“…If you can look into the seeds of time
And say which grain will grow and which will not...”
‘War on Terror’ has now taken in the war and invasion of Afghanistan (began 2002) and Iraq (began 2003). There was also the failed Israeli
(with the overt acquiescence of Saudi
attempt to destroy the Lebanese resistance and re-establish itself
in southern Lebanon (within a self-declared
72 hour time-frame). One of the reasons for these wars is that
civilisation is at loggerheads with a militant and violent brand
of political Islam which gained its ultimate murderous expression
in the terrorist acts of September 11th 2001 in New
York and Washington. One of the terms that seems to be obtaining wide and popular
currency in describing this violent brand of political Islamism
is ‘Islamofascism’. But how historically and politically accurate
is this term?
are two main movements which form the bedrock of contemporary
political Islamism and their violent offshoots. Both of these
movements, the Wahhabis from Najd and the
Muslim Brotherhood came to modern political formation and prominence,
as the reader shall see, from under the shadow of a British imperial
motive in the early part of the last century.
one takes an objective look at the origins of these two movements
and more specifically the origins of who provided their political
leadership, with the essential support in order to thrust their
agendas and programmes onto the Arab World and then to the wider
Islamic World, one realises that there was no fascistic governmental
literalist Wahhabis initially came to social and political prominence
as part of a pact with the al-Saud tribe in the nineteenth century
in the eastern part of the Arabian peninsula known as the Najd.
The founder of this doctrine was refuted by all established Muslim
bodies at the time of his appearance and his theological diatribes
were rejected by his own brother, a traditional Islamic scholar.
After being thrown out from one village to the next for his extremism,
he did eventually find an agreeable home with the al-Saud clan.
However, what became known as the Saudi-Wahhabi alliance, after
initial successes, was a dead and spent force until the British
arrived in the region in the late 19th century.
leader of this alliance at this time, Abd al-Rahman al-Saud had
been in exile in the southern tip of the Basra
province of the Ottoman Caliphate since 1891. This part of Arabia
had a local shiekh who had recently (in 1896) murdered his brother
so as to claim leadership of his tribe. He had subsequently established
good relations with representatives of the British
Empire in the area. This relationship culminated in the signing
of an illegal and secret treaty between the Empire and this local
sheikh, Mubarak al-Sabah, in 1899. Sheikh Mubarak and the British
referred to their small illegal desert vicinity as “Kuwait”. As such,
this agreement provided Britain with “a strong hold over Mubarak’s freedom
of action.” 
vicinity had gradually grown in importance for the British as
it was through the local port that many British goods were arriving
from British India. In late 1880s and 1890s the Berlin-Baghdad train route,
with a terminus in the southern tip of Basra (i.e.“Kuwait”) was being
openly proposed by the Ottoman Caliphate and various European
financial backers, specifically German. Naturally, the British
were not too enthusiastic about this German-Ottoman Caliphate-backed
project, rightly perceiving it to be a potential threat to its
own trade channels. It was in “Kuwait”, under the hospitality
of the British-backed al-Sabah, that the Wahhabite al-Saud clan
looked to re-establish themselves in the region.
to undermine the hold of the Caliphate and his local ally and
representative, Ibn Rashid, Mubarak al-Sabah, now “fortified by
his alliance with England”
and with the support of his Wahhabi guests went into battle against
them in March 1901
 . Victory here would have
pre-empted any designs of the Berlin-Baghdad railway from extending
therefore potentially removing any threats to the Empire’s interests.
Furthermore, with an al-Sabah and Wahhabi victory, Britain would have absolute say, via their proxy,
on whether the terminus became a viable option.
and the Wahhabi leader were defeated. Mubarak lost a further two
brothers during the battle. This compelled Abd al-Aziz Ibn Saud,
the son of the then al-Saud leader to look at opening a second
front against the Caliphate. Abd al-Aziz and a band of his Wahhabi
followers travelled south. If the father and then leader Abd al-Rahman
al-Saud had travelled it may have raised the suspicion of Ibn
Rashid. Abd al-Aziz Ibn al-Saud managed to capture their so-called
ancestral capital, Riyadh
on the 15th January 1902. The manner in which he accomplished
this was almost identical to the way that Mubarak al-Sabah attained
rulership – he unexpectedly began his attack on the existing local
ruler in the midst of night while he was asleep.
completing the capture of the city, the Wahhabis slaughtered 1200
of its inhabitants or at the very least, a tenth of its population.
