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Authors: Nonie Darwish

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BOOK: The Devil We Don't Know
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The inability of “moderate” Muslims to form a powerful alliance as an alternative to Islamists proves that their position in the eyes of Islam is weak and even illegitimate. There is no such thing as moderate Islamic scriptures that support peace, tolerance, respect for other religions, or loving one's neighbor or enemies. The few verses of tolerance in the scriptures have been excised by the concept of abrogation, leaving very little for moderates to use as support from the Koran when debating Islamists to prove them wrong. Moderation is only in the minds of peaceful Muslims but not in their scriptures, and that is why moderates are weak and always lose their arguments with Islamists. That is why moderates choose to live in denial and create an image of Islam that does not really exist. That is why they expect a positive outcome, and every time a revolution occurs, their hopes are built up, only to be dashed by great disappointment.

Those few in Egypt who understand the true problem do not dare speak about it. Some Egyptians pretend to be Muslims despite no longer espousing the Muslim faith, and they live under the threat of death if their secret should be uncovered. I often hear expressions of fear from my apostate friends in the Muslim world, such as this one from Egypt: “I feel extremely anxious at the out-of-control situation, the reckless violence that many are fooled into believing is justified. They are asking for renewal of hostilities and war with Israel. I do not believe they even understand the meaning of peace or war or the power of those they want to fight. They do not understand that their true enemy is Islam. Nonie, do you think I have time to escape this mess? I fear I will not leave this country alive.” Another apostate told me, “The situation is borderline mass insanity. . . . I want out but cannot get a visa to a Western nation. What can I do?”

Their fears are far from groundless, especially after we've all seen how rapidly Islamists have asserted their power. Many Egyptians feel helpless at witnessing the “Talibanization” of their country, a radicalization that is believed to be not only forced on Egypt by internal forces, but also supported by Saudi Arabia. That kingdom is watching the developments in Egypt, afraid of a true democracy blossoming so close to home. A post on the Internet titled “Is the Egyptian Revolution Hijacked?” reported that at the entrance of the City Stars Shopping Center, the largest mall in Cairo, troubling signs were placed above the door after the revolution. Pictured is an image that looks like a stop sign with the figures of a man and a woman together and crossed out in the middle, indicating no mixing of the sexes. A sign next to it shows a sleeveless dress also crossed out in the middle, meaning that un-Islamic clothing is not allowed. This mall is majority-owned by the Saudi Sharbatly family, which is obviously trying to steer Egypt in the direction of Saudi Arabia. Nothing will better protect Saudi Arabia from calls for modernity, human rights, and women's rights than the radicalization of surrounding Islamic countries and making them more like Saudi Arabia.

The nascent women's rights movement in Egypt also took a nosedive when it was reported that Salafi groups in Alexandria distributed flyers ordering female residents of the city to wear head scarves when going out and threatening to “assault”—some said “kill,” others said “burn with acid”—women who did not comply. As for the government, it has done nothing to punish or stop people who are distributing such threats. Instead, it is arresting and jailing bloggers who are critical of the new situation.

The protesters in Tahrir Square were but a small segment of the 80 million–strong Egyptian population, 75 percent of whom are either illiterate or semi-educated. That fact alone will put three-quarters of the population in the pocket of the Islamists, because these masses do not read Islamic scriptures and so rely on and believe what their religious leaders tell them. A recent poll conducted before the revolution found that more than 75 percent of Egyptians wanted to live under Islamic law. It is not a great leap to say that most of these Egyptians fall into the illiterate or semi-educated majority. Being pro-sharia clearly means pro-Islamism, and because they are the larger majority of Egyptians by far, it is hard to imagine how freedom or democracy will arise now or in the near future in Egypt. What makes the situation even grimmer is the fact that the remaining 25 percent includes the oppressed Christian Copts, who are 10 percent of the Egyptian population. As to the other 15 percent—those who would rather see a secular government—they have been overpowered and silenced, and, as I mentioned earlier, they dare not publicly say that sharia must be taken out of the Egyptian constitution. The possibility that Egypt will gradually turn into a theocracy similar to that of Iran is a more likely scenario.

