Muslim Brotherhood ideology once Congress ideology

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Muslim Brotherhood ideology once Congress ideology

Speaking at the Grand Committee Room of the British Parliament on August 24, 2018, Rahul Gandhi said that the RSS ideology was similar to that of the Muslim Brotherhood in the world.

Well, Rahul Gandhi being a scion of the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty and unquestioned leader of the dynastic party, whatever he says becomes the gospel truth for the members of the party (if they want to remain part of it). The BJP being poor in countering Rahul’s nonsense with facts and figures, merely cries foul and blames him for spreading falsehood. This is what happened after August 24 also.

Neither Rahul nor BJP knows that if the Muslim Brotherhood and any organisation of India ever shared a common ideology, it is the Congress Party.

To know this historical fact, one has to look at the historical records about (a) the decline of the Ottoman Empire i.e. the Ottoman Caliphate, (b) a communal movement known as the Khilafat Movement in India in support of the Turkish Sultan and Caliph and the ideology behind the movement, (c) political and ideological implications of the of the Congress support to the Khilafat Movement, (d) ideology of Sheikh Hassan Ahmed Abdel Rahman Muhammed al-Banna (October 1906 – 12 February 1949), an Egyptian schoolteacher, imam and founder of the Muslim Brotherhood and (e) the ideology of the present leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood.

The Ottoman Empire was a Caliphate (Khilafat in Urdu) i.e. an Islamic state ruled by a Caliph (Khalifa in Urdu) who is revered as the religious “successor” to Prophet Muhammad and religious leader of the entire Muslim community. The decline of the Ottoman Empire had started much before the First World War. In his bid to mobilise support to protect his empire from dismemberment due to foreign attacks and his position as the Sultan-Khalifa of the world Muslim community from the growing influence of the Western lifestyle and democracy, in the late 19th Ottoman emperor Abdul Hamid II (1876–1909) launched a pan- Islamic programme. As a part of the programme, he sent an emissary, Jamaluddin Afghani, to India. Afghani met several Muslim leaders and succeeded in arousing religious passion among the Indian Muslims.

In 1914, Britain attacked the Ottoman Empire that was with the Central Powers. The war made the Muslim leaders of several countries worried about the future of the caliph.  Most worried were the prominent Indian Muslim leaders. Several Muslim leaders including the Ali brothers (Mohammad Ali and Shaukat Ali) were imprisoned because of their sympathies for the Turkish Sultan. They were released only after the war was over.

The war ended in the defeat of the Central Powers. The Turkish Sultan faced two threats, external threats from the Allied Powers who wanted to liberate several parts of the Ottoman Empire and internal threats from a Turkish military officer Mustafa Kemal who was spearheading a pro-Western secular nationalist movement to depose the Sultan, abolish the position of Caliph and establish a non-Islamic rule.

The Muslim leaders of India who were sympathetic to the Turkish Caliph viewed the European attack upon his (Caliph’s) authority as an attack on Islam and their religious freedom in India. At the 11th session of the All India Muslims League held in December 1918, the party president condemned the Western powers for dividing and distributing the territories of the Ottoman Empire. In 1919, Mohammad Ali went to England with a delegation of Muslims to persuade the British government to preserve the status of the Sultan as Caliph of Islam even after the disintegration of the Ottoman Empire and not to allow Mustafa Kemal to depose the Turkish Sultan. The British government turned down this pan- Islamic demand as unrealistic. The Treaty of Versailles (1919) was followed by the Treaty of Sèvres (1920) that disintegrated the Ottoman Empire into several independent countries.

Having failed to convince the British government, Mohammad Ali mobilised support to continue the Khilafat movement. He, his brother Shaukat Ali, several other Muslim leaders including Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, Ulemas and head of the Deoband madrasa formed a political alliance. The movement became very active, especially in Bengal, Punjab and North-West Frontier Province. They observed October 17, 1919, as the Khilafat Day. Five weeks later, on November 23, 1919, the first All India Khilafat Conference was held at New Delhi. Next day the conference released a Khilafat Manifesto that appealed to the British government to protect the Caliphate. Another Khilafat Day was observed on March 19, 1920.

Meanwhile, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi (MKG) was planning his first non-cooperation movement. To enlist the support of the Indian Muslims, MKG not only supported the Khilafat Movement, but he also became a member of the Khilafat Committee. At the Nagpur session (December 1920), the Congress adopted a resolution to pursue the non-cooperation movement (that had already been launched on August 1, 1920) to attend the objectives of Swaraj (self-government) and the Khilafat demands.

The Khilafat movement was most widespread in Bengal where it had become a mass movement in which Hindus (important Congress leaders included Bipin Chandra Pal and PC Ghosh), as well as Muslims, participated. Maulana Abul Kalam Azad spread the message in rural Bengal. There was a mushroom growth of khilafat committees. Often the khilafat committees and the Congress committees had common members. One significant effect of the movement was the emergence of local leaders who learned the technique of organising protest rallies. Another effect, bad of course, was exploitation of the situation by several Muslim zamindaris in the areas of Dhaka. Claiming to be the representatives of the Turkish Sultan, they extracted ‘Khilafat Salami’ from the Muslim tenants, a practice that continued for years even after the abolition of the Caliph.

