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“Jihad” Against Hamas and Sheikh Sharif - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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It was a surprise hearing the Defence Minister of Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed’s government in Somalia and the Spokesman for the Hamas Interior Ministry in Gaza calling for people to embrace “moderate” Islam and branding those who fight against their governments as ideologically deviant and far away from understanding real Islam. They are also described as “brainwashed,” a western term that is used excessively insinuating that they themselves are pure!

After the outbreak of clashes between the Jihadist Salafist group, Jund Ansar Allah, and Hamas in Gaza, Hamas no longer has exclusive monopoly over Islamic purity. There is now another party that is more pure than it and more likely to comply with a strict adherence to Islamic Shariaa law and to the Muslim Brotherhood slogan “Islam is the solution.”

In the Ibn Taymiyah mosque, in the southern part of Gaza, Hamas’ ideal image came to an end. A confrontation broke out in which the leader of the Jihadist group, Abu Noor al Maqdisi – who announced the establishment of an Islamic Emirate – his comrades, and Mohammed al Shamali, a prominent leader of the Al Qassam Brigades in Gaza, were all killed. After the battle between “brothers in Islam”, Hamas was at a loss. The Hamas spokesmen tried to play down the importance of Jihadist groups that fought against Hamas and tried to strip these groups of their determining characteristic, saying that they are just a group of perverse individuals and dissidents. The only thing the Prime Minister of this pure Gazan government, Ismail Haniyeh, could do in this regard was preach about ideological deviance and to blame parties he would not name for establishing and nourishing these groups to spite Hamas. It was so obvious that Haniyeh was referring to the President of the Palestinian National Authority, Mahmoud Abbas. That is what the Hamas Interior Ministry spokesman Ihab al Ghussein said in a statement to the Albayan Media Group, which sympathizes with Hamas, claiming that Abdul Latif Moussa AKA Abu Noor al Maqdisi had been in contact with Mahmoud Abbas’ government apparatus. This is what happened in Gaza.

Meanwhile in Mogadishu, after the alarming increase in the number of militias affiliated to the opponents of the Somali President Sheikh Sharif, the Al Shabab movement in particular, the elders of yesterday and the rulers of today are now completely confused about how to confront those who fight them using the same tactics as them. Sheikh Sharif’s rivals are waging a war against him because he betrayed their trust and secularized Somalia. Therefore, they must not fight against him and his government based on apostasy. This is what a leading figure from the religious tribunal in Kismayo said. He asserted that there was no difference between the current government and the one before it. He added that there was an alliance between those who he described as “renegades from the previous government” and “expired Islamists who had perpetrated acts that make them non-Muslims.”

After all this, the Defence Minister of Sheikh Sharif’s government came out and said, “Many of these Muslim warriors lack deep-rooted political ideologies, and some of them have been brainwashed or forced to do what they did,” as quoted in Asharq Al-Awsat last Sunday.

What the Hamas government in Gaza and Sheikh Sharif’s government in Mogadishu have in common is that they are both ruling authorities that emerged out of Islamist groups that opposed the governments, or to be more specific, the semi-regimes that came before them, based on the pretext that they were secular, disruptive to Jihad or were not implementing Islamic Shariaa law.

This was why Hamas was established in the first place, and why the Islamic Courts Union (ICU) in Somalia were formed. However, both movements rose to power in their own way: Hamas by seizing power in Gaza and ruling independently with the support of regional parties, and Sheikh Sharif’s government coming to power with regional, African and international approval. But both movements did not think they would be outdone by stricter fundamentalist Islamist groups.

The solution to both situations is the same: to brand dissidents deviant and distant from Islam, and to claim that there are foreign parties that are exploiting them and trying to monopolize real Islam by repeating the term “moderation”. If their opponents implement this, they will not carry out these negative acts and “moderation” here means to abide by the interpretations and orientations of Hamas or Sheikh Sharif and not challenge them with other interpretations of Islam and authority as a result.

