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Redeeming Sunni Islam: Al-Qa‘ida's Polemic against the Muslim Brethren

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The appearance of al-Qa‘ida at the beginning of the 1990s challenged the modern Islamic discourse by bringing the struggle against the ‘new Crusaders’—the United States and Europe—to centre stage. Impelled by frustration with the meagre record of Sunni radicalism in achieving substantive political change, and by its own aspiration for leadership, the organisation singled out the non-violent, influential Muslim Brethren as a main rival and a prime target for polemics. The formative basis for this polemic was provided by an essay written by Ayman al-Zawahiri, al-Hisad al-murr [The Bitter Harvest], around 1989. The essay, which has not been dealt with in the research literature until now, constitutes a biting attack against the Brethren. It undermines their historical legacy and goes so far as to shatter the image of their charismatic founder, Hasan al-Banna. More broadly, al-Zawahiri's essay reveals the close affinity between historical memory and politics, and illuminates the clash within modern Islam.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: April 1, 2012

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