Despite all the public agitation, neither the Congress led by MKG nor the Muslim leaders succeeded in their Khilafat mission. After the withdrawal of the non-cooperation movement following the Chauri Chaura incident in February 1922 (in which 3 civilians and 22 or 23 policemen were killed), the Khilafat leaders felt betrayed. The Congress did not succeed in winning over the Muslim support as it had expected. Many Muslim leaders were not in favour of a boycott of educational institutions and legislative councils. They considered such boycott suicidal for their community.

The Khilafat leaders’ extraterritorial loyalty received a final and deadly blow from the Turks themselves. The charismatic Turkish nationalist leader Mustafa Kemal captured power in Turkey. The Sultanate was abolished in November 1922. The same month Mehmed VI, the last Turkish Sultan, boarded a British warship and fled to Malta. Later, he moved to the Italian Riviera where he spent his time catching butterflies.

In October 1923, Turkey became a republic and Mustafa Kemal its first President. In March 1924, the Khilafat was abolished and its powers the transferred to the Turkish Grand National Assembly.

Mustafa Kemal blamed Islam for the backwardness of Turkey and declared that the foundation of the state must be science and reason, not religion. He relegated religion to the private sphere. Later, he introduced several revolutionary programmes to reform the Turkish society, religion, economy, politics, and education. Women got equal rights with men. He abolished all Islamist institutions and introduced Western legal codes, calendar and alphabet (by abolishing the use of Arabic script).

The fast developments in Turkey took the ‘Khilafatists’ unaware. With such revolutionary changes, the Khilafat Movement in India had no raison d’être . It dissipated.

In 1926, some Muslim leaders (I am not sure whether some Indian Muslim leaders also) called a conference to discuss the revival of the caliphate. However, most Muslim countries boycotted it and no action could be taken to implement the resolutions of the conference.

However, when the echo of the protests against the abolition of the Ottoman Caliphate reached Egypt, it deeply influenced an 18-year-old student Sheikh Hassan Ahmed Abdel Rahman Muhammed al-Banna, known as Hassan al-Banna. He considered the end of the Caliphate as a “calamity”. When he grew up, became a teacher and Imam, and indulged in Islamic politics, he called the events “declaration of war against all shapes of Islam”. For him, Islam alone provided a comprehensive system of life and the Quran was the only acceptable constitution.

In 1928, Hassan al-Banna founded the Muslim Brotherhood with the objective of instilling the Quran and the Sunnah as the “sole reference point for … ordering the life of the Muslim family, individual, community … and state”.  In course of time, it became a transnational Sunni Islamist organisation and gained popularity in the Islamic world though, by 2015, several Muslim countries had declared it a terrorist organisation.

From time to time, the Muslim organisations like Hizb ut-Tahrir and the Muslim Brotherhood have been raising their voice for the revival of the caliphate. Last year, one of the Brotherhood leaders, Magdy Shalash, reminded his followers that the main objective of the organisation was to establish an “Islamic Caliphate” based on “Sharia” law. For him, the “Ottoman Caliphate” remains the model.

Perhaps, MKG took only a short-term view that by supporting the Khilafat movement, he would win the support of the Muslim population for his political movements. He could not achieve the objective but the ideological and political support to the Pan-Islam i.e. extra-territorial loyalty, deeply affected the Indian politics. It gave a big boost to the orthodox Muslims who place religion above national identity. Had MKG been a man of vision, he would have opposed this movement and given a call for composite culture in India. A golden opportunity was lost. I am not saying that the Muslims who stayed in India after partition have extraterritorial loyalty but the fact is that the majority of the Indian Muslims India insist on having a separate identity based on the Sharia, their own system of education and code of conduct for the members of the community. The country is torn between two opposite systems, secular and religiousI.  integration of two cultures is nowhere in sight. This unfortunate division is dominating the Indian politics and is responsible for a lot of tension in the country. The efforts to gain the support of the orthodox Muslims continue to dominate the Congress politics. In fact, all the so-called secular political parties including the Congress continue to treat the Muslims as a vote bank to capture power.

Poet Alexander Pope had said “…Angels fear to tread”. One political leader who vehemently opposed the Khilafat Movement was Mohammad Ali Jinnah. I am not saying that Jinnah was an angel or the Congress leaders were fools. However, at that stage in his political career, Jinnah was not a communal leader. At the 1918 session of the Muslim League, he called the support to the Turkish Khalifa ‘a false religious frenzy’ which did not concern India and which could not do no good to India. At the Nagpur session (December 1920) of the Congress, he opposed the non-violent non-cooperation movement as well as the Khilafat Movement and resigned from the party that he had joined in 1906. (At that time, he was also a member of the Muslim League.)  About the Khilafat Movement, he said, “I will have nothing to do with this pseudo-religious approach to politics. I do not believe in working up mob hysteria. Politics is a gentleman’s game”.

In 1922, in his book “Gandhi and Anarchy” Sir Chettur Sankaran Nair, an Indian jurist and statesman famous for being very frank and outspoken, blamed MKG for supporting Pan-Islamism.

The bottom line is that religion should be relegated to private sphere, as Mustafa Kemal did.

Hope, the readers will realise the dangerous consequences of the ideology behind the Khilafat movement launched by some Muslim leaders and supported by MKG and the Congress party. The Muslim Brotherhood is keeping such a dangerous ideology alive.

Devendra Narain

September 17, 2018



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