Should Rahul Have Risked Comparing RSS With Muslim Brotherhood?

Is today’s RSS yesterday’s Muslim Brotherhood?

6 min read
Image used for representational purposes.

Rahul Gandhi compared the RSS to the ‘Muslim Brotherhood’ during a speech in Europe. It is quite possible that many people in India do not know much about the ‘Muslim Brotherhood’. So, a likely question is, what is the connection between RSS and the Brotherhood? And why did Rahul Gandhi take the risk of comparing the two? In today’s circumstances, should he have done that?

I have no hesitation in saying that the comparison is quite accurate. Both the RSS and the Muslim Brotherhood are similar organisations. Their nature and their goals are almost the same.

Right Comparison, Wrong Timing

Right now the communal atmosphere in the country is volatile. The business of spreading hate is doing very well. The Congress is faced with an opponent who is an expert at polarising every issue for a favourable political atmosphere. But according to me, the moment that Rahul Gandhi picked to compare the Muslim Brotherhood to the RSS, was wrong.

In their philosophy, ethics and behavior, the RSS and the Muslim Brotherhood are the same. RSS talks about the place of Hindus, while the Brotherhood talks about Muslims. The Brotherhood was founded in Egypt in 1928, while the RSS was founded three years prior, in 1925. While one wants to create a Hindu nation, the other hopes for an Islamic one. The Brotherhood also advocated religion-based politics.

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The Muslim Brotherhood is anti-West by nature. It believes that it is western culture that has weakened Islam.

That its people have gotten caught up in the glamour of the West, and as a result moved away from Islamic tradition and culture. The intellectual class has been influenced by western education and has started thinking like them, imitating them, and accepting the path shown by them as the correct one while dismissing the Islamic ways. The Brotherhood stands as its resistance. Although it is not against modernity. It uses the latest technologies and equipment quite enthusiastically.

Anti-West Attitude of RSS & Muslim Brotherhood

The beginning of the twentieth century was a transitional time. On the one hand, the Western countries were trying to recover from the terror of World War I, and on the other hand, they were also under pressure to not let their imperialistic empires (spread across), the world weaken.

Following the Russian Revolution, supporters of Marx and Lenin were growing around the world. Everywhere, people were looking for an alternative system against capitalism. Some cultures found hope in communism, others in their religion. If a part of Muslim society was attracted to the West, the other was moving closer to Islam. In the Arab area, Hasan al-Banna was looking for a future path in the light of Islam, while in South Asia, Abul A'la Maududi searched for ways to get rid of the British, through Islamic practices.

The first attempt of both Abul A'la Maududi of Jamaat-e-Islami and Hassan al-Banna of the Brotherhood was to correctly diagnose the straying they were seeing in Muslim society, and to help it regain its former power, its lost personality, and not become the underling of another culture. Here, the Brotherhood and RSS are astonishingly similar.

Hedgewar was irritated by the English-educated leaders of the Congress. He felt that while opposing the British, these leaders themselves became English, talking and thinking just like them. Thus, the RSS was formed to 'create a new India' by 'restoring the glorious history' of its traditions, and removing its vulnerabilities. The RSS then represented itself as a social institution. Emphasised 'character building'. While the Brotherhood was political in nature right from the beginning, it had no faith in Western-influenced institutions. It did not believe in democracy. It said that instead of 'people's will', 'Allah's will' should be paramount. It wanted to establish a Muslim nation based on Shariya.

The Brotherhood’s main slogan is “Islam is the solution” and its ‘Believers are but Brothers.”

For the RSS, Indian Constitution is a ‘Western Caricature’

It is true that the RSS has never attempted a coup. It insists it has complete faith in democracy. They don’t question its basic principles, but they do not consider the present Indian Constitution to be in accordance with Indian tradition. They say it is a crass imitation of the West, so they advocate changes in it. Up till now they have been strengthening themselves via democracy. So far it hasn’t resorted to using violence to directly change the government, while the Brotherhood does believe in violence. In 1948, the Brotherhood attempted a coup. Their people were arrested. Egypt’s Prime Minister was assassinated by the Brotherhood. In return, al-Banna was also killed. They were banned.

In 1952, a Brotherhood squadron successfully overthrew the monarchy.

Abdel Nasser came to power, and when a fresh struggle started Nasser also banned the Brotherhood. After the 2011 Arab Spring the Brotherhood launched a political party, contested elections and their candidate Mohamed Morsi even became Prime Minister. But things didn’t work out. In just a year and a half, the army removed him from power and detained him, and today the Brotherhood has been declared a terrorist organisation.

Innate Violence in Extremist Organisations

In this situation, the question that arises is whether Rahul Gandhi was highlighting the conceptual similarity between the RSS and the Brotherhood in his speech, or was the emphasis on other aspects? Rahul did not elaborate on that point. There is no doubt that in the hour of need, both organisations have scores of followers who were ready, and are still ready, to give their lives and kill others for the sake of ideologies.

The only difference is that Egypt never had democracy. Abdel Nasser was a big leader, but he was still a dictator. After him came Anwar Sadat. He was assassinated. Hosni Mubarak was removed by a mass movement. After the 2011 revolution, it was hoped that democracy would be established; in reality, it didn’t happen. Whereas in India the Constitution came into effect. Jawaharlal Nehru and the Congress held elections and did not let the democracy turn into a dictatorship.

In the last 71 years, democracy has come to occupy great social and political importance for this country, and no leader or party or organization can rule the country or win its heart by defying it. Therefore, despite the Sangh's anger towards the Constitution, it did not have the courage to go against it, and it did not use violence the way the Brotherhood did.

But some followers of this ideology believe that violence is an effective step; mob violence in the name of gau raksha and the killing of Pehlu Khan and others, are some examples of this.

The hate being spewed all over social media is also a form of violence.

In the last four and a half years, hatred has been established in people's homes, hearts and minds. The scope for dialogue in a democracy has been reduced. Having different opinions has started to become a crime, and treason. If this is what Rahul Gandhi was indicating, he was right.

Rahul’s Comparison a Peacetime Jewel

But there is also the question of politics and strategy here. Hindu-Muslim issues are a favourite for RSS and Hindutva forces. They want this issue to be discussed night and day. This helps in creating a special type of polarisation in the country.

Today, circumstances are such that the people sitting in power do not want debates on everyday issues, people talking about roti-kapda-makan, or the lack of employment becoming an issue among the masses. So that the new generation does not believe that they are not getting jobs because of the government's failures. If they only stay ‘Hindu-Muslim’, it will make things easier for the Hindutva-vadis.

Rahul Gandhi’s comparison is great fodder for intellectual debate, but it is not good politics. When the country is in ‘wartime’, the adornments of peace do not sit very well. This comparison is a peacetime jewel. In a war zone, only the cannons, pistols and swords do well.

(This piece was originally published in Quint Hindi and has been translated by Mariam Shaheen. Read the original article here.)

(The writer is an author and former spokesperson of AAP. He can be reached at @ashutosh83B.This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same. )

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