In Part I, we began a discussion on the not-so-subtle attempts recently by Yusuf Al-Qaradawi, the “obvious Godfather” and leading imam of the Muslim Brotherhood, of spreading the central ideology of Islamism - the establishment of the Islamic state. His discussions are not on his English site, nor on the Muslim Brotherhood’s English site. His most recent columns on July 13th and July 22nd were only in Arabic. In the last column, I reviewed a few of the most salient points he mentions in his Arabic diatribe concerning the Islamic state in his first column of July 13thentitled, “the Islamic State is a civil state which derives its authority from Islam.” This column will review and critique the subsequent piece in Arabic on July 22, 2008 entitled, “the Islamic State is in line with the essence of democracy.” Oddly, if that publication wasn’t enough, he renamed the piece “the Ultimate Democracy” and republished essentially the same column this week on August 19, 2008 – just with a different title; basically verbatim but shorter. Either he and his staff are growing exceedingly lazy by recycling the same diatribes on the Islamic state, or Qaradawi is using the oldest of brainwashing techniques upon his readers - the incessant repetition of central tenets of ideology. Let’s look at the ideas in his recycled piece.
Qaradawi’s Islamism - a Grand Deception
Qaradawi opens with a castigation of what he describes as both “economic democracy” or capitalism and ‘social democracy or absolute freedom.” He states that “they (Islamists) have significant reservations against capitalism because of its ‘teeth’ and they also have reservations against liberalism (or absolute freedom)”. He is a typical demagogic politician who exploits religion and scripture for his own delusions of grandeur. Qaradawi repeatedly grabs entirely irrelevant passages of the Koran in his effort to present his case “for Islamic democracy” and ‘against western capitalism and liberalism” in a diatribe more fit for an Islamist sermon than the weak and incoherent political analysis he attempted. But that is the key to Islamism. It is a manipulation of Islam through the pulpit of imams like Qaradawi towards the grand deception that the Islamist interpretations of our scripture gives the clerics mastery over the domain of government and the rule of law.
The Islamists, like Qaradawi, will ignorantly argue that the dismissal of politics from religion is not what is seen in the United States and moral leadership needs to be a requisite part of government. This deceptive equivalency implies that the mixture of religion and politics in America when it occurs is similar to Islamism. It is not. This is dangerously deceptive and outright wrong in its implications. The reality is that Qaradawi and his fellow transnational Islamists seek to implement societal systems of governance which are in reality an antithesis to the Jeffersonian foundations of America. Qaradawi’s diatribes make it clear that Islamist governance is not based upon reason and natural law but rather upon the oligarchic Islamist exegesis of scripture and their twisted interpretation of shar’ia law. Qaradawi demonstrates this in the very method he uses to put forth his arguments for the Islamic state. He uses not reason but rather scriptural exegesis to impose his ideas. If his ideas were founded in reason and logic he would have clearly explained the logic of why “Islamic law” or an “Islamic democracy” are preferable to Muslims and those of any faith or no faith to secular liberal democracies. But he makes no such argument. His only method of argumentation is the recurrent, and I would add inappropriate, use of Qur’anic scripture to make his theocratic arguments in Arabic.
Qaradawi, as is typical of Islamists speaking to other Muslims, always sets up a scenario where the refutation of his arguments must be based in a counter scriptural exegesis rather than a rational counter based in logic and reason. Interestingly, this is the same paradigm which pitted the Christian theocrats against the Christian humanists of the 17th and 18th centuries. Anti-Islamist Muslims are often dismissed as “unqualified to argue scripture” and when we demand to discourse in reason we are told that such a discourse is inferior to scriptural exegesis. The reality is that the imams know very well that they will lose their arguments on reason and will therefore never yield to such an egalitarian discourse.
Qaradawi and his ilk would much rather dismiss the vast majority of the Muslim population as ‘not scholarly enough in Islamic studies’ in order to impose the mandate of the Islamic state given to Islamists by their own self-serving interpretation of God’s word. Thanks to the internet and sites like FamilySecurityMatters.org, anti-Islamists can expose his real agenda and the vacuity of his arguments whether he likes it or not.
