Wednesday, November 16, 2005
Sayyid Qutb and the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood
Sorry that it has been a few days since I last posted. The flu hit me over the weekend, and I'm just starting to get my feet under me.
In recent news, the Muslim Brotherhood has won at least 20 percent of the seats in the Egyptian parliamentary elections that took place on Tuesday. Though still an illegal group, they are tolerated and appear to be the strongest rival party to the ruling regime.
But why is the Muslim Brotherhood important? You might remember several posts last month where I discussed Sayyid Qutb and his ideological descendents, including Osama bin Laden (who was mentored in college by Qutb's brother, Mohammed) and the founders of the Palestinian terror group, Islamic Jihad. Qutb was the chief propagandist for the Muslim Brotherhood until his execution by Nasser in 1966, and one of the leading contributors to contemporary Islamist ideology.
Rooting his ideology in the monist monotheism of Islam, the singularity of God (tawhid) demands the singularity of the universe. In the examination of the ancient question of the one and the many, Qutb's answer is clear: one. There is no room for the individual in the Islamic universe. The primacy of the one (embodied in a universal Islamic state) outweighs any competing claims of legitimacy. Qutb is also responsible for several ideas that lay at the bedrock of Islamist terrorism:
1) In his book Milestones, he applies the Islamic idea of jahiliyya (pagan barbarism) to non-Islamic societies AND Islamic nations not governed by sharia. This gives justification for the Al-Qaeda franchise in Iraq to launch murderous suicide attacks in Jordan just last week. Since Jordan is not governed by sharia, it is just as guilty as the U.S., and subject to terrorist activity.
2) Drawing from Enlightenment revolutionary thought, the catalyst for social action to reinstitute God's sovereignty on earth is a revolutionary vanguard: "How must the Islamic resurrection begin? A vanguard must resolve to set it in motion in the midst of jahiliyya that now reigns over the earth. That vanguard must be able to decide when to withdraw from and when to seek contact with the jahiliyya that surrounds it." But who appoints this revolutionary vanguard? The vanguard itself. This is why Osama bin Laden can issue fatwas, religious legal opinions, to authorize terrorism against al Qaeda's enemies, even though OBL has no status as a religious authority and is no part of the ulema. As head of the vanguard, he is his own authority. An Islamic Robespierre.
3) As I noted in a previous post, Qutb draws on his idea of jahiliyya explictly from French Social Darwinist, Alexis Carrel, who he quotes more than any other author.
Even though the Muslim Brotherhood has not been as violent since when it was under Qutb's ideological leadership, it is becoming clear that it is the lightning rod for radicalism in Egypt. Expect it to get more radical as it gains power and is able to exercise its ideology more consistently. If you want more info on Qutb, read Paul Berman's lengthy New York Times Magazine article, The Philosopher of Islamic Terror.
Posted by Patrick Poole at 9:32 PM