ANALYSIS: Law Journal Article On Terrorism Highlights U.S. Muslim Brotherhood Position On Terrorism


An earlier post discussed global Muslim Brotherhood positions on terrorism into four conceptual categories- Denial, Deception, Defense, and Obstruction. It is said that the usefulness of a theory lies in its predictive ability and a recent law journal article on terrorism by Parvez Ahmed, former chairman of the Council on American Islamic relations (CAIR), demonstrates all four themes. While these themes are common, it is unusual for a U.S. Brotherhood leader to publish in a prestigious law journal:

1) DENIAL- Since the Brotherhood is pursuing Islamization and eventually Shariah (Islamic Law), it is necessary at all costs to deny that Islam as a religion has any connection to violence or terrorism.

In this passage, Ahmed attempts to disprove the straw man that terrorism is “exclusive to Islam ” by citing the example of the Tamil Tigers, ignoring that what distinguishes Islamic terrorism from that of the Tigers is its transnational characteristic as well as the religious ideology that supports it:

Global patterns of terrorism show that terrorism is not exclusive to any one faith, ethnic group or ideology. Pape asserts that between1980 and 2003, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), a group that recruits from the predominantly Hindu Tamil population in Sri Lanka and whose ideology is intertwined with Marxism, was the world’s leader in suicide terrorism. Despite this, Islamic groups receivethe most attention in Western media. That the 9/11 attacks were committed by Muslim men is one factor behind the popular assumption of a causal link between Islam and terrorism. This perception is greatly assisted by a veritable cottage industry of neoexperts pontificating with great certainty about the cause-effect relationship between Islam and terrorism. Is Islam a primary factor behind terrorism? Regardless of whether or not such a charge stands up to scrutiny, today there exists an unmistakable global trendof militant piety among people claiming to be representatives of their religions. Nevertheless, this trend is not exclusive to any one religion. This phenomenon has been described as “fundamentalism” in theWest, although the term “extremism” would be more appropriate, especially in the context of Islam. “Extremism” is a better descriptor of this militant piety because it denotes a deviation from the normative teachings of a faith. In its fringe manifestation, extremism leads to violence and terrorism in the name of religion. Armstrong notes that in the past century these extremists have unleashed shocking acts, including: gunning down worshippers in a mosque, killing doctors and nurses working at abortion clinics, assassinating heads of states, blowing up embassies, and flying airplanes into buildings. While such acts are in reality few and far between, the spectacular nature of the acts shatters our sense of security; this is precisely the intent of

2) DECEPTION- In order to defend Islam (Islamism) from charges that it is inherently violent/terroristic, the Brotherhood deceives the public about the nature of Jihad.

Here we have the common explanation about the nature of JIhad, deceptive in the sense that despite its theological meanings, the use of the term simply parallels the usage by the terrorist groups and terrorists themselves:

Also contributing to the misperception are incorrect, but common, references in media and other discourses tojihad as “holy war.” The Arabic equivalent of the English expression”holy war” is barb muqaddasah, an expression that is not found anywhere in the Qur’an or in the authentic sayings of Prophet Muhammad. (51) Even when the Qur’an speaks about war, it usually does so in the context of defending oneself against aggression and never glorifies byascribing any “holy” qualities to it. Rather, it is described as something that is inherently hated. (52)The striving or jihad, in Islamic hermeneutics, has a vast number of connotations, including giving charity and feeding the poor, concentrating intently in one’s prayers, controlling one’s self and showing patience and forgiveness in the face of offenses, gaining authenticknowledge, and physical fighting in order to stop oppression and injustice, to name a few. Thus, jihad has usually been understood to possess both an outward and inward aspect. These two aspects are best illustrated by the words of Prophet Muhammad to his companions, as theywere returning home from a military campaign, “We have returned fromthe lesser (asghar) jihad to the greater (akbar) jihad.”

3) DEFENSE- Having staked out the positions that Islam is not violent and that Jihad is not connected with violence, the Brotherhood is left with the task of defending the violence carried out by Islamist groups.

It is always difficult to defend Al Qaeda and where the Brotherhood attempts to do so, it is usually by suggesting that while the tactics are not justified, the cause is legitimate:

Pape suggests that al-Qaeda’s principle motive is ending foreign occupation in Muslim countries, not precipitating a religious war. He asks, “[w]ould religious or ideological provocations suffice, if United States and European allies did not station troops in the Middle East?” Presenting compelling statistical evidence, Pape concludes that the taproot of al-Qaeda’s animosity to enemies is what they do, not who they are.