Abd al-Aziz Ibn Saud topped off his victory by ceremoniously holding
aloof the decapitated head of the then representative of the Ottoman
Caliphate, one Ibn Ajlan, from the battlements of the fortress
and throwing it into the assembled crowd. Recorded decapitations
gained immense and vocal disapproval from British-American leaders,
when the Wahhabi-inspired al-Qaida televised its beheadings over
the last several years. However, back at the start of the last
century, such barbaric acts by the Wahhabis only seem to have
endeared them to the British representatives on the Arabian coast
line. In 1904, British official were openly appreciative about
Abd al-Aziz and subsequently urged the British government to be
more overt in their support of him. By 1906, Sir Percy Cox, Political
Resident of the Persian Gulf, openly recommended that Britain enter a treaty with Abd al-Aziz Ibn Saud,
after the latter had attacked and killed his local rival while,
once again, he was asleep. This murder now established Ibn Saud
as ruler of most of the Najd region.
Ottoman Caliphate’s entry into the first European civil war of
the last century provided the Wahhabis with an opportunity to
further extend their rule and banish their local rivals once and
for all. The leader of the Wahhabis, maybe knowing that his brand
of Islam was always rejected by the established schools of Islamic
thought and law came into an official agreement with Britain.
An official treaty between Abd al-Aziz and Britain was declared and signed in 1915. In their
first and only battle during this war, the Wahhabis were joined
by British political agent of Kuwait,
Captain William Shakespear. The Wahhabis were defeated and Shakespear,
whose role was directing fire from a cannon onto the Caliphates
troops, was killed. He preceded the Tipton Taliban by almost 90
years in becoming the first Briton to fight and die for the Wahhabi
cause. However, had there been a victory for the Wahhabis, it
seems that Britain
was intending on unleashing them into Baghdad,
Mecca and along the Hijaz railway route:
“There is no reason to doubt that if he (William Shakespear)
had lived he would have organised British support for Ibn Saud
and his Ikhwan (Wahhabi fanatics)…either north towards Baghdad
or west towards the Mecca
and fortunately for the Arabs of the region, Baghdad was to remain free from militant Wahhabis until the British-American
led invasion of March 2003. In the meantime, the defeat of the
Wahhabis and the martyrdom of Captain William Shakespear compelled
the British Empire to search for allies elsewhere.
Hussain bin Ali, the ruler of the Western part of the Arabian
peninsula, known as the Hijaz, had previously lived in Istanbul for 18 years. He was much worldlier than the desert sheikhs
of the interior so beloved by His Majesty’s government. His desert
vicinity possessed a civilian infrastructure which included a
senate, hospitals, schools and newspapers and the necessary man-labour
to function and administer them. He also knew what was at stake
during this conflict. Whereas, Abd al-Aziz Ibn Saud, as leader
of the Wahhabis, simply wanted to depose a local sheikh here and
there, the Sharif was very well aware of the calls for Arab independence
from the various political groups in Arab cities and he seemed
to be acting as their figure head.
correspondence with the British officialdom in Cairo,
Sharif Hussain was given the strong impression that Britain would support an independent and unified
Arab state in exchange for support against the Ottoman Caliphate.
This strong impression is mainly contained in the Hussain-Macmahon
letters as well as the letters written to the seven Arabs.  Simultaneously and unbeknown
to Sharif Hussain, Britain had already made a commitment with
the French to jointly carve up the Arab region of the Ottoman
Caliphate as well as a commitment to “facilitate” the creation
of “Jewish National Home” in Palestine to a small band of European
had found a new ally, Ibn Saud, became perturbed and very anxious
about his position. He had thought he had done enough to officially
win over the gentlemen of the British Empire
with his “whole-hearted duplicity” which had “always seemed to
delight the British officials in the Gulf.”  Indeed, it had and as
such Blighty re-assured him of his value by bestowing the investiture
of the Knight Commander of the Indian Empire. He was now Sir Abd
al-Aziz Abd al-Rahman Ibn Saud and his band of fanatical Wahhabis
were fully entitled to refer to him as “Sir” Abd al-Aziz if they
wished to do so.
the war was successfully over, with the assistance of the so-called
‘Great Arab Revolt’, the Sharif Husain attempted, to no avail,
to hold Britain, to what he perceived
to be her pre-war commitments and promises. Britain, to no avail, attempted to bribe and threaten
him to accept the new British order which was to include the centrality
of its new Zionist colonial project in Palestine, regardless of the political wishes of the indigenous population.
