Charles de Gaulle said one should, and I quote, “go to the complex Orient with simple ideas”… but the eastern advocates of political Islam say, “go to the simple West with complex ideas of Islamization”.
After a series of deadly attacks by jihadists in France, and the desire of some Muslim citizens affected by the Muslim Brotherhood to separate themselves from the republic, President Emmanuel Macron studied the full dimensions of the problem of what we call today Islamic separatism.
This new policy for building a republican Islam has long been at the heart of the work of think tanks in Paris, including the Center for Middle East Studies in Paris (CEMO), which was founded three years ago by Member of the Egyptian parliament, Editor-In-Chief of The Reference and Director of (CEMO), Abdel Rahim Ali.
This expert on Islam and a lover of French culture has authored many works on the issue of political Islam in general and the Muslim Brotherhood in particular, some of which have been translated and published by L’Harmattan. His experience is very practical in such new policy for building a republican Islam.
Here is the text of Ali's interview with the French journalist:
Del Valle: You have been studying the dangers of Islamism and totalitarian radicalism for decades now. The Muslim Brotherhood has been at the heart of this radicalism. Your book "Daesh and the Muslim Brotherhood State" was translated into French recently. Are you clear on relations between the Muslim Brotherhood, on one hand, and the jihadism represented by both Daesh and al-Qaeda, on the other?
Ali: The three groups work to fulfill the same goal, namely creating an international Islamic caliphate. This is a Muslim Brotherhood idea in the first place. Muslim Brotherhood founder, Hassan al-Banna, formulated a comprehensive plan in 1928 for the invasion of the world. The implementation of this plan starts with the creation of an Islamic state that controls the world. This plan is still there. It inspired all Brotherhood thinkers, without any exception. The same plan continues to inspire the members of the group at present, even as they deny this. The thing is that moderate Muslims believe that the Islamic caliphate as a concept has nothing to do with Islam as a religion. Islam did not come to establish a state. It came to establish a nation and guide people to the right path, to love, justice, equality and humanity.
The Islamists' concept of the state is strange. It is totalitarian and has nothing to do with the principles of the Islamic religion. A state is generally a place where Muslims, Christians, Jews and atheists can live together, in the light of a clear-cut constitution that specifies the rights and the duties of everybody, regardless of whether the majority of the population is Muslim.
Since cracking down on the Muslim Brotherhood and their hostile ideology, Egypt established a church in every new city, side by side with the mosques. It specified 3 million Euros for the restoration of an ancient synagogue in the northern coastal city of Alexandria. This was unimaginable under Muslim Brotherhood president, Mohamed Morsi. The Islamists would have voted to demolish this synagogue, instead of restoring it. The Islamists are totally against the construction of synagogues and churches.
Del Valle: Let us go back to the effect the Muslim Brotherhood had on jihadists. What is the reality of the relation between the two sides? Are they direct relations?
Ali: Yes, relations between the two sides are direct. All Islamist and terrorist groups are offshoots of the Muslim Brotherhood. This applies to the Islamic Group in Egypt, to al-Qaeda, Daesh and all the other Islamist and terrorist groups. All these groups derive from the ideology of the Muslim Brotherhood. The writings of Sayed Qotb, the godfather of modern jihadism, also inspire the same groups.
The Muslim Brotherhood founded its first militia in 1946, at the orders of the founder of the group, Hassan al-Banna. This militia assassinated the then-prime minister of Egypt, Mahmud Fahmi al-Noqrashi. This man was the leader of the al-Saadi party. He paid with his life for his plans to disband the Muslim Brotherhood. The Muslim Brotherhood then formulated a plan for revolt against Egyptian authorities and the establishment of an Islamic state. The group tried to do this by infiltrating state institutions, spreading the Salafist thinking, and the use of arms.
Del Valle: Does the Brotherhood have a specific way of spreading its ideology?
Ali: The Brotherhood believes that it has to control the state first in order to take over the responsibility of educating youth and forming their minds. The group also wants to control the schools, professional unions, universities and houses of worship. It tries to demolish the existing state with the aim of establishing its aspired theocracy. It starts spreading its ideology by imposing the Islamic headgear (Hijab) on women. It then establishes religious schools. The group also tries to control the artistic scene by banning music and the cinema.
Together with this, the Brotherhood launches a campaign of smear against journalists, writers and politicians who do not agree with it. It stages attacks against tourists in order to undermine the economy and deprive it of tourist revenues. Nevertheless, the group denounces attacks against tourists and non-Muslims.
Del Valle: This reminds me of what happens in Europe. The Muslim Brotherhood usually denounces the Islamist attacks that happen in the states of the continent. However, it returns to say that smearing Muslims is responsible for the presence of these attacks.
