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The practice of the Brotherhood in real life contradicts Islam

The Muslim Brotherhood do not understand religion in the way most Muslims understand it, argues Alaa Aswani in El Masry El Youm. Other articles in the Arabic-language press discuss Israeli settlements and an astonishing outburst from a Lebanese minister

The Brotherhood and Salafists do not understand religion the way regular Muslims understand it, wrote Egyptian novelist Alaa Aswani in the Cairo-based paper El Masry El Youm.

The Brotherhood and Salafists claim to be God-fearing, aware of what is wrong and right. Yet they commit all kinds of irregularities: lying, vote-buying, voter intimidation, preventing Copts from casting their vote, cutting electricity at polling stations and the list goes on, the writer noted.

"Just try to level criticism at the Brotherhood Supreme Guide on Facebook or Twitter, and you will receive showers of terrible insults from religious youth assigned by the Guidance Bureau to insult Brotherhood opponents online."

To be sure, the behaviour of the Brotherhood and Salafists in real life is starkly at odds with the true teachings of Islam, and their take on religion is dissimilar to that of regular Muslims. This is because their understanding of religion, according to Aswani, rests on the following factors:

First: sheer obedience to the Guide. A Brotherhood member swears unquestioning allegiance to the Guide. Stripped of judgement, they back everything he does or says.

Many of these youth are educated: engineers and doctors. But they are all mindlessly subordinated to their leader. For instance, when the Guide was leaving the mosque, the Brotherhood devotees competed over "the honour to put shoes on his feet for him".

Second: they claim an exclusive understanding of religion. When it comes to the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafists, there is no way to debate on religion. Islam to them is exclusively what a sheikh or the Guide says. Most of their online comments are full of mistakes, a sign that many do not read, and that their knowledge is "aural": they sit at the feet of their sheikh, and hear and repeat what he preaches. They will reject any view that is not identical to the their leaders' even it is from eminent scholars.

Third: they demonise opponents. The Brotherhood and Salafist sheikhs usually dehumanise their rivals, strip them of individuality and brand them as "secularists", "lackeys of the West", "enemies of sharia" and "agents of Zionism".

By claiming to exclusively own the truth while dubbing their challengers as collaborators and enemies of religion, it is only natural that they will not allow their opponents to have the same rights as their own. Hence, the shameful assaults against protesters near the presidential palace.

Fourth: the great conspiracy. Supporters of the Brotherhood and Salafists are persuaded by their sheikhs that a US-led conspiracy against Islam has been in place. And since they blindly toe the line of their sheikhs, it is hard for them to find out that what concerns the US is its interests and Israel's security, not Islam. Yet leaders persist in using this notion to mobilise the youth.

Lebanese minister's words vex refugees

Gebran Bassil, Lebanon's minister of energy and water, infuriated Syrian and Palestinian refugees when he said this week that there is no place in Lebanon for those fleeing the civil war in neighbouring Syria, the West Bank-based newspaper Al Quds stated in its main editorial yesterday.

The argument that Mr Bassil was speaking his own mind, and his opinion did not represent the Lebanese government, is hardly convincing, the paper said.

"He is an influential figure in the Free Patriotic Movement party, which is led by his father-in-law, Michel Aoun, and which is a major pole in Lebanon's coalition government."

Mr Bassil showed his "radical" side when he said that Syrian and Palestinian refugees should seek shelter away from Lebanon, in Jordan, Iraq or other countries, the newspaper said.

"His statement is very misleading and contradictory. It is inconsistent with the spirit of Arab brotherliness that Lebanon is known for."

In fact, Mr Bassil's statement was not well received in some Lebanese circles. "Plus, Jordan and Iraq have accommodated hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees, without officials in those countries coming out with such offensive statements."

Mr Bassil's memory can't be that weak, for it was just a few years ago when thousands of Lebanese citizens poured into Syria fleeing the Israeli offensive in the summer of 2006, the paper noted.

Words alone won't stop Israeli bulldozers

"The whole world is shouting after Israel's announcement of new, provocative settlement plans but the shouting and screaming alone will never stall an Israeli bulldozer," columnist Mazen Hammad wrote in the Qatari newspaper Al Watan yesterday.

Further settlement penetration into East Jerusalem makes western officials nervous, the writer said. Every time it happens, that's another nail hammered into the coffin of the two-state solution.

"Yet condemnations never have an impact on Netanyahu's plans," the writer said, describing as "expansionist" the Israeli prime minister's agenda.

"We've listened to the world's shouts and shrieks, with some sense of relief. But we waited for something to happen, for an outcome, and it turned out that we were waiting for exactly nothing."

"Not a single country has recalled its ambassador from Israel, or stopped its arms exports or the flow of economic assistance to the Israeli government."

The overwhelming majority of member nations at the United Nations General Assembly have asserted the illegality of Israel's settlements in Palestinian territories. But Israel couldn't care less.

"Israel knows well that verbal condemnations don't do the deed," the writer said in conclusion. And it won't stop.

* Digest compiled by Tranlsation Desk

translation@thenational.ae

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