Will Egypt Become a Totalitarian State?

January 9, 2013 12:09 pm 0 comments

Mohammed Morsi. Photo: YouTube.

The Muslim Brotherhood has made another giant step forward in consolidating its rule in Egypt through the successful passage of the newly drafted constitution by some 64 percent of those who voted. Next come the parliamentary elections in two months through which the Brotherhood will regain control of the legislative branch. In the interim, it has stacked the upper house of Parliament, called the Shura Council, with its own members who will have the power to legislate until the new lower house is elected.

President Mohammed Morsi has already successfully decapitated and made peace with the powerful Egyptian military. The new constitution has given him the power to purge the Supreme Constitutional Court by reducing its size from 18 to 11 members. The president of the Lawyers’ Syndicate, Sameh Ashour, pointed out the goal: “These are monopolistic plans. The Brotherhood wants to control all aspects of the state.”

In other words, this will be a clean sweep.

Why worry? Isn’t Islamist democracy just a step on the way to democracy as it is understood in the West? Isn’t that why the United States is supporting Egypt, and why the US administration has courted the Muslim Brotherhood since President Barack Obama seated its members in the front row for his famous speech in Cairo in 2009? Isn’t this all part of the Arab spring?

The novelist Saul Bellow once wrote that, “A great deal of intelligence can be invested in ignorance when the need for illusion is deep.” To maintain the illusion that the Muslim Brotherhood is intent on transforming Egypt into a democracy requires the application of considerable ignorance. The Muslim Brotherhood was founded in 1928 in reaction to Kemal Ataturk’s abolition of the caliphate in 1924. Its ultimate aim is to restore the caliphate. Its vehicle for doing so, according to founder Hassan al-Banna, is a one-party system akin to that of the Soviet Union under Stalin. Al-Banna envisaged a bottom-up strategy in which people would be Islamized at the local level first. For this purpose, he created his party. After winning the masses, the Muslim Brotherhood would take total control.

Why is total control necessary? The chief ideologue of the Muslim Brotherhood, Sayyid Qutb, wrote that, “Islam chose to unite earth and heaven in a single system.” What does this mean? It means that the separate realms of the divine and the human have collapsed into each other, and that it will now be possible, as Qutb said, “to abolish all injustice from the earth.”

This, of course, is a millenarian vision similar, in many ways, to the Marxist dream of creating a classless society based on the abolition of scarcity. If perfect justice is to be achieved here, rather than before God’s throne in the final judgment, several things will be required by those who institute it. They will, in fact, need the very same things that God is thought to possess in his ability to achieve perfect justice. Those two things are omnipotence and omniscience. The omnipotence will be gained through the establishment of a totalitarian regime. The omniscience will be obtained, as it always has been in totalitarian regimes, through an extensive secret police apparatus.

What does the Brotherhood’s version of Islam look like in this scheme? As indicated above, it does not look like a normal religion, which preserves the distinction between the earthly and the transcendent. It is a revolutionary ideology aimed at the total transformation of reality. Here is its view, as expressed by the de facto spiritual head of the Muslim Brotherhood, Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi: “Islam is a comprehensive school of thought, a creed, an ideology, and cannot be completely satisfied but by [completely] controlling society and directing all aspects of life, from how to enter the toilet to the construction of the state.”

However, some analysts suggest that, since its founding 84 years ago, the Muslim Brotherhood has evolved and, when in power, will evolve even more. This is always the hope of those who fail to recognize the essentially totalitarian nature of certain political movements and principles that are not subject to change. Similar hopes were expressed about the Nazi Party and various Marxist parties. They would mature in power, the exercise of which would transform them in a moderate direction. This, of course, did not happen, though these parties often fostered the impression that it was. Rather, these widely held illusions actually enabled these totalitarian parties to consolidate their power.

