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March 16, 2007 No.
334

Sheikh Gamal Al-Bana: Social and Religious Moderation Vs. Political Extremism

By: Yotam Feldner and Aluma Dankowitz*

Introduction

Egyptian Islamist thinker, author, and journalist Sheikh Gamal Al-Bana is a controversial figure in the Arab world. For the most part, his critics are devout extremist Muslims who oppose his unusual views on Islamic matters; however, following an article he wrote praising 9/11, he came under scathing criticism from liberal Muslims - who had until then seen him as "their" sheikh and imam. [1]

Sheikh Gamal Al-Bana (b. 1920) is the younger brother of Sheikh Hassan Al-Bana, founder of the Muslim Brotherhood movement. His other brothers, and his father, were also Islamist intellectuals. From an early age, Gamal Al-Bana had socialist tendencies along with Islamist tendencies, and in 1981 he founded the International Islamic Labor Union. [2]

Al-Bana is one of a group of Muslim intellectuals known for their moderate and liberal stances on social and religious issues - such as separation of religion and state, the status of women, democracy, secularism, and the status of Muslims who have left the fold of Islam - but who at the same time are harshly critical of the Arab regimes, of the foreign policy of Western countries - particularly the U.S. and Israel - and, for the most part, also of globalization. Other prominent figures in this group include Egyptian feminist Dr. Nawal Al-Sa'adawi and Egyptian Islamic leftist intellectual Dr. Hassan Hanafi.

Al-Bana also belongs to the school of Muslim intellectuals that maintains that there are two types of Islam: the "pure Islam" of the Koran and the Prophet Muhammad, and the "adulterated Islam" of the clerics. According to Al-Bana and those who believe only in the Koran and who do not recognize most of the Sunna as a basis for jurisprudence, the Koran is the only authentic and valid source, and the science of Islamic religious law that developed in the first centuries of Islam is not compatible with the modern era. [3]

Sheikh Gamal Al-Bana seeks to adapt the Islamic lifestyle to the modern era. He says that the practice of ijtihad - the use of independent judgment in matters of religious law - should be brought back. Freedom of thought is inherent in Islam, he says, and therefore a Muslim must interpret the Koran and the hadith (traditions of the Prophet Muhammad) personally and intellectually, without reliance on ancient or modern Koran commentators and clerics. In accordance with this approach, he believes, for example, that Islam does not contradict democracy; the Islamic punishment of death for Muslims who leave the fold of Islam [murtadd] should not be implemented; and customs such as the veil, female circumcision, and the male monopoly on leading prayers have no basis whatsoever in Islam. Sheikh Al-Bana also maintains that additions can be made to shari'a law, and that elements can also be removed from it, based on the principle of justice, which is the guiding principle in the Koran.

According to Sheikh Gamal Al-Bana, freedom is the key to progress and to change in the situation of Muslims worldwide: freedom of thought, freedom of belief, and freedom of political activity.

Sheikh Al-Bana's harsh political stance against the U.S. and the West is all the more striking in light of his moderation on social and religious issues. In September 2001, Al-Bana signed a communiqué by Egyptian Islamic and nationalist figures blaming U.S. policy for 9/11. The communiqué stated "It is the criminal and racist American foreign policy against the repressed peoples of the world, and primarily against the Arab and Islamic peoples, that is to blame for the events of New York and Washington - whatever the perpetrator's national identity may be..." [4]

To mark the fifth anniversary of 9/11, Sheikh Al-Bana published an article praising the attacks, which he called "extremely courageous." The article, which enraged Muslim liberals, stated that such attacks, and such acts of "martyrdom" as Palestinian suicide bombings, will in the future be the lot of the U.S. and Europe, and will be carried out by residents of Europe and the U.S., as long as "barbaric capitalism and the enslavement of the peoples" continues. In the article, Sheikh Al-Bana presented the attacks as "dreadful and splendid" and "a new way of settling old accounts." [5]

In another, more recent article, Sheikh Gamal Al-Bana expressed his support for Iran's nuclear program, and called on Egypt to sign a joint defense agreement with Iran, under which the latter would provide nuclear aid to Egypt in the event of war with Israel. He wrote that Israel was the real enemy of Egypt, and Egypt should be prepared for confrontation with it.

This document presents some of the liberal stances of Sheikh Gamal Al-Bana in religious and social matters, and also his critical stance towards the West.

Islam and Democracy

Sheikh Gamal Al-Bana believes that there is no contradiction between Islam and "pure" democracy, in which the supreme value is the law, and not majority rule. Thus, Islamic democracy resembles ancient Greek democracy, based on the rule of law, and not Western democracy, which he calls "market democracy" because decisions are made by majority vote.

In a lecture on "Islam and Democracy: Similarities and Differences," that he delivered at a conference at the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS) [6] Al-Bana said: "The philosophers of Athens advocated a different model of democracy, 'the rule of law'... Plato stated that it was better for societies to be ruled by law than by people, in which the citizens would become servants of the law. That is, the Athens philosophers wanted something different - they wanted 'the rule of law,' not a democracy by vote.

"The appearance of modern democracy stems from the class society in Europe, and from the emergence of the bourgeoisie that attempted to escape from the class structure. Democracy emerged as a political front of the bourgeoisie, and capitalism emerged as an economic front of the bourgeoisie. Thus, democracy was not a political philosophy or theory, but emerged as a result of the social and economic changes in European society...

"Islam set out three important rules for political rule: 1) rule according to the Koran, when Islam preferred the rule of law to rule by the vote; 2) oath of allegiance to the ruler, since Islamic rule is based on [the citizen's] satisfaction, not on [majority] victory and rebellions; 3) the people's right to oversee the ruler...

"Islam can integrate into the pure form of democracy. The supreme value in society must be wise law, and not [majority] vote. The Athens court, which was made up of 500 judges, decreed death for Socrates because he submitted to the principle of the majority.

"Islam presents a paradigm of rule that surpasses democracy. The democracy of the mosque is more democratic than the democracy of the market. The beautiful form of this democracy existed only during the era of the Righteous Caliphs [i.e. during the era of the first four caliphs, 632-661 CE]. [We must] distance ourselves from the perversions that exist in democracy, because if freedom permits such perversions to appear without restricting them, this will undermine society. Likewise, the clear differences between the classes undermine society, and only the law can restrain them..."

Islamic Punishment

Sheikh Gamal Al-Bana says that the conditions of the age must be taken into account in analyzing the Koranic texts on Islamic punishment - that is, the texts must not be applied automatically to modern Islam. The most prominent example of his views in this area is his position on the punishment of a Muslim who leaves Islam, or murtadd. Modern Muslim clerics are divided on the issue of whether such an individual should be immediately put to death or given a chance to recant. According to Al-Bana, both are wrong, and the regime must not punish the murtadd at all, because faith is a matter between man and his God, and the government has no right to interfere. Al-Bana says that an individual has the freedom to believe or not, and, whichever he chooses, he will get his reward from God, not from man.

