Moderate Muslims condemn Hamas

Background current

Peter Philipp

To person

Born in 1944 in Wiesbaden, was a Middle East correspondent based in Jerusalem between 1968 and 1991, including for the Süddeutsche Zeitung and Deutschlandfunk. Since 1991 editor at Deutschlandfunk in Cologne, later head of the Middle East department, then the Africa / Middle East department of Deutsche Welle Radio. From 1998 until his retirement in 2009, chief correspondent and Middle East expert at Deutsche Welle Radio.

In the elections in the Palestinian Territories in early 2006, the influence of the Islamist Hamas in the Middle East became evident. The militant group has ruled the Gaza Strip since June 2007.

The Egyptian Hassan al Banna came from a poor background, he was brought up strictly religiously at home and sent to a religious teachers' college. Shortly after taking up his first teaching post in Ismailia, in 1928 he teamed up with six workers from the Suez Canal Society and founded the "Society of the" Muslim Brothers "" ("Jamiyat al-ikhwan al-muslimin"). Their common motive: to fight against the influence of the British, who were no longer a protectorate power, but still controlled the new Kingdom of Egypt (since 1922). According to the conviction of the first "Muslim Brotherhood", this Western influence led to society becoming more and more secular and distancing itself from the principles of Islam. The "Muslim Brotherhood" tried to oppose the return to Islam and to win supporters for it through social and charitable work. The movement grew rapidly, spreading almost all over the Arab world. and soon became a pioneer in revolting against their traditional regimes.

If you try to understand the most important Islamist groups in the region today, you will therefore come across these beginnings again and again in Egypt. The basic theses of the various Islamist groups are derived from these beginnings and it hardly matters whether these - like "Islamic Jihad" and "Hamas" - have emerged directly from the Sunni "Muslim Brotherhood" or whether they are one Shiite group is acting - as in the case of the Lebanese "Hezbollah".

Palestinian Islamic Jihad

The Gaza Strip was under Egyptian administration from 1948 to 1967 (with a short interruption during the Sinai War in 1956) and the Egyptian influence was therefore particularly strong here. Ideas like those of the "Muslim Brotherhood" fell on fertile ground here and mingled with militant ideologies of resistance against the State of Israel, most of which had their roots in the Gaza Strip.

The rather secular PLO under its longtime leader Yasser Arafat disappointed many Palestinians over time, because after the Six Day War and the conquest of Gaza and the West Bank by Israel (in June 1967) it gradually gained worldwide recognition, but the situation of the Palestinians changed not improved. This disappointment drove more and more Palestinians into the arms of the Islamists, especially in the Gaza Strip, and also led to their radicalization. In the 1970s, however, the "Muslim Brotherhood" were well on the way to becoming an unwelcome but tolerated factor.

The situation changed with the revolution in Iran: the overthrow of the Shah and the establishment of an Islamic state of God in Iran should have a signal effect: only shortly afterwards a militant wing of the "Muslim Brotherhood" split off to emulate Iran's example: the "Palestinian." Islamic Jihad "was founded in 1979 by Fathi Shaqaqi and like-minded Palestinian students. The "Muslim Brotherhood" were too moderate for them, as was the PLO, they wanted to take up the fight against Israel and hoped that at the end of this fight a large Islamic state would emerge for all Muslims - and not just in the Arab world. Followers of "Islamic Jihad" are said to have had contacts with the murderers of Egyptian President Sadat (murdered in 1981). The group began its first raids and terrorist attacks on Israeli targets in the 1980s, even before the first "intifada", the first Palestinian uprising, broke out in the occupied territories.

Although this "intifada" was planned as a nonviolent resistance, it offered the militants an ideal starting point. Israel did not immediately recognize this danger: It deported Shaqaqi to Lebanon, where it established relations with the newly established "Hezbollah" and with Iranian and Syrian authorities, and the "Islamic Jihad" became more radical. When the Oslo Agreement between Israel and the PLO came about after the "Intifada" subsided in 1993, "Jihad" took over the leading role in the militant opposition front. Shaqaqi was murdered in Malta in 1995 and his successor, Dr. Ramadan Abdallah Shalah, has since resided in Damascus with close contacts to the Syrian regime, Iran and the Lebanese Hezbollah. The "Islamic Jihad" is unchanged to this day against any understanding with or recognition of Israel.

The same is officially the case with "Hamas", whose story differs from "Jihad" and does not lack a certain irony, because the founders of "Hamas" were initially supported by Israel: