The well-known author and anti-jihad activist Bat Ye’or — a native of Egypt — was interviewed at the Norwegian website Document.no about the recent upheavals in Egypt and the political prospects there for the Muslim Brotherhood.
Bat Ye’or: The Brotherhood wants to Islamize modernity, not to modernize Islam
Q: Bat Ye’or, thank you for letting Document.no. interview you. There has recently been a revolution in your native country, Egypt. Everybody was apparently surprised by the fall of Mubarak’s regime. Were you surprised too?
A: Yes, of course.
Q: Few commentators seem to have any clear idea of where the road leads to for Egypt. The subsequent future events compared with both the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the revolution in Iran in 1979. Where do you think the country is heading now?
A: We are on the way to the end, I fear, for the Muslim Brotherhood is the only well-organized and structured movement with clear objectives and an international power base. It also seems that it has almost unlimited access to financing. I am of the opinion that any comparison with Western revolution is meaningless, because we are dealing with a Shariah society that works within a political view of reality that rejects the foundation of our own. I have also noticed with great sadness that the attacks and murders of Copts have increased.
Q: Foreign correspondents in Egypt say that the protesters’ anger was a cry for justice, and they recognized that there was something genuinely positive in the uprising. But the most cautious would add that this is not something upon which to build a community, given that it is easier to unite against someone than it is to find the way forward together. Can all this youthful energy have some positive impact, or is it disorganized?
A: I agree with the correspondent’s point of view. But democracy, freedom, jobs and justice can only be developed if you develop the right institutions and have a grasp of the economy. Egypt is a poor country with more than 80 million inhabitants, of whom a large percentage are illiterate who cannot cope with the challenges of the 21st century. I do not doubt the abilities of the academic and educated elite, but the social problems are so huge. The general trend towards a more traditionally religious society based on the Koran will also not contribute to modernization.
Q: Do the Egyptian masses want democracy in any meaningful sense of the word, or do they lack a clear understanding of what it is all about?
A: They surely want democracy, but when you listen to what they have to say, it seems they think there is something tangible that they can grasp and carry, and not an abstract idea that needs time and requires effort from the entire nation to be accomplished. Democracy is not just majority rule. It involves a politically independent judiciary, equal rights for all — including non-Muslims and non-Arab minorities such as Kurds, Assyrians, and Berbers — and freedom of expression and acceptance of pluralism and criticism. But all this is forbidden both in Sharia law and in the Cairo Declaration of 1990 on human rights in Islam. In order to achieve democracy, one must first eliminate the Sharia.
Q: Professor Bernard Lewis says that there is something in the Muslim tradition that is vaguely reminiscent of democracy; in other words these consultative groups consisting of key people, clan leaders etc. Is such a corporate model the best you could hope for?
A: Such meetings, in which unelected tribal leaders make decisions have nothing whatsoever to do with a modern democracy as we know it.
Q: The Copts were not particularly satisfied with the election of the leader of the constitutional committee. Do you fear that the constitutional amendments will pave the way for the Brotherhood?
A: As early as 1971 the Egyptian Constitution’s Article 2 specified that “the Islamic legal principles is one of the main sources of legislation.” This rule was strengthened on 30 April 1980, when Parliament changed it to Sharia being the main source of legislation. Egypt has kept many Islamic laws: polygamy, discrimination against women, lack of recognition of the Baha’i as a religion, punishment for apostasy and blasphemy, as well as restrictions on Christian religious and civil rights. I am sure that the Brotherhood influence will give the Christians as well as the liberal Muslims an even harder life if they (the Brotherhood) enter the parliament. In addition there will be no democracy without full recognition of Israel’s rights in its historic homeland, or unless the ideology of jihad against non-Muslims ceases.
Q: Is there a danger that they can win big at an early election?
A: Yes, for the others in opposition consist of a scattered mass without leaders, and political discussions so far show no sign of modern ideas of government, institutions or geopolitics.
Q: In Europe, the Brotherhood is portrayed as a relatively benign movement because it has settled into a less violent rhetoric. After the Coptic church was attacked after New Year, we even heard that some of its members expressed their wish to be human shields outside the churches. Is this a tactical maneuver, or is there any chance that the Brotherhood’s ideas have changed?
A: This is to only a small degree about individual members’ personal inclinations. The Brotherhood has a political program: the implementation of sharia law all over the world — initially to be implemented in Muslim countries, and we all know what sharia is. The believers argue that it (sharia) is perfect because it is Allah’s will, and therefore must be applied without modification and without discussion. In global politics the Brotherhood promote a jihadist theology.
Q: How dangerous is the Brotherhood?
A: It is very dangerous, for it has adopted a Western language to undermine the West. It aims to Islamize modernity, not to modernize Islam. Its founders and leaders promote jihad as a method for the introduction of Sharia, which they believe will cover all aspects of life, personal as well as social and political.
Q: It is sometimes said that the army is a guarantor against full Islamization. But it may well not be completely free of Islamists in its ranks? Is it possible that the army will split into factions in the event of a national crisis?
A: This was also said about Turkey, but there an Islamist government was elected, which set out to weaken the army’s power. The Egyptian revolution created quite a national crisis, but even though the army had Islamists in its ranks, it was not divided. But let us not forget that Sharia schools, media and movies have already poisoned generations into hatred against the West, against Israel, which is the heart of Western values, and against the Bible, which has shaped Western civilization and spirituality.
Q: Is there anything the West can do to exert constructive influence over what is happening in Egypt now?…
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