The Arab and Muslim region is witnessing a war, albeit a limited war, on the Muslim Brotherhood, which it regards as a group working towards “controlling some countries and monopolising authority”.
The Brotherhood is being suffocated in Egypt, where it is categorised as a terrorist organisation, and the Egyptian media is waging a media campaign against it, reporting some facts that are true, along with some that aren’t. The movement is also being persecuted in other Arab countries, including the UAE, and has been targeted in Syria in the past.
The media campaign against what is known as political Islam has intensified and the Brotherhood is accused of being its embodiment, which tries to eliminate other parties while governing the people in accordance with Islamic teachings and law. This destroys civil states that are based on the concepts and principles of democracy, respect for other opinions and respect for all citizens regardless of their religious, ethnic or nationality backgrounds. Due to this campaign, those with religious thoughts are suffering persecution, deprivation and incitement against them.
The Brotherhood and political Islam
I honestly do not know who formulated the concept of political Islam or why, but it is an unclear concept with a very broad meaning and is subject to many definitions and interpretations based on various perspectives. The term is uncomfortable to the ear and it suggests more of an accusation or possibly mockery rather than a scientific term that can be studied and analysed.
There are several theories and philosophical theses suggested by people who have then developed them into political approaches, but we never hear terms such as “political socialism” or “political capitalism”. Theoretically, “political Islam” is a foundation for a way of life, and those who believe in it have engaged in the democratic process through elections in several countries; some won and others did not. Those who won worked on applying what they believe in and tried to attract the masses in order to convert them to their philosophical beliefs.
None of these people were subject to harmful categorisations or labels, nor did they suffer wide-scale media attacks like the Brotherhood is now facing. Is it scientific or objective in any matter for a number of forces to highlight the defamation of the Muslim Brotherhood and deny its right to participate in elections while others are spared from defamation and denial of rights?
Democracy and the acceptance of others
The question that always arises is whether or not it is democratic for one individual or party to allow themselves to carry out political activity while preventing others to do the same. Why do I have the right while others do not? Discrimination in the allocation of rights is not democratic, but some intellectuals and academics known for their defence of democracy are waging extensive campaigns against the Muslim Brotherhood and various other Islamic organisations, even those that are not terrorist organisations, simply because they adopt Islam or Islamic thought. Such people cannot be democrats if they accept democracy for themselves but deprive others of its benefits; this is an unacceptable contradiction. Those who deprive others from their rights cannot adopt democratic thought.
Those who are persecuting the Muslim Brotherhood now say they are not exclusionary and that they are against the exclusion of others. They also say that the door should be open to everyone without discrimination; this is, of course, if the community remains united. If we look at Egypt now, those supporting the current government are promoting the issue of exclusion as the main reason for staging the coup against President Mohamed Morsi; they accuse him of “Ikhwanifying” Egypt. However, if we compare the exclusion attributed to Morsi with what the Egyptian authorities and courts are doing now, we find that the new government exercises much more exclusion of others than Morsi ever did.
Egypt has now banned the Muslim Brotherhood and deprived its members of their political rights; the government is also waging a comprehensive media campaign against the movement. As for the Egyptian courts, they have swamped themselves with collective death sentences that will condemn political activity in the country for a long time; this may even turn into historical evidence of narrow-mindedness on the part of some Egyptian politicians.
If others do not accept us, that does not mean we should reject them. Contained within democratic principles, and Islamic principles, is that we do not shut the door of dialogue and understanding due to the fact that they benefit everyone and society as a whole. If we are rejected by others, we must invite them to have dialogue and reach an understanding; perhaps we may overcome our differences. We must not respond to exclusion with wars and persecution by the security services.
As an individual monitoring political work in the Arab world, I am aware that Islamic organisations, including the Muslim Brotherhood, do exclude others and do not accept other parties unless they join their ranks. In my opinion, the solution lies in raising the level of cultural and intellectual pressure on these organisations in order for them to change and to keep things from spinning out of control, allowing chaos to spread in society. This will also prevent us from building a state that we then demolish and destroy the social fabric thereof.
Accusations of terrorism
Terrorists do not have the right to accuse others of terrorism, even if it is true. The Arab regimes are the ones who are terrorists and have kept Arab people in a constant state of panic by means of their security services, especially their intelligence agencies. The Arab regimes should be the last to talk about terrorism and terrorists.