In an article titled "No Punishment for Ridda [Muslims leaving Islam]; Freedom of Thought is the Backbone of Islam," Al-Bana quoted all the Koranic verses on the subject, and then said: "These verses are clear with regard to ridda in Islam; they make no mention of any torture or punishment for the murtadd in this world, like the punishments for thieves or murderers. The [only] dreadful and terrifying punishment is the rage of Allah. This is compatible with the policy and spirit of the Koran, and the many other texts included in it, that are based on belief in persuading the individual and his intent without coercion or pressure, and that state that his freedom is maximal...

"These texts and other verses that set out freedom of thought should suffice in order to consolidate a position on the murtadd - yet some clerics have not referred to these clear texts, on the pretext that the sunna contains proof [of the need to punish a murtadd ]... Clerics prove the [need for] punishment in this world for this offense with a hadith that relates that [Muhammad's uncle] Ibn 'Abbas said, 'The Prophet said: Anyone who converts, kill him'...

"Whoever examines the Ibn 'Abbas hadith finds that it gives rise to a problem. Does it refer to only Muslims who have left their religion, or does it also include someone who converts to Christianity after he was, say, a Jew? Does it include men and women alike?... Should the murtadd be killed right away, or can he recant?...

"I would like to stress that any intervention by the regime between the individual and his conscience, whatever [the intervention] may be, is absolutely unacceptable. Faith must be based on the individual's freedom and the integrity of his heart, and my proof of this is as follows:

"First, the Koran clearly deals with ridda in several places, but does not set a punishment for it. Had it wanted to, it would have indicated a punishment.

"Second, the Koran clarifies, beyond a shadow of a doubt, in hundreds of verses and in reference to all aspects of the faith, that the basis [of faith] is the heart and the will. [The Koran] states that it is forbidden for the prophets to use pressure or coercion, because there is no coercion in [the] religion [of Islam] [Koran 2:256], and let him who so wishes believe, and him who so wishes disbelieve [Koran 18:29].

"Third, when the Koran set out freedom of belief, it in fact set out the fundamental principle expressing the nature of things [in the world]...; the divine laws [came] not in order to violate it but in order to emphasize it.

"Fourth, it is not said [in the Muslim tradition] that the Prophet killed a murtadd for the sole reason that he left his religion, despite the many hypocrites who left Islam after they had already joined it.

"Fifth, I do not dismiss any hadith [e.g. the Ibn 'Abbas hadith] just because it is an isolated hadith [i.e. a hadith supported by one sole chain of transmission]. I respect and appreciate any authorized hadith. But for us to apply it as a general principle, we must look deeply into its circumstances. We must ascertain that what was handed down was word-for-word, not just the meaning, because it is inconceivable for us to permit killing or restrict freedoms when there is a possibility that [only] the meaning was handed down. [This is because] this method of handing down [hadiths] is liable to change the intent. Likewise, we must research the circumstances of hadiths, which might make it a particular law [i.e. for a specific case], and not a general [law]...

"Sixth, in the Prophet's time, the idea of ridda had to do with enmity and fighting against Islam. Whoever believed [in Islam] supported it, and whoever left [Islam] fought it... as in the case of Abdallah Ibn Sa'd Ibn Abi Sarah, who [at first] believed and then left the religion and began inciting the Quraysh against the Prophet. The Prophet permitted his killing, and when Mecca was conquered, he [Ibn Abi Sarah] found refuge with Othman bin 'Afan [the future Third Caliph], his foster brother, and who hid him until things calmed down. Then he brought him before the Prophet and asked the Prophet to guarantee his security. The Prophet was silent for a long time, and eventually guaranteed his security, and then he [Ibn Abi Sarah] converted [back] to Islam..." [7]

The Status of Women

In an interview with Yemeni women's rights activist and intellectual Dr. Elham Mane'a, Sheikh Gamal Al-Bana clearly sets out his views on the issue of women's status. The interview was posted on the liberal website www.metransparent.com, where Al-Bana regularly publishes articles. [8]

In the interview, Al-Bana discusses his four books on women's issues, and explains that various customs that emerged in Islam - such as wearing the veil, female circumcision, and men's monopoly over leading prayers - actually have no basis in Islam. He draws a distinction between, on the one hand, the Islam of the Koran and of the Prophet Muhammad, who sought to gradually change reality in favor of women as with the issue of polygamy, and, on the other hand, the Islam of the clerics, who created Islamic religious law at a time when the Muslim state was an empire, and did not have the option of defying the rulers' wishes. Following are excerpts from the interview:

The Veil was Imposed Upon Islam

"In my book on the veil, I proved that the veil was imposed upon Islam, and it was not Islam that imposed the veil. The veil existed 2,000 years before Islam, and therefore it is illogical [to claim] that it was Islam that imposed the veil... When Islam emerged, it attempted to rectify the situation, but rectifying customs and traditions is not an easy thing... Since the widespread way of thinking was a chauvinistic way of thinking, all Koranic verses were interpreted in a manner opposed [to women's equality], and then a great many traditions of women's inferiority were added..."

In response to the interviewer's question about the popularity of the veil in Egypt today and reference to the argument that the veil was merely a political symbol, Al-Bana said: "The social and religious issues are intermingled, and it is impossible to separate them. Between 1920 and 1952 in liberal Egypt, the idea of the [necessity of the] veil existed only for elderly women. I myself was photographed with my sister Fawzia without her hair being covered... because the atmosphere [in Egypt at that time] led to understanding and interpretation of the religious texts in a way compatible with the spirit and soul of society.

"But then came very grave [historical] developments. First was Abd Al-Nasser and his fascist, militaristic, and dictatorial regime, the tortures [used by this regime], and the struggle between him and the Muslim Brotherhood. Then Saudi Arabia arose as a [regional] power, with the rise of oil prices in the 1973 war. And then the Iranian revolution broke out, and Khomeini emerged. All these factors changed how Islamic society understood Islam: It was no longer the liberal understanding that was unique to Egypt and Cairo during the 1940s, but a Saudi and Iranian understanding...

"Take, for example, the hundreds of thousands of Egyptian workers who went to Saudi Arabia [to work]. Not only laborers, but also people from the highest levels. They lived in Saudi Arabia, became acclimated to it to some degree, and fundamentalism also took root in them. When they returned [to Egypt], they became propagandists (for this way of thought).

"Take [for another example] the Muslim World League [headquartered in Saudi Arabia]. It has funds, and it builds mosques in European countries, prints books [about Islam], and brings imams [to various countries]. Once all the imams in Switzerland were Turkish, [but today] they are all Wahhabis.

"These elements completely changed the direction [of Islam]. Today's Islam is not the Islam that existed during the 1930s and 1940s... in which [Muslim Brotherhood founder] Hassan Al-Bana lived. This is the era of the military, of tyranny, of violence, and the age of the rise of the extremist Islamic countries..."

The Islam of the Koran and the Prophet Differs From the Islam of the Clerics

"My second book [on the status of women] is The Muslim Woman: Between the Liberation of the Koran and the Restrictions of the Clerics. This book is based on a central idea in my thought, and it is that there are two types of Islam: the Islam of the Koran and the Prophet, and the Islam of the clerics.

