Revolutionary Egypt: A Discussion on the Muslim Brotherhood

An interview with B.J. Sabri, an observer of Middle East politics

The “revolutionary” events in Egypt have caught much of the world’s attention. To get a handle on what it all means, I can think of few better people to turn to than B. J. Sabri. I have often collaborated with Sabri on essays, and whenever I have, they turn out to be the best work I have been associated with. Sabri has lived in a few countries and is multi-lingual. Being an Iraqi-American, he authored many articles on the U.S. invasion of Iraq. He is fluent in Arabic, and this gives him the advantage of taking in first hand what Arabs are saying about events in Egypt. He is a keen observer of events around the world, the historiography, political context, what it all means for social justice, and has his own views on what kind of revolution is needed to bring about a better world.

Kim Petersen: Before talking about the new Egyptian Revolution of June 30 that ended the Muslim Brotherhood regime and removed President Mohamed Morsi from power, I want to start from the matrix event that brought the Muslim Brothers to power in Egypt and before that in Tunisia, which is, the Arab Spring. This event saw the overthrow of the dictatorships of Zain al-Abedine Ben Ali in Tunisia and Hosni Mubarak in Egypt, and the murder of Muammar Gaddafi in Libya. Moreover, while it failed in Morocco, Bahrain, and Yemen, it spared Lebanon and all Arab monarchies and Sheikdoms, as well as the still virtually American-occupied Iraq. What is an Arab Spring anyway?

BJ Sabri: First, to refresh memories, the term “spring”, now widely used by Western and imperialist propaganda to describe mass upheavals in countries not aligned with or not under American tutelage, had been applied for the first time to depict the attempted reform by Alexander Dubcek of the communist system of Czechoslovakia in 1968. Then they called it “Prague spring”. This is an idiotic oxymoron for two reasons: first, it implies that the renovation of a socio-political system, overthrowing it to meet western objectives, or the engineered germination of a western-dependent ruling class is akin to desirable seasonal changes; could one then say that such a system was living in winter before the change! Second, if such a “spring” were a means to describe fundamental changes of socio-political structures of a nation, how would the West, in retrospect, describe the French, Bolshevik, and Iranian Revolutions? Would contemporary Americans and Europeans find it politically suitable to re-baptize these revolutions as French, Russian, and Iranian springs? I bet they would be leaving the French Revolution as is, but dub the Russian and Iranian Revolutions as history’s most disastrous dark seasons.

Better yet, how would the West call today the U.S. invasion of Iraq to overthrow the Iraqi government of Saddam Hussein and subject Iraq to continuing occupation (by other means since it claimed withdrawal of troops) and to U.S. imperialistic objectives? Would one still dare to call it “liberation” (U.S. State Secretary John Kerry did so just a few days ago) or maybe an American-made “Iraqi spring”? Second, if you notice, with the never-abating crisis of capitalism in the United States and Europe, the bugles of western propaganda never attempted, let alone dare, to call the anti-system mass protestation in Greece, for instance, as “Greek spring”. This indicates, the term “Arab spring” as applied now to the various Arab revolutionary movements seeking progressive alternatives to their repressive regimes is selective and hides political agendas.

One thing to note, within the Arab states, the usage of the term “spring” (borrowed from western designation and translated into Arabic literally) is of dubious value since even the Arabs themselves had no complete understanding of what is happening in their midst, and all try to define it according to personal enterprise or to borrowed interpretations and perceptions. This is so true that a majority of Arab analysts now put the term between quotation marks. Further, from the moment the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Italy, and the American-subjugated Sheikdoms of the Gulf put their hands on and interfered in the Arab uprisings, the very nature of these changed course to bring Arab states affected by them from local dictatorships to brazen western post-neocolonialist subjugation.