The Devil is in the Details - Qaradawi promotes socialism and attacks capitalism and liberalism
It is instructive to review some of the specifics of Qaradawi’s arguments which he conveniently makes in Arabic. He first states that ‘capitalism is unacceptable for us’ and then quotes from three different verses in the Koran which he believes support his premise. He implies that “capitalists” are those that refuse to acknowledge that their property belongs to God. All of his citations are intentionally misleading, manipulative, and classically theocratic in their myopia. He conflates moral guidance and caution from God with economic freedoms.
For example, he cites the Koranic accounting of Qarun (Korach). Qaradawi believes the anecdote to be an example of the “arrogance and materialism (of capitalism) which can arise in his estimation from unchecked wealth,” ridiculously citing Koran (28:78) as an appropriate reference to that. I am sure many Muslims (especially non-Islamists) would disagree with his application of the Koranic lesson in Chapter 28’s accounting of Qarun. Qarun and his people were condemned by God due to their arrogance and rejection of God’s instructions and Moses’ leadership. The Koranic account mentions his wealth as one source of Qarun’s arrogance but his wealth was not the central problem. It was, rather, his arrogance and corruption. Qaradawi is equating that vignette to “capitalism” - which is absurd. This verse in my estimation gives a moral lesson about the vice of arrogance which can give rise to a rejection of God’s word which has nothing to do with capitalism. It certainly makes implications about the connection of arrogance to materialism but it is in no way anti-capitalist or anti-freedom. Many Islamists love to imply that capitalism spawns materialism. They brainwash our youth into believing that socialist systems are somehow more Islamic. In fact, socialist violation of property rights and liberty are what is un-Islamic. Qaradawi ignores this. Certainly, the primary check upon empty materialism is humility and faith, but this can be within a capitalist system. The government and its clerics should be the last ones responsible for instilling those ideals as the moral police for government and society.
This is an excellent example of the grand deception of Islamists. In fact many other Islamic scholars have provided commentary on the synergy of capitalism with Muslim principles of economic independence and shared risk in business transactions. The likes of Qaradawi ignore all of that scholarship until it suits their interests for English audiences packaged for the west. Even when they discuss capitalism they do so with a caveat of separation based in their fabricated need for a separate so-called “sharia compliant” financing system. These financing systems while using “Islamic garb” are simply put in place to subjugate and control Muslim populations while separating them out from non-Muslims. Qaradawi’s implication (by demonizing capitalism and freedom) is that government and its theocrats (namely him) are much better suited to distribute that wealth and thus confiscate property and usurp freedom. Note the absence of any discussion in this diatribe on the primacy of individual property rights.
He is obviously unable to understand the basis upon which capitalist systems succeed and theocratic systems have uniformly failed. A system which universally stimulates human creativity and independence is far more faith-based in my mind than one which uses government to coerce the Islamist version of morality. We need to translate Adam Smith’s The Wealth of Nations, or Friedrich Hayek’s, The Road to Serfdom, into Arabic and let Qaradawi’s audience hear another voice and understand that capitalism has no conflict with enlightened Muslim interpretations and reason.
But we must understand that Qaradawi’ and his Muslim Brotherhood (MB) are less about Islam than they are about socialism. Qaradawi is cut out of the Sayyid Al-Qutb mold of political Islam and socialism which was long ago a salafist response to dictatorship. They willfully ignore a number of Koranic mandates to equal property rights for all members of society (i.e. 3:75). The other two passages he cites [Qur’an (11:87) and (57:7)] against capitalism are similarly twisted by Qaradawi deceptively conflating moral guidance in the Qur’an from God to an individual Muslim with Qaradawi’s own notion of governmental and societal economic mandates.
