Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.

The Muslim Brotherhood’s Winning Argument

December 17, 2012 11:47 pm 1 comment

Muslim brotherhood women. Photo: Gainor Barton.

In the ongoing conflict between those Egyptians who strongly oppose a Sharia-based constitution—moderates, secularists, non-Muslim minorities—and those who are strongly pushing for it, Islamists are currently evoking the one argument that has always, from the very beginnings of Islam, empowered Islamists over moderates in the Muslim world.

Examples are many. According to a December 1 report from El Fagr, Gamal Sabr, former campaign coordinator for the anti-freedom Salafi presidential candidate Abu Ismail, made the division clear during an Al Jazeera interview, where he said that “whoever disagrees with him, disagrees with Islam itself,” and that many Egyptians “are fighting Islam in the picture of President Muhammad Morsi and in the picture of the Islamists,” clearly implying that the latter are one with Islam, and to fight them is to fight Islam.

The logic is simple: Sabr, as well as those millions of Egyptians who want Sharia, only want what Allah wants—that Egypt be governed according to Sharia law. According to this position, any and all Muslims who disagree, who do not want to be governed by Sharia, whatever their arguments and rationale, are ultimately showing that they are at odds with Islam itself.

Sabr is hardly the only Egyptian Muslim making use of this age-old argument. A Dostor report, also appearing on December 1, quotes Tarek Zomar making the same point. A leader of the infamous Gam’a Islamiyya (Islamic Group), who was formerly imprisoned for his role in the assassination of President Anwar Sadat, released with the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak, and is now a member of the Shura Council of Egypt’s Parliament, Zomor asserts that whoever votes against the Sharia-based constitution that Morsi is trying to enforce “is an infidel”—an apostate enemy to be slain in the cause of Allah.

Others like Sheikh Abdullah Badr—who earlier said that anyone who opposes or rejects the Sharia will have their tongues cut out—after describing protesters as “mischief makers” said they would be “hung on trees,” a distinct allusion to Islamic crucifixion, as proclaimed in Quran 5:33: “The punishment of those who wage war against Allah and His messenger and strive to make mischief in the land is only this: that they should be murdered or crucified or their hands and their feet should be cut off…”

Even Ahmed Morsi, President Muhammad Morsi’s son, accused the many demonstrators in Tahrir Square who object to his father’s attempts to impose Sharia on them of belonging to the “former regime”—code for secularist-minded people, who are opposed to the totality of Sharia law. Writing on his Facebook account, he asserted that “all the people in Tahrir Square are remnants of the old regime,” adding that “my father will eliminate them soon.”

Such is the difficulty encountered by moderate Muslims, past and present: how can they justify their rejection of Islamic teachings, as captured in the Quran, hadith—teachings and doings of Muslim prophet Muhammad—and the words of the Islamic scholars throughout the ages, all of which constitute the “Sharia” of Islam, a word that simply means the “way” of Islam?

History offers insightful parallels and patterns. A few decades after the Islamic prophet Muhammad died, during the First Fitna—whence the Sunni-Shia split emerged—a group of extremely fanatical Muslims, known as the Kharajites, based on a word that literally means “those who go out” (of the Islamic fold), rejected both Sunni and Shia leadership claims and deemed themselves the “truest” Muslims. Accordingly, they engaged in takfir, that is, randomly accusing any Muslim not upholding the totality of Islam’s teachings of being infidels, often killing them.

Today’s radicals and Islamists are similar; in fact, that is the primary way more moderate Muslims portray them, as “Takfiris” who themselves sin by judging fellow Muslims, when that is Allah’s prerogative alone.

Due to the impossibly high standards the Kharajites set—to sin even once was to be deemed an apostate and executed—mainstream Islam eventually rejected their approach, to the point that merely saying the Islamic profession, orshehada—”there is no god but Allah and Muhammad is the prophet of Allah”—is usually enough to safeguard someone as a Muslim.

Yet it is not that simple today. The Kharajites of the 7th century were truly extreme—ritually slaying even Muslim women and children for not being Islamic enough—whereas the Islamists of today are merely insisting that Sharia law be enshrined in the constitution and enforced in Egypt. From a historical point of view, this is not an “extreme” position and only seems so to those “globalized” Muslims who espouse enlightened and rationalistic principles.

Hence why these secular, moderate, or liberal Muslims—so long as they define themselves as Muslims—are destined to lose the debate with their more radical brethren, who will always say, “True Muslims support Sharia: if you reject this, then you are no Muslim, you are an apostate, an infidel, and thus an enemy.”

Raymond Ibrahim is a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center and an Associate Fellow at the Middle East Forum.

1 Comment

  • Argument wasn’t the only tactic.

    there was also a substantial presence by the moslembrotherhood near ballot places

    how much this resulted in coercion and intimidation is difficult to tell but there clearly was some

Leave a Reply

Please note: comments may be published in the Algemeiner print edition. Comments written in all caps will be deleted.

