Head’s up, confused Western punditocracy!
There’s a critical cultural dissonance that I suspect explains a lot of the naive foolishness being displayed by long-distance observers about the Muslim Brotherhood and its alleged shift away from a violent ideology and towards moderation.
The Western world — particularly Americans — and the Arab world have completely different ways of thinking about time. Americans think in four-year cycles, eight years on the outside. The Arab world — particularly the ideologically driven Arab world — thinks in centuries. The Muslim Brotherhood (the Ikhwan) was founded eighty-three years ago, and is continuing toward the same goals it had when it was founded. Its tactics have altered to ensure its survival, but its ultimate strategy remains the same.
How can we know that for sure? Easy. Read what they write for their own constituency. Yesterday, Palestine Media Watch released a new translation of Jihad is the Way, the final installment of a five-volume work called The Laws of Da’wa by Mustafa Mashhur. Mashhur ran the Brotherhood in Egypt from 1996 through 2002. In it, Mashhur lays out the Brotherhood’s agenda as follows:
- The goal of Islam is global conquest and the restoration of the Islamic Caliphate: “The Islamic ummah [the international community of Muslims] can regain its power and be liberated and assume its rightful position which was intended by Allah, as the most exalted nation among men, as the leaders of humanity…you [Muslims] are the masters of the world, even if your enemies desire your degradation.”
- The means of conquest must be jihad: “[J]ihad and preparation towards jihad are not only for the purpose of fending off assaults and attacks of Allah’s enemies from Muslims, but are also for the purpose of realizing the great task of establishing an Islamic state and strengthening the religion and spreading it around the world…there is no other option but jihad for Allah…”
- Jihad must be waged everywhere: “Jihad for Allah is not limited to the specific region of the Islamic countries, since the Muslim homeland is one and is not divided, and the banner of Jihad has already been raised in some of its parts, and shall continue to be raised, with the help of Allah, until every inch of the land of Islam will be liberated, and the State of Islam established.”
- It is the duty of every Muslim to wage jihad: “[Muslim Brotherhood founder Hassan al-Banna] felt the grave danger overshadowing the Muslims and the urgent need and obligation which Islam places on every Muslim, man and woman, to act in order to restore the Islamic Caliphate and to reestablish the Islamic state on strong foundations.”
- Muslims must be patient: ““The Brotherhood is not rushed by youth’s enthusiasm into immature and unplanned action which will not alter the bad reality and may even harm the Islamic activity, and will benefit the people of falsehood…it is not necessary that the Muslims repel every attack or damage caused by the enemies of Allah immediately, but [only] when ability and the circumstances are fit to it.”
I call your attention particularly to that last point. Americans are eager to believe that because the Brotherhood is not using jihadist language or imagery now, its goals must have changed. If you fall in with this view, you are, quite frankly, allowing yourself to be played. Take a look, as Big Peace has done, at the different messages the Brotherhood puts forward on its English-language and Arabic-language websites. (Cute little girls play a lot better in Peoria than crossed sabers.) Consider the tactics of the Brotherhood’s Palestinian offshoot, Hamas, which has offered its Gaza constituency nothing but a culture of violence. Above all, read their own writings. They’re in full view.
The Muslim Brotherhood has been waiting for its moment since 1928. We’re talking eternity here. Come on. What’s another ten, fifteen years?