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When Muslims Are More ‘Radical’ than ‘Islamists’

A recent Arabic talk show on Hosni Mubarak’s trial sheds some light.

Raymond Ibrahim


September 22, 2011 - 12:02 am
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So while the Islamist maintains traditional hostility for infidels, he may exhibit a Western sense of “humanitarianism” to fellow Muslims, evoking things like their “human worth” and “dignity.”  Zayyat, for instance, repeatedly accused Mubarak of “robbing the people,” “betraying the people,” “torturing the nation’s sons,” “denying sons from their mothers and fathers” — language as alien to the traditional Muslim mentality as it is familiar to the Western.

Similarly, Islamists influenced by the Western notion of “nationalism” tend to Westernize Islam’s notion of Umma, as when Zayyat talked sentimentally about how “the Umma has a right” over Mubarak.

As the sheikh indicated, however, traditional Islam — born of the deserts of 7th century Arabia, and so, ever pragmatic — makes clear that the authority, the sultan, can be as ruthless as necessary with Muslims — Western concepts of justice and equality be damned.  Moreover, the nationalist element evoked by Zayyat is non-existent in Islam proper:  Umma originally meant “community” (and in Koran 6:38 is even used to describe communities of animals).

These discrepancies were summed up towards the end of the show, when the traditional sheikh exclaimed:  “I say to Mr. Montasser al-Zayyat that you will be asked on Judgment Day about these claims you’re making — that he [Mubarak] took money and was a Zionist traitor.  I am here telling you what the prophet said and what the prophet did [that it is permissible to deceive the enemy and that the ruler is above censure], and here you’re talking nonsense?!”

Lest it appear that Islamists are more “humane” than traditionalists, it should be kept in mind that the other — the non-Muslim — is viewed by both groups as the infidel enemy. In fact, whatever subtle differences may exist, the similarities between the Islamist and Muslim are many.  Thus, while the traditional sheikh and the Islamist argued over Mubarak’s fate, there was never disagreement over two points — enmity for Israel and Jews, and the permissibility of using deceit to undermine them.

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Raymond Ibrahim, a Middle East and Islam specialist, is author of Crucified Again: Exposing Islam’s New War on Christians (2013) and The Al Qaeda Reader (2007). His writings have appeared in a variety of media, including the Los Angeles Times, Washington Times, Jane’s Islamic Affairs Analyst, Middle East Quarterly, World Almanac of Islamism, and Chronicle of Higher Education; he has appeared on MSNBC, Fox News, C-SPAN, PBS, Reuters, Al-Jazeera, NPR, Blaze TV, and CBN. Ibrahim regularly speaks publicly, briefs governmental agencies, provides expert testimony for Islam-related lawsuits, and testifies before Congress. He is a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center; Judith Friedman Rosen Writing Fellow, Middle East Forum; and a Media Fellow at the Hoover Institution, 2013. Ibrahim’s dual-background -- born and raised in the U.S. by Coptic Egyptian parents born and raised in the Middle East -- has provided him with unique advantages, from equal fluency in English and Arabic, to an equal understanding of the Western and Middle Eastern mindsets, positioning him to explain the latter to the former.
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