A recent example is Libya whereby, while the oil industry — now in western hands — continues to function, the rest of Libya is laying in widespread devastation. The abortion of the Yemeni uprising by the United States and Saudi Arabia led to the conservation of the Saleh regime under old faces — recycled as reformist — from the same regime. And today, while the Bahraini regime is still standing, while Syria is in complete ruin, and while Egypt is still struggling to choose a reasonable course, the American long hand is freely moving to shape the region’s future to suite the Israeli and American objectives.

Let us examine a few examples. Tunisia, where the so-called Arab spring started, did not change that much from the regime of Ben Ali except now the Muslim Brothers and Salafists are in control while Americans and French are heavily meddling in its affairs. It has been said that a young Tunisian man torching himself to protest his vending cart being sequestrated by the municipal authorities was the spark that detonated the revolution. Well, since then, at least two other Tunisian men torched themselves in signs of protest against the new ruling elites but nothing happened in reaction. What happened instead is that the defunct system returned with might under different guises, slogans, and alliances. It’s of no use that the new regime is now promulgating a new constitution while the ante-revolution structures are still the dominant factors guiding the Tunisian life. Covering these structures with Islamist cloths, religious prayers, citations of verses from the Quran, and ostentatious display of godliness will not change their substance.

In Egypt, the second Arab country to rise against its local dictator, the military, the Muslim Brotherhood, and the United States colluded in a massive scheme to derail the revolution and extend the military junta’s rule with the evident intent to give the Egyptian people only one choice. Accept the Mubarak regime back in the person of Ahmed Shafiq — Mubarak’s last prime minister, or vote for the lesser evil: the Muslim Brothers. Omar Suleiman (intelligence chief and ally of Israel) negotiated, on behalf of the United Stated, with the Muslim Brotherhood on ways to transit from Mubarak to their rule based on the assurance that they would abide by the Camp David Accords, which they did once they took power.

Now here comes the second revolution of June 30 where the aim is to retake back the course for a true change. Could this revolution face attempts to derail it? Yes. When Mohammed Kamel Amr (foreign minister under Morsi who became a pro-tempore foreign minister in the post-Morsi government, a position now taken by Nabil Fahmi) tells John Kerry (July 5) that Egypt is a strategic ally of the United States, and this concurs and calls the Egyptians “strategic partners”. When Kerry hypocritically lectures Amr on human rights and this concurs. And when ElBaradei, a man known for his ties and cooperation with the United States becomes the spokesperson of the new revolution and an unelected vice president, then I smell a rat. I’m sensing that some or maybe all of the apparatuses and policies of the Mubarak regime are going to be re-incarnated under new forms despite all this talk about a new constitution and new elections. Are the masses vigilant to such a prospect? We will soon know.

In Libya, another country hit by the “sirocco of the Arab spring”, the situation was dire. Arabs (Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Amr Moussa (then secretary of the Arab League during the Mubarak regime and successively during the rule of the Tantawi Junta before ending his term to run for president), and Turkey — all under the command of the United States) became advocates for the U.S. and NATO to destroy Libya. (After the Libya reduced to ruin, a hypocrite Amr Moussa expressed regrets for his role — yeah … Just like that.) Of course, the Libyan protests against their local dictator were genuine, but from the moment in which the French Zionist Bernard-Henri Lévy became the ideological organizer and advocate for the “liberation” of the Libyan people, the people’s uprising against Gaddafi practically ended as such and became a tool in the hands of the West to control Libya. It followed, from the macabre murder of Gaddafi until now; nothing has changed in Libya except that the country went from worse to dreadful. No western-style democracy as some bragged about wanting to do, no new political structures, no economic development, and no anything new except chaos and except America’s Libyan men and dual citizens sitting at the top of power.

