The Muslim Association of Britain (MAB) was prominent on the platforms at the European Social Forum on 15–17 October, and as a joint sponsor of the demonstration which closed the ESF, on 17 October 2004.
The 17 October demonstration saw the first return for a while of the sort of message from MAB which it promoted on its first big public appearance, a demonstration in April 2002 on the themes Zionism = Nazism, Sharon = Hitler, Star of David = Swastika, the Israeli brutalities in the Occupied Territories are the “real” Holocaust.
MAB placards on 17 October had — faintly, in the background, under the lettering — images of the Star of David and the Swastika side by side.
Mostly MAB has cultivated a “moderate” image. For that reason some people have doubted that the MAB is linked to the Muslim Brotherhood, or that the Brotherhood is really as reactionary as painted.
But MAB’s freesheet Inspire, distributed on the anti-war demonstration of 28 September 2002, firmly identified it with the Brotherhood. When MAB leader Anas Altikriti wrote to The Times (17 August 2004) in reply to an article about the links between MAB and the Brotherhood, he effectively confirmed those links by stating: “MAB is an independent British organisation. Links with others extend simply to shared ideas, values, and expertise, in which the Brotherhood is indeed rich…”
And the Brotherhood with which MAB shares “ideas, values, and expertise”? Its true nature is defined clearly in the excerpt below from the Palestinian Jewish Trotskyist Tony Cliff, writing in 1946. Cliff would later become the long-time leader of the Socialist Workers’ Party (SWP) in Britain. In 1946 he can hardly have expected to have an organisation he would lead allying with and boosting a group he had defined as “clerical-fascist”.
Has the Brotherhood changed decisively since 1946? Over long decades of repression by governments in Egypt (where it originated) and other Arab states, it has learned canniness and caution. It is a “reformist” wing of political Islamism. But its basic stance has hardened, rather than softened, since 1946, with the influence on it of Sayyid Qutb, its main ideologue in the 1960s, who was more rigid than the Brotherhood’s founder Hassan al-Banna.
Click here for more on the MAB and the Brotherhood
By Tony Cliff, from Fourth International, Vol.7 No.9, September 1946
The British are… doing all in their power to foster the Moslem Brotherhood, a clerical-fascist organisation in Egypt, which is at present organising branches in Palestine. It was this organisation which succeeded to a certain extent in diverting the demonstrations against the Balfour Declaration which took place on 2 November 1945 in Cairo and Alexandria into attacks on the communal minorities, Christian and Jewish. Their success was only partial, as the Egyptian workers’ movement understood that the communal attacks constituted an assault upon it. The workers’ paper El Damir stated at that time: “It is very heartening that the workers were not dragged into the plots hatched against them to involve them in the attacks of 2 November, the day of the cursed Balfour Declaration… The Egyptian workers’ movement struggles against racial fanaticism and deprecates every movement fostered around it.”
The Moslem Brotherhood tried to erect separate committees of Moslem workers in various enterprises, but this failed owing to the unity, irrespective of community, displayed by the Egyptian workers. While the Moslem Brotherhood showed great activity on 2 November, it refused to participate on 21 February, 1946, “Evacuation Day” as this was a real anti-imperialist movement and not a communal one.
Slogans of solidarity among Moslem, Christian and Jewish workers were shouted throughout the demonstrations, and the fascist leader Ahmed Hussein, who tried to worm his way into the demonstration, was howled down and not allowed to speak. When the Workers’ and Students’ Committee called an anti-imperialist strike on 10 May of this year the Moslem Brotherhood declared its opposition. The strike took place, however, despite the opposition of the Brotherhood, the Egyptian Government and the Arab League.
The Egyptian government and the British imperialists do all in their power to nourish and strengthen the Moslem Brotherhood. Reuters publishes a Brotherhood declaration every Monday and Thursday. The announcement of John Kimche that the Brotherhood had half a million members was printed in all the local newspapers, although in reality they have a membership of not more than 10,000. At the same time all news about the Workers' and Students’Committee is systematically suppressed.
The Brotherhood issues a daily paper (whose financial sources it does not of course divulge), while the workers’ papers have been closed down. It arranges meetings and conferences; similar gatherings of the workers are banned. The radio station devotes a regular programme to it, and its delegates are given every assistance to visit the neighbouring Arab countries; the workers’ representatives are refused visas. The Stalinists’ habit of dragging after the “nationalists” was displayed in its ugliest form during the last few days.
While the Jewish Stalinists launch a struggle against the British White Paper and demand free immigration and settlement, one of their groups going so far as to join the world Zionist Organisation, the Arab Stalinists sing laudations to the Mufti. Thus, in an article entitled “The Grand Mufti,” the Arab Stalinist weekly, writes on 23 June 1946 in honour of the Mufti’s arrival in Egypt: “Our struggling nation honours those who sacrifice themselves. The Arab nation in Palestine has shown vitality and faithfulness to its interests and those who work for them. Arab Palestine from end to end celebrated the good news… Arab Palestine expressed its feelings in its celebrations and demonstrations for every man who it is sure served his country faithfully. In these expressions the nation provides us with a great lesson that it does not pay attention to words but honours deeds and glorifies and honours their doers. Our nation has proved that it has not forgotten nor will forget those who struggled, passed through trials and made sacrifices for their homeland.”
These praises of the Mufti were offered only a few months after the same paper wrote the following: “This great historical strike [the strike of government workers and employees] showed up British imperialism, and demonstrated that there is no difference between Arabs and Jews, showed who is the common enemy and pointed the way of struggle against this common enemy.” (21 April 1946.)
We should not be surprised if the spinelessness of the Arab Stalinists leads them to repeat their slogan of 1935–36, when they demanded that the government disarm the Jews. All the provocations of the Moslem Brotherhood did not succeed in sowing communal antagonisms in Egypt. And the last great strike in Palestine in April of this year in which 26,000 Arab and 6,000 Jewish workers participated, proved that despite the splitting propaganda of the Zionists and the feudal-bourgeois Arab leaders, there is a solid basis for the unity of the Palestinian toilers in defence of their vital interests.
In reply to the bloody imperialist provocations, constantly repeated, which cause tremendous suffering to Arab and Jewish masses alike, the struggle must be launched for the all-embracing unity of the trade unions in the Arab East countries irrespective of national or communal differences. The struggle must be launched for the establishment of a united trade union movement in Palestine; the existing differences between the wages of Arab and Jewish workers must be fought against; equal pay for equal work must be the slogan; municipal labour bureaus should be established to include all the workers; all boycotts against the products, agricultural or industrial, of another nation, must be abolished. The expropriation of the key sections of the economy from the hands of foreign capital, and the agrarian revolution — these are the fundamental conditions for the broad and all-sided development of the economies of the countries of the East, the raising of the material and cultural status of the masses, irrespective of nation or community, and the eradication of the barriers between them. Imperialism, source of communal provocation, must be rooted out and the struggle launched for liberation of the Middle East, in which all the minorities — Jews, Kurds, etc. — will be given wide autonomy in the regions inhabited by them, within the all embracing framework of the Republic of Workers and Peasants of the Arab East.
The British working class must fight for the evacuation of the British occupation army from the East. The overthrow of imperialism will put an end to the subjugation of the masses of the East and the trading in their blood. The English and American workers must demand, at the same time, the opening of the gates of their countries to the victims of fascism including the Jews; and must organise material assistance for the suffering European masses in general and those in the Displaced Persons’ Camps in particular.
Jerusalem, 8 July 1946