Arise, you prisoners of starvation!
Arise, you wretched of the earth!
justice thunders condemnation:
A better world’s in birth!
– opening words of
On first glance, the sentiments expressed by the theme song
of Communism would seem perfectly acceptable for radical Islamists, though some
later verses make clear the Marxist movement’s secularism: “No Savior from on
The First International (International Workingmen’s
Association) was founded in 1864; the Second, known as the International
Socialist Congress, in 1889; the Third International, of Communist Parties, in
1919; and the Fourth Internationale, of Trotskyist Parties, in 1938.
though nobody will use this terminology, it’s time for the Fifth Internationale
– that of the Muslim Brotherhoods. For although the precise relationships among
various Brotherhood groups have always been shadowy and despite the fact that
there is no centralized organization of Brotherhood groups, there is a lot of
coordination, including financial aid, among them.
Today, as always, the
Egyptian branch is the largest and most powerful. Founded in 1928, having
collaborated with Nazi Germany, then carried out terrorism in the 1940s and
early 1950s, the Brotherhood was suppressed by Egypt’s radical nationalist
regime. It was allowed to revive in the 1970s but was constantly under
harassment, though at times it ran in elections. Now it has emerged as the
strongest political force in Egypt, seemingly headed toward state power for the
It is not alone. The Jordanian branch has run with some
success in elections but the monarchy has always used gerrymandering and vote
counting to ensure the group couldn’t win.
The Syrian branch was
repressed in a bloody crackdown in 1982 but continued underground for years.
Now, the group has reemerged as a significant power in opposition to the Assad
regime. Indeed, the US government and its Turkish allies constructed and
now recognized an exiled opposition leadership that is dominated by the
The Palestinian branch, called Hamas, rules the Gaza
The Tunisian branch is forming a government and the Brotherhood is
emerging in Libya, where it might be able to take power some day. Smaller
groupings exist in other Arabic-speaking countries.
significance, the Brotherhood has spread to Europe and North America. There,
thanks to both naïve government policies and nottoo- bright media coverage, the
group dominates Muslim communities.
IS THE Muslim Brotherhood moderate?
Think of the Brotherhood as having the same relationship to Islamism as the
Communist Party has to Marxism. In other words, the Brotherhood is the
political realization of Islamist theology, which potentially makes Egypt the
Red Crescent equivalent of the Hammer and Sickle. Oh yeah, it also makes 2011
into the equivalent of 1917.
Or, in the words of the man who I think is
just about the best political analyst in the Arab world, Abd al-Rahman
al-Rashid: “The Islamist party leaders hastened to embellish their image for the
Western countries.... Of course, these speeches are public relations acts, and
could only be believed by someone ignorant about the region or by the logic of
the religious parties. [At most, this claim of moderation] expresses the opinion
of [a] few leaders only, because the majority of leaders and cadres of these
groups consider cleansing the society as their first duty, and it would not be
long before they topple the tolerant leaders.”
Now the movement is
emerging in the form of a transnational alliance between governments and
powerful opposition movements in various countries. We are seeing the
formation of this Muslim Brotherhood international, the alliance of these groups
in Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, the Gaza Strip (Hamas), Jordan and Syria, with
financial backing from Qatar. We are going to be hearing more about this in the
coming months and years.
Here’s an example. The most important Islamist
commander of the new Libyan military forces has been sent to Turkey to work with
the Syrian opposition army.
Is there any alliance on the other side? Any
transnational organization of Arab centrist or even leftist parties?
Are there any covert operations by Western countries to help the
moderates with money and other aid to match what the Brotherhood (and its
supporters in Qatar, Iran, Turkey and Syria) is doing? Also, no. Why, even the
Obama administration likes those loveable “moderates” who obey the rules of
Who do you think is going to win such a onesided battle?
I feel like
Sir Edward Grey, the British foreign secretary in 1914, who remarked at the
onset of World War I: “The lamps are going out all over Europe. We shall not see
them lit again in our time.”
Either I'm right that we’re entering a very,
very difficult period, or the Muslim Brotherhood will take to democracy like
women to chadors and soon it’ll be making painful compromises compromises with
the best of them. “Okay, everyone, we’re agreed! Shari’a only applies on
Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays!”
Think about this: By the end of 2012 the
overwhelming majority of Muslims in the Middle East – in Egypt, the Gaza Strip,
Iran, Lebanon, Libya, Tunisia and Turkey, about a quarter-billion people in all
– will be governed by radical Islamist regimes that believe in waging jihad on
Israel and America, wiping Israel off the map, suppressing Christians, reducing
the status of women to even lower than it is now, and in their right as the true
interpreters of God’s will to govern as dictators.
That doesn’t mean they
are doing all of these things right now, but they intend to do so when they
fully consolidate power.
The writer is director of the Global Research in
International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and a featured columnist at Pajamas Media.
His new book,
Israel: An Introduction, will be published by Yale University
Press in January.
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