The Muslim Brotherhood is a hard-core cadre party. It takes eight years of training to become a full member. Let us listen to the Brotherhood’s leadership today concerning its mission and its prospects of changing. The Deputy Guide of the Brotherhood, Khairat al-Shater, said: “The mission is clear: restoring Islam and its all-encompassing conception; subjugating people to God; instituting the religion of God: the Islamization of life, empowering of God’s religion; establishing the Nahda of the Ummah [Muslim nation] on the basis of Islam.”

As for change, al-Shater proclaimed that, “no one can come and say: ‘let’s change the overall mission’… No one can say, ‘forget about obedience, discipline and structures’… No. All of these are constants that represent the fundamental framework for our method; the method of the Muslim Brotherhood. It is not open for developing or change.”

So, this is where Egypt is now headed. Some, such as Alber Saber, 27, who was accused of blasphemy this past fall, say of the Brotherhood, “They are no different from the former regime. The weapons have changed, but they are both oppressive regimes.” He might very well wish this were so, but it is common experience that authoritarian regimes are considerably more limited in their reach and cruelty than totalitarian regimes. They wish to maintain power, but do not have the metaphysical ambition of transforming reality. This, in other words, will be worse than Mubarak.

Sudanese writer Al-Hajj Warraq, got this exactly right in an Egyptian television interview earlier this year: “Democracy is about more than just the ballot box. Democracy is a culture engraved upon the cerebral box before it is the ballot box. One cannot talk about freedom in the absence of free minds. The tragedy of the Arab Spring is that when the tyrannical regimes fell, the fruits were reaped by movements that preach closed-mindedness, rather than free thinking. The outcome will be regimes that are worse than those that were toppled.”

As indicated earlier, totalitarian regimes, before achieving total control, can display considerable tactical flexibility. When the economy of the Soviet Union was near a state of collapse in the 1920s, Vladimir Lenin had no trouble in instituting a limited free market New Economic Policy, which was later revoked once the danger had passed. The Soviets were expert in creating the impression that they were changing in some fundamental way in order to gain aid from the West to save the revolution. The Muslim Brotherhood has already displayed this kind of tactical dexterity through its use of democratic rhetoric and elections to gain assistance from the West and to lull its opponents. As the Islamist Prime Minister of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan once said, “democracy is just the train we board to reach our destination.” Displaying this kind of flexibility, Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, suggested that Islamic law, sharia, should be implemented gradually in Egypt: “I think that in the first five years, there should be no chopping off of hands.” One must prepare the ground first.

However, the final destination has been clear from the beginning. Brotherhood founder al-Banna announced: “it is the nature of Islam to dominate, not to be dominated, to impose its laws on all nations and extend its power to the entire planet.”

Stop the train: I want to get off.

Robert R. Reilly is a member of the board of the Middle East Media Research Institute and the author of The Closing of the Muslim Mind.

Leave a Reply

Please note: comments may be published in the Algemeiner print edition.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Book Reviews Commentary In ‘America in Retreat,’ a Real-Life Risk Board

    In ‘America in Retreat,’ a Real-Life Risk Board

    JNS.org – “Risk: The Game of Strategic Conquest,” the classic Parker Brothers board game, requires imperial ambitions. Players imagine empires and are pitted against each other, vying for world domination. Amid this fictional world war, beginners learn fast that no matter the superiority of their army, every advance is a gamble determined by a roll of the dice. After a defeat, a player must retreat. Weighted reinforcement cards provide the only opportunity to reverse a player’s fortunes and resume the [...]

    Read more →
  • Beliefs and concepts Sports Does Working Out With Other Jews Keep You Jewish?

    Does Working Out With Other Jews Keep You Jewish?

    JNS.org – For Daphna Krupp, her daily workout (excluding Shabbat) at the Jewish Community Center (JCC or “J”) of Greater Baltimore has become somewhat of a ritual. She not only attends fitness classes but also engages with the instructors and plugs the J’s social programs on her personal Facebook page. “It’s the gym and the environment,” says Krupp. “It’s a great social network.” Krupp, who lives in Pikesville, Md., is one of an estimated 1 million American Jewish members of more [...]

