"Where else can you sit down in a single evening and listen to senior people from Hamas, Hezbollah, the Muslim Brotherhood, people from the revolutionary left and the antiwar movement from around the globe?"
— British Trotskyite John Rees at the Cairo Anti-War Conference, April 2007
Over the past year, multiple international conferences have featured leaders of the anti-global left and Islamist groups working together. Go to any anti-war or anti-globalization demonstration in the West and chances are you will see the flags of Hezbollah and Hamas waved by people wearing Che Guevara T-shirts. And at some of these meetings, members of such radical Islamist groups as the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas, and Hezbollah have enjoyed starring roles.
The roster of Islamist-left alliances quietly grows every day: Massachusetts Institute of Technology linguistics professor Noam Chomsky praises Hamas and denounces America on Hezbollah's Al-Manar television. London Mayor Ken Livingstone invites a leading Islamist, Sheikh Yosef Al-Qaradawi, who is known for supporting suicide attacks, to visit his city. Iranian President Ahmadinejad calls for a world without America even as he plays host to a Tehran peace conference attended by American Mennonites, Quakers, Episcopalians, Methodists, and leaders of the National Council of Churches.
The key forum at this year's annual Cairo Anti-War Conference was titled "Bridge-building Between the Left and Islam," and focused on practical ways to increase cooperation. The aim of the conference sessions were described in one piece of literature as tackling "the challenges and prospects facing the international anti-war and pro-intifada movements" and planning "strategy and tactics for bridging the gap and uniting Islamist and leftist ranks in the face of U.S. imperialism and Zionism."
The Arabic press has lauded this phenomenon. An article in Egypt's Al-Ahram Weekly praises what it refers to as "Arab activists taking the lead in the growing anti-war movement worldwide."
Some Islamist issues on which the anti-global left appears to have found common ground are countering the international boycott of Hamas, calling for the boycott of Israel, supporting Iran against the threat of a U.S. attack (as well as supporting its "right" to develop nuclear weapons), supporting avowedly anti-American countries such as Cuba and Venezuela, and, above all, opposing the war in Iraq.
Many leftist blogs and Web sites monitored by MEMRI have been increasingly open to working with Islamist groups on the goals they both share — most notably the desire for America to leave Iraq. British Trotskyite John Rees, a regular at the Cairo conference since it started in 2002, told Al-Ahram in April that at this year's gathering he had discussed in particular the "ongoing dynamic between the anti-war movement and Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood." Mr. Rees also believes that the Islamist-Left coalition is gaining strength, while what is known as the "coalition of the willing" has faltered.
In addition, MEMRI researchers monitoring jihadi Web sites have recently found Islamists trying to influence American anti-war efforts. On the Islamist Al-Mohajroon Web site, someone with the username Al-Wathiq Billah instructs readers on how to infiltrate popular American Internet forums to distribute jihadist films and spread disinformation about the war.
"There is no doubt, my brothers, that raiding American forums is among the most important means of obtaining victory in the fierce media war ... and of influencing the views of the weak-minded American who pays his taxes so they will go to the infidel American army. This American is an idiot and does not know where Iraq is ... Every electronic mujahid" must engage in this raiding, Mr. Billah writes.
Mr. Billah advises his jihadist readers to "register yourself using a purely American name" and to "invent stories about American soldiers you have personally known (as classmates... or members in a club who played baseball and tennis with you) who were drafted to Iraq and then committed suicide while in service by hanging or shooting themselves." The writing should, he says, provoke "frustration and anger towards their government, which will ... render them hostile to Bush ... and his Republican Party, and make them feel they must vote to bring the troops back from Iraq as soon as possible."
Such an emerging alliance can only be expected to play a negative role in the ongoing war on terror.
Mr. Stalinsky is the executive director of the Middle East Media Research Institute.
Correction from May 11, 2007:
The Middle East Media Research Institute monitors Islamist Web sites, and meetings of members of Hamas, Hezbollah, and the Muslim Brotherhood took place in the Middle East. A column on page 7 of the May 9 Sun misstated what MEMRI monitors and the location of the meetings.