To conclude, with “springs” such as these, talking about renovation of Arab societies through popular uprisings is a subject that needs to be analyzed thoroughly to see where the Arabs are going with it. Consider this: when Tony Blair declares that he does not oppose Arab uprisings as long as they could be guided into a certain direction, when the obscurantist Saudis are crying for the fate of “freedom” in Syria, when the so-called Syrian free army calls on Washington to bomb Bashar’s army (read: Syria), when Bashar tells Washington he is in the same trench with them in the fight against “al-Qaeda”, when Israel claims that its intelligence is enjoying close coordination with the Egyptian intelligence under Morsi, when some Arab and Western writers, analysts, and rulers condemn what happened in Egypt on June 30 as a coup d’état while ignoring mass protests estimated between 22 to 33 million, then all indicators point in the direction of a pre-planned scheme to destroy the Arab nations, societies, and armies — the only capable Arab army remaining in the field is the Egyptian army, and this is under Washington’s blackmail and backdoor deals.

In the end, if the objective of the Arabs is renewal, real independence, and social justice through modern systems, then the fight is worth taking. But, if such aim is now being transformed into an irreparable destruction of their cities and the permanent dissolution of their societies to suite the goals of the U.S. and Israel, then those Arabs seeking renewal need to take a long pause, consider their options, and think about the road to take.

KP: Into the power vacuum left after the fall of Ben Ali and Mubarak stepped the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafists. With regard to the Muslim Brothers, from a westerner’s perspective, the name sounds very, I won’t say misogynistic, but it borders on male chauvinistic. Who is the Muslim Brotherhood?

BJS: Well, the word “brothers” in the movement’s name is not an issue, but the practice of gender discrimination in whatever form is. As a parallel, take for example the Young Men Christian Association. Is YMCA misogynistic or chauvinist toward woman because it has the word “men” in it? The argument becomes decisive if you consider that both the Muslim Brothers society [Jami’ah (or Jamaatt) al- Ikhwan al-Muslimin], and the Young Men Christian Association were founded, supposedly, to uphold respective moral principles and religious values. Yet there is a difference between the two. While YMCA has no manifesto for political power, the Muslim Brothers have such a manifesto and the goal to implement is enshrined in their literature, theory, and praxis. I must mention that Islamic movements are not strictly confined to males. Muslim women groups adhering to the ideology of the Muslim Brothers do exist and the women belonging to them do accept and willingly practice the roles envisioned for them by the “Brothers”. (On July 21, Muna Salah, a high-ranking Egyptian female Salafi activist stated to the Al-Sharq Al-Awsat newspaper, “Women lack brains and religion to run for office.” The existing un-progressive hierarchical pattern of male-female relations inside the Arab and Muslim worlds should not be surprising since it reflects a mixture of deep-seated indoctrination, adherence to certain behavioral rules, and to traditional women’s submissiveness to social covenants in a rigid male-dominated society, as well as to socio-psychological factors.

KP: Point taken, but the Brotherhood are seeking political rule over the entirety of the population of Egypt, while the YMCA is only concerned about men in its mission, and the YWCA is focused on women. But please continue.

BJS: As for who are the Muslim Brothers, delineating their basic beliefs and validity in modern context may be the way to cast light on the role they played in recent Arab and Islamic states.

When the Egyptian religious scholar and schoolteacher Hassan El-Banna founded the Muslim Brothers Movement in 1928, he did it with good intentions. I would even say that the timing was a historical necessity and in line with the needs of Islamic societies in Africa and Asia to rise against European and Russian colonialisms occupying their lands. El-Banna believed that if Muslims were to practice the precepts of Islam strictly, they could create political states (or one comprehensive state) that are strong and independent where justice and prosperity can prevail on poverty and economic backwardness. El-Banna, however, never explained how faith alone could fight colonialism, win, and then proceed to create such a political state (or states), and above all, he did not explain what were the material requirements to undertake the enterprise and make it succeed.

