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Sunday, February 13, 2011

The Guardian's whitewash of the Muslim Brotherhood

Last week, The Guardian looked at the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and - surprise! - managed to find that it was not nearly as bad as those ignorant Westerners think:

"There can be no question that genuine democracy must prevail," Mohammad Mursi, a brotherhood spokesman, wrote in an article for Tuesday's Guardian. "While the Muslim Brotherhood is unequivocal regarding its basis in Islamic thought, it rejects any attempt to enforce any ideological line upon the Egyptian people."

Although the Brotherhood appears to have firmly embraced democracy, the means for reconciling that with its religious principles are not entirely clear: the issue of God's sovereignty versus people's sovereignty looks to have been fudged rather than resolved.

The Brotherhood continues to maintain that "Islam is the solution" while at the same time demonstrating a kind of pragmatism that suggests Islam may not be a complete solution after all.
For example?
One example is jizya, the poll tax on non-Muslims, which is clearly prescribed in the Qur'an. The original idea was that non-Muslims, since they did not serve in the military, should pay for their protection by Muslims.

Today, most Muslims regard jizya as obsolete.In order to follow Qur'anic principles strictly, though, it would have to be reinstated. In 1997, the Muslim Brotherhood's Supreme Guide at the time, Mustafa Mashhur, did suggest reintroducing it but, in a country with around 6 million Christians, this caused uproar and the movement later backtracked. For non-Islamist Muslims, jizya presents no great problem: they can justify its abolition on the basis of historicity – that the circumstances in which the tax was imposed no longer exist today. For Islamists, though, this is much more difficult because the words of the Qur'an and the practices of the earliest Muslims form the core of their ideology.
The Muslim Brotherhood wants Egypt to be an Islamic country. The only way that can occur is through democracy. But if it acts too Islamic now, it can never gain the power it craves. So it tactically chooses what to emphasize and what to downplay.

This is not evidence that it believes that "Islam may not be a complete solution after all." It is evidence that they know how to play the game, very well. The Guardian completely misses the point.

The Guardian's misinterpretation gets worse:
Years of repression at the hands of the Egyptian authorities have made the brotherhood more interested in human rights than many might expect from an Islamist organisation. When the European parliament criticised Egypt's record in 2008, the Mubarak regime responded with fury, while Hussein Ibrahim, the brotherhood's parliamentary spokesman, sided with Europe.

"The issue of human rights has become a global language," he said. "Although each country has its own particulars, respect of human rights is now a concern for all peoples" – though he specifically excluded gay rights.

Rather than deploring criticism from abroad, he said, the Egyptian government would do better to improve its human rights record, which would leave less room for foreigners to cause embarrassment.
The Brotherhood's interest in human rights extends in exactly one dimension - human rights for Islamists in Egypt. While the Guardian parenthetically concedes that the Ikhwan would not support human rights for gays, it pointedly ignores the other groups that the Brotherhood does not see as legal equals:

Women
Jews and Christians
Atheists, Hindus and other beliefs that are considered "idol worship"

We have a movement that openly looks upon Muslims as being a higher class than the rest of the world, and that advocates discrimination (or death) against everyone else. And yet The Guardian praises them for their stance on human rights!

Other criticisms of the article can be found at CiFWatch.