"The Islam of the Koran and the Prophet set the broad lines [for individual behavior], and is based on respect for the individual and on freedom and values. In contrast, the clerics - that is, those who legislated [Islamic religious law]... set the system of Islamic [law] during the third century of the Hijra [that is, the ninth century CE] when the Muslim state was an empire... Could these clerics have issued laws that were incompatible with the imperialist nature of the state? That was not possible. When the clerics disagreed with the [rulers of the] state, they were subject to persecution. The four imams [who founded the four schools of religious thought in Sunni Islam] were persecuted [by the rulers of their time]...

"Al-Ghazali [d. 1111] spoke excitedly of the situation, saying: 'What can we do about the oppressors having reached power? Should we fight them? We cannot [if we want to avoid] civil war. Should we alienate ourselves from them? Then chaos will prevail. Should we let them be? Then they will increase. The best path is to act in their service, and try as best we can to avoid their evil'..."

The Koran Sought to Change Reality in Favor of Women

In answer to a question on the repression of women's rights in the Koran - for example with regard to inheritance and wife-beating - Sheikh Gamal Al-Bana said: "Domestic violence is an evil phenomenon that exists because human nature is not angelic, and also because human society remained chauvinistic for tens of millennia before advancing in the past millennium or two...

"What did the Koran do? In the Koranic verses on the status of women and slavery, the intention was not to maintain the status quo, but to change it within the limitations of the time, and to open the door for development. The Koran's expressions have more than one meaning... the verses are in the hands of the one who interprets them. It is not the text that is important, but the understanding of the text...

"For example, when the Koran speaks of [permitting a man to marry] four women, the text does not mean [to permit] polygamy but [rather] to restrict it. At that time, it was impossible to eliminate polygamy, which permitted [a man to marry] up to 10 women. The Koran stated [that he could marry] only four women - and then a strange verse appears: 'And if you fear that you cannot act equitably towards orphans, then marry such women as seem good to you, two and three and four; but if you fear that you will not do justice (between them), then (marry) only one [Koran 4:3].'

"The verse [permitting four wives] is conditional upon "that you cannot act equitably towards orphans" - this was a specific situation that existed [then] in Arab society and does not exist today. Likewise, the verse ending with the condition 'if you fear that you will not do justice (between them), then (marry) only one.' Despite this, the Muslims understood from the verse only the [part permitting them to marry] two, three, or four women. This is an example of bending the understanding so as to adapt it to the situation..."

It is Possible to Add To and Subtract From the Shari'a

In answering a question about why Muslims cannot admit that particular Koran verses do indeed exist, or that their time has passed, Al-Bana said: "Islam is divided into two parts: faith and shari'a. Faith means belief in Allah, in His books, in His Messenger, and in the Day of Judgment.

"Shari'a means all matters of this world, [including] relations between the ruler and the ruled and between men and women; the punishments in the Koran; inheritance; laws; and so on. Everything in matters of shari'a was revealed for a reason that existed at the time of the revelation of the text. In general, the logical reason [for the revelation of the Koranic verses] is justice. That is, justice is the spirit of the shari'a... If we add to the shari'a anything incompatible with [the principle of] justice, it should be removed from it. If the shari'a is lacking anything required by justice, it should be added to it... If the reason for which the verse was revealed is no longer in existence, or must be changed, we are obliged to change it, so that it fulfills the aim, which is justice... This is the real implementation of the spirit of Islam, not just the letter of Islam..."

No Islamic Basis for Female Circumcision

"My third book [on the status of women] deals with a phenomenon that exists in Egypt, in the Sudan, and in the region [i.e. the Middle East and Africa], and that is female circumcision. This is a crime... In my book, Female Circumcision is Not Sacred or an Honorable Deed, But a Crime, I proved that female circumcision has no basis in Islam and that those who say it does are mistaken." [9]

A Woman is Entitled to Lead Men in Prayer

"The name of my fourth book [on the status of women] is A Woman Is Permitted to Lead Men in Prayer and it is about what happened in the U.S., when Amina Wadud led Friday prayers and gave a sermon. [10] [Many] fatwas stated that she was an apostate, while I have proven that this is permitted. This is because the Prophet determined that the one most worthy of leading prayers is the one who is the most thoroughly versed in the Koran. He determined that a young boy could lead adults in prayers, because [the boy] was the most thoroughly versed in the Koran. He stated that a slave or a non-Arab who converted to Islam [mawla] could lead prayers for the senior Sahaba [Companions of the Prophet] because he was the most well-versed of them all in the Koran... That is, the one qualified to lead prayers is the one who is well-versed in the Koran. If a woman is more well-versed in the Koran than the men, is it logical that we should prefer an ignorant man over a well-versed woman, arguing that he is a man and she is a woman? Islam does not recognize this discrimination between men and women, particularly on the issue of the commandments that are between the individual and his God..."

The Solution: Freedom

At the end of the interview, Sheikh Gamal Al-Bana presented his conclusion that the solution to the current condition of the Muslims was, first of all, freedom: "It is the key... particularly freedom of thought and belief, and of course freedom of political activity. Without freedom, there will be no progress..."

Renewing Ijtihad

Al-Bana's conviction that freedom of thought is inherent in Islam leads him to call for a renewal of the personal and intellectual analysis of the Koran and the sunna, and of completely relinquishing the works of all Koran commentators, both ancient and modern. According to Al-Bana, a reasonable person does not need someone else to interpret the Koran for him, or to give him a fatwa on any subject.

In an interview, Al-Bana told the UAE daily Al-Bayan: "The past century has been a century of awakening, but the stagnation began in the fifth century [of the Hijra, or the 11th century C.E.] when the gates of ijtihad were closed. Since then, no new schools of thought have arisen, and there are those who think that it is a great sin to liberate ourselves from these [ancient] schools, to reinstitute the practice of ijtihad, or to re[read] the Koran and the sunna - on the assumption that the ancients understood the religion better than we and that we must act in accordance with their words.

"From the fifth century of the Hijra to the 15th century [i.e. the 11th through 21st centuries C.E.] - that is, for 1,000 years - the gates of ijtihad have been closed. This means that the nation of Muhammad has given its mind a thousand-year vacation, and we must thank Allah that we are in our situation today and [indeed] that the awakening of the last century was started by Jamal Al-Din Al-Afghani and by Muhammad 'Abdu, who began introducing rationality into Islamic religious law. But his preaching has not succeeded, because of the prevailing control of the conservative spirit of Al-Azhar...

"[Renewing ijtihad] is a most difficult task, because the bastion of fundamentalist religious law froze 1,000 years ago. All the clerics of the Islamic world participated in the building of this bastion, and it has become strong. Now this fortress, which used to be a stronghold of Islam, has become an obstacle to the progress of the Muslims, and changing and renewing it are extremely difficult because 1,000 years of conservatism and of refraining from ijtihad have created resistance in the Muslim mind. People do not want change and renewal. There are doubts regarding everything; the ancients become saints, and [their interpretations] become axioms and solid principles...