But attractive ideologies are easy to sell. The Muslim Brothers movement went on to become an appealing mass movement with millions of adherents and chapters around the world. (I must note that Zionist media never get tired from portraying El-Banna as a Nazi sympathizer – their favorite weapon to denigrate their opponents. This is false. El-Banna, an anti-Zionist, was simply adhering to an old political motto practiced around the world since the dawn of time: the enemy of my enemy is my friend, with the British being the enemy since they were occupying Egypt.) Because El-Banna’s idea of a pan-Muslim state is appealing to many and its theoretical tenets seem both natural and applicable, then where is the problem? The problem is that El-Banna and his successors, thereafter designated as Supreme Guides ignored a few cardinal issues:

Islamic law: Islamic law is simple and does not provide for or require supreme guides and muftis to be implemented. Simply, although Islam is missionary, it was never structured to be organized in hierarchical orders, and its inner mechanism to preserve identity is simple and based on the study of al-Fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence). Yet, Wahhabism, Salafism, Muslim Brotherhood, Iranian Shiism, Pakistani and Turkish Sunnism, etc. all tried to structure Islam to make it work for their political agenda.

The Quran: The Quran says, “No compulsion in religion”. This means when the Muslim Brothers impose their brand of ethics and observance rules on how Islam should be practiced by other Muslims amounts to nothing less than a crude coercion especially when at implementing it are the organs of a political state. As a ramification, it puts non-Muslims at the edge since any objection to such system is automatically construed by the Brothers as affront to Islam. For instance, in Morsi’s constitution, the reference to the freedom to practice own religion is confined solely to Muslim, Christian, and Jews. Well. Where’s the freedom of other national groups to practice any other religion, change religion, or adhere to any other set of thought including non-creationist beliefs?

Political Islam: Attempts at politicizing a religion are not confined to the Muslim Brothers. American Christian fundamentalism, and Jewish orthodoxy and its mingling with Zionism in the settler state of Israel are examples. However, in the case of the Muslim Brothers, the idea of creating a political state based on religious edicts and on zealous interpretation of the Quran has pushed the issue to intolerable thresholds thus creating the material conditions for permanent clashes and confrontations with opposing views.

It’s true that Islam instructs on adapting specific rules of governance, preaches on how Muslim should handle their economic relations, and calls for the steady adherence to the ethics of the Quran and the teachings of Mohammad. But neither the Quran nor the teachings of the prophet or the broad lines of the Islamic legislation call for a unilateral interpretation of what is meant and ordained. In the end, all bodies of the Islamic knowledge call for Muslims to consult among themselves when managing their affairs. It follows, when an organization subjugates religion to its political designs and uses the outcome to advance its agenda in the name of religion, it transforms itself into a dogmatic (and despotic) entity whose religious-political values will not only collide with the rest of society but will also pervert that religion for political expediency.

Consequently, politicizing Islam by designating a religious-political group (in this case, the Muslim Brothers) viewed as having it all: final truth, merit, enlightenment, and infallibility is against the principles of Islam itself since Islam calls, as I said, for consultation among people to choose a solution to their problems. Confining, therefore, such consultation to fatwas and to instruction coming from above (Supreme Guides) cancels the concept of “consultation between all of you” that the prophet recommended and which they claim to uphold. In this regard, the Muslim Brothers failed because they consider themselves the true Muslims while the rest must be guided to the right path — their path. (A few days ago, Rashid al-Ghannushi, the leader of Tunisian Muslim Brothers, called the attempts of Morsi’s supporters to bring him back to power as “another fight of Islam.)

Economic and Social Model: The Muslim Brothers’ expectation that Islamic principles automatically resolve the complex problems of modern societies is incurably utopic. This is not because they themselves failed to apply such a paradigm on themselves (as seen by their experience in Egypt and Tunisia), but because even during the life of Prophet Mohammad, his first four successors (caliphs), or in the past 1400 years of Islamic history such a thing was impossible. Simply, although Islam calls for progressive political and economic relations among all peoples adhering to it, no Muslim ruler throughout history has ever succeeded at making such a model reality or even working minimally to pave the way for it. At the maximum, Muslim rulers, with the exception of very few examples: (Amr bin Al-Khattab [the second caliph after the death of the prophet], the Umayyad Caliph Amr Bin Abdul Aziz), paid only lip service to it. Reason: even before Islam tribal and clan mentality, basing governance and social relations on allegiance, ingrained despotic tendencies cemented by history, traditional mercantilism, and financial capital were and still are the motor driving Arab and Islamic societies, and Islam, as a religion, never really managed to stamp these traits out of the Arab character. Consequently, while historical development made traditional capitalism the dominate force shaping the economic model, the social model has evolved either by copying European models due to influence of colonialism, mixing between regional models, or simply developing on traditional structures overlapped by modernity.

