At 37, Mohamed Louizi takes the risk of exhibiting his story of active "brother" among the Muslim Brotherhood for 15 years in a book “Pourqoui j’ai quitté les frères musulmans” to be published in January 2016. Born in Morocco, he now lives in France. He also pens the blog "Écrire sans censures"
Tell us a bit about your past, and why you joined the Muslim Brotherhood
I was 13 years old when I joined the Moroccan branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, in 1991. I was with them for 15 years, first in the Casablanca branch, and then in 1999 I moved to France and joined the Brotherhood in Lille. In 2006 I quit, for ideological reasons, and now I focus on fighting Islamic radicalization and the ideology of jihad and violence.
I joined them because my parents wanted me to. At 13 years old, you don’t have a choice. You are not interested in ideology. I had no political agenda, but I grew up in a poor neighbourhood of Casablanca, where there was nothing else keeping young people off the streets except for the Muslim Brotherhood. They provided religious education, mixed in with games, sports, and trips. My parents saw it as a positive thing because it kept me on a straight path, and the Brotherhood made sure I went to mosque, prayed at the right time, and became familiar with Islamic texts. Many others saw it the same way as my parents did.
How was the organization structured in Morocco? And in France? What about funding?
In both countries, there is the central organization, which is then subdivided in regions, which are then further split into cities and neighbourhoods. It’s a hierarchical system, where young people are brought in by older students around the age of 17-18 who have pledged allegiance to obey the Muslim Brotherhood and its teachings. In my neighbourhood, there were between 60-100 students who would choose suitable young candidates to bring into the fold. The selection criteria was based on how dedicated they were to Islam, their grades at school, and their interest in learning more about Islamic teachings. Usually the young recruits are from a low socio-economic background. In terms of funding, every member who earns a salary gives between 2.5%-5% of their earnings to the Brotherhood.
You left the organization whilst you were in France. Was the Moroccan Brotherhood different to the French one?
Yes, very. In the Moroccan Brotherhood, there was democracy. The leader of the Brotherhood could not hold more than 2 mandates. In France, the system was structured pyramidically. The same person could hold a position for 35-40 years, and there was no democracy or debate allowed. The way they handled money and responsibilities inside the organization was mafia-esque, and their ideology was extremely fixed. Most members were first generation immigrants, who had a very fixed interpretation of Islam.
Why did you quit?
Because of ideological reasons. I read Jawdat Said, who focuses on the philosophy of non-violence, and I realised that the Muslim Brotherhood preferred the texts to the sanctity of life. As in, if they were given a choice between what the texts said, and someone’s life, they would choose the texts. I arrived at the conclusion that there is nothing more sacred than life, and my ideology became incompatible with theirs.
I also found the way the French Brotherhood was structured disagreeable. The lack of democracy, combined with the absence of debate and freedom of expression for me was intolerable. I decided to quit in 2006, and now I study the texts of Hassan al-Banna and Sayyid Qutb, in order to analyse better their philosophy of violence and jihad.
Was it difficult to quit?
Very. They tried to separate me from my wife, and they branded me an infidel. For me, however, Islam is something I believe in and practice in private. I write about the process of quitting in detail in my book, “Pourqoui j’ai quitté les frères musulmans”, which will be published on 7th January 2016.