"With regard to Islamic religious law, it deals with all areas of life. It includes criminal law, policy, economics, women's issues, marriage, and divorce. If all these laws are wise, society prospers in all areas, in economics and in policy. But if these fatwas are backward and nonsensical, they make society backward, and obstruct breakthroughs - and this, unfortunately, is the reality, because the religious establishment clings to unwise and nonsensical laws, and does not want to intervene to change them in any way, shape, or form. Therefore, I call for a beginning of renewal, even from the drawing board, as the ancients did. We have the Koran, and therefore no one can preach morality to us...

"I have written books on the issues of labor unions, women, and jihad, but we live amongst the dead, amongst the enemies of progress, and in corrupt political regimes. Even the religious establishment is corrupt, and the people are preoccupied with finding a crust of bread - and that is why there is no response to the ideas that I raise..." [11]

The Culture of Fatwas Leads to Paralysis of Thought

Sheikh Gamal Al-Bana is against the culture of fatwas that is widespread in Muslim societies today, because, he says, the need for fatwas on every matter, large and small, leads to mental paralysis and stagnation. Following the Saudi Mufti's fatwa banning the sale of flowers at hospitals and the giving of flowers as a gift to patients - on the grounds that this was "being like the infidels," Al-Bana wrote: "The question that the hospital presented and the answer of the Mufti arouses several questions. Does a person need to ask for a fatwa on a matter of this kind? Islam does not forbid flowers, and the Prophet urged people to care for the sick. Everything concerning these two matters does not require a fatwa, and the fact that such a fatwa was necessary proves beyond any doubt that hundreds of years of imitation and memorization have paralyzed [Muslims'] minds to the point where someone asks for fatwas in matters that are completely obvious...

"The Prophet wanted the Muslim to deal with things that arise in his path on his own, with his mind and with his heart... The importance of this fatwa [banning flowers] has nothing to do with what it says; its importance lies in exposing the coexistence in the Islamic existence - material coexistence with the present yet ideological coexistence with the past; Islamic words on values and morals yet acting to accumulate wealth and influence.... This phenomenon is one of the main causes of anarchy, and one of the obstacles to progress." [12]

It is Better to Throw the Ancient Interpretations of the Koran into the Sea

Al-Bana is opposed to the use of the ancient Koran interpretations [tafasir], as was evident in a discussion on the Isra'iliyyat - ancient books and traditions about the Bani Isra'il [the Israelites] that were based on Jewish sources. There is disagreement among Muslim thinkers on whether the Isra'iliyyat should be purged from the tafasir, or should be permitted to remain as is.

Al-Bana has a third view: The books of Koran interpretation from the Middle Ages should be gotten rid of altogether: "Purging the tafasir is a waste of time and effort; it is better to throw them into the sea. Allah gave us a mind and commanded us to use it. Thus, we must interpret the Koran the way our mind and our heart directs us. There is no reason for this to cause us embarrassment. What we understand, we do, and what we do not understand, we leave as is, and we won't try to insist or to strain in order to arrive at things that are not understood... Every Muslim whose heart is true and whose mind is wise can interpret the Koran, and if he doesn't understand something, he isn't required to interpret everything in the Koran from A to Z. The demand that the Al-Azhar clerics provide new tafasir will only make the situation, which is already grave, even worse. These sheikhs will interpret in accordance with frozen rules and templates that will bring us back to the same problem. [13] "

Islam and the West

On the issue of relations between Islam and the Western countries, headed by the U.S., Al-Bana's stand is ambivalent. He is willing to consider the West's demand for democratization, changes in the school curricula, and a renewal of the religious discourse in the Arab and Muslim world. According to him, even though these demands stem from U.S. and Western interests, they should not be dismissed, because they concern problems that definitely do exist in the Muslim world, and the time to solve them has arrived. Moreover, Al-Bana expressed support for the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

Yet in most cases he is a harsh critic of Western foreign policy - particularly that of the U.S. - and even claims that 9/11 is the U.S.'s own fault. He also vehemently rejects capitalism, which he identifies with the U.S. and the West.

At the same time, Al-Bana makes a differentiation between the American people and its leadership: "When the U.S. is mentioned in Arab and Islamic circles, the widespread impression is the country of Mr. Bush and of the hawkish and warmongering neo-conservatives. This is the country with the largest number of Israelis, and its Congress pressures decision-makers so that American policy will be biased in Israel's favor, will support it, and will repel the protests of the entire world from it, using its right of veto in the [U.N.] Security Council...

"[But] this is not all of the U.S. This is the image of one of its parties, and of a limited group of residents who have managed to gain hegemony over the media, [just] as, due to their accumulated wealth, they managed to direct the economy in the direction of capitalism...

"The real U.S. is a U.S. of 'the people' - the law-abiding people that works and struggles... The U.S. accumulated its strength by virtue of millions of unknown soldiers: scientists, farmers, university lecturers and students, who all work for what they believe in because it is good and because it is democracy. A U.S. that we do not know is the U.S. of science, research, discoveries, and inventions..." [14]

We Must Not Dismiss the Call for Renewal Just Because It Comes From the U.S.

About religious and nationalist opposition to the U.S. demand for democratization and for change in the Islamic school curricula, Al-Bana wrote: "As a Muslim seeking wisdom, and as an individual belonging to the human race... I see no problem in someone pointing me towards the solution or drawing my attention to a mistake. On the contrary, I must thank him, because this is the way Islam has taught us... I do not find it strange that an American, Chinese, or Indian directs my attention to confusion in how I understand Islamic issues, because even if they are not Muslim, this does not strip them of sense, experience, and wisdom. On the contrary - perhaps he sees what we do not, in accordance with the proverb that says that "the eye cannot see itself.'

"What is always important is the content of the words, and not who says them. The truth is that as a rule, what they [the Americans] are saying today is the same as what all Islamic thinkers are thinking today - their voices have become hoarse from talking and their pens have dried up from writing, but no one is paying attention to them. On the contrary; it is claimed against them that they have no right to speak on the matter, because they are not clerics - as if Islam had become a shop with a sign saying 'Clerics [Only]' and no one [else] was allowed to enter it... Although the state [Egypt] has, by means of its president, demanded a renewal of religious discourse, this demand is scattered to the wind, because the religious establishment is opposed to any real renewal, and bases itself entirely upon the traditional content of Islam..." [15]

On another occasion, Al-Bana further honed his position on the subject: "I can vehemently state that every appeal that comes from the U.S. is not for the sake of Allah and not for the sake of Islam, because no country seeks anything but its own interests and policy... The calls for renewing the religious discourse [in Islam] are completely cut off from service to Islam and the Muslims - but this does not eliminate the possibility of examining them... If the Americans demand that we renew Islamic discourse or Islamic thought, this is a good demand, and we thank America for it, because it has directed the attention of the senior authorities in our land when our own voice has been hoarse, without anyone listening to us or taking an interest in us. We thank America for this demand, despite everything, because America's considerations are not worthless; we are indeed in a state of fossilization and seclusion, and we must deal with this situation.

