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The Arab Spring After Osama: Ayaan Hirsi Ali vs. Tariq Ramadan

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Two of the world's most provocative intellectuals on all matters Islamic -- Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Tariq Ramadan -- offered their views this week for the Global Viewpoint Network on the death of Osama bin Laden and what it means for the Arab Spring.

Here, first, is Ayaan Hirsi Ali. Then Tariq Ramadan:

GLOBAL VIEWPOINT NETWORK - AYAAN HIRSI ALI

Will the Muslim Brotherhood Succeed Where Osama bin Laden Failed?

Ayaan Hirsi Ali is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, the author of "Infidel" and "Nomad," and the founder of the AHA Foundation.

By Ayaan Hirsi Ali

LONDON -- Like thousands across the world, I celebrated the capture and killing of Osama bin Laden. He rejoiced in killing. But bin Laden's murder is not the end of al-Qaeda. And even if al-Qaeda were totally eliminated, the world would still have to deal with al-Qaeda's progenitor.

Bin Laden was many things, but he was not original. He was himself introduced to the doctrine of jihad by the late Palestinian theologian Abdullah Yusuf Azzam. Significantly, before Azzam begun teaching bin Laden and others in Saudi Arabia, he was a member of the Palestinian Muslim Brotherhood.

Unlike al-Qaeda, the Muslim Brotherhood has evolved and learned the hard way that the use of violence will be met with superior violence by state actors. The clever thing to do, it now turns out, was to be patient and invest in a bottom-up movement rather than a commando structure that risked being wiped out by stronger forces. Besides, the gradualist approach is far more likely to win the prize of state power. All that Khomeini did before he came to power in Iran was to preach the merits of a society based on Islamic law. He did not engage in terrorism. Yet he and his followers took over Iran -- a feat far greater than bin Laden ever achieved. In Iran the violence came later.

The point is that fighting violent extremists is only part of the battle; perhaps the easier part. The bigger challenge may be to deal with those Islamists who are willing to play a longer game.

In the West, bin Laden's ignominious death in a Pakistani hideaway has frequently been contrasted with the mass protests that have swept the Middle East in recent months. Policymakers and commentators have drawn the conclusion that the Arab Spring has triumphed over jihadism, setting the region on a high road to democracy. This is too hasty a conclusion. Let's take Egypt as an example.

Just how likely is it that Egypt will end up -- after the inevitable transition period -- being ruled indirectly or directly by the Muslim Brotherhood?
The answer depends on a combination of three factors -- two domestic and one foreign:

1. The Brotherhood's strength within the Egyptian military, which is still in charge of the country;

2. The absence of a formidable secular rival within Egypt;

3. The willingness of America and her allies to underestimate the ambitions and the political skills of the Muslim Brotherhood.

For the moment it looks like all three factors are working in favor of the Muslim Brotherhood.
Make no mistake: The Brotherhood are working to realize the vision summarized in their motto: "Allah is our objective; the Prophet is our leader; the Qur'an is our law; Jihad is our way; dying in the way of Allah is our highest hope."

A series of concrete goals derived from this motto used to be available on their website, though this is (perhaps not surprisingly) unavailable at the present time. Fortunately, some of the contents have been republished at http://mideastweb.org.

Among the "sub-goals" of the Muslim Brotherhood:
-- Building the Muslim individual ... with a strong body, high manners, cultured thought, ability to earn, strong faith, correct worship, conscious of time, of benefit to others, organized, and self-struggling character;
-- Building the Muslim family: choosing a good wife or husband, educating children Islamically;
-- Building the Muslim society;
-- Building the Khilafa (a form of union between all the Islamic states);
-- Mastering the world with Islam.

True, the Brotherhood's leaders have insisted that they are committed to democracy and the rule of law. But they will give an idiosyncratic twist to these commitments.