When it comes to Hamas and Hezbollah, both supported by the global Muslim Brotherhood, the defense is more vigorous arguing that their position is also “understandable, if unjustified”:

Hamas and Hezbollah, among forty other groups, are on the U.S. State Department’s list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTO); this list is comprised of foreign organizations that the Secretary of Statedesignates in accordance with section 219 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). In addition to violent resistance to occupation forces, Hamas and Hezbollah, like Sinn Fein and the Irish republican Army (IRA) or the LTTE of Sri Lanka, are active in politics and social work. It is instructive that the African National Congressat one time was also designated a terrorist organization. Todaythe African National Congress is a prominent political party in South Africa. Currently, Hamas and Hezbollah are both part of the official governing structure in their respective regions….The United Nations (U.N.) Charter, as well as a number of U.N. resolutions including U.N. General Assembly Resolution 31/34 affirms theinalienable fight of the “Palestinian People and of all peoples” to seek liberation from “foreign domination and alien subjugation.” This right to resistance, however, does not sanction the targeting of civilians. Both Hamas and Hezbollah have conducted suicide bombings that killed civilians. Unlike al-Qaeda, however, they do not embrace such violence as a matter of policy. These groups have not targeted people whoare outside the land they view as occupied territories. This suggests that their fury is directed towards people they view as occupying their homeland, rendering their position understandable, if unjustified. Sixty-five percent of Palestinians who supported suicide operations cited Israeli military incursions as the main reason for their anger. Besides Hamas, suicide bombings are also carried out by the Marxist-oriented Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and the secular Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade.

4) OBSTRUCTION- Having explained the violence of Islamist groups as a response to legitimate grievances, the Brotherhood is free to obstruct counter-terror efforts.

Here, Ahmed implies that the governments anti-terror efforts have been based on an exaggerated threat, relying heavily on the arrests made in the heat of the 911 aftermath:

Overblown or not, no one can fault any government for erring on the side of caution. Nevertheless, being cautious does not imply discarding conventional wisdom, even when fighting an unconventional enemy.Unfortunately, the U.S. government, aided by a pliant media, made a great show out of announcing the arrests of “terror suspects”; later it was discovered that the government was on many occasions admittedly wrong or that the threat was exaggerated. In the months following 9/11, U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft,acting pursuant to USA PATRIOT Act, section 412, rounded up and imprisoned over 1,200 Muslim and Arab men under the pretext of immigration violations. Georgetown University Law Professor David Cole contended that, “[t]housands were detained in this blind search for terrorists without any real evidence of terrorism, and ultimately without netting virtually any terrorists of any kind.” Elaborate Justice Department press releases accompanied the highly-publicized initial charges of terrorism. Later, the Justice Department either dropped oramended the terrorism charges, without much fanfare, to other, oftenminor, immigration-related violations. During his 2004 presidential campaign, Senator John Kerry remarked, “I think there has been an exaggeration [about the threat of terrorism]. They [the Bush administration]are misleading all Americans in a profound way.” Whether driven by politics or fear, terrorism remains a hot public issue. Politicians exploit it, the media hypes it, and late night comedians joke about it. Despite public interest, the discourse about terrorism is not one of serious debate. Rather it has degenerated intopublic posturing about Overblown or not, no one can fault any government for erring on the side of caution. Nevertheless, being cautious does not imply discarding conventional wisdom, even when fighting an unconventional enemy. Unfortunately, the U.S. government, aided by a pliant media, made a great show out of announcing the arrests of “terror suspects”; later it was discovered that the government was on many occasions admittedly wrong or that the threat was exaggerated.

Parvez concludes his article by repeating a plea often repeated by the U.S. Muslim Brotherhood- that “credible and mainstream American Muslim groups”, no doubt referring to U.S> Brotherhood groups such as CAIR, be consulted in the development of government policies.

American Muslims can greatly aid America’s image in the Muslim world. American Muslims are highly-educated, well-integrated, and patriotic. They have deep appreciation and love for America just as theyhave empathy for and understanding of the Muslim world. Thus, American Muslims can serve as the perfect bridge between America and the Muslim world. To enable this aspiration, American policymakers need to constructively engage American Muslims. Today, American Muslim representation within most policy-making circles (congressional or executive) is almost non-existent. This trend can easily be reversed if policymakers take the time to visit American Muslim communities and make sure that credible and mainstream American Muslim groups are regularly consulted during policy development.

Given the position on terrorism espoused by Brotherhood groups in the U.S., caution about such consultation would seem in order.

(Source: Case Western Reserve Journal of International Law, September 22, 2007 “Terror in the name of Islam – unholy war, not jihad; Sacred Violence: Religion and Terrorism BYLINE: Ahmed, Parvez SECTION: Pg. 759(30) Vol. 39 No. 3 ISSN: 0008-7254)

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