The Americans and Europeans "Seek to Expose the Shame of Islamic Society"

"Although our clerics say that Islam is characterized by flexibility, no one carries out anything of all this [flexibility], and we suffer from a strange and sick phenomenon. It seems that by us saying that Islam brings renewal... the problem is solved. But the truth is that we have not solved the problem. The Americans and Europeans are against specific phenomena like [Islam's approach to] the status of women, freedom of thought, democracy, jihad, and [Islamic] punishment. They don't say things for no reason... They, of course, do this not out of concern for the Islamic nation, but in order to expose the shame of Islamic society and Islamic thought, because the [Westerners] who are issuing these calls are not philosophers, but criminals, murderers, and blood-letters. But nothing rules out the possibility that when they aim the arrows at us we must confess to what they accuse us of...

"For example, with regard to democracy, there is no genuine shura in any Islamic country; this [i.e. shura] is, after all, formal [councils], while [in these countries there is] dictatorship, repressive regimes, and the rule of tyranny. [16]

"With regard to jihad, the idea raised by Sayyed Qutb is completely different from jihad in Islam, because Qutb avoided saying that jihad is for the sake of defense, and depicted those who fight [only in] defensive wars as defeatists. [17]

"In Qutb's view, the aim of jihad was to rescue humanity from worship of man and to restore the worship of God - and as jihad fighters, this is our mission. But Allah did not instruct the Prophet to carry out this mission; on the contrary, he told him, 'Will you then force men till they become believers? [Koran 10:99] and 'If Allah had so willed, He could have made them a single people' [Koran 42:8].

"Unfortunately, the mistaken understanding of jihad has taken root in the minds of some of the groups, even though it contradicts the Koranic verses. Any verse in the Koran on fighting concludes with the words 'so that there will not be civil war' or 'fight them as they fight you.' Jihad serves as a response to fighting, or in order to prevent the occurrence of fighting. It is done for the sake of freedom of belief, and not in order to force belief...

"Accordingly, we thank our enemies, because they have presented us with our flaws. We must institute something like a 'revolution' in Islamic thought and Islamic religious law; we must return to the Koran without limiting ourselves to the [existing] schools of thought, the words of the commentators, or the rulings of the jurisprudents - because even if they were geniuses and believers who devoted their lives to the service of Islam, they were not angels, and were not infallible. Above all, they were of their generation - not to mention that the Islamic caliphate became a repressive regime when it was turned into a kingdom by Mu'awiyya bin Abu Safyan, the founder of the Umayyad dynasty. This atmosphere of repression was what gave rise to the clerics. In any case, they were geniuses in their time, and preceded many others, but today, their works are not suited to the current generation. Did those ancient clerics, one of whom traveled from Al-Madina to Al-Fustat [old Cairo] to seek a hadith, ever imagine that there would be a CD with all the hadiths on it?..." [18]

The War in Iraq - The Regime of an Oppressive Ruler is Not an Islamic Regime

As stated, Gamal Al-Bana supports the U.S. war in Iraq - a position that surprised and angered many. "A great number of clerics have ruled that Islam requires Muslims to stand alongside any Islamic country under attack," he wrote in the first days of the war. "They revived the ancient texts requiring everything in jihad: the woman without her husband's permission, the slave without his master's permission, the debtors without their creditors' permission...

"I would like to discuss these fatwas from two perspectives: first, reason and practical logic, and second, the shari'a. It is not difficult to understand from the first moment that the goal of these [ancient] fatwas was to sanctify mutual responsibility in Islamic society. They [i.e. the fatwas] were issued before the appearance of the modern state with geographic borders, and before there was a need for visas and passports to move [from state to state], before there were professional armies in the modern sense, when war was waged sword to sword and lance to lance... Accordingly, it is impossible to apply these old fatwas to the new situation, and spreading them constitutes demagoguery.

"For example, how can the masses today wage jihad when they are divided by national borders? With what means can they wage jihad, when they have not cannon and missiles, but knives and sticks? All the masses can do is demonstrate... Perhaps it is possible to wage jihad on a volunteer basis, but have we forgotten what happened to the Afghan Arabs and the jihad fighters in Bosnia?... Thus, from the practical and logical standpoint, these fatwas are meaningless, and the only goal [of spreading them] is to incite...

"The distinction between the attacker and the attacked, and between the oppressor and the oppressed, is, like the nature of intervention when battles break out, clearly defined by Islamic principles in the hadiths of the Prophet and in the Koran verses. When the Prophet said 'Support your brother, whether he is oppressor or oppressed,' he clarified that the support for the oppressing brother was to prevent him from continuing with his oppression - not to join him in this oppression...

"The real standard for determining the Islamic essence of any regime is justice. If the regime is just, it is Islamic; if not, it has no connection to Islam. An oppressive ruler's regime is not Islamic even if [the ruler] dons a turban as high as a mountain, holds in his hand a string of prayer beads a meter long... and writes 'Allah Akbar' on his flag. [19] The regime of a ruler who rules with justice is an Islamic regime, even if he himself is not a Muslim, because the issue is not the ruler's religion, but the nature of his regime, and whether or not he carries out justice in the regime for which he is responsible. Ibn Taymiyya said that [it was preferable] that the regime's affairs be run by an infidel who acts justly than by a Muslim who oppresses. [20]

"The Islamic-ness of the regime for the sake of which it should be supported and jihad should be fought is determined by the implementation of justice. If it oppresses, the support for it is nothing but support for oppression and contempt for justice, and in this there is nothing of Islam - on the contrary, it contradicts Islam.

"I call on every decent and neutral person to assess the regime of Saddam Hussein. Is this a just regime, or an oppressive regime of the worst kind? Did he use poison gas against the Kurds and Shi'ites and destroy tens of thousands? Did he murder members of the opposition immediately and without trial? Did he torture prisoners and exile them?... Did he invade Kuwait and plunder it?... Did Saddam Hussein obey the decision of the Arab League, in which all its kings and leaders called on him to withdraw from Kuwait?... He rejected this arrogantly and stubbornly. It would have been better for the clerics to rule that he was a rebel who should be killed...

"Saddam is the remnant of the gang of military personnel who ruled the region by fire, iron, terror, and torture, caused backwardness in their countries, and repressed their peoples. Should every Muslim stand by him - or does Islam command us to be rid of such individuals, even if Muslims are killed for the sake of doing so?

"The UAE offered asylum to this sinning tyrant, and offered to guarantee the safety of his money and his entourage. Likewise, up to the final moment, the U.S. declared that it would not start a war against him if he would step down. They gave him a chance to save his people from war... but like all tyrants, he refused, acted arrogantly... and made his people a shield behind which he hid to protect himself. Why don't the clerics apply to him the famous Al-Ghazali fatwa - according to which it is permissible to kill the people behind whom the oppressor hides, in order to reach [the oppressor]?