Paradigm Applicability: Muslim Brothers claim that their model of governance and religious correctness is universal and valid for all places and times. The claim is bogus and can be refuted instantly based on one sole fact: the only time a social, religious, or political movement claims the universality of its model is when it subjugates all to its will by force, coercion, and state regulations. Subjugation of this type means, inevitably, a form of dictatorship in the name of that model and its religious and political underpinnings propagandized as having the ultimate truth. Such a model cannot be applied in Egypt or anywhere without interminable conflict between all sectors of society because throughout history societies and their constituting components are diverse and have different approaches to how to organize themselves and how to think.

Islamic Caliphate Issue: in its crusade against Islam (as pretext for imperialism), the United States often claims that Muslims want to impose a World Empire under the banners of Islam called a caliphate. This is hogwash, and the contrary is correct. The United States, using its military might, has been working since its inception at imposing its Empire on the world. So, what is the true story about an Islamic caliphate?

Muslim Brotherhood scholars advocate the institution of an Islamic state for all Muslims. Their view is this: (1) since the rule of the Four Pious Caliphs, the Omayyad Caliphate, the Abbasid Caliphate, and later, the Ottoman caliphate, Muslims enjoyed power in a single state, why not repeat the same experience in modern time? (2) Because Islam posits an Arab is no different from a non-Arab except by faith, then why not unify all Muslims in one state despite national differences.

Both of these arguments have serious flaws. First, that Muslims once enjoyed living in a single state with a caliphate system where state power can be given to successive rulers through consultation (Shura) is, with the exception of the Four Caliphs after Mohammed, false. After that period, hereditary monarchy became the system of government. Now, it’s true that during the Four Caliphs period, there were Islamic geographic expansions, but it’s also true that no well-defined state structures had come out of them. Instead, what existed was an expanded Muslim territorial domain where administrative autonomy from the center (Mecca and Medina) was prevalent and where the power of that center extended only to the largest cities in the Arabic Peninsula. Meaning, political entities within the domain were free to manage their affairs although under the guidance of a ruler appointed by the center, as in the example of Amr ibn al-As ruling Egypt on behalf of Caliph Amr bin Al-Khattab.

Same thing happened during the Omayyad Caliphate and their expansion all the way to Spain. As for the Abbasid Caliphate, while the center’s authority covered Baghdad (the capital), Kufa, Basrah, and Mosul, its entire vast periphery including Persia, the Arabic Peninsula, and North Africa was run in the name of Baghdad caliphs by various local walis, viceroys, or groups with no relation to the center except in matters of taxation and nominal administrative relations. Strict centralization instead characterized the later stages of the Ottoman Caliphate who ruled Muslim and European lands with iron fist through appointed Turkish walis (governors). Despite all that, no other empire in history was more heavily perforated and skewered than the Ottoman Empire. Britain, France, and Spain were lodged everywhere in its extended body like bees in a hive, especially in its North African domains, which were basically detached from Istanbul with the exception of Egypt.

Consequently, talking about a return to the caliphate system where Muslims once lived in a unified state is a sheer distortion of historical facts.

Second, the idea calling for a contemporary state for all Muslims is out touch of world reality and out of line with the reality of existing national states and their political structures and mode of development. For example, what are the historical, cultural, economic, or national factors that could tie Bangladesh to Morocco? My answer: except both countries adhering to different denominations of Islam, there is nothing else. Then, does it make any sense that the Muslim Brothers put them in one political state or in a system of states interconnected through religious beliefs?