The Islamist Attack on Traditional Liberalism
Qaradawi then attacks liberalism and freedom stating,
“The liberalism, meaning absolute freedom, is also unacceptable to us. There is no absolute freedom in the whole existence. Every freedom in the world is bound by some restrictions, such as those which limit the rights of others”… “The allegation of some religious people: that democracy is opposed to the rule of God, because it is the rule of the people, we say to them: What is meant by rule of the people here? It is against the absolute rule of the individual and is against the rule of the dictator, and it doesn’t mean that it is against the rule of God. Because our discussion on democracy in the Muslim community is about adhering to the law of God in the shar’ia.” (translation by AIFD)
He is positioning Islamism between dictatorship and freedom. He absurdly equates freedom with dictatorship saying it is the ‘absolute rule of the individual’. This is exceedingly instructive and exposes how the ideological motivations of the MB and Islamists are actually a false democracy. Their ideas are anti-freedom and represent the promotion of an oligarchy where the ruling class is only checked by their version of elections. The law, in Qaradawi’s concept of nation, is based not in humanism and natural law but rather in shar’ia (Islamic jurisprudence centrally rooted in clerical interpretation). Note how Qaradawi admits above that in his version of ‘Islamic democracy’ they are applying or adhering to the ‘law of God.’ Again, no mention of minority rights. Democracy, according to Qardawi and the MB is simply some kind of election process and the rule of some majority over any minority. That majority in their mind could only be a majority of clerics, imams, or scholars who rule by shura (consensus of the oligarchy) conveniently with no description of equal access to law and government of all citizens regardless of faith or level of scholarship.
Reason would also argue that shar’ia interpreted and implemented by humans is not in reality the law of God but rather manmade law (unless these clerics are speaking directly to God). Thus, the only practical difference between natural law (based on humanism( versus shar’ia (based on Islamic scripture) is that the former is open to all citizens and the latter only empowers one ruling class of clerics. The clerics exert domain over Islamic jurisprudence and shut out the rank and file Muslim as unqualified while also completely excluding non-Muslims from any hope of leadership or equal participation before the law.
He later deceptively spins the Western ideology of freedom into an extreme category stating:
Those who call for unrestricted democracy believe that Western democracy is the panacea for our countries and our nations and peoples with all their descriptions of social liberalism, economic capitalism, and political freedom. They do not restrict their democracy from anything. They want to install that in our country, as in western countries, a system not based in any ideology, not derived from sharia, nor believing in fixed values, but with a separation between science and ethics, between economics and morality, between politics and morality, and between war and morality. (translated by AIFD)
This is classic Islamist spin which intentionally ignores the inherent and genuine religious freedom in Western democracies. Qaradawi and his ilk are ignorant of how pious classically liberal systems which respect individual freedoms are or can be. Liberal democratic systems are simply blind to one faith and thus the most free of governmental coercion. Islamists paint the West as “anti-God” and “anti-Islam” when in fact there is no society more conducive to a pious faith-based community than the United States.
People of any faith thrive in America. It is the Islamists which can derive no oxygen from our Jeffersonian system. They know this and instead spin Western democracy as “ungrounded” and “chaotic” in order to pave the way for their supremacist Islamist system. The Islamist system is hopelessly doomed to failure since it suffocates the individual freedom (given by God) and necessary for real human creativity.
Qaradawi and the MB understand exactly what is at stake in the war of ideas between the Islamic world and the West. They are working far harder to win that war than are most thought leaders in the West and especially Muslims. In fact the MB’s project has already been secretly working for decades to counter the threat they see from liberal democracies.
It is time for liberal democracies to respond and mount a counter-project to the MB and their fellow Islamists.
It is sad how difficult it is to find any published Arabic counterarguments to the dangerous and ignorant ranting of Qaradawi and his colleagues in the MB. The U.S. government recently straight jacketed itself by reducing the lexicon in the war to meaningless terms like extremist or radical when trying to describe the enemy. This discussion should, at the minimum, highlight that if we are to deconstruct the Islamist motivations of radicals we must engage their core statist ideologies.
At stake is the Muslim perception of freedom and what is the true practice of our faith. If we allow Qaradawi’s narrative to go unchecked by freedom loving Muslims in his cyber-Jihad, Islamist terror will never disappear and we will eventually lose this war. We ultimately and urgently need hundreds of websites and organizations offering a Muslim anti-Islamist narrative to the rantings of the likes of Yusuf Al-Qaradawi.