was during these years, in the immediate aftermath of the first
European civil war of the last century, that Sharif Husain fell
out of favour with his one-time patrons. He began to be portrayed
as an “obstinate” fellow who “harangued” British officers and
was therefore unreasonable. The British made one last attempt
for the Sharif to humbly and acquiescently kneel before the new
imperial dispensation in the spring of 1924 in Jerusalem. Once again, the hidden and inner meanings
of Macmohan’s letters were divulged to him. Sharif Hussain, to
his credit, did not agree to the new geographical divisions or
the British-led Zionist project and as such he was asked to leave
a territory he had more than helped to liberate. 
His Majesty’s Government’s perfidious knife now firmly wrenched
in his torso, a British official and future director-general of
Trans-Jordan, Alec Kirkbride, was asked to accompany him to the
railway station for the trip back to Mecca. It was this journey,
one could argue, that heralded the end of a tolerant and traditional
Islam and augured the green light for British-backed Wahhabism
to attack the Hijaz. The Wahhabi leader always seemed at his most
militarily decisive when the Will of God dovetailed with the Will
of the British Government – “…by the Will of God and that of yourself,
the British government…” Ibn Saud had once said. This British-synchronised,
Wahhabi Will thrust into manifestation in October 1924 - Ibn Saud
thus called forth the eminent power of Blighty’s Knighthood and
commandeered his Wahhabi fighters onto the Hijaz. Sharif Hussain
had abdicated and one reliable source informs us that the British
government was “delighted” at his downfall.
 The ensuing massacre left
400,000 killed or wounded and 1 million displaced. A new Wahhabi-driven
economic, social and political order was established. The existing
business class was deemed untrustworthy by the Wahhabi leader
and considered close to the vanquished establishment. An economic
vacuum was created for others to step into: others such as a newly-arrived
labourer from the Hadramout region of Yemen,
and Muhammad Awadh Bin Laden, the father of Osama. As we can see,
Wahhabism’s presence in the Hijaz, which includes Mecca
and Medina, is largely predicated on the real refusal of a moderate Muslim
Arab leader to acquiescence with British-Zionism's imperial designs
and the inevitable ethnic cleansing of Palestine.
around the same time, Ibn Saud and the British government were
jointly clipping the talons of the Wahhabi fanatics who went a
touch beyond their remit in the late twenties. 
British officialdom in Egypt
were laying the foundations and championing the cause of another
brand of political Islamism. The Muslim Brotherhood of Egypt was
founded by Hasan al-Banna during his teaching stint in Ismaliyya,
a town generously populated by employees of the British-owned
Suez Canal Company, in 1928. It seems that the owners of the Suez
Canal Company were impressed enough with Mr al-Banna to the extent
that they part-funded the first institution built by the Muslim
Brotherhood.  Mr al-Banna, on his behalf,
although very publicly contemptuous of foreign economic denomination
by companies such as the Suez Canal Company, was strangely not
untoward in accepting the fruits of this economic domination.
After four years of developing the new movement in Ismaliyya,
he moved the nucleus of the organisation to Cairo
where he had earlier studied.
relationship with the ruling dynasty ensconced in the Palace in
Cairo and the Palace’s actual rulers, the representatives of the British
Empire, is murky but all too real. That Hasan al-Banna had admirers
and supporters within the upper echelons of the Egyptian and British-Egyptian
elite are beyond doubt. That Banna and these elite shared a perceived
enemy is also beyond doubt. One of Hasan al-Banna’s admirers was
a Mr. J. Heyworth-Dunne, an employee (and future scholar) of the
British Embassy in Cairo.
His admiration, even hero-worship, for Mr. al-Banna is contained
in the first book (in the English language) on the Muslim Brotherhood,
and political trends in modern Egypt (His Near and Middle East
monographs).  This book is considered
by one authoritative account as a primary source of information
on the group.  However, Heyworth-Dunne
is possessed of the modesty to not refer to himself as a participant
in some of the history of the Muslim Brotherhood, but simply refers
to his acquaintance with the group purely in an observatory capacity.
seems that one of the reasons British officialdom was enthusiastic
about Hasan al-Banna’s new religious group was because the then
current crop of Islamists were tainted with collaboration with
the occupier. For example, the Ummah party, a conservative-religious
party was founded by Muhammad Abduh. Abduh had been appointed
to the highest religious post in Egypt
by Lord Curzon in 1899 and for the next six years implemented
reforms, which no doubt, were compatible with the interests of
the British Empire.
challenges faced by the Empire in twenties and thirties Egypt were twofold.
