Qaradawi’s Odious Vision
The “Arab Spring” and the treason of the intellectuals


Prof. Johannes J. G. Jansen, a leading contemporary scholar of Islam, reaffirmed Goldziher’s seminal assessment of the “al-Manar modernists,” and also highlighted the direct nexus between Rashid Rida and Muslim Brotherhood founder Hassan al-Banna. Rida’s discourse both rationalized and embodied the yearning of the Muslim masses for a return to mainstream, Islamic orthodoxy. Thus Jansen observes that, for example, “public opinion in the modern Muslim world attaches importance to [hadd] punishments. . . . When the Koranic punishments are carried out, and especially when the authorities take care that they are carried out in public, many Muslims see this as a sure sign that Islam finally has its way.”

Jansen concludes his analysis of the al-Manar modernists — their own legacy, and their direct linkage to Hassan al-Banna’s Muslim Brotherhood movement — with this apt, if unromantic appraisal:

In retrospect it is evident that Rida shared these popular feelings about [hadd] punishments. Moreover, he appears to have subscribed to the radical view that condemns modern heads of state in the Arab world as apostates from Islam, and it is difficult today to see why an earlier generation of orientalists [note: but certainly not Goldziher] regarded al-Afghani, Abduh, and Rida as modernizing, westernizing liberals. The desire for the return of the glory of Islam, which these three reformers felt so strongly, and the particular socio-political circumstances in which they lived made them not into liberal modernizers but into the founding fathers of Islamic fundamentalism. In October 1941 the Egyptian government suppressed Al-Manar, which a certain Hassan al-Banna had recently taken over from the heirs of Rashid Rida [d. 1935]. It is with Hassan al-Banna that professional violence became part and parcel of the movement we now call Islamic fundamentalism.

Olivier Carré’s 1983 study of the profound regional impact of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood since the 1950s described what he termed “a striking phenomenon” that pervaded the Arab Muslim Near East:

When one discusses Islam, as one often does, in terms of a social and political ideal, whether out of religious conviction or because it is in the news, a common language, a sort of conceptual koine [a lingua franca] is found in all Eastern Arab countries — in Muslim schoolbooks, in the speech or behavior of people, whether friends or casual acquaintances, or in press reports on various current events. This common language is derived, ultimately, from the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood of the Nasserist period and also from what I shall call the “new Muslim Brothers” of the 1970s and 1980s.

Carré concluded with this prescient observation, borne out most recently and dramatically by the unfolding events of the so-called “Arab Spring”:

We shall eventually come to speak of a Saudi-inspired and directed neo-Ottomanist utopia, socially based on the middle classes of the Arab East, which is not particularly “new” except by virtue of an acculturation drive. Its militant basis will be Islamic politico-religious groupings of which the new Muslim Brothers is the most significant group.

Three decades after Carré wrote these words, the steady, inexorable advance of this dominant Muslim Brotherhood ideology is clearly evident, most recently in the North African “Arab Spring” coups, followed by popular electoral victories in Tunisia and Morocco. The Muslim Brotherhood is already gaining a large plurality in the first of several rounds of Egyptian elections, which will extend into 2012. Vote tallies released Sunday revealed that the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice party garnered 36.6 percent of the ballots cast, followed by the hardline Salafist Nour party with 24.4 percent and a third fundamentalist party, the Wasat, at 4.3 percent. In other words, 65 percent of the votes went to Islamic fundamentalist parties. In stark contrast, the liberal Egyptian Bloc garnered only 13.4 percent of the vote.