Essam el-Erian, a senior leader in the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, called into question the Brotherhood’s commitment to the peace treaty with Israel.
He commented on the ongoing NGO crisis embroiling the United States and Egypt. American and local NGO personnel in Egypt stand accused of fermenting chaos under the guise of democracy promotion.
The US has warned $1.3 billion in annual aid is in jeopardy if the charges, denied as frivolous, are not dismissed.
Erian told Lapido Media, ‘If the US withdraws its aid it gives us the right to review our side of the agreement as well. Aid is a part of the Camp David Accords, or why else would the US be giving this money to Egypt?’
There is only one problem. Former US president Jimmy Carter, who orchestrated the accords in 1978, stated, ‘There was no commitment of any finances going to Egypt as the result of the Camp David Accords.’
Is Erian ignorant of the text of these accords, or is something else in play? According to Raymond Ibrahim of Jihad Watch, Erian’s words fit into a larger context of Islamic behavior based on ‘circumstance’.
‘All Islamists understand that the treaty with Israel is a matter of necessity (i.e., Egypt cannot at the moment defeat Israel, therefore it is in its own interest to agree to peace). Might as well get money out of it.’
Ibrahim recently highlighted a video of Yasser al-Burhami, a prominent sheikh with the Salafi Call, an ultraconservative Muslim association. Burhami comments on how Mohamed at times made peace with the Jews, and at other times, subdued them through force and imposed jizia, a payment by non-Muslims in return for protection within the Muslim community.
Burhami then generalizes, ‘The prophet’s methods of dealing with infidels are available for Muslims to replicate depending on their situation and their capabilities.’
Speaking to Lapido Media, Ibrahim gave application. ‘Islamist politics and worldview are quite clear that once capability allows, Islam must go on the offensive.’
Gamal Nassar, a leader in the Muslim Brotherhood from Giza, Cairo, reinforces the notion of circumstance while commenting on Erian’s statement. ‘Things have changed since the revolution, and the US must realize it is not the same as before.’
Sheikh Osama al-Qusi is an independent Salafi scholar often criticized in his community for distinguishing between the affairs of religion and the affairs of the world.
Qusi notes that Burhami is correct in terms of Mohamed adapting to his circumstances, but notes many Islamists take this as license to be Machiavellian. Even so, ‘Just because Mohamed did something politically does not mean it applies to us. No, we must leave politics to the politicians.’
Furthermore, circumstance does not change the Islamic attitude toward other communities. ‘We are peaceful with those who are peaceful with us, and we fight against those who fight against us.’
Yet for many Islamists, ‘us’ applies to all Muslims. Essam al-Sharif is a leader for the Salafi-based Authenticity Party in Warraq, a district of Cairo. ‘According to sharia law, I have the obligation to defend Muslims.
‘If the Camp David Accords do not allow us to help the Palestinians in Gaza it is invalid and we must fight Israel. In sharia we respect the borders of this world administratively to honor our agreements, but they do not override our duty to support Muslims.’
Sharif believes Muslims must treat non-Muslims well whether they are strong or weak regardless of their circumstances. Yet this does not preclude jizia, and Muslims must be honest about it.
‘If we say we will not collect jizia, this is hypocrisy. No, non-Muslims must pay it, even if we are too weak to collect it now.’
Sheikh Abdel Muti Bayyoumi is a member of the Azhar’s Islamic Research Academy, a pillar of the Islamic establishment in Egypt. He dismisses Burhami completely, saying he is not specialized in jurisprudence, and is not fit to issue religious rulings.
Bayyoumi agrees the Quran allows Muslims only to fight those who fight against them. Where there is a pact of peace, however, Muslims must work with non-Muslims for justice.
As this concerns Israel and the opinion of Erian, ‘There is no relation between US aid and the Camp David accords. Thus, we are still bound to the treaty so long as Israel also keeps to it and does not review it first.’
Interestingly, Carter suggests issues of justice have been neglected in the treaty.
‘There is one element of the Camp David accords that has been abandoned in the past, even in Egypt, and that is the protection of the Palestinian rights.’
Interpretations of Islam are part and parcel of post-revolutionary Egyptian attitudes toward peace with Israel. Some reflect Burhami’s attitude about ‘circumstance’, and others Bayyoumi’s attitude about justice.
With whom does Erian’s interpretation lie?
- MB Guidance Bureau Member on the Brotherhood, Hamas, and Salafis – February 23, 2012
- The Blind Sheikh and the NGO Crisis – February 19, 2012
- Christmas with the Brotherhood – January 10, 2012
- Gamal Nassar on the Muslim Brotherhood – December 11, 2011