John Lyly, a renaissance English poet and playwright first wrote this famous -often quoted- line in his book ‘Euphues’ back in 1578. Yet, it wasn’t until the end of the second decade of the twentieth century – the date Hassan Al-Banna established the brotherhood – when this famous (or rather infamous) saying got applied both in the name of love and war simultaneously. I am quite sure Lyly was preceded by Niccolo Machiavelli and I’m also sure that many unhappy incidents in the history of man took place due to the application of this saying which basically summarizes the Machiavellian philosophy in “a far less hard to swallow” way. The crusaders killed in the name of God, so did George “the shrub” Bush. But, with the Muslim Brotherhood there is a slight difference that makes them unique in applying Lyly’s pithy quotation.
The Brotherhood seek power in the name of God and seek God in the name of bashing (assassination at times) their political opponents thus betraying both the core concepts of love and the core concepts of their religion. Making them opportunists par excellence rather than a classical religious organization by their own definition.
Maybe this was not the case when 22 years old Hassan Al-banna established the brotherhood back in 1928. Egypt then a monarchy under British occupation, the country’s secular constitution of 1923 granted the establishment of the brotherhood which started as a political, religious and social movement with the credo, “God is our objective, the Quran is our constitution, the Prophet is our leader, Jihad is our way, and death for the sake of God is the highest of our aspirations.” If you read this credo today and didn’t know it was the original doctrine of the brotherhood, you would easily get confused and you may associate it to the salafi movement of today. Al-Banna called for the full implementation of sharia law based on the Qur’an and the Sunnah. His argument was that sharia laws were passed down by God and should therefore be applied to all aspects of life, including the organization of the government and the handling of everyday problems.
History says the brotherhood was a major participant in a series of political assassinations in the 1940s and 1950s, in November 1948 police seized documents and plans of what was thought to be the Brotherhood’s `secret apparatus` with names of its members. Subsequently the Egyptian prime minister of Egypt at the time, M.F.Al-Nokrashi, ordered the dissolution of the Brotherhood. Yet, on December 28, 1948 Egypt’s Al-Nokrashi was assassinated by a Brotherhood member. A month and half later Al-Banna was killed by men believed to be government agents and supporters of the murdered prime minister. In 1952 members of the Muslim Brotherhood were accused of taking part in arson that destroyed some “750 buildings” in downtown Cairo, mainly the Cairo opera house, night clubs, theaters, hotels, and restaurants.
An attempt on the life of Egypt’s second president, Gamal Abdel Nasser was allegedly orchestrated by the brotherhood in 1954 marking the official ban to the brotherhood. Thousands of the brotherhood members were prisoned and tortured. It was not until Sadat came to power in 1970, when he gradually released the imprisoned members of the brotherhood. Sadat then became the enemy of the Brotherhood after signing a peace treaty with Israel in 1979, and was assassinated by a violent Islamist group called Tanzim al-Jihad on October 6, 1981.
This colorful history is known to many Egyptians, disputed by the brotherhood affectionados and denied by orthodox brotherhood members. The brotherhood are extremely evasive when it comes to discussing their past, they claim to have denounced violence long ago and that history was written by their opponents, they majorly confuse literary historical writings with facts and what I have mentioned above are historical facts.
- 2:256 “Let there be no compulsion in religion”
- 16:82 But if they turn away from you, (O Prophet remember that) your only duty is a clear delivery of the Message (entrusted to you).
- 6:107 Yet if God had so willed, they would not have ascribed Divinity to aught besides him; hence, We have not made you their keeper, nor are you (of your own choice) a guardian over them.
- 17:53, 54 And tell my servants that they should speak in a most kindly manner (unto those who do not share their beliefs). Verily, Satan is always ready to stir up discord between men; for verily; Satan is mans foe …. Hence, We have not sent you (Unto men O Prophet) with power to determine their Faith.
- 21:107 to 109 (O Prophet?) ‘We have not sent you except to be a mercy to all mankind:” Declare, “Verily, what is revealed to me is this, your God is the only One God, so is it not up to you to bow down to Him?’ But if they turn away then say, “I have delivered the Truth in a manner clear to one and all, and I know not whether the promised hour (of Judgment) is near or far.”
- 22:67 To every people have We appointed ceremonial rites (of prayer) which they observe; therefore, let them not wrangle over this matter with you, but bid them to turn to your Lord (since that is the main objective of religion). You indeed are rightly guided. But if they still dispute you in this matter, (then say,) `God best knows (the value of) what you do.”
- 88:21, 22; also see 24:54 And so, (O Prophet!) exhort them your task is only to exhort; you cannot compel them to believe.
- 42:6, 48 And whoso takes for patrons others besides God, over them does God keep a watch. Mark, you are not a keeper over them. But if they turn aside from you (do not get disheartened), for We have not sent you to be a keeper over them; your task is but to preach ….
- 60:8 Allah forbids you not, with regard to those who fight you not for (your) Faith nor drive you out of your homes, from dealing kindly and justly with them: for Allah loveth those who are just.
- 60:9 Allah only forbids you, with regard to those who fight you for (your) Faith, and drive you out of your homes, and support (others) in driving you out, from turning to them (for friendship and protection). It is such as turn to them (in these circumstances), that do wrong.
The above mentioned verses are a vivid proof that 22 year old Al-Banna clearly misinterpreted Islam and suggested wrongly political assassinations as a solution to resolve political conflicts. but the reason why I wrote this article was mainly to refer to the most interesting piece of information amongst all the above mentioned scary bedtime stories. It’s their credo that makes all the difference especially nowadays.
The brotherhood depends on three tactics that have always worked brilliantly for them:
- The first tactic is to exaggerate their capabilities via a set of well structured announcements that would give the receiver the feeling that the brotherhood constitute 30%-40% of the Egyptian voting power. The truth is that the brotherhood members do not exceed 850,000. A huge number yet not so huge in a country of 44 million eligible voters.
- The second tactic is based on evasiveness. The brotherhood will do anything but to clearly apologize for their past not to mention discussing it. They would not clarify where they stand from SCAF, military trials, minorities rights, virginity tests. This is due to their extreme pragmatism while handling any issue where SCAF is involved. Thus winning any minor gain that SCAF may give them on the account of the rest of the political forces in Egypt.
- The third tactic is associating themselves with Islam, such that if you disagree with their political position, you are basically disagreeing with the will of God! This works perfectly with “the religious and the illiterate”.
In this article I tried mostly to tackle the brotherhood second tactic. I will write two more articles to tackle their first and third tactics once I have the time. The brotherhood have ruined the political life of Egyptians over nearly a full century but it’s not the politics that I am bound to explain or defend. It’s Islam that I care for the most. The peaceful religion that was interpreted viciously by the few to rule the many. A good peaceful religion. My religion.