I expect them to establish a political order based on the Sunni version of an Islamic state. Based on lessons learned from their Islamist brethren elsewhere, they will seek to establish a political order of shariah, or Islamic Law. This would include a judicial system that does not question but merely applies shariah law, a "virtue and vice" police to enforce the Sharia lifestyle and an education and information system that seeks to indocrinate the youth and build "the Muslim individual."

A department of state or caliphate would seek to establish and nurture relations with allies while urging those allies to undertake joint economic, diplomatic and military action against perceived adversaries. The Organization of the Islamic Conference is one example of this. And note the recent leading role that Egypt's interim government has taken in reuniting Hamas and Fatah while excluding the U.S. and Israel from these activities.

How will such a political order in Egypt affect affairs at home and relations abroad?

At Home:

In order to "build the Muslim individual," the Muslim Brotherhood will take control of the institutions of education, from preschool to university; they will establish a curriculum of indoctrination geared toward instilling submission and loyalty to the regime, rather than the educational requirements that a modern economy needs to be productive and competitive in a global economy. Graduates from such an education system will not only be limited in their capacity to establish successful businesses; most graduates will be more or less unemployable.

In order to "build the Muslim family," we will see the introduction and enforcement of legislation (marriage, divorce and inheritance) that strips women of their rights; their freedom of movement will be limited to the home and a handful of occupations such as teaching, nursing/medicine and other mono-gender occupations. The discretionary power of the male guardian over his female relatives will become absolute. The age of marriage will be lowered for girls to the time of their first menstruation. Flogging and stoning will be the norm for alleged violations of Islamic sexual sensibilities, which will mean an existence in perpetual terror for women and homosexuals.

In order to "build the Muslim Society," basic freedoms such as the freedom of conscience, speech, press and association will be heavily curtailed for dissidents, moderates and particularly religious minorities. In Egypt, the biggest religious minority is the community of Christian Copts. Already they are the victims of discrimination, intimidation and occasional terrorist attacks. Under a Muslim Brotherhood government, the repression will get worse. Some will convert or pretend to convert to Islam to survive; more will flee. In the worst case, the fate of the Copts could resemble that of the Christian minority of Darfur.

Abroad:
In order to "build the Muslim state" (Umma), relations will improve in the short term between Hamas, Iran's regime, Hezbollah and Turkey. Money will be spent on empowering other Islamist organizations, creating alliances in the region, the ultimate goal of which will be, of course, to eliminate Israel. The peace treaty with Israel will either be gradually eroded or Israel will be provoked into war. A Muslim Brotherhood government will also work within the Organization of the Islamic Conference to weaken leaders and regimes of member states that do not share the Islamist vision.

The interesting thing to watch carefully will be the new Egypt's relations with Saudi Arabia. For the West, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is a place that holds the world's largest oil reserves. For the Islamists who dream of a Muslim caliphate, Saudi Arabia is the location of the two Holy Shrines of Islam. The Muslim Brotherhood and its allies will work to take control of the Hijaz (Mecca and Medina); if they realize this dream, the oil will be simply a bonus.
The Muslim Brotherhood sees the Saudi monarchy as decadent, hypocritical and traitors of Islam. In the coming months we shall see a dance of power as the House of Saud and the Brotherhood seek to outmaneuver one other.

The prospects, in short, of an Egyptian government dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood are as alarming as the prospect of a French government dominated by the Jacobins in the early 1790s.

Repression at home will cause human rights violations, economic crisis and an exodus of refugees, beginning with those who have money and a reasonable level of education, deepening Egypt's poverty and destabilizing the region and perhaps even Europe. Growing conflict with Israel could lead to war.

For all these reasons, Western policymakers should be exceedingly wary about the influence of the gradualist jihadists on the events now unfolding in Egypt and the rest of the Middle East. Bin Laden is dead. Al-Qaeda may soon follow him to the grave. But the doctrine of jihad lives on.

