Category Archives: Israel’s Islamist neighborhood

News from Israel’s Islamist neighborhood

In a recent article on the now widely debated antisemitic rants by Mohammed Morsi – recorded in 2010, well before he became Egypt’s president – Barry Rubin rightly criticizes that there is a tendency to pretend that we are just dealing with some “isolated acts” and that by now, Morsi’s views might have changed.

While this kind of wishful politically-correct thinking is unlikely to change no matter how much evidence is available to counter it, MEMRI recently provided translated excerpts from a very interesting article on precisely this subject by Lebanese liberal Joseph Bishara, who pointed out that Jew-hatred is a basic principle of the Muslim Brotherhood’s “philosophy.”  This is of course exactly the same assessment as the one offered by the widely respected Syrian-German scholar Bassam Tibi  in an interview that I quoted a year ago.

Here are some passages from Bishara’s article, as translated by MEMRI:

“Needless to say, tolerance toward the other has no place in the MB’s agenda. Therefore, how can certain people assume that the MB is tolerant of Jews? The MB is racist and hates the Jews and anyone who believes in Judaism. This is an uncontestable part of its creed and is reflected in extremist directives that appear in the writings of its greatest thinkers.

“This hatred did not emerge in the 20th century or [after] Israel’s establishment or the occupation of Arab and Palestinian lands by Israel. This hatred is historic, with roots going back to the inception of Islam. The MB bases its hatred of Jews on the Koranic verse: ‘You will surely find that the most intense of people in animosity towards the believers are the Jews and the polytheists… ‘ [Koran 5:82].

“The MB’s position on the Jews is evident in the interpretation of this verse by Sayyid Qutb, who said that the Koran placed the Jews before the polytheists because they had been more hostile to the Muslims throughout history. Qutb also stated that contrary to what moderate Muslims claim, the Koranic description of the Jews is unchangeable and is not dependent upon [circumstances] of time and place.

“As far as the MB is concerned, the text is absolute and fits any time and place; hence, the animosity between Jews and Muslims is eternal, and will never end, whatever the circumstances.”

The notion of a divinely ordained “eternal” hostility between Muslims and Jews is indeed exactly what the influential cleric Yusuf Qaradawi is preaching.

Bishara also offers some chilling observations about the thinking of MB founder Hassan Al-Banna:

“The MB’s position on the Egyptian Jews is no different than its position on Jews in general; it is the same animosity and hatred. A document titled ‘The MB and the Jews,’ penned by ‘Abdo Mustafa Dsoky for the MB’s Wiki [ikhwanwiki.com], claims that MB founder Hassan Al-Banna gained fame due to his essays on the character and hidden traits of the Jews.

“[Al-Banna] wrote: ‘The Jews of today are the descendants of their warmongering, troublemaking, rabble-rousing, and scheming ancestors. There is no civil war or popular rebellion that does not have the fingerprints of Jews behind it. [The Jews] stoke [wars and rebellions] and work to magnify their effect. It is as though this people wants vengeance upon the entire world for the power it lost due to its stubbornness and the honor it lost due to its materialism. No wrongs have been done them – it is they who do wrong.’

“Al-Banna went so far as to claim that it was [the Jews'] fault that the Nazis burned them in the crematoria during the first half of the 20th century. He said: ‘When we examine modern history, we see that Russia, Poland, Germany, the U.S. and other countries were outraged by the plots of the Jews and their games of deception in the politics of these countries – so much so that the Germans took a bizarre stand vis-à-vis the Jewish race.’

“Continuing his hostility to all Jews, without exception, Hassan Al-Banna said: ‘Evil gradually grew in the Jewish character. [The Jew] does not value virtue. His only concern is to accumulate wealth in any way possible, even at the expense of virtue, honor, and the principles of exalted morality. That is why [the Jews] grew rich, leading others to impoverishment. They accumulate gold, enabling them to realize their goals and cravings, [to play] deceptive games on rulers, and to thwart the efforts of those who wish to amend things.’

