A lot of people are mocking Director of Intelligence James Clapper’s statement before Congress that the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt is largely a “secular” organization, and not really an Islamist group.
When it comes to such groups, there are many ways of evaluating them. I’ve found one of the simplest ways is to simply look at their own words, and judge them accordingly.
For example, the Muslim Brotherhood’s credo, unchanged since its founding, is this:
“Allah is our objective; the Quran is our constitution, the Prophet is our leader; Jihad is our way; and death for the sake of Allah is the highest of our aspirations.”
Pretty simple, pretty clear, pretty damned Islamist. Add in their logo — crossed swords and a Koran — and it’s case closed.
This works remarkably well — a lot of Islamist groups are exceptionally proud of their aspirations and ideals. For example, Hezbollah — the “Party Of Allah” based in Lebanon and backed quite thoroughly by Syria and Iran — is also quite forthright. From Wikipedia:
Hezbollah’s 1985 manifesto listed its four main goals as “Israel’s final departure from Lebanon as a prelude to its final obliteration,” ending “any imperialist power in Lebanon,” submission of the Phalangists to “just rule” and bringing them to trial for their crimes, and giving the people the chance to choose “with full freedom the system of government they want,” while not hiding its commitment to the rule of Islam.
Further, their flag makes it even clearer. It features the Arabic word “Hezbollah,” with the first letter in “Allah” forming an arm holding high a stylized AK-47.
Then there’s Hamas. They’re even more blatant. Their charter is overflowing with proclamations of the military supremacy of Islam and calls for the absolute genocide of all Jews.
We’re often told that we can’t judge these groups, these cultures by our standards. That they don’t really mean their overblown, heated rhetoric; that it’s just a product of their culture; that they really don’t believe those things, they’re just to keep the masses happy.
Bullshit. That is some of the purest form of bigotry around. It’s saying that they really don’t understand what they’re saying, and we shouldn’t hold them responsible and accountable for their words and deeds.
Me, I’ve long believed in the wisdom of the military’s aphorism: “honor the threat.” If someone makes a threat, presume that they have the will and the means to carry it out until proven otherwise. Show them the respect in assuming they say what they mean and mean what they say.
On that basis, and on that basis alone, the Muslim Brotherhood should be treated as they present themselves: a fiercely militant Islamist group. And while their overt role in the recent departure of Hosni Mubarak was minimal, they are still the best-organized opposition force in Egypt.
Remember the Iranian revolution? The anti-Shah forces included a lot of secular folk — people who believed in equality of the sexes, democracy, and a secular state. They were in the forefront of the people who overthrew the Shah.
And they were among the first up against the wall (quite often literally) when the Revolution turned towards militant Islam.
How things will play out in Egypt is still unknown. But it is in no way guaranteed to be better than it was under Mubarak.
But that’s a topic for another posting.