Born in the 1980s, Ibrahim al-Houdaiby is a Cairo-based member of the Muslim Brotherhood, the ideological forebear of Hamas and al Qaeda. His grandfather was Hassan al-Houdaiby, a prominent Brotherhood ideologist.
Ibrahim al-Houdaiby writes a column for the Brotherhood’s official English-language website, IkhwaWeb.com, and works to arouse foreign sympathy for the Brotherhood movement.
Al-Houdaiby describes himself as a “moderate Islamist” who “fully endorse[s] democracy” and who demonstrates “a clear respect of civil liberties and human rights.” Muslim political leaders, he says, likewise “fully endorse democracy, support freedom of the press, and believe in equality as the basis of citizenship.”
According to al-Houdaiby, the Muslim Brotherhood should not be considered a fundamentalist group, but rather a “reformist organization that upholds the principles of tolerance [and] peaceful reform.” Instead of imposing its views on society, he adds, the Brotherhood champions “constructive dialogue that is based on mutual respect and appreciation of diversity.”
A closer look at al-Houdaiby’s writings suggests that while he has shrewdly adopted the rhetoric of Western democrats, his political goals, like those of the Brotherhood, could hardly be more opposite. Where al-Houdaybi departs from other Brotherhood members is largely in his ability to put a fresh and tolerant face on old and intolerant agendas.
For example, while al-Houdaybi says that the “state should not interfere in the individual’s personal choice to violate Islamic teachings and drink alcohol,” he insists that this is only true “as long as he does not violate the societal rights by threatening its security.” The notion that deviating from Islamic teachings constitutes a societal “threat” would convince only those who, like the Brotherhood, argue that society should be governed exclusively by Sharia law. Brotherhood founder Hasan al-Banna similarly proclaimed that Islam must be “given hegemony over all matters of life.” Al-Houdaiby’s references to personal choice may sound more congenial to Western ears, but his underlying assumption about the supremacy of Sharia is exactly the same as al-Banna’s.
Al-Houdaiby has criticized Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohammed Mahdi Akef for denouncing as “naked” those women who do not wear the hijab, or headscarf. However, Houdaiby is not prepared to say that women should be given a choice on the matter. On the contrary, he has written: “I support Akef’s stance on wearing the hijab, and like him [I] view it as a religious obligation.”
Al-Houdaiby insists that his ideal of an Islamic society would look nothing like Taliban-era Afghanistan. But his support for criminalizing adultery in accordance with Sharia law belies such assurances. Although he has written that it is a “couple’s personal choice to adhere to Islamic teachings, prohibiting sexual relations outside marriage,” he insists that “the choice should not violate their society’s right to have a decent environment. Therefore, extramarital sexual relations are only a punishable crime if there are four eyewitnesses to the relation.”
As his spiritual inspiration, al-Houdaiby invokes the Muslim Brotherhood’s Sheikh Yousef al-Qaradawi, a terrorism-supporting anti-Semite who rejects all dialogue with Jews. Al-Houdaiby claims that al-Qaradawi has “shown a high level of respect for human rights and civil liberties.”
Al-Houdaiby’s views are supported by UC Irvine (UCI) professor Mark LeVine, who, along with UCI’s History Department and its Center for Research on International and Global Studies, invited al-Houdaiby to be a special guest speaker at an October 2008 campus event.
At this gathering, al-Houdaiby spoke on the topic of “Religion and Democracy in the Middle East.” During the question-and-answer period, UCI adjunct teacher Gary Fouse directed al-Hudaiby’s attention to a printed copy of a Muslim Brotherhood memo dated May 22, 1991. Titled “”the General Strategic Goal for the Group in North America,” this memo explained that the Brotherhood’s mission was to establish “an effective and … stable Islamic Movement” on the continent, and it outlined a “Civilization-Jihadist Process” for achieving that objective. It stated that Muslims “must understand that their work in America is a kind of grand Jihad in eliminating and destroying the Western civilization from within and ‘sabotaging’ its miserable house by their hands … so that … God’s religion [Islam] is made victorious over all other religions.” The memo also had served as a prosecution exhibit in the 2007 terrorism trial of the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development. Al-Houdaiby, however, pronounced the document a forgery and denied that a founding principle of the Muslim Brotherhood was the imposition of Islam worldwide under Shariah law.
Much of this profile is adapted from the article “Welcoming Terror on Campus,” written by Jacob Laksin and published by FrontPageMag.com on October 8, 2008.