Wadah Kanfar promotes the progressive virtues of radical Islam at ‘Comment is Free’

November 27th saw the publication on CiF of yet another promotion of ‘moderate, democratic Islamism’, this time written by Wadah Kanfar who resigned from his eight year post as director general of Al Jazeera in September – but not before collaborating with the Guardian on the Palestine Papers affair last January.

Kanfar’s Muslim Brotherhood sympathies and affiliations are well known and indeed were the cause of the resignations of numerous journalists from Al Jazeera under his directorship.

It was also Kanfar who brought the Muslim Brotherhood’s ‘spiritual leader’ Sheikh Qaradawi to Al Jazeera and gave him a regular slot where he promotes his anti-Semitic, homophobic and misogynistic ideologies.

The Guardian’s provision of a platform for Kanfar to extol the virtues and advantages of the work-in-progress rise of Islamists to power throughout the Middle East and North Africa is therefore akin to inviting the Master of the Hunt to write an article on how absolutely spiffing fox-hunting really is.

I’m not going to deconstruct Kanfar’s arguments here myself because as it happens, the Azure magazine recently published an excellent must-read article by Dr. Uriya Shavit – a lecturer in Islamic history and theology at Tel Aviv University – which explains at length precisely why Islamist rule is inherently incompatible with democracy.

“According to the Islamist worldview, Allah has given mankind a complete and perfect doctrine of life: Islam. Democracy and individual rights follow from and are mandated by this doctrine—and are consequently subordinate to its divine injunctions.

Since Islamists believe that the legitimacy of the political order is founded on a divine decree, they utterly reject any possibility of rebellion, whether in the name of democracy or individual rights, against other religious precepts. Hence, they would not allow a parliament to pass laws that contradicted the explicit commands of Allah, as conveyed to humanity through the Koran and the example set by the prophet. As al-Qaradawi and others have explained repeatedly, human beings cannot permit what Allah has forbidden, nor can they ban what Allah permits. For example, the Koran denounces abortion and the consumption of alcohol; consequently, a human parliament has no authority to grant them legislative sanction. Similarly, for particular offenses the Koran stipulates harsh penalties—capital punishment or amputation of a hand, for example—that no human legislator may repeal, nor may the prohibition of idol worship be overturned in the name of freedom of religion.”


“Western observers therefore miss the point when they wonder whether the Muslim Brotherhood supports free elections and civil liberties. To predict the character of the regime that the Islamists will establish, if and when they are given the opportunity, only one question is relevant: Will Islamic democracy take the Koran as its highest authority, with religious scholars as its sole authorized interpreters? An answer in the affirmative—whether clear or implicit—carries within it the unmistakable seeds of theological despotism.”


“The challenge facing the Arab Spring can thus be summarized as follows: Democracy without the Muslim Brotherhood is impossible, but so is democracy under its leadership. There is no doubt that the Brotherhood enjoys broad support in every Arab country that has undergone democratic revolutions or uprisings in the last year. Elections in which the movement is not allowed to participate will therefore lack popular legitimacy. Moreover, the Brotherhood’s liberal and democratic rhetoric will make it difficult for the legal establishment to disqualify the movement. The inevitable result of its electoral victory, however, will be the formation of a theocracy. It will not permit the scientific and technological revolution of which Arab societies are in such dire need. Simply put, the future of Arab democracy hangs by a thread: The Muslim Brotherhood must be permitted to run in elections, but not gain power.”

However, as we are already seeing across North Africa, the Islamists are gaining power and any hope of the emergence of true democracies from the upheaval of the ‘Arab Spring’ is fast waning.

Rather than confront that fact, the Guardian elects to sell out the real liberals in the MENA regions who risked their lives in the attempt to achieve genuine democracy and to bury its editorial head in the sands of the Islamist double-speak.

As Dr. Shavit points out:

“For democracy to strike real and lasting roots in the Arab world, the United States and its allies must free themselves of the influence of multi-cultural and post-colonial theories and determine—first for themselves, and then for others—the distinction between truly enlightened regimes and their imitators.”

The Guardian remains mired in its own long tradition of failing to do precisely that, and therefore aids and abets existing and future religious tyrannies rather than being the beacon of liberalism it claims to aspire to be.

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