“Al-Banna advised the Jews: ‘You wronged the entire world and harmed all peoples. I call upon you to repent so that we do not treat you in ways that run counter to the Torah. Repent before your Maker, kill yourselves, and free the world of the catastrophes that you cause.’”

 

News from Israel’s Islamist neighborhood

If it was a western president or prime minister – let alone an Israeli one – who had made utterly bigoted and hate-filled remarks about Muslims not long before he took office, it sure would be a top news item all over the world. But when it turns out that some two years ago, the man who is now Egypt’s president called “the Zionists” “blood-suckers,” “warmongers,” and “the descendants of apes and pigs,” most of the mainstream media (MSM) seem to think it should be politely ignored.

In a way one could actually argue that this really isn’t newsworthy, because if the MSM accurately reported on Islamist ideology, everyone would already know that implacable Jew-hatred is an integral part of the Muslim Brotherhood’s views and agenda. After all, Morsi’s statements from 2010, which were recently translated by MEMRI, faithfully echo themes that are all too familiar from the Hamas Charter, and similar views are regularly propagated by well-respected Muslim scholars.

The question why this torrent of loathsome statements by influential and widely respected figures who clearly shape and represent mainstream views is studiously ignored in the MSM was recently addressed by Pat Condell, who focused on the Palestinians and argued that this kind of “political correctness” reflected a patronizing and ultimately racist attitude.

While I largely agree with Pat Condell’s broader argument, I think there are also other important factors at work – first and foremost perhaps the western mantra that other societies should be approached as “people like us.” The problem with this approach is that, while it is always true on an individual level – we can meet people we personally like and get along with anywhere –, it is not true for societies.  A society where the reactionary and bigoted views of Islamists like the Muslim Brotherhood are mainstream is simply not like a society where it is mainstream to reject and even loathe comparably reactionary and bigoted views.

News from Israel’s Islamist neighborhood

A stunning clip made available by MEMRI documents an Egyptian rally to launch the presidential election campaign for Muslim Brotherhood candidate Muhammad Mursi. Egyptian cleric Safwat Higazi, who addresses the crowd, promises that Mursi and the Muslim Brothers will realize “the dream of the Islamic Caliphate” by “restoring” the “United States of the Arabs” with its capital Jerusalem.

Higazi wants “the whole world” to hear his message:

“We say it loud and clear: Yes, Jerusalem is our goal. We shall pray in Jerusalem, or else we shall die as martyrs on its threshold. Millions of martyrs march toward Jerusalem.”

According to a report in the Jerusalem Post, the rally took place in a Cairo soccer stadium with presidential candidate Mursi and other Brotherhood officials present; they are shown in the clip nodding in agreement with Higazi’s speech.

Let’s hope that all the assorted “experts” and pundits who never grow tired of telling their audiences how “moderate” and/or “pragmatic” the Muslim Brotherhood really truly is will indeed take the time to listen carefully to this message.

However, the really politically correct media outlets that never fail to describe Jerusalem as Islam’s “third-holiest” city may now face a dilemma given Higazi’s explicit statement that the Islamic Caliphate’s “capital shall not be Cairo, Mecca, or Medina. It shall be Jerusalem, Allah willing.”

News from Israel’s Islamist neighborhood

A recently published report by MEMRI documents a call for the implementation of gruesome “Islamic” punishments by the Egyptian Cleric Muhammad Hussein Yaaqub. According to MEMRI, the cleric asserted in a televised interview that theft, robbery and similar crimes should be regarded as “war against Allah and His Messenger” and he recommended that those guilty of such crimes should “be executed, or…crucified, or…have their hand and foot chopped off on opposite sides, or…be banished from the land.”

If it is some obscure village preacher who comes out with such horrendous proposals, it would be perfectly reasonable to conclude that this incident was not really relevant enough to report on. But I think it is fair to say that even when notable Islamic clerics issue such statements, they rarely receive prominent news coverage in the West, despite (or because of?) the fact that this is arguably a very newsworthy item because it highlights the radical difference between discourse in the Islamic world and the West.

