Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Whitewashing the Muslim Brotherhood

Valentina Colombo • November 30, 2011

Once again the West has chosen among the heroes and heroines of the "Arab Spring" the most politicized, and especially the closest, to its short-sighted policies in the Middle East.

Unfortunately, as mentioned by al-Mashari Dhaid on the Arab international daily Asharq al-Awsat, we should never forget that the Nobel Prize for Peace is political, and it "is an instrument of soft pressure to fulfill a specific path of peace or stability, according to a Western perspective."

Mashari al-Dhaid is right when he states that "Tawakkul Karman is not Mother Teresa, but a political activist who acts in accordance with the directives and policies and social needs of her own party." The Yemeni Congregation for Reform, to which Karman belongs, is the party representing the Muslim Brotherhood in Yemen. Tawakkul Karman is 'Abd al-Salam Khalid Karman's daughter, a member of the same party. The Reform Party, as you can easily infer from its political program published on the official website (, acts on behalf of Islam and claims the implementation of sharia law, advocates equality among believers without distinction of sex, even though sharia law states that a woman is worth half the man (see Koran II, 282; IV, 11).

Tawakkul Karman is indeed an activist: a political activist. There is no doubt that she is the symbol of a revolution, but at the same time her victory has to be placed in the continuum of Arab Springs that are witnessing the domination of the organized and economically strong Muslim Brotherhood.

The Nobel Prize follows the International Women of Courage Award assigned to Karman by US State Secretary Hillary Clinton and First Lady Michelle Obama. Everything confirms the US and Western policy of whitewashing the Muslim Brotherhood. And what a better leader and symbol than a young and determined woman like Karman? During an interview, in June 2010, she declared that the day would come when "all human rights violators pay for what they did to Yemen." If she was referring to Yemeni President Saleh, fine; but I wonder if human rights under Sharia -- the law her party would like to introduce in all levels of the country = match universal rights.

"In the name of God Most Gracious, Most Merciful, to sister Tawakkul 'Abd al-Salam Karman, president of Women Journalists Without Chains, a member of the Governing Council of the Yemeni Congregation for Reform (al-tajammu' al-yamani li-al-islah), greetings and appreciation. With great joy we have received, within the Yemeni Congregation for Reform, the announcement of the assignment to your person of the Nobel Prize for Peace as the first Arab woman to receive this award and the first Yemeni personality to enjoy this international attestation of esteem.

"Congratulations for this historic achievement since we believe that this victory is to support the peaceful revolution of Yemen, and a Yemeni woman who fights and who is aware of her ability to win despite the obstacles the legacy of backwardness and tyranny that separate our people from progress."

This is the beginning of a release of October 8th 2010 signed by Muhammad ibn 'Abd Allah al-Yadumi following the announcement of the Nobel Prize for Peace to the Yemeni activist Tawakkul Karman.

Well, many of us were happy because finally an Arab woman, last but not least a symbol of the Yemeni "Spring" had her efforts and courage recognised. Even secular intellectuals like the Yemeni political scientist Elham Manea, of Yemeni origin, who now is living in Switzerland, and the Yemeni writer Ali al-Muqri, have rejoiced.

While in many other countries, Islamic parties are banned, Islah participates in the political process and has even formed a coalition government with the ruling General People's Congress. One significant difference between Islah and other Islamic parties is that it is not purely an Islamic Party. The Islah Party is a heterogeneous party made up of three distinct groups: the tribes, Islamic elements and conservative businessmen. Islah could be described as a reflection of the conservative segments of Yemeni society. Nevertheless, it has an Islamic ideology and pushes for social and economic reform, similarly to other Islamic parties in the region.

Some people even praised Karman as the woman who has "torn" the veil. This is half true: in 2004 during a conference on human rights, the winner of the Nobel Prize for Peace removed her black full veil, worn by the vast majority of Yemeni women, to replace it with a simple veil, which she calls "Islamic." The statement published on the website of her Party after a demonstration celebrate the award says that it is a "source of pride and honor not only for Yemeni women, but also for Arab women and the Islamic veil."

So Karman replaced the traditional black veil -- "un-Islamic"-- in favor of a colorful headscarf that is not so much a symbol of Muslim women, as of the women of the Muslim Brotherhood, or at least of women wearing the veil as a political symbol.

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