Ali: Yes, we noticed this dual discourse. The Muslim Brotherhood always introduces itself as a moderate group every time Islamists stage an attack. In Egypt, they officially denounce the terrorists, but they always justify their motivations.
Del Valle: The imam of the Paris Mosque, Dalil Boubakr, used to tell me that a man can be a good Muslim and an ideal patriot, even in the absence of halal food, or hijab. In short, this imam calls for the presence of a personalized approach to piety, the same thing advocated by President Emmanuel Macron.
Ali: I absolutely agree with Mr. Boubakr. The thing is that if we as Muslims have agreed to be part of the French society, we have to be faithful to the society that gave us security and freedom. This means that we have to accept the culture of this society and agree to merge into it, without any conditions. It is unacceptable that we live in isolation under the pretext that Islam has a separate or distinct identity. To my fellow Muslims I say, you should not work to make France a copy of your home countries, whether these home countries are Egypt, Algeria, Tunisia or Turkey. You would rather go back to your home countries, if you really love them that much and want to make the world a copy of them.
Del Valle: Turkish President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, said integration into the European societies is the worst crime against humanity. What do you say to him?
Ali: I am not surprised. Erdogan is an inseparable part of the Muslim Brotherhood's project for Islamising the world. The Muslim Brotherhood believes integration into European societies is a crime. Erdogan has to know that Muslims have to integrate into the societies where they live. We have to teach this to Muslims who were affected by the toxic propaganda of the Muslim Brotherhood and people like the Turkish president. They have to learn a lesson from Prophet Muhammad. When the prophet left Mecca for Medina, he integrated into it very quickly. He wore the same clothes as the people of Medina did and gave up all his habits and adopted the habits of the people of the city where he started living. This shows that Erdogan says nonsense. He only wants to turn Muslims into a bunch of radicals. I want to remind him that the Medina Charter equated between Muslims, Jews and idolaters. Muslims have to know that the secular laws applied in Europe are better for them because the same laws recognize the right of the adherents of all religions to practice their faiths freely.
Del Valle: What do you say to the Muslim Brotherhood which says that it is ready to accept secularism if state authorities initiate partial amendments to the laws in favor of the Islamic religion?
Ali: This is silly and full of lies. Islam defends religious freedoms. Those deceived by the Muslim Brotherhood propaganda have to know that in France, for example, Muslims are not banned from constructing mosques. There is no repression of Muslims in France. Nevertheless, French authorities will be doing Islam a great service if they prevent Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamist preachers from preaching at the mosques.
Del Valle: The fact is that when we read what you write, we always remember President Macron's recommendations about Islam and the dangers of separatist Islamism.
Ali: Yes, I have to agree with President Macron, even as what he said in this regard is a long time overdue. Macron's remarks in this regard come a long time after the warnings made by CEMO. The French president's remarks came at a very critical time. We were about seeing separatist militants in France. This is the normal result of years of jihadist attacks and the presence of Muslim Brotherhood thinking everywhere. Sorry to say, French authorities tolerated this thinking for too long in the past. This is why I say the remarks of the French president are a long time overdue, but better late than never.
I have to say that these remarks were not made haphazardly. President Macron made them after Erdogan asked Turkish nationals living in France to rebel against the French state and its values. This came only months after Turkey refused to participate in a project for reformulating Islam in France. CEMO made warnings in this regard three years ago. We warned against this separatist strategy which is adopted by the Muslim Brotherhood and their benefactor, Erdogan. The Muslim Brotherhood sees nothing in the west, but alcohol, same-sex relations and corruption. It succeeded in convincing uneducated Muslims living in the west that integration into western societies will be tantamount to moral degradation.
To the Muslims living here I say, if they really believe the west to be the devil, why do they cross the sea to live in this west? In Egypt, as it is in France, the state has been defeated because it gave up its supervision over education, worship, and sports and gave the chance for Islamists to fill in the void it left.
Del Valle: Can Egypt fight the Muslim Brotherhood as Europe did? Can it trim its influence? How can this be done?
Ali: We have to put in mind that the Muslim Brotherhood has been there for 90 years now. Over these years, it succeeded in intoxicating generations and generations of people with its ideas. It made these people believe that its ideology represented true Islam. It infiltrated schools, universities and professional unions. This is why it is not easy for Egypt to end 90 years of Muslim Brotherhood presence. However, fewer Egyptians harbor Muslim Brotherhood ideas now, thanks to the work of thinkers over the years. This group's rule of Egypt was catastrophic. It was very repressive. The fact is that we have to work for many years to come in order to remove the mark the Muslim Brotherhood put on all aspects of life in Egypt.
Del Valle: Have you succeeded in making Egypt's presidents from Hosni Mubarak to incumbent President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi more aware of the dangers posed by the Muslim Brotherhood?