THE DEATH OF OSAMA BIN LADEN AND THE ARAB SPRING

Tariq Ramadan is professor of contemporary Islamic studies at Oxford. His latest book is "The Quest for Meaning: Developing a Philosophy of Pluralism" (Allen Lane). Ramadan is the grandson of Hassan al-Banna, who founded the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt in 1928.

By Tariq Ramadan

OXFORD, UK -- The death of Osama bin Laden, as an icon and symbol of terrorism, is all but a non-event for the world's Muslims. His vision and actions were neither widely emulated nor respected, as numerous surveys by Western governments and anti-terrorism experts have confirmed. We are dealing, above all, with a primarily American, and more broadly European, event.

The staging of the announcement, in the form of the American president's firm and carefully worded statement on live television, was designed to convey the impression of calm in the hour of victory over terrorism and over America's public enemy number one. There was no empty boasting. Barack Obama, who has in the past been sharply criticized for his apparent lack of strength and determination on national security issues as well as on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, has scored a powerful symbolic success that will have a strong impact on public opinion. Not only did he keep up pursuit of bin Laden, but in total secrecy commanded a sensitive and ultimately successful operation that seems sure to strengthen his image as a decisive president able to take action in the critical fields of national security, defense and patriotic pride. The only images available to date are those of the president micromanaging operations from his Washington office: a succession of cleverly calculated and skillfully conceived media dividends.

But we must go well beyond the flurry of exuberance that saw people celebrating in the streets of New York. What lies ahead for the Middle East, as it contemplates two contradictory realities: on the one hand, the massively popular peaceful revolutions taking place in the Arab world, and on the other, the death of the symbol of violent extremism, of a leader of tiny marginal and marginalized groups?

There may well be terrorist reprisals; they must be anticipated and met with all necessary firmness. But the task will be to combat and to neutralize isolated acts of provocation that under no circumstances can be used to justify a philosophy of political action, the course adopted by the previous American government. It is time to treat violent extremism for what it is: the action of small groups that represent neither Islam nor Muslims, but deviant political postures that have no credibility in majority Muslim societies.

The elements of a new political philosophy defining the West's relationship with Islam and with the Muslims can only emerge from the crucible of the broad-based movement for justice, freedom, democracy and dignity now sweeping North Africa and the Middle East. The rebirth now under way in the East must be understood first as an appeal for critical self-examination by the West. Once the rejoicing at the elimination of bin Laden, the "symbol of the cancer of terrorism," is over, the West should move rapidly to review its regional policies. The American and European presence in Afghanistan and Iraq, coupled with the absence of a firm commitment to resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, is an obstacle to any positive development. To this list must be added domestic issues such as discriminatory legislation that offends human dignity and personal liberty, the existence of Guantanamo and the use of torture: practices that amplify mistrust of the United States and its allies. Selective support for dictatorships in the Middle East or in the oil sheikhdoms should be rapidly reconsidered lest these policies raise legitimate questions about the West's true support for the democratization process in the Arab world.

The Muslim majority societies have a substantial responsibility for managing their own future. It cannot be stated strongly enough that the sirens of violence and extremism have never seduced the overwhelming majority of their peoples. More than ever, as the people awaken, it is essential that civil society (including intellectuals and political parties) remain mobilized and alert; that it expose corruption and the absence of the rule of law and of justice; that it develop a genuine strategy to create free and democratic societies; and that, in the end, it create the conditions for new political and economic relations with the West. For the old couple made up of Islam and the West is no longer young; the presence of new players from the Far East, starting with China, is even now resetting the parameters of the world economic order.

America, like the countries of South America, like China and India by way of Turkey, knows exactly what is taking place. It may well be that the Arab "spring" is, in reality, the autumn of the Arab world's relations with the West, and a new path to another, broader spring, bounded this time by the East and Orient. Against this emerging geo-economic landscape, the announcement of bin Laden's death has all the force of a fading wind, of a random event.

© 2011 GLOBAL VIEWPOINT NETWORK; DISTRIBUTED BY TRIBUNE MEDIA SERVICES