[Above: the baddies - the Saudi State, which both Islamists and Leftists love to hate (as does Osama bin Laden). Left: Mohammed al-Masari, the Saudi Islamist and campaigner against 'human rights violations' - except the violations committed under sharia law. He became popular at Islington dinner parties in the 1990s. That is, until Moazzam 'not guilty' Begg, right, took over that role in the 2000s.]
It would be wise not to get too excited or too impressed by some of the words coming out of Egypt, Libya, and the rest. For example, all this stuff about human rights, democracy and even freedom may mean something different to Muslim Arabs than it does to Westerners. Even worse than that. There has been a long tradition of Islamists, and other types of Muslim, speaking with forked tongue when it comes to these issues. To put it simply. They say one thing to Westerners and another thing to their fellow Muslims. (Tariq Ramadan, the Islamist ‘intellectual’, is a perfect example of this.) To put this in Arabic. These Muslims may well be, or are, practising the ancient Islamic art of taqiyya with Westerners. That is, that of lies, dissimulation, obfuscation, etc. in order to advance and protect Islam (or their particular take on Islam).
Taqiyya in Saudi Arabia and Aimed at the West
One aspect of Islamic society and Islamic states is the conflicts which often arise between the Islamic ulemas within a Muslim/Islamic state and the state itself. To put it simply. This war between ulema-power and state-power (a perennial battle in, for example, Pakistan) is often addressed in the language of freedom and even of democratisation; whereas it is often the case the it is only a struggle between two power blocks – the state and the ulemas.
In the early 1990s such a conflict sprung up in, of all places, Saudi Arabia.
Yes; in a sense, in Saudi Arabia the Islamic ulemas did want more democracy and more freedom… for them and from the Saudi state. Primarily, they wanted more independence from the Saudi Government.
Far from being more liberal or more democratic than the Saudi Government; they were less so. Or, more accurately, they wanted a situation of increased, not decreased, Islamisation. As examples of that increased Islamisation, they wanted complete interest-free banking, a conscript army (so as not to rely on the US in any future conflicts), a rejection of the Israeli-Arab peace process, increased friendship with Islamist regimes (such as the Algerian one at the time), more hudub (amputations for theft, etc.) etc.
In a sense, ulema militants had the perfect measure of the Saudi state. It was an arbitrary regime which only used Islam when it needed to.
Six Muslim clerics formed what was called the Committee for the Defence of Legitimate Rights (CDLR). Again, it demanded complete sharia law in Saudi Arabia. However, with relevance to the theme of this essay, taqiyya, these Islamist clerics within Saudi Arabia used the language of human rights. Or, rather, it did this; but only when talking to the Western press. When talking to its supporters and members, and indeed all Saudi Arabian Muslims, human rights were of no concern - but sharia ‘rights’, if that’s the right word, were of great concern.
Let’s take the specific case of the official spokesman for the CDLR. His name was Mohammed al-Masari. Despite being a strong believer in sharia law in all its forms, as well as an Islamist of sorts, the BBC and other Western news outlets ‘simply adored’ him. So too did Amnesty International (which simply adored Moazzam Begg much later); but only after he was thrown in jail. In 1994 he was released. After which he went to Londonistan to carry out his anti-Saudi, but pro-Islamist and pro-complete Sharia-isation, activities.
More specifically on the subject of Islamic taqiyya. While in Londonistan, the media loved him all the more; not least because of his seemingly Leftist trait of fighting against 'the Kingdom of Oil'.
So let’s be specific about Masari’s masterful uses of Islamic taqiyya. When he talked to Westerners, he talked about human rights; and he even quoted from Shakespeare. Politically, he focussed on 'human rights violations'. That is, a man who believed in complete sharia law, including flogging and all the brutal rest, focussed on human rights violations. (Do I need to spell it out?)
However, Masari’s tongue was well forked. When he talked to his fellow Muslims, or specifically the Muslim supporters of the CDLR, he spoke the language of the Koran and he also quoted the Koran. Not only that. His argument against the Saudi state was not that it was too keen on sharia law and, yes, sharia violations of human rights, but that it was not keen enough on sharia law and brutal sharia punishments! He even published a pamphlet, in 1995, which gave us ‘definitive proofs of the Saudi state’s contravention of sharia’. His audacity against the hard-line Wahhabite state did not stop there. He then went on to pronounce takfir (excommunication) against all Muslims who obeyed the laws of the Saudi Arabian Islamic state (as Osama bin Laden has done).
So, in the end, this had very little to do with human rights and everything to do with an Islamist group fighting for power against an Islamic state. However, as is probably clear by now, Masari required the language of human rights, with a few quotes from Shakespeare thrown in, in order to hoodwink the West with some masterful taqiyya. And the West was required because any help was useful in his organisation’s fight against the Saudi state.
As has often been the case, Islamists, and other kinds of Islamic extremist, have often used the West, through taqiyya and therefore human rights rhetoric, to further their often even more extreme Islamic agendas. This is no surprise. Anjem Choudary has done pretty much the same here in the UK, as did that famously innocent Child of Guantanamo, and friend of Leftists and Amnesty International, Moazzam Begg of Sparkhill (Birmingham).
I mentioned Egypt at the beginning. The question remains: How much of the rhetoric, which is coming out of Egypt at the moment, is simply Muslim Brotherhood taqiyya in the very same spirit outlined in this Saudi example? Indeed, how much of it is just pure bullshit?