“Let us teach these [Egyptian] children from the time their nails are soft that the white man is the enemy of humanity, and that they should destroy him at the first opportunity.”
That was a tiny part of the hatred that the leading Muslim Brotherhood intellectual of the last century, Sayyid Qutb, brought back to Egypt from an extended trip to America in the late 1940s. His dream, and the dream of the Brotherhood he led and nourished until his execution by the Nasser regime in 1966, was for a deeply anti-American “theocratic Islamic state.”
The founder of the Brotherhood, Hassan al-Banna, gave the organization its mission of Islamization of the world and its “secret apparatus” within its public core, but it was Qutb who provided the ideological fuel in his books and lectures that powers the movement to this day.
The details of Qutb’s life and of the Brotherhood’s founding in 1928 and evolution in postwar Egypt can be found in Lawrence Wright’s Pulitzer Prize-winning “The Looming Tower: Al Qaeda and the Road to 9/11.”
Here is the Wright’s key summary of the ideology of the Brotherhood:
“The Islamists wanted to completely reshape society, from the top down, imposing Islamic values on all aspects of life, so that every Muslim could achieve the purest spiritual expression. That could be accomplished only through a strict imposition of Shariah, the legal code drawn from the Quran and the sayings of the Prophet Mohammed, which governs all parts of life.”
Ignorance of the Muslim Brotherhood’s founding, evolution and still-radical agenda remains profound in the West. Imagine a United States indifferent to communism’s theory and practice in the years following the Russian Revolution or even after the opening of the Cold War.
That is the parallel to the indifference in the mainstream media to the Brotherhood today, but the persistence of the ignorance is puzzling because of the existence of such a powerful antidote to it.
Wright is a man of the Left, the New Yorker’s most accomplished journalist, and “The Looming Tower” rightfully commands the respect of America’s public intellectuals from left to right. So why haven’t large swaths of the governing class read it, much less applied its history to the current counterrevolution sweeping Egypt?
I ask most elected officials and almost all journalists I interview if they have read “The Looming Tower.” Nine out of 10 candidly admit they have not. The book came out in 2006, so the odds are they won’t be getting to it soon even as the Brotherhood enters into a deadly confrontation with Egypt’s secularists and as Islamists in Tunisia, Libya and elsewhere in the Arab world encounter organized resistance to their own rush to power of the past two years.
Qutb “saw the West as a single cultural entity,” Wright wrote. “The distinctions between capitalism, and Marxism, Christianity and Judaism, fascism and democracy were insignificant by comparison with the single great divide in Qutb’s mind: Islam and the East on the one side, and the Christian West on the other.”
Everything was inside of Islam or outside and opposed to it. But that didn’t mean the outside had nothing to offer. Qutb “saw in the party of Lenin a template for the Islamic politics of the future, the politics he would invent.”
So why do American political and media elites remain so steadfastly and stubbornly unwilling to learn the history so relevant to heir own future? Fear built on laziness, bordered by political correctness: They don’t want to know.
HUGH HEWITT, Washington Examiner columnist, is a law professor at Chapman University Law School and a nationally syndicated radio show host who blogs daily at HughHewitt.com.