Muslim Brotherhood’s Media, from the Missionary to the Political discourse
|Tuesday, June 16,2009 20:27|
|By Khaled Hamza|
Faith and Media
Muslim Brotherhood"s Media, from the Missionary to the Political discourse
Ikhwanweb as an Example
The Muslim Brotherhood (MB)"s relation with the media dates back to more than 70 years ago, nearly the group"s age. The group"s media experience included newspapers, magazines and radio broadcast. Throughout its history, the MB issued hundreds of newspapers and magazines especially those before 1954. After the long years of repression (1954-1974), the Muslim Brotherhood"s media discourse retreated significantly, except for some media attempts carried out by Muslim Brotherhood offshoots in other countries and other attempts of Muslim Brothers in exile. The experience of Al-Da"wah magazine (from 1975- till assassination of late president Sadat at the hands of Jihad groups) is still the most prolific and active experience. Then followed a confused Muslim Brotherhood media experience from 1984 till 2000. I call it "confused" because this experience was linked to the group"s ambiguous relation with the Egyptian regime (the half open/ half closed door policy). During this period, the regime shut down several MB newspapers and magazines. However, the year 2000 witnessed the beginning of a new era with the Muslim Brotherhood"s first serious media outlet in the cyberspace by launching several Arabic websites, which was later marked by launching the MB official Arabic website, Ikhwanonline. In 2005, Ikhwanweb was launched as the only official MB English website to be the group"s Western mind-oriented platform.
Muslim Brotherhood"s media discourse and religion, association and dissociation:
It is important to define concepts, because concepts are a key to understanding. When we talk about faith and the media, we should first define religion, by which I don"t mean the absolute truth, but the religious thought, or the human revelation and human understanding of religion or- to be more specific- the moderate reading of the purposes of religion.
The Muslim Brotherhood"s new media discourse has become more interested in following media standards of news reporting, sidestepping too much ideological and theological terms. For example, in the Palestinian cause, Ikhwanweb handles it as a conflict between Israel occupation forces and Palestinians, avoiding any religious handling that sees it as a religious ideological conflict between Muslims and Jews. We even went further to stress that there is no enmity between us and the Jews for their religion, but our conflict is only with (IOF).
In the day-to-day press reporting of the US occupation of Iraq, the subtle objective political rhetoric was the norm without stoking clashes of civilizations or Crusades. We used terms like occupation and resistance and avoided terms like enemies of Islam, crusaders and so on.
Ikhwanweb on route to developing Muslim Brotherhood"s media discourse:
Ikhwanweb was launched in 2005 to be the MB ideological platform for the Western world, and was primarily directed to the public, academics, researchers, media, think tanks and decision making centers in the West.
Ikhwanweb basic mission is to bridge the knowledge gap between the MB and Western intellectuals so that they get to know its ideology without distortion, and understand our political, cultural, and moderate religious message.
Ikhwanweb was not concerned with spreading Islam or teaching westerners about the religion of Islam. In other words, we are not targeting a missionary Islam. We are rather adopting a political, cultural and intellectual discourse.
Ikhwanweb news coverage avoided any direct religious discourse except when it includes some of the group"s theological studies and other press statements in which we followed a high standard of accuracy. We worked hard to make the editing mainly based on press professionalism, objectivity and neutrality. We focused on issues of democracy, reform, political repression, torture and tyranny and strongly opposed such practices, which are seen by the Islamic Sharia as more serious than direct moral sins. We also focused on issues related to women and child abuse and violations of the rights of religious minorities.
The most important development in our approach was exposing and condemning the repression committed by the regime and the traditional religious institution against secular blogger Karim Amer. Then, Ikhwanweb continued its press method of giving freedom a priority over Sharia. We don"t consider this a secularism in the Western meaning of the word. It reflects our Islamic cultural view derived from the Muslim Brotherhood"s moderate school of thought. Tyranny, torture and repression of ideas and violation of freedoms are the ugliest cultural sins that Islam rejects and condemns.
Ikhwanweb"s media coverage included even covering cases of torturing and beating secular and Islamic bloggers in downtown Cairo (in Egypt"s 2005 Freedom Spring), and shedding light on the latest youth protest movements and their new technological tools in rallying and protesting. In Ikhwanweb, we opened the website wide for our critics and gave them the chance to post their criticism on the website. The section "Other Views" includes criticism of the MB, its agenda, ideology and history. This actually raised the eyes of some liberals and secularists as some considered it a feigned tolerance while others saw it as a sheer propaganda.
In the issues which were more controversial for the Islamic public opinion, like the issues of the Danish Cartoons and statement of the Pope, Ikhwanweb was rational and realistic in its press coverage, sidestepping any religious insinuation. It highlighted a mutual respect between religions, an interfaith mutual understanding and underscored the concept of Responsible Freedom.
The Muslim Brotherhood against Al-Qaeda:
In 2006, Ikhwanweb faced attack by alleged Al-Qaeda hackers. Although this attack blocked the website for only hours, but it clearly proved that the Muslim Brotherhood"s strict policy against criminal operations committed in the name of Islam bore fruit and that the epistemological and political separation between the Muslim Brotherhood and the Al-Qaeda movement is unmistakable. Ikhwanweb has exploited every terrorist operation or act to condemn it and considered it against Islam. We have differentiated between legitimate resistance in Palestine and Iraq against occupation forces on the one hand and the criminal terrorist operations against civilians on the other.
Muslim Brotherhood"s new media initiatives:
The Muslim Brotherhood"s media experiences still go on as Muslim Brotherhood youth are still interacting with new media channels and dynamics of Western modernism. The weblogs have been a space for individual self-expression and a chance to discover talents and skills of the Muslim Brotherhood youth. It has been a rich experience that added so much to the group although it worried some because they have been alarmed by waves of self-criticism and demands for internal reform.
The most important weblogs include
other examples of MB online activities include,
-Secondlife: The group has set up an island on Secondlife, www.secondlife.Com
Problems, obstacles facing the Muslim Brotherhood media discourse:
I think that the most thorny obstacles facing the Muslim Brotherhood media discourse is the security manhunt, detention, intimidation and raids committed by the regimes. Ikhwanweb"s headquarters was raided in February 2008 in a fierce security campaign in which all the website"s equipment was seized, the offices were closed and the chief editor was detained. I see that concepts of ordeal and conspiracy on Islam and many other religious expressions may find their ways into the media terminology in such conditions. The atmosphere in which correspondents move and carry out their press jobs and the challenges they face, may affect, in some way or another, their objectivity, professionalism and transparency.
Future of the Muslim Brotherhood"s discourse in the age of new web media revolution:
We see that the huge development in the media and its technologies brings in huge challenges in a world that change on a daily basis. This requires that we should offer a more open-minded and more progressive media discourse and that this discourse becomes human and universal and that distances itself from propaganda, narcissism or self-centeredness.
Our media channels should free themselves from conspiracy theories and the Western media should reconsider the way they see the other and exceed epistemological and cultural biases and curb these far-right movements that stoke Islamophobia and increase tensions and self-centeredness. We see that it is our duty to preach the culture of dialogue, tolerance and ope