Overall, the idea of a modern Islamic caliphate is unrealistic. For instance, how could a Muslim Brother pretend to include, for example, the Muslims of Nigeria inside the structures of a hypothetical unified Islamic state? Would the Muslim Brothers postulate a new theory on how to surmount the boundaries of current political states and include a portion of their citizens in an extra-national religious entity?

Interestingly, it seems to me that the Muslims Brothers borrowed their idea from Zionism and its project to gather all Jews of different nationalities under one roof. But Zionism succeeded not because of its idea but because it was imposed on the weak, divided, and subjugated Arabs by a very strong entity: Western colonialism.

KP: How is it that an anti-colonialist, political-religious force that was repressed with American acquiescence and assistance operates as a seemingly friendly ally of the United States now? Is this just realpolitik?

BJS: It’s true that Hassan al-Banna, the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood, had embraced, among other things, a political principle that opposed colonialism. However, stating that the Muslim Brothers Movement was anti-colonialist in the wider sense of the concept is open to debate. It’s also true that the early years of the Muslim Brothers saw them opposing colonialism, yet that opposition was subject-specific and confined to the European occupation of Muslim lands everywhere. This means, Al-Banna, his successors, and his followers never defined colonialism in its historical dimension, global manifestation, or consequences. Unless someone proves me wrong, I don’t recall ever reading that the Muslim Brothers issued statements condemning, for example, the colonialist occupation of Mozambique, Congo, Vietnam, or India. Their concern was primarily over Muslim lands, a term that is vague, limitative, and lacks cohesiveness.

To be sure, proclaiming sentimental consternation over Muslim peoples who deserve to be happy and free of foreign occupation is not anti-colonialism, and it could never be defined as such. This position toward the occupation of Muslim lands is, of course, in tune with their ideology of a unified Muslim nation and not the specifics of a single nation or its religious makeup. I view this issue as a fundamental contradiction. In the case of pre-independence India, for example, what would have made more sense in terms of anti-colonialist stance: postulating freedom for just Muslims or for all Indians including Sikhs, Hindus, and others? Since it seems that freedom for non-Muslims appears to be of no concern, then necessarily we’re dealing with a narrow humanistic approach to the issue of colonialism. As such, I don’t think we can ever dub the Muslim Brothers Movement as an active anti-colonialist force.

On the other hand, take the example of Egypt. It’s a fact that the Muslim Brothers opposed the status of Egypt as a British protectorate (at the end of WWI). It’s also a fact that the Brothers attacked British bases and interests along the Suez Canal. However, such opposition and such attacks were in the context of resistance and liberation vs. occupation, and not in the context of a universal anti-colonialist struggle.

There’s another aspect of that era that we need to consider because it defined their consecutive political philosophy. In their efforts to become a political force to be reckoned with, the Brothers colluded, back and forth, with the British against King Farouk and with this against the British. I’m not sure one can call this “realpolitik.” If anything, I would call it “strategizing” for opportunistic gains. Still, whether realpolitik or strategizing, it’s still a bad concept to collude with any power for petty gains while losing from sight the basic principles for emancipation and social justice, in that, playing politics is not equal to conducting enlightened politics.

The problem with the Muslim Brothers does not stop here. When Nasser came to power after the July Revolution of 1952, the Brothers wanted him to ban all political parties in exchange for their support. Nasser refused, and an acrid struggle between his regime and the Brothers ensued to the point that he accused them for working with the United States to undermine Egypt, and even executed their leader Sayyed Qutb because of a conspiracy to assassinate him. (For the record, later on when Nasser set for his revolution an Arab socialist path, he ordered all political parties to gather under one encompassing umbrella: The Socialist Union (al-Itihad al-Ishtiraqi).

