Islamism: 21st century Communism

The Region: Formation of the Muslim Brotherhood International bodes poorly for West, 250 million Arabs

Egypt muslim brotherhood flag 311 (photo credit: REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El-Ghany )
Egypt muslim brotherhood flag 311
(photo credit: REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El-Ghany )
Arise, you prisoners of starvation!
Arise, you wretched of the earth!
For justice thunders condemnation:
A better world’s in birth!
– opening words of “The Internationale”
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 high delivers.”
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.
Now, 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 first time.
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 Brotherhood.
The Palestinian branch, called Hamas, rules the Gaza Strip.
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.
Of special 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? No.
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 democracy!
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.