During the clashes that erupted last Friday [March 22] between the Muslim Brotherhood and protesters in Mokattam, the Brotherhood arrested left-wing activist Kamal Khalil and detained him inside a mosque. He saw a number of demonstrators stripped of their clothes and brutally flogged in the mosque, to the point that most of them lost consciousness. Brotherhood members were using a big whip to strike their victims. Khalil asked the flogger [about it], who replied: “It’s a Sudanese whip. I soaked it in oil a while ago. … A single strike can cut through skin.”
Luckily, Khalil recognized his neighbor from among the Brotherhood members, who intervened and prevented him from being tortured. Yet, Khalil posted his testimony about the Brotherhood’s slaughterhouse on the website of Al-Bedaiah newspaper. Soon after, the testimonies from victims published in newspapers confirmed that they had been brutally tortured. Amir Ayad, a demonstrator, revealed that when the Brotherhood found out that he was a Copt, they increased the severity of his torture, pushing him to the brink of death as they called him a “Christian dog.” The Brotherhood committed the same heinous crimes in Mokattam that they had carried out in front of the Ittihadiya Palace.
As I read the testimonies of the Brotherhood’s victims, I was thinking that the Brotherhood member who was proud of his Sudanese whip — along with his colleagues who flogged their victims to the point of unconsciousness — are believers who diligently pray, fast and refrain from any forbidden or even detestable acts. How did they become torturers? We must remember that committing crimes in the name of religion has happened in all religions. The Catholic Church, for instance, which offered to the world the esteemed values of love and tolerance, is the same church that launched the Crusades, carried out the Inquisition, and killed hundreds of thousands of Jews and Muslims. Any correctly understood religion elevates us as human beings, while interpreting it fanatically leads us to commit crimes. The question is: How can a believer turn into a torturer? I believe any true believer cannot commit such crimes. Yet an extremist can transform into a torturer through the following steps.
First: Monopolizing the truth
Religion is not a point of view that can be changed or debated, but instead a firm and unwavering [institution of] faith. People often use reason to support faith, rarely discovering faith through reason. Religion is an exclusive belief, in the sense that people belonging to each religion believe their religion to be the sole true one, and that all other religions are wrong. History, however, has shown that a proper understanding of any religion makes people tolerant of other religions.
Yet, the extremist always believes that he alone possesses the most correct understanding of religion, and in his eyes, all others are non-believers, impure, adulterers, immoral and sinners. The extremist believes that he is the center of the world, and neglects all those who differ. It is precisely this monopolization of the truth and expression of disdain for others that is not based on the true Islam, which holds within its core teachings the idea of tolerance for all human beings. Moreover, the arrogance of extremists overlooks the fact that Muslims represent only a fifth of the world's population, which means that they profoundly hate four-fifths of the entire world.
Second: Distinguishing oneself through the practice of religion
The extremist does not have profound religious experience. For him, religion is not a spiritual relationship with our Lord, but a way to distinguish himself from others. He enjoys flaunting his religiosity, because he feels that he is better than others who are less committed to religion. The extremist often suffers from an inferiority complex that he addresses with religious superiority over others. He doesn’t practice his religion to obtain tranquility and peace, but uses it to vanquish and control others.
He may believe that others are better educated or more fortunate in life, which he makes up for by imposing his religiosity on them so as to feel superior to them before God. Also, extremists not only distinguish themselves from others, but often show their contempt for those who differ from them. They do so to enjoy a sense of religious superiority.
Third: Restoring the glory of religion through holy wars
Extremists must live in an imagined, comfortable virtual world, and cling to delusional beliefs and ideas that make them feel that they are not ordinary believers, but brave soldiers struggling to propagate religion.
Extremists undoubtedly imagine that there is a major, fierce multilateral global war against the religion they believe in, and that they must fight as hard as the enemies of religion to uphold the word of God. Extremists who cling to their imagined worlds are just like Don Quixote, the character created by the famous Spanish novelist Miguel de Cervantes. Don Quixote, who wanted to be a knight at a time when knights no longer existed, ended up fighting windmills.
The sheikhs of political Islam have succeeded in creating a delusional idea known as the Islamic Caliphate. Hundreds of thousands of followers of political Islam, who have learned a false history through their sheikhs, believe that Muslims ruled the world when they followed the teachings of their religion. When they violated religion, they became weak and were conquered by the West. They are awaiting the return of a new caliphate, which alone would rule all Muslim countries.
There is certainly nothing wrong with Islamic countries, as well as all human beings, cooperating with each other. But restoring the Islamic caliphate is nothing but a great illusion for the simple reason that it did not exist in the first place and thus cannot be restored.
