21. Why did Islamic groups turn to violence?

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Gamal Al-Banna believes that the violence of the Islamic groups is a reaction to the barbaric torture practiced by the State against the Muslim Brotherhood in the time of president Gamal Abdel-Nasser. Dr. Essam Al-Eryan said that some Islamic groups believe in the necessity of military action as a means to achieve their aims.

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Violence is the main accusation directed against Islamic groups. Some people linked Islamic groups to terrorism. The symbol of terrorism became a picture of a Muslim with a long beard wearing a loose garment and a turban.

The question is why were Islamic groups associated with violence? And, is violence part of their ideology and methodology, or is it a reaction to a counter-violence practiced against them?

Gamal Al-Banna believes that the violence began inside the prisons of Abdel-Nasser as a result of barbaric torture practiced by the State against the Muslim Brotherhood.

"But the Brotherhood is used to sacrifice and facing hardships, so they endured torture patiently but others did not. The best proof of that is Sayyed Quotb who wrote his book entitled "Social Justice" before his detention, but after his detention he turned into the opposite [that is, began to espouse violence] after he was released [after being tortured while being detained]. Shukri Mustafa also rebelled against the Brotherhood and broke away from them. After his detention he established Al-Takfir Wa-l-Hegra [Apostatization and Emigration] which was characterized by violence," Gamal Al-Banna said.

"I think the Brotherhood is the most flexible Islamic group. The Brotherhood rejects terrorism and violence which pushes some of its members to break away, especially after the torture practiced against them in detentions," Gamal Al-Banna added.

Dr. Mustafa Al-Shak’a stresses that Islam rejects extremism: "In spite of this fact, Islam was accused of extremism by the West. Unfortunately, some of our rulers were convinced with this clam and began to fight Islam. These groups that adopted violence do not represent Islam, and their violence do not belong to religion. The vision of these groups is confused, they don’t understand the true teachings of Islam, but this does not apply to the Muslim Brotherhood," Dr. Mustafa Al-Shak’a said.

Dr. Essam Al-Eryan thinks that it would be a mistake to link violence with Islamic groups in an absolute manner because there are differences among the visions of the Islamic groups concerning violence.

"Some of these groups believe in the necessity of military action as a means to achieve their aims. The most notable group that adopts this principle is the Egyptian Al-Jihad and the Afghanistani Taliban.

These groups think that the only way to change the munkar [what is disagreeable, detestable, disavowed, abominable] is to rebel against the regime and use violence. This does not apply to Al-Jihad, Hamas and the Palestinians in general because they use violence to resist occupation which is a legitimate action," Dr. Essam said.

"On the other hand, there are groups that do not believe in military action and do not use it as means to change what is munkar like the Muslim Brotherhood. The accusation of violence directed against these groups is a false accusation. The aim of these groups is to change the policies of the regime. Some view this as a conspiracy [against the governing regime] and an attempt to stage a coup [against it] as if no one has the right to think about attaining [political] power. There should be more democratic methods that allow all people to practice their political rights. Otherwise anyone who seeks to make a change will be accused of attempting to stage a coup. If we want to prove to all people that Islam rejects violence, we should support Islamic groups that are willing to engage in cooperation and dialogue.

I believe that there are some Islamic groups who had adopted violence, and have begun to review their attitude - like the Egyptian Gama’a Al-Islamiya that put forward the initiative to stop violence," Dr. Essam added.

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