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The Knights of the New Climate - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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We can now add climate change to the list of issues that has made Sheikh Mahdi Akef – who is always angry anyway – with the Arab states.

“Why haven’t Arab states said a word about this international crisis?” asked the angry General Guide of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) in his most recent weekly message. He, however, devoted only one short sentence to address the issue of climate change. Other than that, he spoke elaborately and extensively about his favourite issues: resistance, fighting tyrannical regimes as well as battling colonialist, crusader, and Zionist states. He also spoke about Pakistan’s government which is fighting “honourable people” in Waziristan and Swat Valley. He maintained that Egypt’s regime is “a burden on our chests,” according to his own description and that it has weakened the nation’s Islamic sense of belonging. I believe that what the General Guide was meant to say was that the regime had hindered the MB from manipulating those sentiments of religious belonging that are passionately and abundantly present in the Egyptian sentiment, and that it had denied the MB the opportunity of cashing in on such a valuable asset.

These favourite topics for the General Guide and the Muslim Brotherhood are definitely not new. In fact, they are repeated clichés and the Muslim Brotherhood is relentless in casting accusations of treachery against the “Ummah” and charges of collaboration with its enemies against any person, regime or current that opposes it. Of course, no one here should ask for the exact and direct definition of words such as “Ummah” and “enemies” that take on various meanings. Rather, the Muslim Brotherhood has the exclusive right to determine who falls under the category of “Ummah” and who falls under the category of “enemies”.

Those diverse and endless claims by the Muslim Brotherhood, which has caused the deepest rift ever in modern Sunni Islam, go back a long way, in other words, ever since the group was established by the ambitious young man Hassan al Banna in Ismailia back in 1928. The Brotherhood managed to formulate a viciously harmful equation with regards to politics and religion; the backlash of which we are still suffering from today and will continue to suffer from until we, as an Arab community at large with all our poverty, ignorance and lost dignity, come out of the darkness of intellectual and critical stagnancy in reality and in our minds.

What’s new about the Muslim Brotherhood manoeuvres is the employment of global issues that have nothing to do with race or creed in its conflict with the Arab states and its gaining of additional points in this never-ending political duel.

The issue of global warming is an international concern and a crisis that affects everybody living on this planet without distinction, and the accountability of Arab states for this phenomenon is virtually zero. They are not the ones responsible for the production of harmful gases; that is down to the major industrial countries. Thank God, we are not among those countries. So why is the General Guide angry with these Arab states? And why does he demand that they should have a say in the climate change issue? Shouldn’t he remain silent in this regard? The need to stir things up and demonize the opponents requires making use of everything, from Swat Valley in Pakistan all the way down to global warming. What Mr. Akef and his supporters are trying to tell us here is that all those problems would come to an end and everything would smell of roses if the Arab regimes were replaced by the Muslim Brotherhood.

But the Brotherhood is not the only one concerned with climate change and blaming Arab governments for this disaster or for global pollution. There is also Ayman al Zawahiri, the man who has retreated to the mountains of Waziristan, the same mountains the General Guide of the Muslim Brotherhood was mad at the Pakistani government for targeting and the mountains that harbour Al Qaeda members, Taliban militants and those protecting them. Al Zawahiri also had something to say on climate change and global warming. In an open interview with Sheikh Ayman al Zawahiri posted on some internet sites recently, Al Qaeda’s second man showed concern for the environment and held the West accountable for the phenomenon of global warming. Just like Sheikh Akef, the environment issue was only briefly mentioned in al Zawahiri’s talk; his main focus was jihad in Iraq, Somalia, Pakistan and Lebanon.

The difference lies in the flavour. Al Qaeda is global in its taste whereas the Muslim Brotherhood is purely regional. Al Qaeda’s style is blunt and straightforward whilst the Muslim Brotherhood’s is customarily evasive. But in the end, it is the same familiar voice present in every statement, speech, article and interview. What was new and common between both men was the climate change item. Both have become knights of climate. But these knights of climate have nothing to do with the famous “Knights of Climate” Kuwaiti comedy, which portrays the collapse of the stock market back in the early eighties. However, the current knights of climate and the Kuwaiti comedy both share the element of capitalising on adventure and playing with words.

To tell the truth al Zawahiri was completely right in his accusation against those who caused the crisis of climate change, namely the West and not the Arabs, maybe because the climate in the mountains of Waziristan is cleaner than the climate and noise in Cairo.

In any case, we ought to reflect on this political indiscretion and exposed craftiness in bringing together anything one can find to beat political rivals. We should also try and distinguish between fundamental issues and false ones within each current. It is impossible to believe that the issue of climate change is a priority to al Zawahiri or Akef, even if they wax lyrical in this regard. And so it is hard to believe that Akef’s comments on climate change or any other comments on democracy and pluralism are actually woven into the intellectual and psychological fabric of the Muslim Brotherhood or any other similar group. They are merely issues picked up on the way for everybody to see but that does not mean they are an intrinsic part of the group’s beliefs. They are picked up and thrown away at any given moment.

This is how issues of democracy, women’s rights, minority groups’ rights, cooperation with international organizations and position on arts all the way down to the issue of climate change are dealt with. They are all used for the stake of distinction and opposition and to win over the masses. But the very core of the fundamental discourse (from al Zawahiri to Akef) says that all existing manifestations of corruption, deviation, errors and enormities are due to the absence of legitimacy. However, this legitimacy does not stem from the opinion of the majority, even if this majority shares the same vision as the Muslim Brotherhood and similar groups with regards to legitimacy. This majority is purely an element of support and reinforcement to the required legitimacy, but it is definitely not its source or reference. The source of legitimacy in this case would be Islamic Sharia law and jurisdiction. Those entitled to interpret and explain this Sharia law and jurisdiction are the Muslim Brotherhood and similar groups because Sharia law and jurisdiction are concepts and not human beings. So someone must interpret them, and this someone must be in conformity with the Muslim Brotherhood vision.

The difference, from this perspective, becomes very small and strictly confined to the means used by a man like Ayman al Zawahiri compared to that used by Mahdi Akef. Though the former might brand the latter an infidel in what would seem an extremely rigid position, al Zawahiri simply sees that the only way to have Islamic Sharia law implemented is by using force and violence, whereas Akef believes that the means of achieving this is through formal education, going along with the public, regime manoeuvring and transformation from within if possible. But, in the end, both men agree that there is a lost legitimacy that has to be restored, either by force as Al Qaeda says or by persuasion as the Muslim Brotherhood states.

Any issue, other than the issue of restoring legitimacy that is being put forth by fundamentalist groups ranging from Al Qaeda to the Muslim Brotherhood is nothing but a scribble on the margins of a book of the fundamentalist dream. But again, and despite all of the above, I still prefer al Zawahiri’s view to that of Akef’s with regards to the crisis of climate change and where our fingers should be pointed. Let us hope that President Obama will lend an ear to al Zawahiri. As long as the president, upon whom we are all pinning our hopes, is busy listening to everyone in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran then why exclude al Zawahiri? Dr. Ayman has every right to be included in this Obama-ish gesture of generosity.

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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