Writing in the Calgary Herald, Tarek Fatah, an outspoken liberal Muslim, asks why the CBC is teaming up on a food drive with the Muslim Association of Canada – a group openly supportive of the international Islamist group the Muslim Brotherhood, and its founder Hassan al Banna.
Launched in the 1920s, the Muslim Brotherhood is the largest political Islamist movement in the world. Hamas, the Palestinian terror group, is one of its many offshoots. Some of the organization’s early leaders and thinkers, particularly Sayyid Qutb, have had an enormous influence on modern Sunni jihadists. Ayman Zawahiri, al Qaeda’s second-in-command, was a student and ardent supporter of Qutb, before Qutb was executed by Egypt in 1966 on charges of plotting to assassinate the Egyptian president Gamal Abdul Nasser. Osama bin Laden also read Qutb avidly as a young man and regularly attended lectures delivered by Sayyid’s brother, Mohammed.
The Muslim Brotherhood is now trying to enter the political mainstream in places like Egypt and claims to oppose violence – at least when its Hamas wing isn’t blowing up Israeli civilians. It has rejected al Qaeda, and Zawahiri in turn now denounces the Brotherhood.
Some would argue that as long as Islamist groups aren’t plotting to bomb subways or supporting al Qaeda, it shouldn’t matter how they feel about things such as sharia law, the conflict in the Middle East, or a woman’s role in society — and it would be perfectly sensible to cooperate with them in, for example, a celebrity food drive.
Usama Hasan, a British imam who helped launch the “counter-extremism” Quilliam Foundation think tank, isn’t so sure. “I don’t accept the conveyor belt idea that Islamism or Wahhabism or Salafism leads to terrorism,” he told me when I visited him in London this summer. “But it does contribute to the mood music, this sympathy for suicide bombings, for example. You find a lot of sympathy for this kind of nonsense.”
He added that even non-violent Islamist parties are too often obsessed with a foreign agenda, which prevents integration into Western society and stifles debates on how Islam in a Western context should evolve.