So who is Muhammad Hussein Yaaqub?

A paper entitled “Salafists Challenge al-Azhar for Ideological Supremacy in Egypt,” originally published in September 2010 in Terrorism Monitor (Volume: 8 Issue: 35), describes Yaaqub (Yaqub) as a “very famous” Salafist preacher “with experience in teaching and preaching in some Gulf countries.” The paper also provides a link to his website (in Arabic: www.yaqob.com); and apparently, Yaaqub even has a Facebook page –which goes to show that a preference for barbaric medieval “justice” does not preclude the savvy use of modern means to propagate the incongruous  message.

Indeed, as noted in the paper, the “Salafist presence in Egypt has been further cemented lately through Salafist religious satellite channels such as al-Rahma (Mercy), al-Annas (People), al-Majd (Glory), al-Hikmah (Wisdom) and al-Fajr (Dawn).” The Salafist appreciation for modern media and marketing strategies seems to include a strong preference for Orwellian brand names, and  accordingly, the newly established Salafist party is named Al-Nour (Light); it has emerged as the strongest member of Egypt’s Islamist bloc that garnered almost 28% in Egypt’s parliamentary elections.

Given this context, Yaaqub is certainly an influential figure – and here he is venting his rage against Jews during Israel’s campaign against Hamas in January 2009:

 

One can hardly expect anything else from a fanatic who advocates atrocious punishments for his own society.

The rise of Islamists also means a brutal setback for the already severely disadvantaged women in the Middle East – though there are plenty of Muslim women who willingly endorse the abuse condoned by powerful Islamists. According to a recent report, Azza El Garf, a prominent figure in the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party, “disagrees” with Egypt’s 2008 ban on female genital mutilation (FGM):

“‘It is a personal decision and each woman can decide based on her needs. If she needs it, she can go to a doctor,’ El Garf said, adding that the Muslim Brotherhood refers to the practice as beautification plastic surgery. She was adamant that it was a woman’s choice, and hers alone, to have the outlawed procedure […]”

Likewise, a recent BBC report on FGM in Egypt ends with a Salafist leader evading the question whether he supports the ban on FGM by declaring that when it comes to women’s rights, this issue was “not a priority.”

 

That’s Israel’s Islamist neighborhood – and anyone who ignores the widespread social acceptance of such brutal practices in the Middle East will have a hard time to understand the region.

News from Israel’s Islamist neighborhood

Recently, the Austrian newspaper Die Presse featured an interview with the Syrian-German scholar Bassam Tibi who is a widely respected expert on Islamism. The title of the interview quotes one of Tibi’s assessments: “The Muslim Brothers are a totalitarian movement” (a reliable English translation of the interview can be found here.)

Among the issues addressed in the interview are the implications of the Islamists’ ascendancy for Israel. Tibi’s answer is blunt: “Israel will be paying a high price, because – in addition to a sharia state – the basic tenets of Islamism include antisemitism.”

Anyone inclined to find this statement too harsh should read the new report in MEMRI’s Antisemitism Documentation Project, which is devoted to antisemitic and anti-Israel articles on the website of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood. Here are just a few quotes from the fairly long report; emphasis is mine to highlight the rank of the writer:

In a June 2011 sermon posted on the website, MB in Egypt General Guide Muhammad Badi’ discussed the Jews, their traits, and their actions: “Allah warned us against the deceit of the Jews and their dangerous role in sparking wars: ‘Whenever they kindle a fire for war Allah puts it out, and they strive to make mischief in the land; and Allah does not love the mischief-makers [Koran 5:64].’ Their hands light the hidden fuse… [and] little time passes before the fire spreads to the field of war, including Islamic lands… The war in Sudan and its division are their handiwork; the internal struggle and war among the Palestinians is [likewise part] of their plan. [For this reason,] the reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah angered them.” […]

