruding  in every aspect of their lives which they had just escaped when Mubarek resigned.  When what Egypt really needs is a police department trained in modern investigation, chain of evidence controls and respecting basic human rights.  What Egypt needs is an economic plan that will allow investments and employment opportunities for all Egyptians.  What Egypt needs is a better education system that provides education and opportunities to all Egyptians instead of leaving high percentages of illiteracy among the crowds.  

Those are things that Egypt needs.  Egypt needs a Vice and Virtue squad like it needs a whole in its head.

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