Baghdadi's hostility toward Turkey and the Brotherhood is all about democracy
In his recent address, the Islamic State (IS) group leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi spared none but those who are under his command from condemnation and utter doom.
Even the Sunnis of Iraq, who are widely seen as the prime victims of the mayhem in Iraq since the American and British invasion in 2003, are not saved from al-Baghdadi’s hellish words.
Yet, the most noteworthy attacks in his speech are those scathing remarks dedicated to Turkey and the Muslim Brotherhood.
These two main targets of al-Baghdadi’s hate speech have routinely been accused in some Western political and media circles of collusion with IS and even with the prime responsibility for its rise and existence.
On Turkey, al-Baghdadi seems to adopt an identical position to that of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) and its allies. Here is the translation of his denunciation of Turkey:
“Throughout the period of our jihad and strife with the coalitions of infidelity, secular apostate Turkey has remained abject and despicable, showing at once one horn and then showing the other, seeking to achieve its ambitions and serve its interests in northern Iraq and in the distant parts of Syria. Then, it would retreat lest the Mujahidin launch their scorching operations and unleash the flames of their battles against it deep in the heart of its own territories.
"Then, it pondered and assessed (the situation). It looked and then put on an angry face and adopted an arrogant posture. Then it joined the war against us just like amputated hyenas, relying on and sheltering under the warplanes of the Crusader coalition, exploiting the preoccupation of the Mujahidin with fighting the nations of infidelity and with defending the land of Islam. It thought it would be safe from being invaded by the sons of monotheism and the lions of jihad. Verily, it is from the spot wherein a cautious person may feel safe that the attack may come. Oh monotheists!
"Turkey has ventured into the circle of your own work and into the project of your own jihad. Seek the help of God and invade it. Turn its security into fear and its prosperity into restlessness and anxiety. Then, pull it into the flaming areas of your conflict. Oh soldiers of the Caliphate in the land of Syria, here comes the infidel Turkish soldier to you. The blood of one of them is like nothing but the blood of a dog in abjectness and badness.
"Show them your assault and burn them with the fire of your wrath and retaliate for your religion and your monotheism from the brothers of the devils and the role models of the apostates and the allies of the atheists. Their polytheism will not defeat your monotheism, nor will their hypocrisy win against your belief and God stands with the pious. This is what God and His Messenger promised us.”
A moral threat
Al-Baghdadi’s hatred for Turkey and its Justice and Development Party (AKP) government predates any Turkish action against IS. It should be noted that the Turkish action was initially in response to unprovoked IS suicide attacks that were waged against various Turkish towns.
There is only one explanation for his hostility: Turkey’s modern democracy has been perceived as a mortal threat to the ambitions of IS and similar groups whose ideology is based on denouncing democracy as a system of blasphemy and whose skewed version of the caliphate is nothing but a most despicable form of dictatorship.
During the past decade or so, the ruling party in Turkey, which in essence is composed of Islamists, won the admiration and sympathy of Muslims around the world; its approach has been seen as the way forward to engaging in pluralistic politics and respecting the free choices of the people.
Turkey has increasingly been seen as a Sunni success story in a region that is seeking deliverance from despotism. And Turkey was indeed one of the very few countries that stood by the Arab Spring and supported the transition toward democracy.
Tyrants all around
Having urged his followers to turn Turkish towns and cities into bloodbaths to punish the current Turkish government for its intervention in Syria and Iraq, Al-Baghdadi then turns on the Muslim Brotherhood declaring them to be hypocrites and infidels.
Al-Baghdadi’s main contention with the Muslim Brotherhood is their belief in democracy and acceptance of the people’s verdict through the ballot box
Here is what he said:
“The apostate Muslim Brotherhood have become a poisoned spearhead carried by the Crusaders to fight the Caliphate. The infidelity of this misguided group has not been restricted to assigning partners with God when it comes (to consenting) to false constitutions and legislations and to contesting God’s sole right to govern and agreeing with the blaspheming nations in their infidelity, so much so that it has become a sect of no religion similar to the heretics and esoteric assassins.
"More importantly, it has become a tightknit armed wing in the Crusaders coalition against Islam and its folks, so much so that they can no longer do without it in the field. Their brethren plunge them further into error and cease not. (Qur’an: Chapter 7, verse 202).
"Look at Iraq and Syria and look at Tunisia and Libya as well as other countries, you will find there none other than polytheists who take part in the (implementation of) infidel laws and legislations or who stand in alliance with the armies of the Crusaders, or the Shias or the secularists and the atheists, fighting against and contesting with those who perform Jihad in the Cause of Allah and those who endeavour to establish the Rule of Allah on earth. They are truly the brothers of the devils who are dedicated to the service of the Crusaders. May Allah destroy them; how are they deluded? (The Qur’an: Chapter 64, verse 4)"
Al-Baghdadi’s main contention with the Muslim Brotherhood is not, as he claims, their alliance with the Crusaders, but rather their belief in democracy and acceptance of the people’s verdict through the ballot box.
On 31 August 2013, just two moths after the military coup in Egypt and two weeks after the Rabaa massacre, in a recording entitled “Al-Silmiyya Dinu Mann?” (The Peaceful Approach is the Religion of Whom?), IS spokesperson Abu Muhammad al-Adnani issued a statement that resonated far and wide.
He said: “You should know, O Sunnis revolting everywhere, that our plight is not the governing systems but rather the Shirki (idolatrous) laws that govern you. There will be no difference between one ruler and the next unless we change the law; there is no difference between [Husni] Mubarak, Muammar [Gaddafi], and [Zine El Abidine] bin Ali, and between [Mohamed] Morsi, [Mustafa] Abdul Jalil, and [Rachid] al-Ghanouchi; they are all tyrants who govern with the same laws.”
Rising from democracy's ashes
The irony is that Al-Baghdadi would never have emerged and succeeded in controlling swathes of land in Iraq and Syria, and then extend further into many other parts of the Muslim world, had it not been for the military coup that crushed democracy and ended the rule of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt.
As Al-Baghdadi condemns the Muslim Brotherhood, the leaders of the group rot in the prisons of the Sisi regime that receives the support of the 'free world' and the corrupt dictators in the Arab region
Before IS was born, and in the early days of the Arab Spring revolutions of Tunisia and Egypt, several al-Qaeda figures expressed concern that the success of the popular peaceful revolutions in ending dictatorship in the Arab world would only prove al-Qaeda to be wrong and its main rival, the Muslim Brotherhood, to be right.
Yet the billions of dollars pumped into the coffers of the Egyptian generals by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait, and the collusion of Western democracies in Europe and America, paved the way for Al-Baghdadi to emerge and empowered him to invite to his own ranks thousands of frustrated young men and women from the region as well as from around the world.
Today, as Al-Baghdadi condemns the Muslim Brotherhood and brands its members as infidels and Crusader helpers, the leaders of the group, including the first democratically elected president in Egypt, Mohamead Morsi, rot in the prisons of the Sisi regime that receives the support and the blessings of the “free world” as well as of the corrupt dictators in the Arab region.
- Azzam Tamimi is a Palestinian-British academic and chairman of Alhiwar TV Channel. His books include: Hamas: Unwritten Chapters (Hurst, 2007) and Rachid Ghannouchi: a Democrat within Islamism (OUP, 2001)
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Eye.
Photo: An image, released by al-Furqan Media, allegedly showing Baghdadi addressing Muslim worshippers at a mosque in Mosul in June 2014 (AFP/AL-FURQAN)
This article is available in French on Middle East Eye French edition.