Why did the Muslim Brothers begin tilting toward the West and the United States in particular? The buzzword is socialism. When Nasser instituted strategic cooperation with the Soviet Union to build the Aswan Dam, and when he espoused the concept of Arab Socialism to reform the Egyptian economy, he incurred the wrath of the Muslim Brothers who accused him for adapting an alien economic model (Communism) that promotes atheism. Under such rigid ideological interpretation, the unwritten alliance between the anticommunist United States and the anticommunist Muslim Brothers was born. This explains why the Muslim Brothers supported Anwar Sadat when he kicked the Soviets out of Egypt and realigned it, on all fronts, with Washington — and also supported him when he renounced Arab socialism in favor of their favorite model: open 19th century American capitalism.

When explaining why the alliance with Washington, we need to study the foreign policy principle that guides the Muslim Brothers. During all the cold war era, their ideological adversary was the Soviet Union because of, as I said, economic model and state atheism. As explained, this is the main ingredient for the U.S.-Brotherhood alliance. But when the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan, said alliance ceased to be an important ingredient and became a key platform component that has been lasting even after the collapse of communism because Russia is now viewed by them as subjugating Muslim Chechnya to their rule.

Recently, Yousef al-Qaradawi, a top Egyptian Islamic theologian and spiritual leader of the Muslim Brothers worldwide called Russia the “Enemy of Islam” because of the support it is giving to the Syrian regime. Well, now … he never used this appellation to describe the United States and Britain, the two countries leading the war against Muslims and Islam everywhere in the world, when they invaded Afghanistan and Iraq and killing — in Iraq alone — over two million Iraqi Muslims and Iraqis of other faiths. Outcome: an oppressive ideological trend has developed — supporting the rivals of the Muslim Brothers is anti-Muslim; opposing their policies is anti-Muslim; and so on. With such practices, Qaradawi and the Muslim Brothers behave like Zionists: the moment you declare your opposition to Zionism, you’re immediately dubbed an “anti-semite”!

Meanwhile, the Muslim Brothers rarely voiced dissent against Washington’s virtual military occupation of the entire Arabic Peninsula because of their ties to the ruling families of the Gulf, as well as to vast financial deals and interaction with local financial capitalists. As for the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq and the successive imposition on it of a post-neocolonialist regime, the Muslim Brothers reacted somewhat vociferously at the beginning; but hardly two years had passed, and most opposing voices had disappeared. The list of both tacit and open alliance with Washington is too long to list. A few things are noteworthy to mention. During the entire 30-year rule of Hosni Mubarak, the Brotherhood ranted against the Camp David accord and against Israel. After they came to power, their position changed to Egypt must abide by its international treaties. In doing so, they behaved as if there was no revolution demanding a radical change from past practices and policies, but only a demand for a change of government. They ranted against Syria because it never tried to liberate the Golan Heights from Israeli occupation. Yet, after they took power, they never attempted to recover full Egyptian sovereignty over the Sinai Peninsula from Israeli de facto control of the same.

Having said that, where is the anti-colonialist stance in the practice of the Muslim Brothers?

In a recent article, Abdel Halim Kandil, a sharp Egyptian journalist and a founder of the anti-Mubarak movement of Kifaya (Enough!) described the US-Brotherhood alliance in stark terms when he noted that during the rule of Mubarak no Egyptian foreign minister had ever entered the White House alone. They entered only when they were part of the visiting entourage of Mubarak; but since June of 2012, the Brotherhood’s foreign minister, Mohamed Kamel Amr, entered the White House, all by himself, 38 times; in addition, Essam al Arian, vice Supreme Guide of the Muslim Brothers, made Washington his favorite visiting spot. Since the United States is the occupying power of two Muslim countries, Afghanistan and Iraq, and since it is also the de facto occupier of the rest of the Middle East (with the exception of Syria) and Libya via NATO, and since it is supporting Israel (that has been occupying Arab lands since its foundation), and since the United States has declared a permanent war against Muslims, then why build an alliance with a country that is synonymous with imperialism and colonialism?