"Someone might come and say: What fault is this of the Iraqi people's, and why is it paying for the sins of the tyrant and his Ba'th regime? The answer is that the sin [of the people] is that it submitted to the oppressive regime, and passively cooperated with it... [The Iraqi people] is like the German people that submitted to Hitler and paid the price for it, and like the other Arab and Islamic peoples that have submitted to tyrants..." [21]

Three and a half years after the outbreak of the war in Iraq, Al-Bana again discussed the matter, saying: "We agreed that the U.S. should intervene in Iraq, which was ruled by a cruel and stupid tyrant. Then came Bush - who is even stupider than Saddam - and rescued Iraq from Saddam. The U.S. could have entered as a liberator, and the Iraqi people would have greeted it with flowers. But it implemented the vulgar 'cowboy' policy, and lost the support of the Iraqi people. It became an 'occupier,' slashed the Iraqi people to shreds, and plundered its treasures..." [22]

9/11

Following 9/11, Al-Bana signed a communiqué by Islamic and nationalist figures in Egypt that blamed U.S. policy for the attacks. The communiqué read: "The accusing of Arabs, Muslims and Christians, from the first moment and even before the investigations began, and the proliferation of incidents of racist attacks against them in the U.S. and in Europe, were attempts to export the failure of the American administration by artificially creating an external enemy, that would absorb the rage of the American people towards it and towards its Central Intelligence [Agency]. It is the criminal and racist American foreign policy against the repressed peoples of the world, and primarily against the Arab and Muslim peoples, that is to blame for the New York and Washington events, whatever the national identity of the perpetrators... [23]

Only Governmental Terrorism Can Be Called Terrorism

A few months later, Al-Bana again wrote about 9/11, and this time pointed an accusing finger at another factor - the Arab regimes. Al-Bana has often attacked what he sees as the tyranny of the Arab military regimes, and sees their violence against the Islamic groups as forcing the latter to adopt violence themselves. In this article, Al-Bana wrote: "If we want to understand [the violence of the Islamic groups], we must understand the action that led to the reaction. As you know, the action and the reaction are similar: If the action is blessed, the reaction to it will be blessed, and if the action is evil, the reaction to it will be evil. If the action is the height of evil, then the reaction too will be the height of evil.

"The events of September 11 were not carried out by one man, or two. It is said that there were 19, and there is no doubt that behind them were many who helped, prepared, and provided the necessary services. Their number might be over 1,000. It all started in Egypt, when, in 1954, and again in 1965, Gamal Abd Al-Nasser declared a cruel war against the Muslim Brotherhood. Then on a single day he arrested 16,000 of them, who then suffered the cruelest torture methods, were exiled, and had their property expropriated. The terrible tortures sowed the first seeds of the rejectionist groups - the groups that are opposed to the existing regimes and see them as infidel regimes that may be fought...

"The blame does not fall on these groups, but on governmental terrorism, which [is the] only [kind of terrorism that] can be called terrorism. Nevertheless, they [i.e. the Islamic groups] did not ultimately want terrorism, but only to be treated fairly. When they found all legitimate and public paths locked to them, they were forced to use violent means, which destroy them more than [they destroy] the ones who locked the gates to them.

"The solution to this whole matter is freedom. If free regimes prevail region-wide, even if they don't use democratic Western or American means, it will be possible to rectify everything. But as long as military personnel or tribal sheikhs control the region, it will continue to serve as a hothouse for despairing groups that pay with their lives to do something against their oppressors... [24]

9/11 - "A New Way of Settling Old Accounts"

To mark the fifth anniversary of 9/11, Sheikh Al-Bana again blamed the U.S., in an article praising the perpetrators of the attacks, whom he called "extremely courageous." He wrote: "In the modern age, it has never happened that a nation lost its mind, not even for one hour, as happened to the U.S. following the events of September 11, 2001. It did not happen to the U.S. [even] when Japanese planes surprised the U.S. Navy at Pearl Harbor and destroyed it, despite the element of surprise... The September events were something completely new, something almost unbelievable... and since then Mr. Bush has not stopped talking about the hidden foreign enemy called 'terrorism' that is likely to appear anytime, anywhere.

"Bush did not err when he inflated what took place on September 11, but he did err in recognizing its causes. He could not have known, and will never be able to know, the reasons for it: He himself is the reason, or at least one of the reasons...

"Prior to the events of September 11, the U.S. had already made significant advances in spreading its control over the world, particularly over the Middle East. It is in the Middle East that its beloved Israel is located... as well as the oil resources that were a source of envy to the U.S. - which had always marveled that they were located among the 'Bedouin' who do not know what they are worth, instead of in the U.S., whose industry is based on them...

"The first step was when the U.S. lured Iraq into fighting Iran and thwarting its splendid revolution, that had humiliated the U.S. and besieged its embassy... Then the U.S. lured Saddam again, [this time] to invade Kuwait. The U.S. Ambassador hinted to him that her country would not intervene, and the tyrant swallowed this and attacked Kuwait.

"Then came the U.S.'s opportunity to strike and to win three victories in a single war. It declared war on Iraq after mobilizing the armies of the world, including the armies of Arab countries, and agreed with Kuwait and Saudi Arabia that the U.S. would send garrison forces to defend the two countries from 'the monster.' Thus the Americans entered the holy land [Saudi Arabia] and defenseless Kuwait with the permission of these governments... [and then] the armies that the U.S. had mobilized succeeded in defeating Saddam and turning 'the mother of all battles' [i.e. the first Gulf War] into 'the mother of all defeats.' However, it left Saddam [in power]... so that the 'monster' would continue to exist.

"Before that, the U.S. collaborated with the Afghans in the war against the Soviets... The proud Afghan people hastened to defend its independence, and groups of young Muslims streamed to Afghanistan to volunteer for the holy jihad against the Soviet invader. The U.S. formed a relationship with bin Laden, and armed him, and he led the popular war until the Soviet Union was defeated. Then the U.S. asked bin Laden to hand over the weapons it had given him. He refused, and thus enmity flared between them.

"A group of young people from the Gulf countries and Egypt followed what was going on, and witnessed its various tragic chapters. With their own eyes, they saw the Arab countries falling, one after another, and surrendering to the U.S.... Then they followed, with great pain, the loss of the limited achievements that the Palestinians [had gained] at Oslo, and saw the murderer Sharon lead Israel, carry out massacres every day, and set up roadblocks that strangled the Palestinians and put them in a kind of prison, arbitrarily controlling their livelihood, and doing everything to humiliate them. All the while, the U.S. applauded him, saying that Israel had the right to defend itself, and repelling every condemnation of Israel at the U.N. [The Muslim youths] also saw the neoconservative hawks [in the U.S.] enslaving themselves to a Torah legend, and being exploited by the Zionists in order to draw up Israel's plan [for expansion] from the Nile to the Euphrates...

"These [Muslim] youths thought of a way to teach the U.S. a lesson, in an extraordinary and unprecedented manner. Their thought guided them to a plan that the greatest American film producers would never have dreamed of: using American planes. [They would] first be trained to fly them, and then would set a plan to take over some of them and change their direction, so that they could destroy the symbol of the Americans' prosperity and false pride - the World Trade Center. Thus this dreadful and splendid event occurred.

"[The event was] dreadful because within half an hour, and with a dramatic sight whose violence surpassed all imagination, the World Trade towers, that were the source of pride and fame in the U.S., were destroyed, and over 3,000 people were killed... [It was also] a splendid [event], because the ones who planned it, with all its daring and its destructive power... knew that they would be the first to die, and that within seconds after the plane crashed into the towers, their bodies would be smoke... yet they did not hesitate, and were truly 'extremely courageous.'