Against the backdrop of the discussion over Egypt’s reconsideration of its peace agreement with Israel, and in the wake of the 2011 cross-border attacks near Eilat, Israel, in which seven Israelis and five Egyptian soldiers were killed, Dr. Muhammad ‘Ali Dabour, member of the International Union of Muslim Scholars (IUMS) and lecturer at Cairo University, wrote about the Jewish nature: “Throughout all of history, the Jews have failed to keep their word. They always employ a double standard and act in their own interests, even if it means destroying the entire world… The Koran informs us: ‘Certainly you will find the most violent of people in enmity for those who believe (to be) the Jews and those who are polytheists [Koran 5:82].’ Allah, may He be exalted, [also] said: ‘But on account of their breaking their covenant We cursed them and made their hearts hard; they altered the words from their places…’ [Koran 5:13]. Breaking agreements and treaties is easier for [Jews] than drinking water or breathing air. Such are the Jews. Such is Jewish nature. Though they flatter, act hypocritically, and embitter the entire world, we Muslims must not be deceived by them.” […]

As early as October 2010, Dr. Isma’il ‘Ali Muhammad, lecturer at Al-Azhar University, published a series of articles on “the nature of the Jews according to the Old Testament and the Talmud.” In one article, he wrote: “It would not be an exaggeration to say that the [Jewish] character is still a source of evil and harm among all human societies […] When one reads the Old Testament, the Talmud, and the ideas born of them such as [those found in] The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, the rulings of the rabbis, and the streams of Jewish ideology, one finds in them an open hostility toward all people. The Jews’ deviant behavior is directed at all humanity… The holy ideological sources – according to their belief – permit them to act hypocritically and treacherously, and to unjustly throw to the dogs the lives, property, and belongings of non-Jews.”[7]

In another article, he claimed that Jewish tradition taught the Jews to be “so criminal that they are unparalleled in all [other] human societies. It incites them to annihilate the non-Jews and to spread ruin and destruction throughout the non-Jewish world.” […]

In an article published following the release of prisoners as part of the Gilad Shalit deal, Dr. ‘Abd Al-Rahman Al-Bar, a member of the MB General Guide’s Office and of the IUMS, stressed that jihad and martyrdom were the path to liberating all of Palestine – from “the sea to the river” – rather than negotiations, which had consistently failed to produce positive results. He emphasized that the attack on the Israeli embassy in Cairo was one of the milestones of the revolution in Egypt:

“‘Oh brothers, Allah has granted the ummah, which excels at producing death and knows how to die honorably, dear life in this world and eternal bliss in the next. The weakness that leads to our humiliation is love for this world and hatred of death. Prepare your souls for a great deed. Work toward death; it is then that you will be granted life. Act toward honorable death, and you will earn complete happiness.’

“With these words, [MB founder] the shahid, the imam Hassan Al-Bana concluded his ‘Letter on Jihad.’ [These words] came to my mind when, in tears of joy, I watched the scenes of the prisoners being released from the prisons of the Zionist occupation, a nobility visible on their faces and in their eyes, and the words issuing from their mouths like rockets expressing [their] steadfastness… They proved that jihad alone is the means of liberating both man and homeland…

In another article, Dr. ‘Abd Al-Rahman Al-Bar called to support “the jihad of the resistance materially, in the media, and morally,” and expressed his hope that Israel would soon be destroyed: “The [Palestinian] cause will remain a prime concern for the [Muslim] ummah, until Allah heralds the end of the racist state of occupation [i.e. Israel], and until the last of the people of our ummah fights the swindling Jews and their armies and delivers the land from their wickedness… [It was related by the Prophet's Companion] Abu Huraira that the Prophet said, ‘Judgment Day will not come until the Muslims fight the Jews and kill them. The Jews will hide behind stones and trees, and the stones and trees will call: O Muslim, o servant of Allah, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him – except for the gharqad tree, which is the tree of the Jews.’” […]

News from Israel’s Islamist neighborhood

Cairo’s Al-Azhar Mosque and its associated Islamic university are widely respected as a historic and pre-eminent institution of Islamic learning, and the Grand Imam of al-Azhar is the top Islamic authority for most of the world’s Sunni Muslims.