Kandil also noted that up to the collapse of the Mubarak regime, the Egyptian state was actually controlled and directed by 30,000 Americans working in all apparatuses of the government. After the downfall of Mubarak and after Morsi became president, those American “functionaries” continued to work undisturbed, although it was a known fact that most of them perform intelligence work. In essence, the Morsi regime considered the Egyptian Revolution of 2011 as a change to the head of the state but not to the structure of power (foreign and domestic) that sustained it, and not as a mandated call to change the relations between Egypt and the United States. In effect, under Morsi, Egypt continued to be a pliant American satellite.

Again, since the United States is everywhere in Egypt (and the Arab World), where is their cry of battle against colonialism, occupation, and colonialist dependency?

The Muslim brothers are the epitome of what is popularly known as “Talk the Talk but cannot walk the walk”. Before they came to power, they vehemently opposed Mubarak’s Certificates of Deposit and dubbed it usury in contravention of Islamic law; after the came to power, they kept the practice and called the CDs, “Islamic Checks”. Before they came to power, they inveighed against Israel with pungent rhetoric. After they came to power, Israel becomes their new ally and Morsi closed a signed a letter to Shimon Peres by describing himself as “Your faithful friend Mohammed Morsi”. When Israel revealed the letter to embarrass him, the Egyptian press and people reacted with understandable anger. Morsi justified his action as a protocol that he must respect, and that he signed the letter without paying attention. (Note: six months into his rule, Israel called Morsi, “A strategic treasure even bigger than Mubarak”).

Well, has any Muslim Brother ever outlined concrete ways to liberate Palestine and the rest of Arab and Muslim lands from the yoke of American, British, French, and Israeli imperialist-colonialisms? Oh! I see, they will liberate the lands and restore dignity to Arabs and Muslims if they follow their fatwas, pray five times a day, put dark marks on their foreheads, grow their beards, and cite verses from the Quran without catching their breath…

Back to Qaradawi, the spiritual leader of the Muslim Brothers. Qaradawi repeatedly gave fiery declarations as how he opposes the U.S. interference in the Arab and Islamic worlds. But he always turns around and changes his mind. When the uprising against Gaddafi began and this took violent military measures to counter it, Qaradawi issued a fatwa to assassinate him and then he and others paved the way for U.S.-NATO to bombard all of Libya without considering the consequences on the Libyan people or the plans of that Western imperialism had for the country. As if the destruction of Muslim Libya is not enough for him, Qaradawi, about a month go, issued a fatwa calling on all Muslims of the world to come to Syria and fight the blasphemous Syrian regime, while at the same time asking the United States and NATO to bomb Syria as they did Libya.

History is tough to ignore. In 1990-91, when Iraq invaded Kuwait and American forces poured into Saudi Arabia, Qaradawi declared that he opposed the U.S. sending its forces to fight Iraq; a week later, he made a complete U-turn and issued a fatwa supporting the American forces on the condition that the U.S. withdraws them after liberating Kuwait. Well, twenty-two years into the American military presence in the Gulf and with many large bases along its shores, what happened to his fatwa? And why has he kept silent about the American presence all these years? And since he lives in Qatar as a Qatari citizen, does he not know that he lives only a few miles away from the largest American military base in the region? Interestingly, Qaradawi went berserk when Hezbollah sent 4000 of its fighter to Syria, disparaged them as un-Muslim, called them a cancer, dubbed them Hezb-alshaytan (the Party of Satan), and called for their immediate withdrawal. Behold though: he never minced one word on the estimated 30,000-40,000 Islamists and mercenaries converging in Syria with aid from the U.S., Turkey, Jordan, and the Gulf States.

In Part 2 of the interview BJ Sabri discusses Morsi, the Egyptian Brotherhood, the Constitution, Gaza, and the military plus much more.

  • B.J. Sabri is an observer of the politics of modern colonialism, imperialism, Zionism, and of contemporary Arab issues. He can be reached at: moc.loanull@irbas.j.b.
  • Kim Petersen is an independent writer. He can be emailed at: kimohp at Read other articles by Kim.