Firstly, President Wilsons’s “declaration of self-determination
inspired the Egyptians to higher ideals…” i.e. that is independence.
 Secondly, there was what
Heyworth-Dunne refers to as “communistic ideas” i.e. along with
independence this also included socialism and nationalism. To
offset these challenges, especially the latter, it was British
officials such as Mr Heyworth-Dunne in the pre-war period, which
identified Islam as the ‘rallying cry’
 by which British interests
could be maintained. However, this Islam is not the Islam that
had been practised in the region for the last hundreds of years
but the Islam as “taught and represented by Hasan al-Banna”.  Furthermore he urged
the “Egyptian ruling class” to “surrender some of their privileges
in order to uplift the less unfortunate of their compatriots,
for it is useless to expect Islam to hold out against the ideology
of Communism…” otherwise.
so, with the political arrival of Hasan al-Banna and the Muslim
Brotherhood, Heyworth-Dunne informs the reader that there had
been a qualitative change in political violence:
“the difference in the nature of the struggle now and twenty years ago
is that two decades, it was anti-British, now it was Egyptian
against Egyptian…” 
cynic may state that this development was advantageous, possible
even congenial to the British colonial presence in Egypt.
the immediate post war period, Heyworth-Dunne was joined by other
British intellectuals such as Bernard Lewis and Kenneth Cragg
in their noble and divinely unsolicited defence of Islam. Furthermore,
it seems that the United States took up the “Islam” rallying cry
when it superseded and inherited British foreign policy initiatives
in the Middle East in the late 1950s. One clear example of this theory being
put into practise was when the United States National Security
Advisor, Zbigniew Brzezinski, visited the Afghanistan
border in the late 1970s and delivered this battle cry to the
assembled Afghan fighters which later went onto to defeat the
“We now of the deep belief in God, that we are confident their struggle
will precede…your cause is right and God is on your side.”
were golden opportunities in the early years of the Egyptian Muslim
Brotherhood, to show that it was pro-fascist or even fascist.
For example, during the 1936 signing of the Anglo-Egyptian treaty,
the Brotherhood did not come out against this neo-colonial treaty,
which further wedded Egypt’s economy and security to the British Empire. Actually, according to one writer, it was conspicuously
silent during this period when its supporters were expecting otherwise.
During the second European civil war of the last century, as the
German fascists were fighting the British in North Africa, many
Egyptian parties came out in support of the Germans, mostly out
of hostility to the British occupation over the fifty previous
years, yet the Muslim Brotherhood and specifically Hasan al-Banna
once again remained conspicuously silent. Surely, there would
have been no better time to show off your fascistic credentials,
if there were any, than during this period.
the 1930s and 1940s there is nothing to suggest that the Muslim
Brotherhood was pro-fascist. At the same time, one cannot agree
with established left wing writers who assert that the Muslim
Brotherhood, “was literally created in the 1920’s by the British”
without the evidence to support a claim.
 However, there is much
to suggest, as I have outlined, that the British
Empire had its perfidious finger in the Muslim Brotherhood halal
pie in the early years. This shadowy relationship all changed
with the arrival of the Free Officers and specifically Nasser,
in Egypt in July 1952.
the trial of the Muslim Brotherhood’s attempted assassination
of President Nasser in 1954 it was firmly established that certain
contact and conversations about Egypt’s
future had taken place with the British Embassy and the organisation.
Furthermore, by the time the Suez Crises took to the world stage
in 1956, the Muslim Brotherhood were firmly in the British Empire's
camp, manning a radio station from Cyprus denouncing Nasser strategies
and actions while the British, French and Israel's ethnic cleansers
were plotting the invasion of their homeland.
both of these movements came to modern political formation during
the overt British imperial reign in the Arab World is beyond doubt.
That there is ample evidence the agenda of the political leadership
of these movements, in the early years, was dovetailed with the
interests of the British Empire is also beyond
doubt. That certain early developments and strategies of these
movements were orchestrated by the British
Empire's representatives is, too, beyond doubt. The British Empire’s contribution to the growth of Wahhabism in the early
years was politically and militarily advantageous to Wahhabism’s
growth and eventual victory. Its service to the Muslim Brotherhood
in the early years was in the form of ideological and strategic
development. Both of these movements coalesced under the perceived
threat of Nasser and Arab Nationalism to British interests. Yet,
according to the former British Prime Minister Tony Blair in his
“Clash about Civilisations” speech  during the ‘War on Terror’,
“The roots of…extremism are deep. They reach down through decades
of alienation, victim-hood and political oppression in the Arab…World.”