"This event marked the end of an era and the beginning of a new era. Before this era, the powerful and wealthy countries enslaved the East, plundered its wealth, killed its people, conquered its land, and transferred everything precious and valuable there to themselves, until they attained the accumulated wealth without which they would not be able to achieve such a rise in standard of living. This accumulation [of wealth by the West], which went on for two or three centuries, impoverished the East to the same extent as it enriched the West. The participants in this plundering were Britain, France, Spain, Italy, and the Netherlands. The U.S. accumulated [its fortune] by destroying the indigenous people of America by the most despicable means and by taking over its land. Then it impoverished Africa by enslaving tens of millions of its young people...

"These countries - [whether] the old imperialist European nations or the new global imperialist leader, the U.S. - never feared a settling of accounts; nor did a leader of European nations or the new global imperialist leader the U.S. fear a settling of accounts, or punishment, and they refused even to apologize. But the September events opened new horizons - a new way of settling old accounts.

"We acknowledge that this way will harm innocents. But when are innocents taken into account when engaging in battle? A pilot presses a button, and his bombs are dropped on buildings, hospitals, schools, water stations, equipment, and so on. Modern war, and particularly aerial weapons, cannot take innocents into account. So let them [in the West] be silent, or ban the use of airplanes...

"Finally, I would like to say that a new and unfamiliar means of obtaining justice or rights was revealed by the events of September 11, and by the Palestinian incidents of martyrdom [i.e. suicide bombing]. This method will in the future certainly find its way to American and European society, as long as this society's policy is barbaric capitalism and the enslavement of the peoples. It is only a matter of time before those who carry out acts such as those of September 2001 or the Palestinians' martyrdom will come from European society itself, and not from 'Islamic fascism,' as Mr. Bush calls it. This will give no rest to the U.S. and its allies, because it is difficult to fight it... any effort they invest in fighting terrorism will be in favor of the terrorism. Having rid itself of its inhuman past, the West must now deal with a restless future." [25]

Support for Iran's Nuclear Program

Al-Bana has expressed his support for Iran's nuclear program, and maintains that Egypt should sign a joint defense agreement with it - because Israel, which he calls "Egypt's true enemy," has nuclear weapons that might endanger Egypt. He wrote:

"Bush's bitter enmity towards Iran, and the attack he is leading against its continued nuclear activity... may be hard to understand at first, since... Iran is not [geographically] close to the U.S., no Iranian took part in the September 11 attacks, and no Iranian is active in Al-Qaeda... Why, then, did Bush declare this attack [against Iran], and [why is] his Israeli Crusader representative 'Bolton' continuing it in the [U.N.] Security Council?

"Recent events [i.e. the Israel-Hizbullah war] have shed light on the reason for this [enmity]: Iran supplied Hizbullah with the missiles that disturbed the tranquility of the Israelis, knowing that Hizbullah takes supreme political considerations into account. These considerations made Hizbullah refrain from using missiles that could destroy Tel Aviv and settle for missiles that do not destroy buildings, do not seek people in vehicles and hospitals, but [merely] sow fear amongst the Israelis. [The use of Iranian missiles] thwarted Bush's plan, and turned Israel's victory into defeat...'

"If Iran's position arouses Bush's roar, how can we use [Iran?]... Egypt stopped its nuclear activity based on [its declaration] that peace was its eternal choice. Then it became clear that it was impossible to realize this peace in light of Israel's aggression and expansionist plans. In Egypt, they assume [two options]: continuing nuclear activity... or allying with a country that has nuclear weapons and signing a joint defense agreement that will obligate that country to participate in a war if Egypt's interests are endangered.

"This means that Iran must continue its nuclear activity, reach the final stage and obtain nuclear weapons. In my view, this will happen. Iran has not responded to the U.S.'s demands...

"Egypt-Iran relations are normal... Even if the religious school of thought is different, it doesn't matter, because the J'afari [Shi'ite] school is like the Hanafi or Shafi'ite school... Egypt really loves the Shi'ites... in addition to the historical connection [to the Shi'a] when the [Shi'ite] Fatimids ruled Egypt and Al-Azhar was a platform for Shi'ite da'wa [religious preaching]... Nevertheless, it must be acknowledged that politics has created some clouds in the sky of [Egypt-Iran] relations, which originated with [Egyptian President Anwar] Sadat's friendship with the Shah, and [thus] Sadat's assassins are glorified in Iran. But these are all passing matters that will end. Of course, Egypt is closer to the Arabs [than to Iran], but we have tried the Arab countries and nothing happened to strengthen the unity and tighten the closeness. On the contrary, it appears that each country... is concerned strictly with its own interests. In any case, no Arab country has what we want [i.e. nuclear weapons].

"The geopolitical reality forced upon us is that the only country with enmity between it and Egypt... [is Israel]... Israel gave up the Sinai only when it was forced to, and [in Israel] there were those who said that war and the Sinai was preferable to peace without the Sinai. Israel is planning to increase to [a population of] seven million in 2020, and then its area will be too narrow to contain it, and it will doubtless prepare a plan to retake the Sinai. If the Egyptian military wants to show resistance and deal [Israel] a crushing defeat, wouldn't it be natural for it [Israel] to turn to nuclear weapons to save it? And who will blame it? Everyone will shout loudly that that Israel has the right to defend itself...

"It would be better to look to the distant future and learn the lessons of history... who our real enemy is, and to procure guarantees... Why not tighten our relations with Iran? Why not sign a joint defense agreement with them?...

"It is true that Iran is far away, and it is difficult [to expect] that it repeat what it did for Hizbullah when it supplied it with missiles via Syria. But in this era of flight, distance has lost much of its meaning, not to mention that what we want from Iran is not conventional [weapons] but nuclear aid..." [26]

The U.S. Wants the Destruction of Every Islamic Entity and the Establishment of a New Middle East

Against the backdrop of the Israel-Hizbullah war in July-August 2006, Sheikh Gamal Al-Bana wrote another article against U.S. policy in the region, in which he also took a negative view of Israel and of the Arab regimes that had "submitted" to U.S. policy. In his estimation, the war would indeed bring about the creation of a new Middle East - but one completely different from what the U.S. envisioned:

"For the Arab countries, the war forced upon Lebanon is similar to what the September 11 attacks were for the U.S.

"The first thing that was amazing was... the deliberate cruelty of this war, which had only one aim - ruin and destruction...

"The second thing that deeply affected the [Arab] public was the U.S.'s position. Israel had numerous precedents of killing, destruction, humiliation, and harassment, but the U.S. surpassed [Israel] in this war. After giving Israel a green light for the attack, the U.S. fought against every political or humanitarian effort aimed at easing the tragedy [in Lebanon] or at tackling its humanitarian aspects. It encouraged Israel to continue the war, arguing that the Islamic resistance in Lebanon [must be eliminated]... But Israel destroyed not the resistance, but beautiful Beirut, and the freedom and culture that it symbolized...

