In the current debate on the Muslim Brotherhood, the group's Western apologists claim that the jihadist ideology of their leading thinker, Sayyid Qutb, was discarded in the late 1960s and 1970s with the publication of Hassan al-Hudaybi's "Preachers, Not Judges". But recent scholarship demonstrates Hudaybi didn't write the book, promote it, or even agree with it.That's right. The main piece of evidence used the Muslim Brotherhood's defenders (the Nixon Center, James Traub's recent piece in the New York Times Magazine, etc.) is fabricated whole-cloth.
Perhaps the top scholar on this subject is Barbara Zollner, Director of Islamic Studies at Birbeck College, University of London. Not only is the book the topic of her PhD dissertation, but she has a volume on the subject, The Muslim Brotherhood: Hasan al-Hudaybi and Ideology, which is due to be published by Rutledge early next year.
At a conference held at Georgetown University in March on the theme of "Islamist Politics: Contemporary Trajectories in the Arab World," Zollner delivered a brief synopsis of her extensive research on the subject, "Du'at la Qudat: Notes on the Authorship, Purpose, and Relevance of a Text Purporting a Moderate Theology". During her lecture (available in audio here) she challenged the popular myth still advanced by the Muslim Brotherhood's Western apologists:
There are a number of writers who argue that Du'at la Qudat, when it was published in the 1970s, to be exact in 1977, that it is an evidence of the Muslim Brotherhood's turn away from radical thinking, and that it evidences a shift of the Muslim Brotherhood's stance towards a centrist Islamist ideology...What I want to say today are two things. Overall my argument that Preachers, Not Judges was not written by Hassan al-Hudaybi, and secondly, it is not written as a response to Sayyid Qutb.Utilizing my recent research on the topic, journalist and terrorism finance expert Doug Farah blogged yesterday on "The Amazing Deception in the Muslim Brotherhood's Charm Offensive". In the comments section of Farah's post, however, appeared Ibrahim El Houdaiby, the great-granson of Hassan al-Hudaybi, invoking family folklore to rebut the overwhelming consensus of scholars on this subject, but not providing any substantive evidence in support of his claims. The strange thing is that since the revelations first appeared in 1995 about the true origins of "Preachers, Not Judges", and the testimony of others inside and outside the Brotherhood, this new information (that Hudaybi had no role in the creation of the book) has gone unchallenged until now.
This raises a lot of questions in the ongoing debate over the Muslim Brotherhood. Here's my conclusion:
These evidences raise some important questions in the current debate in the West over the Muslim Brotherhood: is it the case that the journalists and Beltway wonks appealing to Preachers, Not Judges as proof of a "reformed" Brotherhood are simply ignorant of most of the scholarship over the past decade on this topic, or have they determined to bury this evidence with their silence in the hope that it will be ignored? If the former, we have cause to question their credibility as self-appointed experts on the ideology of the Muslim Brotherhood, and we also have to acknowledge their gullibility in accepting unquestioned the propaganda put out by the group; if the latter, their pretended objectivity is little more than the component of the official duplicity that characterizes the Muslim Brotherhood's long-standing operational methodology. Only they can tell us which it is.I'm not holding my breath for a response.