A key reason for the establishment of Hamas, which first emerged with the outbreak of the first Intifada in December 1987, was to resume with Jihad for the sake of God and to reject the entire peace process. Back then, the movement was a wing of the Muslim Brotherhood, as stated in the charter issued in August 1988. In this charter, Hamas declared that its objective after liberating the Palestinian territories is to establish the Islamic state, i.e. to implement Islamic Shariaa law. At a Hamas conference in 1993, Hamas reached the conclusion that there is no conflict between the idea of liberation and the objective of establishing an Islamic state.

After Hamas wormed its way into every aspect of the Palestinian Cause and into the local issues of regional countries, it moved away from its initial slogans due to the nature of political tactics, with confidence in the power of its brigades, security, and its regional supporters, and in the fact that it had no contender on the Islamist level, until Al Qaeda sneaked into Hamas territory. The same goes for Sheikh Sharif in Somalia and his rival Sheikh Aweys who sees Sharif as a deviant and as a traitor to the national cause. Had Sheikh Aweys come to power first in Mogadishu before Sheikh Sharif, Sheikh Sharif might have been the one casting accusations against Sheikh Aweys today.

This constant resorting to verbal manoeuvres is now clear and dull and reveals a complicated state of distortion and confusion as well as a fear of confronting real, embarrassing questions. We are referring to Hamas as well as others here. This moderation that leading figures of Hamas say Sheikh Abu Noor al Maqdisi’s group lacks is nothing but a trick for Hamas to gain more supporters who conform to its interpretation of Islam. Many of these devious phrases and descriptions are used to confront the ideologies of other groups.

Let us set aside the opportunism of Hamas, the ploys of Sheikh Sharif’s government, and all those who repeat such misleading descriptions across the Islamic world. Let us forget about all this and think about trying to interpret and understand the alliances and likely future in store for Hamas, Sheikh Sharif, the Taliban and others. Nobody likes to talk about the core issue. Instead, they try to distract people’s attention away from the real crisis, which is related to the incapability of the dominant ideology to form a balanced equation between creed and state on the one hand and legitimacy and society on the other hand in the Islamic world.

There is a problem that no one wants to discuss in an honest and straightforward manner, manifested in the concepts of religious elimination and the meaning of political and religious legitimacy. These concepts are not confined to the discourse of terrorist and violent groups; they are also present in the fabric of the dominant religious discourse. All that is being proposed to refute the counter-discourse of religious violence barely touches on these crucial concepts. Therefore it will always have a weak and temporary impact and no real effect. This is simply because we did not and do not want to address the real issue.

Perhaps the person who came closest to touching on the nature of the crisis is the current Prime Minister of Pakistan, Yousaf Raza Gillani who said recently, “We believe that the permanent solution for combating terrorism lies in changing peoples’ way of thinking.” But how do you change the way people think?

Repeating overused terms from Pakistan to Morocco about moderation, and the involvement of foreign parties in mobilising terrorists or fundamentalists, is an exhausted issue that has nothing to do with the core of the ideological matter.

This is why the word “moderation” is a hollow word that has no effect whatsoever. This is why the following question “Why hasn’t moderation saved us from terrorism?” that was put forward by the Kuwaiti daily newspaper Al Jarida (August 13, 2009), commenting on the emergence of a new terrorist cell in Kuwait, is still a legitimate question and one that is causes confusion. The question shall remain unanswered for quite a while. Until then, we will hear many repeated and worn out words about deviance, brainwashing and this lost and mysterious moderation.

Mshari Al-Zaydi

Mshari Al-Zaydi

Mshari Al-Zaydi is a Saudi journalist and expert on Islamic movements and Islamic fundamentalism, as well as on Saudi affairs. He is Asharq Al-Awsat’s opinion page editor. Mr. Zaydi has worked for the local Saudi press, and has been a guest on numerous news and current affairs programs as an expert on Islamic extremism.

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