The truth is that the Muslim Brotherhood exerts influence whether or not it is legal or in power. The Brotherhood represents true Islam in the eyes of the average Egyptian, and that is how it maintains its authority. The Brotherhood wants to enforce sharia, and that is what Islam mandates. Whether we like it or not, an Islamic state (the Ummah) is what Islamic theory aims for, with a final objective of ruling the world under a one-party Islamic Ummah. The Brotherhood's goals, in that sense, are the same as those of al Qaeda. The new interim leader of al Qaeda, Saif Al-'Adl, has credited his organization with exposing the true face of recent Arab and Muslim rulers to the Arab masses and empowering them to rise up against their oppressive regimes. He has also stated that al Qaeda is working to inspire the Ummah, to incite it to wage war, and to act as a vanguard for it in this blessed jihad to weaken the greatest idol (the West). From there on, the Ummah will rise up and liberate itself from the idols that weigh heavily on its soul (that is, the Arab rulers).

Whether it is al Qaeda, the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas, Hezbollah, Jamaat Islamiyya, the Taliban, or even the radical Salafi sect, these Islamist groups have no problem with using violence, harsh punishment, and terror to achieve their goal, since this is allowed under sharia. Their goal is clearly stated in Muslim scriptures, and these groups take scriptures very seriously. Some are more violent than others, and some go through periods of image rehabilitation, if necessary, but what they never give up on is their divine goal.

The Muslim Brotherhood has committed violence from its inception and has attempted and succeeded in many assassinations of Egyptian leaders, creating fear and chaos in all aspects of society. It has also inspired and brought to life many other radical and terrorist groups, including al Qaeda itself.

After the worldwide condemnation of Islamist groups, especially after 9/11, the Muslim Brotherhood has found it convenient to try to rehabilitate its image so that it can rise to political power. Because other groups that the Brotherhood gave birth to, such as al Qaeda, were already doing the dirty work of terror on the Brotherhood's behalf, the Brotherhood started to promote itself as a nonviolent pro-democracy group. Even the U.S. director of national intelligence James Clapper described the group as “largely secular,” disregarding its stated Islamist goal as summarized in its emblem, which has two swords (a symbol of Islamic conquests) and in its center the words
Wa Aiddou
, which in Arabic means “and prepare.”
2
These are the first two words at the beginning of one of the most violent verses in the Koran, commanding Muslims to commit terror: Koran 8:60, “Prepare against them whatever arms and cavalry you can muster that you may strike terror in the enemies of Allah, and others besides them not known to you. Whatever you spend in Allah's Cause will be repaid in full, and no wrong will be done to you.” The creed of the Muslim Brotherhood states, “Allah is our objective. The Prophet is our leader. The Koran is our law. Jihad is our way. Dying in the way of Allah is our highest hope.” How can anyone claim that this is a nonviolent or secular organization?

Like the Muslim Brotherhood, certain other Islamist groups are working hard to give the impression that they no longer espouse violence, but that should not fool U.S. government officials, because they have a lot of intelligence at their disposal telling them otherwise. Seemingly different Islamist groups often work like an orchestra, like a well-coordinated network, in which the level of violence of each group depends on its specific objectives in the location and the time period it happens to work in. Every Muslim country has an underground or openly operating, legal or illegal, Islamist group that wants to enforce sharia. A large percentage of the Muslim public regards the groups' members as doing Allah's work and sympathizes with them, giving them respect and power. Financial support regularly pours into their pockets from a good portion of the Muslim population, Islamic governments, and wealthy Arabs. They often do the dirty work that Muslim governments cannot do in the open. Iran is perhaps the only country that has no underground Islamist group, and the reason is simple: the Islamists are already in power. With such strong financial and moral support, Islamist groups now run an international network with branches operating openly under fictitious names in Western countries.

The enforcement of sharia is the goal of all Islamist groups, and Islamists understand that sharia leaves no room for democracy. That is why Islamist protesters in London carry signs that read “Democracy and freedom go to Hell.” Not only do Islamic laws deny freedom of speech and religion, as well as equal rights under the law for both men and women, Muslims and non-Muslims, there are laws that punish sexual crimes with flogging, beheading, and stoning, and others that make the creation of a democracy virtually impossible.