Putting aside any possible qualms about being lectured to on values
by a prime minister who waged an illegal war, a venerable war
criminal or “fraudulent warmonger” as one British journalist refers
to him and if we are compelled to discuss or narrate in terms
of ‘deepness’ and ‘decades’, let’s not allow ourselves to forget
the British contribution to the emergence of Islamic extremism.
What Blair failed to mention in this speech was the foresight
shown by British politicians, intellectuals and officers in identifying
Islamic extremism or Islamism as a most expedient weapon against
perceived anti-British interests in the Arab World.
possible contributory factor to extremism may possibly be contemporary
British venal business deals with the Saudi-Wahhabi clan such
as the two al-Yammah deals. For some reason, Blair fails to mention
this squandering of Arab wealth on the British arms industry and
instead singles out “American foreign policy” as the major bone
of global contention. It may well be a case, as a philosopher
could remark, that if “American foreign policy” did not exist,
the likes of Blair and certain elements of the British anti-war
movement would have invented it. The first allegedly corrupt al-Yamamah
deal in the 1980s has bankrolled a British company, BAE, to the
tune of almost £43 billion over the last twenty years and such
deals can only happen because the Saudi Arabian nation – home
of 15 of the 19 suicide hijackers on September 11th 2001 - lives
in “alienation…and political oppression” i.e. have no say in how
the ruling clan spends their money. If they did have a say, it
is very unlikely that bankrolling (or subsiding) the British economy
would be high on their agenda. The second deal has recently been
signed and is expected to accrue the British economy even greater
revenue over the next twenty years.
is Britain, not the generic ‘West’, fascism, the United States,
Iran, Syria, Zimbabwe or North Korea which first expediently identified
a political brand of violent Islamism as a tool to fend off the
challenges of the Ottoman Caliphate, Wilsonian self-determination,
third world independence, nationalism, socialism or communism.
British support for what became derogatorily known during the
current ‘War on Terror’ as Islamofascism predates the conflict
in Bosnia, Afghanistan, the conflict with Nasser, massive oil
revenue, the Cold War and the emergence of the United States’s
concluded his speech emphasising that, “…extremism is not the
true voice of Islam.” It may certainly not be, yet Islamic extremism
is the only expediency that has always successfully contributed
toward defeating movements and peoples in the Middle East that
were considered obtrusive and detrimental to British interests.
And it is this extremism which maybe required again if a threat
to British interests once again arises.
Guest Commentator, BlaNu'man Abd al-Wahid, is a UK-based freelance writer (of Yemeni origin)
who specializes in the political relationship between the British
state and the Arab World. His focus is on how Britain
has historically maintained its interests in the Arab World and
the Middle East. Click here
to contcact Mr. Abd al-Wahid.
Desert King: Ibn Saud and his Arabia,
(London : Quartet Books, 1980), pg. 82. Troeller also mentions
British generals on the ground who agree with this view, op. cit.,
pg120, nt. 24. In this respect, T.E. Lawrence only became “of
Arabia” because British-Wahhabism was routed
at this point by the Ottoman Caliphate.
(Florida: Simon Publications,
2001) Appendix A and D, pg. 413 and 433 respectively.
op. cit., pg 50-51
 H. StJ.
(London : Robert Hale Limited, 1948), pg243
fanatics such as Faisal al-Duwish, more or less the Osama bin
Laden of his day.
op. cit., xxiv: Heyworth-Dunne, “was a participant in some of
the history of the movement and his work must be
considered a primary source.” (Italics are mine).
refers to himself as an observer. See Heyworth-Dunne, op. Cit.,
op. cit., pg5
op. cit., pg50. Another writer admired by our man in Cairo, was Sayid Qutb, see ibid, pg 97.
Accessed 30th August 2008.
Amin, Political Islam in the Service of Imperialism, Monthly Review,
December 2007 - http://www.monthlyreview.org/1207amin.htm. Accessed
31st August 2008.
Blair, ‘A Clash about Civilisations’ http://www.number10.gov.uk/Page9224.
Access 30th August 2008.
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