The execution scene of Muslim Brotherhood’s Sayyid Qutb is so dramatic that it tends to dominate, and actually negate, the rest of his story. It gives people liberty to imagine what had preceded the scene. They often come up with, well, an imaginary yet non-imaginative story. One that assumes that it had two well-defined sides, the oppressor and the oppressed, the jailer and the jailed, the military and the Muslim Brotherhood.
A story that doesn’t challenge expectation often goes unchallenged. And the consequences are grave, the gravest among all is an unchallenged myth that goes like “militant Islam is a result of oppression,” lazily used, widely spread then taken as a solid ground for building attitudes towards Islamists.
Perhaps now is the right time to inject another scene, a real one, in the story of the “oppressor” and the “oppressed”. I am sorry to break the news that Sayed Qutb was the one who first called the military coup that put an end to the pre-1952 democratic life a ‘revolution’, making up for its lack of legitimacy. Less than 3 months on, when a group of workers went on a strike, Sayed Qutb called for an iron fist that should be hitting hard at those. And so it was. Two workers aged 17 and 19 were hanged.
Satan has shown its horns in Kafr Eddawar, let’s hit hard and hit swiftly. Egyptian people must only watch while we dig digging the grave and bury regression and demagoguery’ Sayyid Qutb
Now, we’ve just started to put the story on its right track. At the point of 1952, the two sides were close friends, both had no problem with oppression, both saw it as the right path to rule. The only difference was the flag under which it had to be done. This leads to the missing core of the story.
In 1924 the Ottoman Empire fell. Almost similar to what happened in Germany and Italy, Egypt witnessed several movements whose intent was to re-establish the lost empire.
Muslim Brotherhood, established 4 years on, was the carrier of the Pan-Islamist flag, others rose the flag of Pan-Arabism. However, the values underneath were almost the same, a totalitarian imperialist regime. And the common enemy was the nation/state, the modern citizen state. They all had their own discriminatory classification of citizens. All were repressive and believed in violent anti-democratic means. However, none was as repressive as the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood. One of the famous disagreements between Nasser and Muslim Brotherhood was whether to impose the hijab by the state. Muslim Brotherhood wanted repression to extend to the personal freedoms of citizens and wanted the Islamic Sharia to be imposed, this was impossible and inconceivable in then-Egypt.
Muslim Brotherhood simply wanted more oppressive regime, an early version of Khomeini’s Iran.
That’s only the local side of the story, the one that loads of Egyptian miss as time passes and generations change, the one that Muslim Brotherhood and their wide-spread network in media make sure it’s forgotten in order to keep their image as victims to an oppressive regime. This shouldn’t but it does translate to “they are anti-oppression”, they are pro-democracy.
On a wider scale, post-colonial discourse tends also to relieve Islamist empire from its colonial legacy. Hence Western intellectuals wouldn’t tolerate a Fascist, Nazi, or even Neo British Imperialist party, but they do tolerate an Islamist imperialist one, like Muslim Brotherhood. They would easily condemn a Nazi discriminatory propaganda, but they would tolerate a group that openly advocate discrimination against non-Muslims and not-so-good Muslims.
Western intellectuals tend to tolerate a seemingly innocent concept that is the foundation of all militant Islamist groups. I’m referring here to the notion of the One Islamic Nation.
For instance, look at the attitude of Western intellectuals towards Islamist grievance over Sykes Pico treaty. They seem to agree on taking it out of context. They seem to forget that Ottoman Empire itself was a colonial imperialist power. It was defeated. That is it. Yet it seems to be forgiven by defeat. It seems that Islamist claim that all Muslims are one nation can pass. Hence, Christians and Jews being second-class citizens can also pass. Islamic empire’s claim to its colonies should catch up.
Again, Islamists manage to portray themselves as victims, this time in a postcolonial context. They are now victims of colonialism and imperialism, music to ears of Neo-Marxist liberals. While, in fact, they are one of the last remaining imperialist and colonialist groups in our time, and notably the most dangerous and the most active. They never stopped propagating for Jihad and social schism on the ground of belief and personal choices. What else would you need to give rise for the worst oppressors of all!!
Islamists are neither victims of oppression, they started their terror campaign in “democratic Egypt”, nor are they anti-imperialist group. They have never been pro-democracy. On the contrary, they always wanted a policy of “Narrow Opening”. One that is exactly their size and fit. One in which they can control what and who may pass through. They also guaranteed to punish whoever dared to try otherwise. For me and millions of others, they have been the closest layer of oppression that we know.