Ali: I struggled a lot against the ideas of this group and against its attempts to control state institutions and the civil society under ex-President Hosni Mubarak. State authorities under Mubarak showed a lot of tolerance to this group. They allowed the group to control the political parties, the professional unions and civil society organizations. I worked with like-minded thinkers. I believe the work I did in this regard had a great influence.
Del Valle: Let us return to Erdogan, this Muslim Brotherhood politician who dreams of reviving the Ottoman Empire and shows a lot of hostility to the west and the Arabs. He is so successful in France and in other places in Europe. Why?
Ali: You are right. Erdogan is so active in France, Germany, the United States, the UK, Belgium and Sweden. He is also active in Arab states and in the Arab Maghreb. The Turkish president is famous for several reasons, including the support the media mouthpieces of the Muslim Brotherhood give him. Muslim Brotherhood media introduces Erdogan to people as a real political leader, a new sultan and a hero of Muslims around the world. His success among the Muslim Brotherhood members infatuated with the idea of reviving the Islamic caliphate boils down to the fact that he looks like the Muslim Brotherhood.
Del Valle: Does the Muslim Brotherhood have a plan to anoint Erdogan the new caliph of Muslims? Do they depend on a fatwa by Muslim Brotherhood term of reference, Youssef al-Qaradawi, who said Erdogan is the best candidate for the position of caliph?
Ali: True, there is a plan for the selection of a new caliph of Muslims. This is an international totalitarian plan. It is present in the literature of the Muslim Brotherhood. This is why I say the alliance between Erdogan and the Muslim Brotherhood is a decisive matter. Both sides cooperate across Europe. This is an alliance between Millî Görüş, the organization from which Erdogan comes, and Arab and European Muslim Brotherhood members. This organization was apparently founded as a direct result of the influence of the Muslim Brotherhood. Turkish Islamism appears different from the Islamism of the Muslim Brotherhood, but only on the surface. Erdogan controlled the organization after he tightened his grip on power in Turkey. This included the branches of the organization in Europe. He worked on spreading its ideology through Turkish embassies and consulates in European states. The organization mainly aimed to lead Muslim communities and Turkish mosques in Europe.
Del Valle: How can we ban the Muslim Brotherhood as Macron suggests, if its members are able to deceive judges through their dual discourse and the denial of their affiliation to this group?
Ali: I think the first thing we need to do is to enforce laws that ban movements that do not respect the French constitution. We then have to eradicate the financing that comes to the group from abroad, including from states like Qatar. We have to control the mosques to ensure that the ideology of the Muslim Brotherhood is not taught in them. We have to closely watch the schools. We have to offer better training for mosque preachers, including in French traditions, laws and history. This is the only way we can win this battle. We have to help those living in the suburbs to better integrate into the French society. This is how we can protect them against extremists. We have to launch a real cultural revolution, one that corrects all the wrong ideas spread by the Muslim Brotherhood. CEMO will suggest a new project for Islamist reform soon. This project will counter all the ideas of the Muslim Brotherhood. We will release the Arabic edition of this project in April. We will release the French edition in June.
Del Valle: Can French politicians learn from your experience? Have you met any elected politicians?
Ali: I agree with those calling for banning the Muslim Brotherhood 100%. I met a large number of French thinkers and politicians. They are part of my political family.
Dal Valle: Why does the French press describe you as a friend of Marine Le Pen, even as you can advise everybody in the government?
Ali: Yes, I can easily talk to everybody. However, I prefer the Republicans. They are so close to the way I think. Nevertheless, we have to make dialogue with everybody. We have to cooperate with all those who want to fight the international danger posed by the Muslim Brotherhood. I met Marine Le Pen only one time at a press briefing at the French parliament. The French press did not refer to dozens of meetings I held with French political figures. The same press accused me of hating Israel and the Jews. I am not a hater of the Jews. Some people like to take what I say out of context. My country signed a peace treaty with Israel. I had never criticized this treaty. I only oppose the peace plan declared by U.S. President Donald Trump because I want a solution that allows the creation of two states that live side by side with each other in peace and in the light of United Nations resolutions. This does not make me anti-Semitic. It does not make me a hater of Israel or Israelis. The Israelis will realize that a reasonable peace will be in their best interests. This reasonable peace will not give Hamas and other terrorists justification. I do not back these terrorists, given the fact that they belong to the Muslim Brotherhood. My colleagues and I in the Egyptian parliament, were proud of a decision by the Egyptian government to restore an old church the Islamists wanted to demolish. The Muslim Brotherhood does its best to tarnish my reputation. They do this in collaboration with their Turkish and Qatari allies. These Islamist extremists tend to smear their opponents, instead of debating them.
I will keep defending French democracy. I love this democracy. I will also keep defending the west because it is an ideal ally against our common enemy, namely the Islamists, the totalitarians and their allies in Doha and Ankara.