The Muslim Brotherhood´s Patient Jihad (PMW) Palestinian Media Watch) by Itamar Marcus and Nan Jacques Zilberdik 08/03/12)
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This op-ed by Palestinian Media Watch was first published by Jewish
Ideas Daily and was reprinted yesterday by the Jerusalem Post:
Mohamed Morsi´s recent election as president of Egypt has proved a
matter of concern. A candidate from the radical Islamist Muslim
Brotherhood, many fear that Morsi´s victory, along with the
Brotherhood´s parliamentary successes, will threaten Egyptian-Israeli
peace. More generally, it is unclear whether the Brotherhood, now
empowered in its native state, will prove a moderating or
destabilizing force in the Arab world.
And so observers listened carefully to Morsi´s inauguration speech,
in which he seemed to be addressing these two concerns. Part of his
speech, widely interpreted as a reference to future relations with
Israel, emphasized "the state of Egypt´s commitment to international
treaties and agreements." More broadly, he declared that "we carry a
message of peace to the world."
Encouraging as these statements may be, in fact they accord neatly
with the Brotherhood´s sophisticated strategy for dealing with
outsiders. That strategy is laid out comprehensively in Mustafa
Mashhur´s Jihad is the Way. Mashhur, leader of the Brotherhood in
Egypt from 1996 to 2002, explains the movement´s religious beliefs
and aspirations in detail, especially the role of violent jihad in
bringing about a world under a unified Islamic Caliphate. It gives
reason to doubt Morsi´s reassurances.
Jihad is the Way defines Israel and Israelis as "the criminal,
thieving gangs of Zion," and Mashhur stresses that the notion of
Israel´s foundation on stolen land is not an opening position for
negotiations, but a non-negotiable article of "faith and religion."
Further, the land was stolen not only from Palestinian Arabs but from
Islam: "Know that the problems of the Islamic world, such as
Palestine... are not issues of territories and nations, but of faith
and religion. They are problems of Islam and the Muslims, and they
can be resolved neither by negotiation nor by recognizing the enemy´s
right to the Islamic land he stole."
How can Morsi commit to keeping his country´s treaty with Israel when
his religious beliefs preclude it?
As for the Brotherhood´s impending effect on the wider Arab world,
Morsi´s "message of peace" is also not what it seems. Mashhur
explains: "Jihad and preparation for jihad are not only for the
purpose of fending-off assaults and attacks against Muslims by
Allah´s enemies, but are also for the purpose of realizing the great
task of establishing an Islamic state, strengthening the religion,
and spreading it around the world."
"Martyrdom for Allah," Mashhur writes, "is our most exalted wish."
Jihad is indeed the way, and not only has Morsi never rejected this
ideology he is now its most senior political representative in Egypt.
So how are these contradictions to be understood? Why does Morsi talk
peace when he explicitly adheres to an ideology of war?
The answer lies in the fundamental principles of the Muslim
Brotherhood principles largely overlooked in the West. As opposed to
the ideology of Al-Qaeda, which preaches continuous confrontation and
attacks on infidels regardless of the immediate political costs, the
Brotherhood places the highest priority on careful preparation and
the strategic timing of political and military activity. Jihad is the
Way stresses the necessity of timing the eventual jihad prudently; as
a prooftext, it cites a Quranic passage in which Muhammad does not
rush to fight until the timing is right:
"When the Muslims were a persecuted minority, the Prophet Muhammad
did not instruct the Muslims to retaliate. Instead, he taught
them "Sabr," patience and resolve... and
when the conditions were right, permission was given to fight in the
words of Allah..."
Timing, therefore, is an integral part of the Brotherhood´s political
and military decisions:
"When the Brotherhood sends their youth to jihad at the appropriate
time, they are not pushing them towards destruction. Rather,
abstaining from jihad at its appropriate time is destruction . . .
Similarly, it is not necessary for the Muslims to repel every attack
or damage caused by the enemies of Allah immediately, rather [this is
required] when ability and the circumstances allow for it."
In this context, Morsi´s statements look more like stratagems.
Standing by Egypt´s international commitments now does not preclude
war later; and assurances of peaceful intent do not jettison jihad
from the agenda. In fact, as far as the Brotherhood is concerned,
they advance it. Morsi does not have to change his opinions, nor does
he have to reject the Brotherhood´s fundamental beliefs when he
speaks of peace. Since nullifying its treaty with Israel might
isolate Egypt politically and bring it economic ruin, Morsi can
instead apply the Brotherhood´s principle, as learned from
Muhammad: "´Sabr´ patience and resolve." The necessity to strengthen
and stabilize Egyptian society is an adequate priority now it is,
moreover, the very means by which to prepare Egypt to lead the
Islamic world and to fulfill Islam´s global destiny.
Peaceful statements released from Egypt over the next few years
should not deceive observers into believing that the Brotherhood has
abandoned its religious ideology and its comprehensive Islamic
vision. Talking peace, while preparing for Jihad, is an integral part
So when will Egypt break its treaty with "the criminal, thieving
gangs of Zion"? Morsi will make the same calculation as Muhammad:
when conditions are right.
Itamar Marcus is director and Nan Jacques Zilberdik is senior analyst
of Palestinian Media Watch. They are the authors of Deception:
Betraying the Peace Process.
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