“Soft despotism is a term coined by Alexis de Tocqueville describing the state into which a country overrun by "a network of small complicated rules" might degrade. Soft despotism is different from despotism (also called 'hard despotism') in the sense that it is not obvious to the people."

Thursday, October 19, 2006

How Moderate is Moderate Islam?

The State Department has barred entrance to another Muslim leader from the UK. Kamal Helbawy described by the BBC as a "moderate Muslim" was scheduled to speak on a panel on the Muslim Brotherhood organized by the Center on Law and Security at New York University.

Previously, Tariq Ramadan also described as a moderate, was barred from entering the US.

Kamal Helbawy is a 50 year member of the Muslim Brotherhood. According to Helbawy, the Muslim Brotherhood's purpose "to work in da'awah (inviting people to Islam), to teach the proper fiqh (jurisprudence), teach Arabic and to train young people to become good citizens in British society." Helbawy is a co-founder of the Muslim Association of Britain (MAB) which is seen by many as a local extension of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Evidently in Islam, it is "moderate" to subscribe to suicide bombing.

MA: Some British and western commentators complain that Muslim scholars, thinkers and ideologues are ambiguous on the question of terrorism, particularly suicide bombings. They say some scholars are quick to condemn the London bombings, but they approve of suicide bombings in Palestine/Israel and Iraq.

KH: Let me ask you a question, if I am a British citizen and the French are threatening to occupy my country, what should I do? Do I not have the right to resist in a manner that compensates for my technological inferiority? Surely, I should defend my country by using all reasonable means. We don't condone the indiscriminate killings in Iraq, but we approve of those who fight against an oppressive regime that has been occupying Palestine for more than 50 years and demolishes people's homes on top of them. We should make a distinction between people like Bin Laden and Zawahiri who are simply fighting a wrong battle and those people who fight for their freedom and dignity, whether in Palestine, Iraq or Chechnya.
The Daily Mail had this to say about the MAB.

The Muslim campaigners behind a mass rally in Trafalgar Square today have close links to Islamic terror groups, the Daily Mail can reveal.

Despite promoting itself as the 'moderate' voice of Islam, the Muslim Association of Britain includes a former military commander of Hamas, the Palestinian organisation behind dozens of suicide bombings in Israel.

The Association has also been described in Parliament as the British wing of the Muslim Brotherhood, the banned Egyptian group whose former members include Osama Bin Laden.

...Labour MP Louise Ellman said the MAB was an 'extremist' group whose members repeatedly advocated suicide bombings in Israel.

"They are an extremely dangerous organisation," she said. "Leading members of MAB have indicated their links with Hamas and their support for suicide bombings abroad.

"It is not tenable for a group to support suicide bombings in another country while expecting to be seen as moderate in this country."
From the Economist:

The Brotherhood claims to have millions of adherents all over the world. Since it cannot operate openly in many places, the figures are vague. To borrow an expression from Marxism, the political strategy of the Brotherhood is “entryist”—it believes in participating in any democratic process that is available, and in taking advantage of the freedom the western world allows. “There are members of the Brotherhood in many western countries, but they don't operate under that name—they work within different groups to spread their ideas,” says Kamal Helbawy, a London-based Egyptian who for years was among the few people in the West who spoke openly in Brotherhood's name.

Mr Helbawy's own career is a good example of the movement's advance. The movements he has overseen were bankrolled by Saudi largesse. After working in Nigeria to promote Muslim education, he was invited to Saudi Arabia in 1972 to set up the World Assembly of Muslim Youth, one of several bodies that spread the faith in a stark, simple form. As head of WAMY, he spent a couple of decades in Saudi Arabia. There he mentored young Muslims from all over the world who later became influential in countries such as Malaysia, Indonesia and Turkey.
The Economist reports this about the Muslim Brotherhood:

The movement's belief in working through democracy and freedom of speech, says Mr Helbawy, is not just a short-term choice. Its founder, Hassan al-Banna, considered the parliamentary system the next best thing to an Islamic one. That does not mean that he thought democracy ideal. But even this belief in the legitimacy of multi-party politics enrages the likes of Mr bin Laden.

The stated aim of the Brotherhood is to re-Islamise society, and only thereafter the state. In this vision, the ultimate desirability of introducing sharia law, as laid down by the Koran, cannot be questioned. But the Brotherhood line is that this process should not be rushed: sharia can come into being only when the people have freely convinced themselves of its virtues.
Here's a very good article from the Middle East Forum The Muslim Brotherhood's Conquest of Europe. hattip: To a reader from a previous thread whose reference I can't find now,
sorry. (I had it bookmarked, already.)

Daniel Pipes blogs about the question of defining a Muslim moderate and Tariq Ramadan. has a 2003 article on Tariq Ramadan.

It appears that although the Bush Administration is loathe to use the term "Islamic fascists," they know who the enemy is and they've decided that the Muslim Brotherhood is on the list.


  1. Moderate Islam, Mr. Bush notwithstanding, rests on three legs:

    Mr. Bush could have learned this from any of hundreds of modestly erudite texts.

  2. teresita,

    I like the doo. Are you using Botox?

  3. highly recommended --and hopeful, in a way.

    (snip) After decades at the margins of political life, extreme right-wing parties are making strong gains across the continent.