All people need is an in-depth reading [of the history of Islam] to realize that what the sheikhs of political Islam call Islamic caliphates were neither caliphates nor Islamic. Over centuries, good and just governance in countries established by Muslims only lasted 31 years: 29 years in the era of the four Caliphs, and a two-year rule by Omar bin Abdul Aziz. Both the Umayyad and Abbasid states — just like all empires — were established after perpetrating terrible crimes and killing of thousands of innocent people to enable the ruler to assume the throne.
The Ottoman Empire was only an ugly occupation of our country, and all those who question this fact should read the writings of Egyptian historian Mohammed Bin Ayas al-Hanafi al-Qahiri (1448-1523) to know the horrors suffered by the Egyptians at the hands of the — Muslim — Ottoman troops. What’s more, the Ottoman Caliph, who is revered by the followers of political Islam, was one of the reasons for the occupation of Egypt, as he issued a decision on Sept. 9, 1882, declaring the leader Ahmed Orabi to be disobedient. This led many to defect from the resistance army, resulting in the defeat of the Egyptian army and the British occupation of Egypt.
Islamic caliphates did not exist in the first place in order for us to restore them. Unfortunately, however, there is no point in trying to convince the extremists otherwise, because they will always refuse to go outside of the virtual world created by their sheikhs.
Fourth: Dehumanizing opponents
When Kamal Khalil denounced the horrendous flogging of demonstrators inside the mosque, the Brotherhood tried to convince him that their victims are not revolutionaries, but criminal thugs and deranged drug addicts who do not feel the torture to which they are being subjected. Floggers always need justification to avoid the weight such acts bear on their consciences. Thus, the victims are demonized in order to justify the assault against them.
Anyone who speaks out against the crimes of the Brotherhood is soon bombarded with accusations and slander. In their opinion, the Brotherhood’s opponents are either remnants of the Mubarak regime, agents of international Zionism, secret Freemasons or at best immoral, sexually deviated individuals whose main goal in life is to spread immorality in society, and allow lesbians and gays to marry each other.
The Brotherhood’s top leaders proudly repeat these false statements. They never ask themselves: What is it that made millions of Egyptians who celebrated President Mohammed Morsi's victory now demand his removal? The mind of extremists is completely incapable of seeing reality, and the leaders of Brotherhood cannot convince their young followers that flogging is justifiable if they acknowledge that these people have any virtue. So the Brotherhood commits their crimes while enthusiastically yelling “God is great!” They impose their virtual world to avoid feelings of remorse. They strive to convince themselves that they are not committing crimes but rather are waging a sacred and religious jihad.
Fifth: Denial of anything that threatens their virtual world
During the cabinet office massacre, in which army soldiers killed dozens of demonstrators, a girl protesting was stripped naked and soldiers stomped on her naked body with their boots in front of cameras. But the Brotherhood, who was allied with the military junta, mocked the girl on the ground and questioned her morals.
Under Morsi's presidency, the Egyptian police have returned to their old crimes. Approximately 80 protesters have been killed, scores tortured, and a man was dragged along on the ground in front of the cameras for the whole world to see, but the Brotherhood denied and justified all these crimes. This is a traditional behavior adopted by extremists; they deny everything that threatens their virtual world, regardless of how clear the truth is.
Extremists whose lives are not founded in reality and who see themselves as soldiers working for God’s cause would never be convinced of the contrary. If you so much as attempt to convince extremists that their beliefs are false, you would simply be wasting your time and effort, just as you would be shocked by the aggressive and crude profanity use by those who profess their religiosity (as happened on Facebook) as soon as you question these beliefs. These people build their virtual world and never allow anyone to bring them back to reality, as this would lead to the collapse of the foundation upon which they built their whole lives.
Following these five steps, believers turn into extremists ready to carry out any crime demanded of them by their sheikhs. They would hit, drag and insult women using the foulest language. They would whip and electrocute their opponents. They would turn into torturers, but would still be convinced that they are carrying out sacred duties, because their faith is the one and only true one, and because God tasked them with defending the faith and restoring the glory of religion.
Those who are different from them are not human beings entitled to full rights. They are, according to them, prostitutes, collaborators or enemies of religion, and they must be disposed of so that the banner of Islam can rise up and reign supreme.
The crimes committed by the Muslim Brotherhood are growing by the day, and despite their ugliness, they reveal the true nature of the Brotherhood. Egyptians discovered that the Brotherhood has nothing to do with religion. The people have discovered their treachery, their lies and their betrayal of the revolution. The Brotherhood are nothing more than [another face of] Mubarak’s regime. We have replaced Mubarak with another repressive regime that has commercialized religion. We have replaced military fascism with religious fascism. The rule of the Brotherhood will soon fall, and they will be tried for all these crimes. The revolution will continue until its goals are achieved, God willing.
Democracy is the solution.