The 1000-year-old institution has big plans for this year: as a project of the al-Azhar department for fatwas and Islamic advice, two or even three satellite television channels will soon be launched to “speak in the name of the institution.”

Earlier this week, Al-Azhar Grand Imam Ahmed El-Tayeb met with Hamas prime minister Ismail Haniyeh and assured him that Palestinian resistance is a “legitimate right granted by the decree of Islamic Sharia as well as that of international charters.”

The Grand Imam also announced during the meeting “that Al-Azhar is in the process of organising a conference to discuss ways of counteracting the Judaisation of Jerusalem and reclaiming Islamic holy sites in the city.”

Ismail Haniyeh responded by declaring that the Palestinians will provide “no concessions […] on their choice of resistance until the liberation of Palestinian soil.”

Anybody familiar with the Hamas Charter should know what that means – and Al-Azhar’s Grand Imam can definitely be expected to be familiar with the Charter.

In recent media reports, Al-Azhar has been generally portrayed as “the voice of moderate Islam.”

It is obviously doubtful that the same media outlets that describe Al-Azhar as “the voice of moderate Islam” would use similar adjectives if – to conjure a purely imaginary scenario – the pope met with a violent Catholic terrorist group and told them that the bible sanctifies their “right” to “resistance.” Indeed, even if the pope just encouraged Nigeria’s beleaguered Christians to respond to their Islamist killers in kind, I doubt that anyone would describe this as “the voice of moderate Catholicism.”

In this context it is also interesting to recall that when the pope expressed concern about the bloody attacks against Egypt’s Coptic Christians a year ago, Al-Ahzar ended dialogue with the Vatican and Grand Imam Ahmed El-Tayeb demanded an apology from the pope. In other words, when Christians are killed in a Muslim country, “the voice of moderate Islam” requires Christian leaders to shut up about it.

Introducing: News from Israel’s Islamist neighborhood

The recent acknowledgement by New York Times correspondent Isabel Kershner that she (and presumably her paper) is rather reluctant to report about the anti-Israel incitement and open antisemitism that are so prevalent in the Middle East illustrated a point that I’ve frequently made: when it comes to the Arab-Israeli conflict, the mainstream media are systematically filtering their news in a way that leaves their audience quite ignorant about realities of which Israelis are only all too aware.

With the Middle East now turning openly Islamist, there is already a clear tendency to make sure that mainstream media coverage will reflect Western eagerness to avoid a “clash of civilizations.” This means first and foremost a largely uncritical coverage of the enormous popularity of Islamism: anything so “mainstream” must also be somehow “moderate” and “pragmatic”— something like the Middle Eastern version of Christian democratic parties in Europe and elsewhere.

To be sure, this “political correctness” has dominated Western media coverage already since 9/11. But while the West (and Israel) has indeed no interest in fanning the flames of a “clash of civilizations,” suppressing politically “incorrect” facts for the sake of some supposedly “higher” purpose will arguably only contribute to a further polarization of a political discourse that is divorced from reality as long as it is “progressive” to cheer Islamists and “reactionary” or even “racist” to cheer Ayaan Hirsi Ali.

However, a media bias in favor of “political correctness” is not just a relatively recent phenomenon. In an excellent essay on “Radical Islam’s Fellow-Travellers”, Nick Cohen reminded his readers:

Susan Sontag, a former president of American PEN […] scandalised leftish New Yorkers when she addressed a town hall meeting as the Soviet empire was starting to crumble under pressure from Poland’s Solidarity trade union. Imagine, she told the assembled fellow-travellers [of Communism] as she tried to dissolve their illusions, “the preposterous case of somebody who read only the Reader’s Digest between 1950 and 1970, and somebody else who read only the Nation between 1950 and 1970. Who would be getting more truth about the nature of communism? There’s no doubt it would have been the Reader’s Digest reader.”

Getting more truth about the nature of Islamism is arguably more important than ever, because in much of the Middle East, Islamists are emerging as the most popular political force. “News from Israel’s Islamist neighborhood” will therefore become a regular feature of this blog.