Bin Laden's death: not good news for all

Western policymakers might wish to reconsider talking to the Muslim Brotherhood after their response to bin Laden's death

Scenes of jubilation aren't necessarily echoed across the globe
Ghaffar Hussain
On 13 May 2011 09:11

Osama bin Laden’s assassination bought a great deal of relief to many non-Muslims and Muslims around the world. After all, here was a man who was responsible for the death of countless innocents of all races and religious backgrounds.

One could debate whether or not he should have been taken alive and put on trial instead of simply shot, but surely his demise should be viewed as a positive development by all those who claim to be working for peace, shouldn’t it?

Kamal Helbawy, an influential Islamist based in London who regularly represents the Muslim Brotherhood in the western media, took part in an online ‘Question and Answer’ session on the pro-Brotherhood ‘On Islam’ website on Monday 2 May 2011 (the day after bin Laden was killed) in which he said:

‘I ask Allah to have mercy upon Osama Bin Laden, to treat him generously, to enlighten his grave, and to make him join the prophets, the martyrs, and the good people.’

He also suggested that the US had staged the 9-11 attacks:

‘I think that what the Americans claim about September 11th was a trick and a bait they accused Al-Qaeda of. All evidences and indications refer that the Americans are the ones who planned this matter, not the Afghans who have weak resources. The plot of [the] 9/11 story was not tight. It should be reviewed closely and all parties should be listened to.’

He also referred to Bin Laden as ‘a great Mujahid’ (often translated as ‘holy warrior’).

Kamal Helbawy came to the UK in the 1970s as a spokesman for the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood. He later co-founded the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) and the Muslim Association of Britain (MAB), the Muslim Brotherhood’s main British front-group – as well as Muslim Welfare House, a pro-Brotherhood organisation in Finsbury Park. For many years he has presented himself to western audiences as a moderate and as a counter-extremism expert, setting up a ‘Centre for the Study of Terrorism’, taking part in interfaith eventsand even convincing London’s Metropolitan Police to help him and other Muslim Brotherhood supporters take control of Finsbury Park Mosque after the removal of Abu Hamza.

Despite this, Kamal Helbawy’s latest remarks on Bin Laden are the latest in a long-line of unacceptable statements. In 2009 on BBC Arabic Helbawy justified the murder of Israeli children on the grounds that they were ‘future soldiers’ and as far as back as 1992 he described the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as ‘an absolute clash of civilizations, between truth and falsehood. Between two conducts – one satanic, headed by Jews and their co-conspirators – and the other is religious, carried by Hamas.’

Following the ‘Arab Spring’, the Muslim Brotherhood has emerged as one of the most influential opposition groups in countries such as Egypt. Although the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood has long regarded Al-Qaeda as a rival and has criticised its use of terrorism, it also nonetheless condemned his ‘assassination’ by the US (see their Arabic statement here).

The latest statements by Kamal Helbawy and other Muslim Brotherhood figures are a major blow to those western analysts and policy-makers who see the Muslim Brotherhood as a potential ally against al-Qaeda and a possible partner in counter-extremism efforts. They are also a severe set-back to pro-Brotherhood advocacy groups, such as the European Muslim Research Centre based in Exeter University, who have sought to rehabilitate the Brotherhood’s reputation in the West.

Ghaffar Hussain is head of the outreach and training unit at Britain's first counter extremism think-tank, the Quilliam Foundation

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