By Germain Belzile, HEC, Jean-Charles Chebat, HEC, Pierre Brassard, Montréal, Jacques Brassard, former Quebec minister
A conference entitled Nos Familles, Nos Fondations (Our Families, Our Foundations) will shortly take place on Sept. 25 at the Palais des congrès de Montréal (the convention centre). The conference, sponsored by Islamic Relief Canada, a well-known organization which is headquartered in Great Britain, is the product of the alliances of the broad Muslim Brotherhood movement.
The Muslim Brotherhood is a politico-religious pan-Islamic organization founded in Egypt in 1928 with the goal of extending its political ideology by the introduction of Sharia law as the ultimate and exclusive source of law. In the West, this movement is hard at work at increasing its networks and its alliances, reinforcing its think tanks, all in order to advance its cause. Even in Quebec.
The ideological profile of the organizers of this conference (including Mr. Jamal Badawi who until recently was still attached to the Muslim Association of Canada, an Islamist organization which does not hide its affiliation with the Muslim Brotherhood ideology), is a reason for concern. We have a right to ask ourselves the following question: do we really want this movement to be strengthened in Quebec? As a free society, we must question ourselves on the aims of this movement, whose activism does not help in any way the integration of Muslims in Quebec. This conference has a double objective: to serve as a militant “home base” for the participants who must obviously avoid sensitive topics becoming too open and a seduction campaign made-to-order for an “open society” and for the uninitiated of the ways of Islamist preacher Tariq Ramadan “to defuse tensions.” The Islamist communities in the world are keeping an eye on this event. Is this reassuring? What do our elected officials think?
Montreal, An Open City
Our liberal/pluralistic democracies are threatened by the Islamist ideology. The totalitarian temptation of the 21st century irrigated by the Muslim Brotherhood uses modern means of communication to reinforce its presence, its prestige, and its agenda. To present itself in Montreal without being too discrete should pose a problem to our quiescent consciences. The thorough checks of the guests do not suffice in our opinion to dissipate the misunderstandings because the truth is evident. But let us go further. Do those who open their doors to this group exert sufficient judgment for their level of credibility?
The political scientist and historian Pierre-André Taguieff underlined very precisely this curious apathy of our intellectual and political elites to face the threat and the Islamist presence in our modern societies. Why does this overwhelming lack of concern exist? It is, he says, dreaming with eyes wide open. Must we once again be reminded that Hamas conquered Gaza, that Hezbollah has completely neutralized the Lebanese state apparatus, that the Islamist opposition is continuously gaining ground in Egypt in the upcoming legislative elections on Nov. 29, that Al-Qaida is also present in North Africa and the Taliban still assert themselves in Afghanistan?
In 2010, the specific ideology of the Muslim Brotherhood thrives in this multiform and defeatist international context. From this point of view, the Muslim Brotherhood movement is extremely skillful and we cannot allow ourselves to remain in suspense. Taguieff underlines “the powerful will of not knowing who trains the men, while they are threatened and, more particularly, feel threatened, amounts to closing our eyes in front of reality.” Have we arrived at this stage?
In 2007, Tawfik Hamid, a former member of the Egyptian Islamist organization Gama’a al-Islamiyya and who became disenchanted by them, strongly denounced, in the Wall Street Journal, those Westerners who (by naiveté, indolence or lack of lucidity) “find politically correct excuses towards Islamism.” According to Hamid, if the Muslims who are said to be enlightened take a stance against Islamism, non-Muslims must show as much intellectual courage. Western complacency towards Islamists is the best lever of their actions in the West.”
An Image Problem?
Are we well equipped to decipher the message of the Muslim Brotherhood which is simultaneously religious, political, cultural and associative, reminiscent of “pragmatism of action”? Today the Brotherhood is keenly working the parameters of the communication offer on a specific three-prong strategy. One — denouncing the “Western imperialist invasion”; Two — an individual and collective identity affirmation, proud of the Islamic system of thought (seen as more just, legitimate and balanced). Three — acquiring recognition as a positive actor in order to become an institutional partner in the society that surrounds it.
This communication strategy is very useful in order to pass as a serious, open and credible actor, distanced from the Wahhabism of Saudi Arabia, because the Brotherhood (and their sympathizers) no longer openly promote the pure and simple application of Sharia law in the official European legal system (and even more evidently in North America). They seek to insinuate it. They limit themselves, to the teaching of the example which distances it, for a moment, from the mythical global Islamist project in order to obtain concessions from the West by appearing firmly as the reference on Islamic matters within the Western Muslim communities.
We are worried for the resolutely anti-Islamist Muslims who live among us. The hardening of the Islamists’ current threatens moderate Muslims’ liberty of action. It is however necessary to insist in the West that as long as there are democratic Muslims opposing these totalitarian organizations, we can say that we are with them and that this battle is not lost. But for the moment, and by the force of this conference, groups who are inspired by the Muslim Brotherhood aspire to a notoriety which will contribute to encircle and muzzle their adversaries in the Muslim community. This should be a source of concern.
Germain Belzile, HEC
Jean-Charles Chebat, HEC
Pierre Brassard, Montréal
Jacques Brassard, former Quebec minister
Sept. 22, 2010