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Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Aims and Methods of Europe's Muslim Brotherhood

By Lorenzo Vidino

Contributors to this blog (most recently Doug FaLinkrah) have often debated the nature, tactics and aims of the Muslim Brotherhood. The debate is particularly relevant considering the ambiguous, almost schizophrenic, policies of the US government towards the Brotherhood. I have a long piece in the latest issue of the Hudson Institute's Current Trends in Islamist Ideology, analyzing the history, methods and aims of the Muslim Brotherhood in Europe:

In 1990 Yusuf al-Qaradawi, an influential Sunni scholar and the unofficial theological leader of the international Muslim Brotherhood (al Ikhwan al Muslimoun), published a book called Priorities of the Islamic Movement in the Coming Phase. This 186-page treatise can be considered the most recent manifesto of the Islamist revivalist movement. As Qaradawi explains in the introduction, the “Islamic Movement” is meant to be the “organized, collective work, undertaken by the people, to restore Islam to the leadership of society” and to reinstate “the Islamic caliphate system to the leadership anew as required by sharia.”

Qaradawi’s treatise introduces a new agenda and modus operandi for the movement, signaling a clear break with many salafi groups and even with some past ideological elements of the Muslim Brotherhood. While the book does not rule out the use of violence to defend Muslim lands, it generally advocates the use of dawa, dialogue, and other peaceful means to achieve the movement’s goals. This doctrine is commonly referred to as “wassatiyya,” a sort of “middle way” between violent extremism and secularism, and Qaradawi is one of its key proponents.

After examining the situation of the “Islamic Movement” throughout the Muslim world, the dissertation devotes significant attention to the situation of Muslims living in the West. Qaradawi explains how Muslim expatriates living in Europe, Australia and North America “are no longer few in numbers,” and that their presence is both permanent and destined to grow with new waves of immigration. While Qaradawi says that their presence is “necessary” for several reasons—such as spreading the word of Allah globally and defending the Muslim Nation “against the antagonism and misinformation of anti- Islamic forces and trends”—it is also problematic. Because the Muslim Nation, and therefore Muslim minorities “scattered throughout the world,” do not have a centralized leadership, “melting” poses a serious risk. Qaradawi warns, in other words, that a Muslim minority could lose its Islamic identity and be absorbed by the non-Muslim majority.

Qaradawi sees the lack of Muslim leadership not only as a problem, however. He also views it as an unprecedented opportunity for the Islamist movement to “play the role of the missing leadership of the Muslim Nation with all its trends and groups.” While the revivalist movement can exercise only limited influence in Muslim countries, where hostile regimes keep it in check, Qaradawi realizes that it is able to operate freely in the democratic West. Muslim expatriates disoriented by life in non-Muslim communities and often lacking the most basic knowledge about Islam, moreover, represent an ideally receptive audience for the movement’s propaganda. Qaradawi asserts that revivalists need to take on an activist role in the West, claiming that “it is the duty of [the] Islamic Movement not to leave these expatriates to be swept by the whirlpool of the materialistic trend that prevails in the West.”

Having affirmed the necessity of the Islamist movement in the West, Qaradawi proceeds to present a plan of operation. The Egyptian-born scholar openly calls for the creation of a separate society for Muslims within the West. While he highlights the importance of keeping open a dialogue with non-Muslims, he advocates the establishment of Muslim communities with “their own religious, educational and recreational establishments.” He urges his fellow revivalists to try “to have your small society within the larger society” and “your own ‘Muslim ghetto.’”

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