    Read more →
  • Sports US & Canada Sports Illustrated Profiles Orthodox NCAA Basketball Player Aaron Liberman

    Sports Illustrated Profiles Orthodox NCAA Basketball Player Aaron Liberman

    Sports Illustrated magazine featured an extensive profile on Orthodox-Jewish college basketball player Aaron Liberman on Wednesday.  The article details Liberman’s efforts to balance faith, academics and basketball at Tulane University, a challenge the young athlete calls “a triple major.” Sports Illustrated pointed out that Liberman is the second Orthodox student to play Division I college basketball. The other was Tamir Goodman, the so-called “Jewish Jordan.” As reported in The Algemeiner, Liberman started his NCAA career at Northwestern University. According to [...]

    Read more →
  • Jewish Identity Sports Cycling the Desert: New Israel Bike Trail Connects Mitzpe Ramon to Eilat

    Cycling the Desert: New Israel Bike Trail Connects Mitzpe Ramon to Eilat

    As the popularity of cycling continues to increase across the world, Israel is working to develop cycling trails that make the country’s spectacular desert accessible to cyclists. The southern segment of the Israel Bike Trail was inaugurated on Feb. 24 and offers for the first time a unique, uninterrupted 8-day cycling experience after six years of planning and development. The southern section of the Israel Bike Trail stretches over 300 kilometers in length and is divided into eight segments for mountain biking, [...]

    Read more →
  • Jewish Identity Theater Forthcoming Major Action Movies Inspired by Jewish Comic Artist Jack Kirby

    Forthcoming Major Action Movies Inspired by Jewish Comic Artist Jack Kirby

    JNS.org – With the recent Oscars in the rearview mirror, Hollywood’s attention now shifts to the rest of this year’s big-screen lineup. Two of the major action films coming up in 2015—Avengers: Age of Ultron, which hits theaters in May, and the third film in the Fantastic Four series, slated for an August release—have Jewish roots that the average moviegoer might be unaware of. As it turns out, it took a tough Jewish kid from New York City’s Lower East [...]

    Read more →
  • Book Reviews Jewish Identity When Torah Teaches Life and Life Teaches Torah (REVIEW)

    When Torah Teaches Life and Life Teaches Torah (REVIEW)

    JNS.org – Rabbi Gordon Tucker spent the first 20 years of his career teaching at the Conservative movement’s Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS) and the next 20 years as the rabbi of Temple Israel Center in White Plains, N.Y. I confess that when I heard about the order of those events, I thought that Tucker’s move from academia to the pulpit was strange. Firstly, I could not imagine anyone filling the place of my friend, Arnold Turetsky, who was such a talented [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Blogs Oscars 2015: Reflecting on Love at First Sight

    Oscars 2015: Reflecting on Love at First Sight

    JNS.org – I’m in love, and have been for a long time. It’s a relationship filled with laughter, tears, intrigue, and surprise. It was love at first sight, back when I was a little girl—with an extra-terrestrial that longed to go home. From then on, that love has never wavered, and isn’t reserved for one, but for oh so many—Ferris Bueller, Annie Hall, Tootsie, Harry and Sally, Marty McFly, Atticus Finch, Danny Zuko, Yentl, that little dog Toto, Mrs. Doubtfire, [...]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Book Reviews Examining America’s First Foray into the Middle East (REVIEW)

    Examining America’s First Foray into the Middle East (REVIEW)

    At the turn of the 21st century through today, American involvement in Middle Eastern politics runs through the Central Intelligence Agency. In America’s Great Game: The CIA’s Secret Arabists and the Shaping of the Modern Middle East, historian Hugh Wilford shows this has always been the case. Wilford methodically traces the lives and work of the agency’s three most prominent officers in the Middle East: Kermit “Kim” Roosevelt was the grandson of president Theodore Roosevelt, and the first head of [...]

    Read more →



Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.