Current day month ye@r *


  • Arts and Culture Features Opinion Playwrite Iddo Netanyahu: ‘Hitler Always Talked About Peace’ (INTERVIEW)

    Playwrite Iddo Netanyahu: ‘Hitler Always Talked About Peace’ (INTERVIEW)

    Late Friday night, on November 13, I was headed for bed when an ominous news bulletin flashed across my computer screen – something about a shooting in Paris. It wasn’t long before the “small number” of shootings and casualties began to double and triple and quadruple. The locations of attacks seemed crazily disorganized, and the tweets and videos became more and more horrifying. It was a long night for many stunned observers. We tried to understand what was happening, and […]

    Read more →
  • Israel Theater BDS Gives Belgian-Jewish Actress New Lease on Life in Tel Aviv

    BDS Gives Belgian-Jewish Actress New Lease on Life in Tel Aviv

    In an interview with the Israeli site nrg on Wednesday, Belgian-Jewish stage actress Noemi Schlosser recounted immigrating to Israel after her career in Europe was destroyed by BDS. Schlosser said she had enjoyed success in Belgium and international acclaim until she was targeted by the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement for her pro-Israel stance during Operation Protective Edge — last summer’s war against Hamas in Gaza. She described watching the theaters where she performed go from packed to nearly empty over a short period of […]

    Read more →
  • Israel Sports In Israel for Champions League Soccer Match, Chelsea Manager Says Team Not Worried About Security Situation

    In Israel for Champions League Soccer Match, Chelsea Manager Says Team Not Worried About Security Situation

    The manager of the Chelsea Football Club said on Monday that he is looking forward to playing in Israel this week against Maccabi Tel Aviv, in spite of the security situation, Israeli news site nrg reported. Jose Murinho, who is already in Israel with his team to compete against Maccabi in the Champions League soccer match, was  asked whether he was worried about the current wave of Palestinian violence sweeping the country. “I have no worries at all regarding the security situation, and neither do […]

    Read more →
  • Book Reviews Opinion In the Middle East, ‘The Tail Wags the Dog’ (REVIEW)

    In the Middle East, ‘The Tail Wags the Dog’ (REVIEW)

    Blaming the West has become the most pervasive method of teaching for many Middle East studies departments, which are becoming the heart of pop-culture academia. Efraim Karsh, a distinguished professor of Middle Eastern studies at Bar-Ilan University and professor emeritus at King’s College London, in his latest book The Tail Wags the Dog: International Politics and the Middle East, dispels this myth. “Britain’s ‘original sin,’ if such was indeed committed, lay not in the breaking up of Middle Eastern unity but […]

    Read more →
  • Features Spirituality/Tradition With Popularity and Sales up, ‘Mensch on a Bench’ Has Much to Smile About

    With Popularity and Sales up, ‘Mensch on a Bench’ Has Much to Smile About – The Mensch on a Bench is so much happier now than he was a year ago. Look carefully and you will notice that, whereas the previous Mensch had a decidedly worried look, this latest version of the popular Hanukkah toy is flashing an exuberant grin. Is the erstwhile Mensch smiling because he expects to be in some 100,000 homes by year’s end? In truth, the change in visage was suggested last year by the “sharks” on ABC’s Shark Tank […]

    Read more →
  • Music US & Canada Adam Sandler Updates Famous ‘Chanukah Song,’ Includes Hulk Hogan, David Beckham and Scarlett Johansson in Latest Version

    Adam Sandler Updates Famous ‘Chanukah Song,’ Includes Hulk Hogan, David Beckham and Scarlett Johansson in Latest Version

    Actor Adam Sandler unveiled a new version of his famous “Chanukah Song” on Saturday, adding a slew of Jewish celebrities to the ditty’s updated lyrics. The comedian — who released the original song about being Jewish during Christmas in 1996 — performed the latest version of the comedic track during the New York Comedy Festival at Carnegie Hall. Marvel Comics creator Stan Lee, actor Jake Gyllenhaal and “the two guys who founded Google” are among the famous Jewish celebrities now in the line up. Sandler also included lyrics about Star Wars‘ Princess […]

    Read more →
  • Music US & Canada Famed Israeli Violinist Itzhak Perlman to Receive Presidential Medal of Freedom

    Famed Israeli Violinist Itzhak Perlman to Receive Presidential Medal of Freedom – Famed Israeli violinist Itzhak Perlman will be among the 17 recipients of America’s Presidential Medal of Freedom next week. He is the fourth Israeli to receive the highest civilian honor in the US. “A native of Israel, he came to the United States at a young age and was introduced to Americans broadly when he appeared on the ‘Ed Sullivan Show’ in 1958. Mr. Perlman made his Carnegie Hall debut in 1963 when he was 18,” a White House […]

    Read more →
  • Features Spirituality/Tradition Don’t Think Israel is a Luxury Destination? Check Out These 6 Spots

    Don’t Think Israel is a Luxury Destination? Check Out These 6 Spots – While Israel is a common destination for cultural and religious pilgrimages, travelers seeking the best hotels, fine dining, and upscale relaxation less often find themselves in the Holy Land. Yet in recent years, the country’s burgeoning tech scene has attracted a business crowd accustomed to ritzy accommodation. Besides, the permanent summer of Tel Aviv and Eilat makes them prime destinations for European vacationers. Israel’s populace managed to tame the swamps and irrigate the desert — so going luxury should […]

    Read more →