Perhaps the most dangerous law in sharia that stands in the way of democracy is the one I described in chapter 1 stating that “a calipha [Muslim head of state] can legally hold office through seizure of power, meaning through force.”
3
That law is the reason every Muslim leader must literally turn into a despotic tyrant to survive. When a Muslim leader is removed from office by force, we often see the Islamic media and masses accept it and even cheer for the new leader who has just ousted or assassinated the former leader. The deposed leader is often called a traitor to the Islamic cause.

A second law that will hurt democracy and peace states that performing jihad is one of the basic duties of a Muslim head of state: “To undertake jihad against enemies, dividing the spoils of battle among combatants and a fifth for deserving recipients.” This is clearly stated in all sharia books. This important obligation is repeated several times: “The caliph fights all other peoples until they become Muslim.”
4
In sharia, the definition of
jihad
is “to war against non-Muslims, derived from the word
mujahada
, signifying warfare, to establish the religion.”
5
Muslim leaders who reject ruling by sharia and refuse to perform jihad are condemned as unfit apostates, and sharia commands the Muslim public to remove such leaders from office: “Muslims are obliged to rise up and remove a leader if he is no longer a Muslim, alters the sacred law, or makes reprehensible innovation [
bidaa
].
6
Not many people know that Sadat's assassination followed many fatwas of death against him for having violated his Islamic obligations to make Israel an eternal enemy. He became an apostate, according to sharia, and had to be killed or removed from office. Such laws can only cause civil unrest, political chaos, and revolutions.

Because Arab pro-Western leaders who want to maintain peace with Israel are the primary targets for revolutions, it is no surprise that the first two leaders to go were were the moderate ones who got along with the West. It is also no surprise that the Iranian Islamic leadership seems to be the only government that is immune to attacks from the Islamists.

There are more laws that can only produce tyrants and dictators, for instance: “It is obligatory to obey the commands and interdictions of the caliph, even if he is unjust.”
7
On one hand, the Muslim public is commanded to remove a leader from office if he does not rule according to Islamic law, but on the other hand, they are commanded to obey him if he is unjust. Ruling according to sharia is more important than justice. Sharia also exempts the Muslim head of state “from being charged with serious Hudood crimes such as murder, adultery, robbery, theft, and drinking.”
8
These are the laws that created the likes of Saddam Hussein and many other Muslim dictators. As long as such laws are present, democracy can never succeed.

Such laws and many similar ones give Muslim leaders the tools for despotic one-party rule. Yet at the same time, all leaders have to guard against assassination attempts and coups, which unfortunately are also allowed by the same laws that gave them totalitarian power.

Reformation of the Islamic political system is made very difficult by laws that condemn to death anyone who speaks against sharia. This includes Muslim leaders, who have no choice but to rule accordingly. Throughout history, there have been many examples of critics of sharia who ended up dead. That is why many Islamic intellectuals simply dance around the subject but never dare address it. Sharia has become the elephant in the room that everyone must put up with and never disturb. The most some people do is claim that Islamists misinterpret Islamic law and even the Koran itself. Even feminists in Saudi Arabia claim that Islam has given them many rights and privileges, but it is the interpretation that stands in the way. This game of denying clear-cut laws will not succeed in changing the reality, and Islamists know it.

As a result, Islamic activists and reformers have a very difficult job on their hands, because the true cause of tyranny, dictatorships, and instability cannot be touched, and they are left with nothing to blame except their dictators, non-Muslim minorities, external influences, Israel, or the West. Anything is fair game, except to uncover the Islamic sacred cows that support tyrannical rule.

Cosmetic adherence to Islamic rules is not enough, and that is what Mubarak learned after seeing his predecessor killed for signing a peace treaty with Israel. To prove to his critics that he takes his Sharia seriously, Mubarak, in 1991, added to the Egyptian constitution Article 2, which states that sharia supercedes any other law. Yet because he did not actually rule by it and stood against the jihadist aspirations of the radicals, he was still considered unfit to rule as a Muslim leader. That is why there were signs in Tahrir Square stating “Game over for America's Arab puppet dictatorship regimes.” The phrase “puppet of the West” is perhaps the worst shaming expression a Muslim leader can be called, because it means the Muslim leader is befriending people he should be at war with.

BOOK: The Devil We Don't Know
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