Why do they hate us? By Nabeel Jabbour - Sep 05, 2006

It is hard to understand why some Muslim Fundamentalists would hate us so much. We can find some clues from the lives of two pillars of Islamic Fundamentalism, Hasan al Banna and Sayid Qutb, especially after the tragic events of 9/11.

Both men were Egyptians. Hasan al Banna was the founder of The Muslim Brotherhood. The Muslim Brotherhood became the trunk of the tree out of which many of the various branches of modern fundamentalism in the Arab world, including Ben Laden, came from.

Sayid Qutb was the philosopher of Islamic Fundamentalism, and his theology became one of the two main branches that came out of the "trunk of the tree." His theology and philosophy are foundational for modern militant Islamic Fundamentalism. Ayman Zawahiri, the Egyptian physician who is the leader of al Qai'da, is very much influenced by Qutb's writings.

Hasan al Banna was born in 1906 in Egypt and was assassinated in 1949. He was a very devout man and wanted very much to serve God. By the age of 12 he had memorized the whole of the Qur'an (almost the size of the New Testament). In his high school days he was highly influenced by the Sufism of his day, yet he felt that Sufism was not enough, and action was needed.

In order to influence the future generations he became a high school teacher. He arrived at the deep conviction that the mosque alone cannot make an impact on the society. So he started a movement that became a "para-mosque" organization that was called The Muslim Brotherhood. Hasan al Banna was a charismatic leader, an eloquent speaker, a leader of men with a very warm presence. He was perceived as the "best friend" of literally thousands of people all over Egypt.

In his view, the Muslim should be like a "monk" at night, praying and worshiping God. During the day, the Muslim should be like a "knight," courageous, strong, and involved. The kind of Christianity that Hasan al Banna was exposed to in Egypt gave him the impression that Christianity offers a halfhearted relationship with God. God was relevant for a couple of hours a week when Christians went to church and "put on Christianity," but the rest of the week God was not relevant. Banna used to say to his disciples, "We cannot afford to live like the Christians do."

The second influential man was Sayid Qutb. Like Banna, he was born in Egypt in 1906 and was exposed to the social, religious, political, and cultural milieu of his time. Also like Banna, he memorized the Qur'an by the time he finished primary school. He also graduated from Teachers' College. Unlike Banna, he had no charisma, nor was he an eloquent speaker, an organizer, nor a great leader of men.
Instead, he was an author who became the philosopher and the ideologue of The Muslim Brotherhood and became the master teacher of Islamic Fundamentalism. His book Milestone (available in English on the internet) is considered today as perhaps one of the most-read books on Islamic Fundamentalism. Qutb was hanged in 1966 during the time of president Nasser.

Although Sayid Qutb memorized the whole of the Qur'an as a boy, in his adult life he was very much secular. He worked as an inspector of government schools in the Ministry of Education in Egypt. During this time he became interested in nationalism and in political and social problems. In 1948 he was sent to the United States to research the American educational system. He might have assumed that all Americans were practicing Christians. The Department of Education in Egypt expected that his trip would make him a believer in the American dream and the western way of life.

Instead, on the deck of the ship on the way to the United States, he had a "conversion" experience that brought him to deep faith and commitment to God in Islam. He started praying faithfully five times a day and began to motivate fellow Egyptian Muslims on board to love God and avoid sin. Very soon after that "conversion" experience, a European drunken woman entered his cabin and made herself available to him. He violently refused the invitation, escorted her out of the cabin, and knelt down to pray.
During his stay in America, two experiences shocked him very deeply. First, he witnessed the enthusiasm of the West for the establishment of the State of Israel. Second, he witnessed the rejoicing of the Americans over the assassination of Hasan al Banna. Those experiences deeply hurt him and motivated him to study America with a critical eye. His conclusion was that Americans were dedicated to materialism, pragmatism, and superficial religiosity. Their genius in industry and management was accompanied by primitiveness in spiritual and ethical values.

Qutb returned from America to Egypt a dedicated Muslim Fundamentalist who was convinced of Islam, intellectually, spiritually, and emotionally.

Why do they hate us? This is a very important question that we need to earnestly address as Americans. I believe that Islamic Fundamentalism cannot be eradicated. When Hasan al Banna was assassinated in 1949, the government in Egypt at that time thought that Islamic Fundamentalism was eradicated. It appeared again at the time of Nasser. When Sayid Qutb was hanged in 1966 and the leaders of The Muslim Brotherhood were imprisoned, president Nasser thought that Islamic Fundamentalism was eradicated. Later on it appeared again. Muslim Fundamentalists believe that "Islam is a tree that gets nourished with the blood of the martyrs.

Terrorism is "a response to a build-up of grievances, real or imagined. Therefore one cannot drive out terrorism without dealing with the grievances that lead to it," said Dr. J.D. Woodberry in his article "War on Terrorism." In that article he gives five main reasons why ìthey hate us:
1. The Israel-Palestine conflict. The Palestinians experience injustice and the West turned a deaf ear to their grievances.
2. The Iraq war.
3. The Muslims' sense of being humiliated and in danger.
4. Muslims perceive that the West has contributed to the corroding of morality with the flow of alcoholism, drugs, materialism, sexual immorality, and arrogance through movies and television.
5. Americans with their superior power talked about democracy, but did not back it up when it did not serve their purposes.  

There are many Muslim students in the United States today. Most of these students will return to their countries one day, and most of them will become leaders and influencers. Furthermore, people from various ethnic groups are immigrating to America and are yearning for the liberty that we enjoy. These people, along with the rest of the world, are watching America, the only superpower in the world. What we do and do not do will have consequences ten and twenty years from now. What develops with the Israel-Palestine issue will to a great extent determine the future regarding terrorism.

I hope that the war against terrorism will protect the world from the danger of weapons of mass destruction. The safety that might be achieved, though, will not last unless the grievances, real or imagined, are seriously addressed.

The years I lived in Syria, Lebanon, and Egypt convinced me that Arabs do not by nature hate Americans. When Egypt was under the Soviet's influence for years, hardly any Egyptian wanted to learn to speak Russian or to immigrate to the Soviet Union. In contrast, the U.S.A. continues to be a magnet in spite of the grievances. I hope that in the next months and years the world will get to see that America has the power and the courage to address the grievances and will show the world what America is all about. The next article by Leighton Ford addresses some of these grievances.

A timeless article by Leighton Ford, which was sent as an email to Christian leaders shortly before the Iraq war.