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05 April 2011

Muslim Brotherhood and the Middle East Upheaval

As the United States and its allies struggle to get to grips with its new challenges in the Middle East and North Africa, pundits, scholars and Journalists have combed every inch of the Muslim Brotherhood’s history for clues
to what might happen in the event the movement takes control over the region

The most important figure of Muslim Brotherhood since its establishment in 1928 is the writings of a long dead Egyptian Muslim scholar called Sayyid Qutb (1906-66). Outside the Muslim world, he remains virtually unknown, yet he has been cited as the figure that has most influenced al-Qaida leaders namely, Usama Bin Ladin and Dr. Anwar al-Zawahiri.

Sayyid Qutb is
considered a prominent figure in the development of Jihadi Salafi ideology; born in a slum area along the Nile Valley, in Egypt, and enjoyed both Western and Islamic education, a typical background for a modern-day jihadist intellectual. His major influential work among the Muslim population is Ma’alim fil Tariq or
Milestones on the Road. Sayyid Qutb was accused of trying to overthrow the government of Nasser and subsequently executed in 1966.

Qutb is regarded
as the leader of the Muslim Brotherhood; he argued that Islam is the religion of the whole universe and that Islamic Sharia and the spiritual principles of the Quran, should be the law governing the universe. He labels the West as jahiliyya” or ignorant of the law of Allah, and argues that a true Muslim would
be rejecting his God if he obeys any man-made government and its laws. He argues that the false gods of the Muslims living in the United States would be the President, Congress, Supreme Court, and the Constitution which empowers them. According to Qutb, a Muslim cannot serve Allah alone if he acknowledges the authority of Western institutions (jahili).

Sayyid Qutb refused to
recognize the doctrine of separation of religion and state; he claimed that Muslims who abide by man-made laws, such as the U.S. Constitution, will be unable to share Islamic relationships with fellow Muslims because of the doctrine of Separation. He called for the establishment of Islamic Sharia for
the Muslim community everywhere they are found, and use their utmost to convert others to Islam. He claimed that secular constitutions restrict the faith of Islam, and inevitably, there will be a conflict between the demands of Western governments and Islam. He said a true Muslim living in the West is not free to
serve his God because he has to live by man-made laws and recognize their authority instead of God’s law represented by the Islamic sharia. Qutb concludes the West will be destroyed from within because of its lack of spiritual values, and will inevitably be eclipsed by a more superior civilization of Islam.

So what makes Muslim Brotherhood and Sayyid Qutb so popular in the Arab world? To answer this question, one has to look in the state of affair in the Middle East and the history of the Arab peoples after the eclipse of the Ottoman Empire following World War I.

The collapse of the Ottoman Empire
was a setback to Sunni Muslims in the Middle East; they constitute more than eighty-five percent of the Muslim population, worldwide. The Ottoman Empire was a symbol of political and theological unity of Islam. The Ottoman Sultan was political as well as Caliph, or religious leader for the Muslims. That position
of the Sultan disappeared to be ushered into the era of nation-states in the region, and the independence of the Arab states, each having its own political Leader and a mufti for the republic or monarchy.

In 1924, the position of
the Caliph was abolished by Turkish leader, Kamal Ataturk. That position was as Important to Sunni Muslims as is the pope for the Catholics. Until 1924, the Sultan was the Caliph of all Muslims; he was assisted by one mufti for the Empire.

Additionally, Ataturk, closed the traditional religious schools
and abolished Islamic Sharia; veiling of women were officially discouraged,
Western clothing for men and women were encouraged and Western calendar was
adopted to replace Islamic calendar. New civil, commercial, and penal codes
based on European models were adopted. A new civil code ended Islamic polygamy
and divorce and introduced a new civil marriage code. New Turkish alphabet
modified after Latin, replaced the Arabic alphabet, the language of the Quran.
Islamic call for prayer and public reading of the Quran required being in
Turkish rather than Arabic. Women were given right to vote and right to hold
office, Sunday was adopted as legal weekly holiday instead of Friday and the
Westernization process of Turkey began. As a result of all these and many other
changes, Turkey became a secular state.

Such changes were seen by the
Muslim population in the Middle East and North Africa as being taken under
Western influence and do not comply with Islamic sharia. In 1928, the Muslim
Brotherhood (al-Ikhwan al-Muslimeen Movement) was established. Following the
independence of the states in the Middle East and North Africa, every
constitution of these states contains provisions stating that Islam is the
religion of the state and Islamic sharia is the source law. Among all these
states, only Lebanon and Turkey have no such provisions.

In the Egyptian
Parliamentary elections in December 2005, Islamic Brotherhood Movement increased
its presence in Parliament five-fold. The goal of the Movement is to utilize
democracy to gain a majority in the elections in order to implement Islamic
sharia as the law of the land. Muslim Brotherhood has the potential to take over
every single state in the Middle East and North Africa and enforce Islamic
sharia as Sayyid Qutb saw it.

Gabriel Sawma is a lawyer with Middle East
background, Professor of Middle East Constitutional Law, Islamic Shari’a, Arabic
and Islamic Banking and Finance. Authority on Islamic Sharia. Author of “The
Qur’an: Misinterpreted, Mistranslated, and Misread; the Aramaic Language of the
Qur’an.” Author of an upcoming book on Islamic Shari’a in the United States.
Email:gabrielsawma (at) yahoo.com


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