Just one day after the Egyptian military overthrew the elected Muslim Brotherhood government, Shabaab was at the forefront of those arguing that the Brotherhood made the mistake of attempting to gain power and impose sharia, or Islamic law, by following the democratic process. Shabaab’s argument was predictable; it reflected al Qaeda’s primary complaint with the Brotherhood. Although both groups seek to impose sharia and establish a caliphate, the Brotherhood has attempted to attain its goal through the political process, but al Qaeda has said this can be done only by waging jihad, or holy war.
Yesterday, in a statement released on al Qaeda-linked forums, Ayman al Zawahiri made the same argument that Shabaab and jihadists made immediately after the Egyptian coup. Below are excerpts of Zawahiri’s speech, which was obtained and translated by the SITE Intelligence Group. I believe these excerpts get to the core of al Qaeda’s disagreement with the Brotherhood:
The government of Mohamed Morsi was not attacked because it was the government of the Brotherhood; rather, it was an attack on any Islamic direction, for the Brotherhood government had sought to appease America and the secularists with what it could, but they did not approve of it and they did not trust it, because they did not forget the slogan of the Brotherhood: “Jihad is our path and death in Allah’s Cause is our highest wish”.
The Brotherhood had abandoned this slogan and replaced it with the slogan of “Islam is the solution”. However, the Crusaders and the secularists did not forget. What happened is the greatest proof of the failure of taking the democratic path to reach power in Islam. What happened was unprecedented in terms of its magnitude and ugliness, for it was larger and uglier than the failure in Algeria and Palestine. This time, the Brotherhood reached the presidency of the republic and the ministry, and they got the majority in the senate and Shura [consultative] councils, and despite all that they were removed from power by force.
Zawahiri then says the Brotherhood lost its way by immersing itself in a political fight instead of a religious war:
You have ignored two extremely dangerous matters in the conflict: The first is the creed-based nature of the conflict, and that it is a conflict between infidelity and faith, between surrendering to the rule of Allah, glorified be He, or giving it to someone other than Allah; it is not a conflict between political parties that are bound by the nationalist unity.
The second matter you ignored is the actual nature of the conflict. It is not a conflict between competing nationalist parties, but it is a conflict between Crusaderhood and Zionism on the one side and Islam on the other.
He then makes the appeal for members of the Brotherhood, and all Muslims, to abandon democracy and Western influence, and wage jihad. He even invokes the name of Hassan al Banna, the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood:
I do not say this to take pleasure in the misery of others, may Allah forbid it. But I am describing the disease to get to the description of the medicine. I call every honorable, loyal person who loves the victory of Islam to unify the words of the Muslims around the word of tawhid [monotheism]. I call upon all my brothers to shun all methods and ways that oppose the rule of Shariah, and to unite in a mass preaching and inciting movement so that Shariah is ruling and not ruled, commanding and not commanded, leading and not led, and that the Ummah rejects the surrender treaties and normalization with Israel, and the security arrangements with America and all the pictures of perversion from Islam and submission to its enemies.
I call the soldiers of the Qur’an to wage the battle of the Qur’an that the martyr Imam Hassan al- Banna had called for.
I will restate what I said on July 4, one day after the Egyptian coup:
The effects of the Egyptian coup may not be fully understood for years, but one thing seems clear: the event has provided al Qaeda and other jihadists with plenty of grist for the propaganda mill. It remains to be seen how effective this argument may be, but it is likely that some disaffected Muslim Brotherhood members will be swayed by these arguments.