Of course, we cannot help but put the US and Israel at the top of the terrorist list in the world. Israel and America talk a lot about terrorists; they escape from accusations against them by accusing others. The Arab regimes are accusing the Brotherhood of terrorism, but I would like to know which Arab regime exercises less terrorism than the terrorists.
For example, if we compare Morsi’s actions with Al-Sisi’s, then who would we find to have committed more acts of terrorism? The issue needs to be studied comprehensively, scientifically and objectively, and should not be left to the media outlets to talk and analyse it as they please based on obviously subjective data.
As for the Egyptian government’s current talk of the Muslim Brotherhood’s terrorism on the streets, my belief is that Egypt is risking its stability due to its persecution of the movement. No one should expect the Brotherhood to remain silent and calm in the face of the actions to which they are being subjected, at which point the government will itself react and the movement would shake the stability of the country in response.
However, a wise government would work on uniting the people across the political spectrum and demonstrate that it is there for everyone by accommodating all people. The Egyptian government, though, went ahead with its policies without recognising the historical fact that groups will inevitably defend themselves if cornered.
The difficulty of eliminating the Muslim Brotherhood
There is a large gap in the campaign against the Muslim Brotherhood because it does not take into account the principles of democracy that its leaders believe in, nor does the campaign give any weight to the importance of social cohesion. This campaign is destined to spread hatred and animosity, and fuel feuds and suspicion amongst Egyptian citizens. It will divide the people into rival groups and organisations which will ultimately fragment society and weaken the state, ending in a weak and humiliated entity.
It seems that those in charge of the campaign do not realise that the Muslim Brotherhood is the largest global organisation of its kind at the moment and is spread across the world with supporters willing to defend and protect it. This group is widespread in the Arab and Muslim world and is capable of winning elections if it is given the opportunity to participate. Members of the Brotherhood are many and the general public stands by them and may elect them due to their adoption of Islamic thought.
The people in the Arab and Muslim world tend to gravitate towards religious ideas in general. They are not particularly “religious” as such, but they believe that the way out of their crisis is by applying Islam as a political system because it is based on justice. I am not trying to prove or disprove this; I am merely stating the peoples’ tendencies, desires and visions. All politicians should take into account the people’s inclinations and opinions regarding general affairs; any politician who neglects this fact is lacking when it comes to the management of general affairs.
The Muslim Brotherhood is not alone in the arena; it has the support of many Islamic organisations that are willing to take up arms in its defence, if needed. This is not necessarily out of love for the movement but out of the need to defend Islamic thought.
Perhaps a country like the UAE can corner the Brotherhood because of the situation there, but it is difficult for the likes of Egypt, Syria, Iraq and Jordan to succeed in eliminating it. The movement is not strong amongst the citizens of the UAE; indeed, the country’s population isn’t very large either. As for the highly populated countries that are witnessing a gradual spread of the Brotherhood, it is difficult for them to deal with the phenomenon as they see fit, as they risk their stability and social unity if they try to deal with the matter in that same way as Egypt.
Reaching an understanding with Islamists
I use the term Islamists metaphorically here because millions of Muslims are Islamists without belonging to organisations. If the Arab regimes want to establish a democracy and follow the foundations and principles of justice in their societies, then they must open the lines of communication with the non-terrorist Islamic groups.
In this way they can discuss the many characteristics of Islamist groups which reflect negatively on all Arab societies. Such matters include the self-belief that these organisations are gatekeepers of the absolute truth while others are not, and the subsequent judgement of others based on such truth. The Islamists must believe that no one possesses the absolute truth and that free thinking is the basis on which creativity is founded. No one has the right to restrict others in the values and ideas they believe in.
This leads us to the need to talk to Islamist groups, including the Muslim Brotherhood, about the issue of intellectual terrorism because all of them, whether armed or not, commit intellectual terrorism to varying degrees. It is also necessary to develop cultural programmes in the Arab world that include Islamist groups and the governing systems in order to limit exclusionary thought; in addition, we should develop educational programmes that teach children, from kindergarten age, to accept others and reject tribal and partisan discrimination and bias.
We Arabs tend to reject others from our youth. We are raised to be tribally proud and biased. Our parties have turned into fanatical tribes and rejecting others has become an acceptable social custom. We must all work towards countering this; if we succeed, we may well learn to live together, not just co-exist.