"Condoleezza Rice wanted this total destruction to continue for a week or two, until the people lost their minds and reverted to living as they had before the first industrial revolution, until society collapsed and chaos prevailed... out of which, and because of which, a new Middle East would arise.

"[U.S. policy] showed that the U.S. had an interest in this war, and that it had caused its ally Israel to wage it in its name. The American interest is to destroy every Islamic entity - Hamas in Israel and Hizbullah in Lebanon - in order to establish the old plan in the Middle East... The aim of this policy was to exploit the chaos and deterioration caused by the war so that the U.S. could pulverize the resistance forces and create a new Middle East.

"The third factor that deeply affected the [Arab] public... was the ruling Arab regimes' position towards the war, characterized by stupidity and 'submission,' and also their support for U.S. policy and [the U.S.'s] attitude towards Lebanon as responsible for the outbreak of the war.

"To these elements must be added the success of the resistance [i.e. Hizbullah] in defeating the Israeli military in its first conflict with it, and the fact that the missiles of the resistance managed to land painful blows on the [Israeli] settlers, making them taste a little of what they are doing to the Palestinians. Likewise, [we must consider] the courageousness, the faith, and the dedication that characterizes Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of this resistance...

"[All] these factors have prepared the region for the appearance of a new Middle East - but in a way that the U.S. never dreamed of, because it will be the opposite [of what it anticipated] and will destroy the bridges on which the current Middle East and the alliance relationship with the U.S are built...." [27]

* A. Dankowitz is the Director of MEMRI's Reform Project and Y. Feldner is the Director of the MEMRI TV Project.


[1] Dr. Shaker Al-Nabulsi, a Jordanian liberal now living in the U.S., called Sheikh Gamal Al-Bana's praise for the perpetrators of 9/11 "heresy" against all his previous stances. In an article, Al-Nabulsi depicted Al-Bana's words as ridda - a term denoting leaving the fold of Islam, which is punishable by death. In another article, written after it became clear to him that Al-Bana had no intention of recanting or apologizing for his statements, Al-Nabulsi gave a possible reason for what he called the reversal in Al-Bana's views. Basing his claims on Al-Azhar alumnus Sheikh Ahmad Subhi Mansour, who knows Al-Bana "very well," Al-Nabulsi determined that Al-Bana had an "emotional complex" due to the fact that his father was a respected Islamic scholar, and his brother Hassan Al-Bana was the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood movement. According to Al-Nabulsi, Al-Bana aspired to be renowned like them, and therefore decided to say what the public wanted to hear. In explaining Al-Bana's moderate positions on social and religious issues, Al-Nabulsi said that Al-Bana understood that the easiest way to publicize these views was to express views that were the opposite of those of his famous brother.

A few weeks later, Al-Bana responded to Al-Nabulsi's statements, saying that he had not changed but that Al-Nabulsi himself had changed - from supporting him to hating him. He dismissed Al-Nabusi's psychological analysis of him, and pointed out that in his writings he had consistently been against past and present imperialism, arrogance, and policy that seeks to impose its sovereignty and hegemony on the world by force of arms.

See: http://www.elaph.com/ElaphWeb/ElaphWriter/2006/9/176985.htm, September 15, 2006; http://www.elaph.com/ElaphWeb/ElaphWriter/2006/10/181105.htm, October 3, 2006; http://www.metransparent.com/texts/gamal_banna/gamal_al_banna_reply_on_nabulsi.htm, October 27, 2006.

[2] For more on Sheikh Gamal Al-Bana, see http://www.islamonline.net/arabic/famous/2003/01/article01.shtml.

[3] See MEMRI Inquiry and Analysis No. 208, "Accusing Muslim Intellectuals of Apostasy," February 18, 2005, Accusing Muslim Intellectuals of Apostasy .

[4] http://www.alarabnews.com/alshaab/GIF/21-09-2001/bayan.htm, September 21, 2001.

[5] http://www.alarabnews.com/alshaab/GIF/21-09-2001/bayan.htm, September 21, 2001.

[6] http://www.egypt-facts.org/files/f1-33.htm, October 27, 2002.

[7] http://www.islam-online.net/Arabic/contemporary/2002/02/article2.shtml, February 28, 2002.

[8] The interview was posted in two parts, at http://www.metransparent.com/texts/elham_manea/elham_manea_interview_gamal_banna.htm, August 15, 2006, and at http://www.metransparent.com/texts/elham_manea/elham_manea_interview_gamal_banna_2.htm, September 1, 2006.

[9] For more on the debate on female circumcision, see MEMRI "The Egyptian Controversy Over Circumcising Girls," November 7, 2003, The Egyptian Controversy Over Circumcising Girls

[10] See MEMRI Inquiry and Analysis No. 227, "First Mixed Friday Prayers Led by a Woman: Muslim Reactions to an Historical Precedent," June 22, 2005, First Mixed Friday Prayers Led by a Woman: Muslim Reactions to an Historical Precedent .

[11] http://www.albayan.co.ae/albayan/alarbea/2003/issue168/forum/1.htm.

[12] Al-Qahira (Egypt), November 20, 2001, cited in Al-Quds Al-Arabi (London), November 22, 2001.

[13] http://arabi.ahram.org.eg/arabi/ahram/2002/11/30/HYAH3.HTM November 30, 2002.

[14] http://www.metransparent.com/texts/gamal_al_banna_america_that_we_do_not_know.htm, June 16, 2005.

[15] Al-Qahira (Egypt), September 10, 2002, cited in Al-Quds Al-Arabi (London), September 14, 2002.

[16] Shura is a Koranic concept usually understood as a council or consultation. Many Muslims refer to this concept as attesting to the democratic nature of Islam.

[17] Sayyed Qutb (1906-1966), a prominent Muslim Brotherhood thinker, was executed in 1966 on charges of planning to assassinate Egyptian president Gamal Abd Al-Nasser.

[18] Al-Bayan (UAE), January 1, 2003, http://www.albayan.co.ae/albayan/alarbea/2003/issue165/forum/1.htm.

[19] A reference to Saddam Hussein, who added these words to the Iraqi flag.

[20] Ibn Taymiyya (1263-1328) was a scholar who sought to bring Islam back to its roots, that is, the Koran and the sunna. He is considered the spiritual father of the Wahhabi movement, which was founded in the Arabian Peninsula in the 18th century, and of the other fundamentalist Islamist movements.

[21] Al-Qahira (Egypt), March 25, 2003.

[22] http://www.metransparent.com/texts/gamal_banna/gamal_al_banna_reply_on_nabulsi.htm, October 27, 2006.

[23] http://www.alarabnews.com/alshaab/GIF/21-09-2001/bayan.htm, September 21, 2001.

[24] Al-Qahira (Egypt), July 3, 2002; cited in Al-Quds Al-Arabi (London), July 6, 2002.

[25] http://www.elaph.com/ElaphWeb/ElaphWriter/2006/9/177113.htm, September 15, 2006.

[26] http://www.metransparent.com/texts/gamal_banna/gamal_al_banna_iran_and_us.htm, August 20, 2006.

[27] http://www.metransparent.com/texts/gamal_banna/gamal_al_banna_new_me.htm , August 3, 2006.