On January 27th, the FBI foiled a plot to attack a Scottish Rite building in Milwaukee. A 23-year-old man named Samy Mohamed Hamzeh had planned to enlist two accomplices and kill as many people as possible at the Humphrey Scottish Rite Center. In his statement to authorities, Hamzeh said, “We are Muslims, defending Muslim religion…And we will eliminate everyone.”
Since the story was first publicized, Freemasons have asked why a Muslim man would want to murder Masons, particularly since our fraternity openly welcomes members of all faiths who believe in a Supreme Being. Lodges all around the world often initiate Islamic members, who take their obligations on their holy book, the Qur’an.
Like Christianity, Judaism, and the overwhelming majority of the world’s religions, there is no conflict between Freemasonry and the teachings of Islam. Few groups owe more to the region of the Middle East for the origin of its symbolism than Freemasonry. Nevertheless, Masonry has been outlawed in most Muslim-majority countries, with notable exceptions like Morocco, Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey.
After Pope Clement XII excommunicated Catholic Freemasons in 1738, Sultan Mahmut I, ruler of the Ottoman Empire, outlawed Freemasonry throughout the entire Middle East and North Africa, under pressure from his Christian subjects and allies, and with the approval of his ulema (Islamic theologians).
Masonry became popular for a while in Egypt and Algeria in the 1800s, mostly beginning with Europeans living there. After World War I and the breakup of the territory that made up the Ottoman Empire, Freemasonry briefly came back to the Middle East, often by way of English, Scottish, and French oil industry workers. A few lodges still exist in Muslim countries on U.S. and British military bases and in residential zones set aside for foreign workers, but most Arab Muslims are forbidden to join by their governments and religious leaders.
One of the most influential organizations for interpreting Islamic law (at least in the Sunni and Sufi realms of theology) is the Islamic Jurisdictional College of El-Azhar University in Cairo. In 1978, it issued an opinion concerning “The Freemasons’ Organization.” Among its findings were the following:
* Freemasonry is a clandestine organization, which conceals or reveals its system, depending on the circumstances. Its actual principles are hidden from members, except for chosen members of its higher degrees.
* The members of the organization, worldwide, are drawn from men without preference for their religion, faith, or sect.
* The organization attracts members on the basis of providing personal benefits. It traps men into being politically active, and its aims are unjust.
* New members participate in ceremonies of different names and symbols, and are too frightened to disobey its regulations and orders.
* Members are free to practice their religion, but only members who are atheists are promoted to its higher degrees, based on how much they’re willing to serve its dangerous principles and plans.
* It is a political organization. It has served all revolutions, as well as military and political transformations. In all dangerous changes, a relation to this organization appears either exposed or veiled.
* It is a Jewish organization in its roots. Its secret higher international administrative board is made up of Jews, and it promotes Zionist (pro-Israel) activities.
* Its primary objectives are the distraction of all religions, and it distracts Muslims from Islam.
* It tries to recruit influential financial, political, social, or scientific people to utilize them. It does not consider applicants it cannot utilize. It recruits kings, prime ministers, high government officials, and similar individuals.
* It has branches under different names as a camouflage, so people cannot trace its activities, especially if the name of Freemasonry has opposition. These hidden branches are known as Lions, Rotary, and others. They have wicked principles that completely contradict the rules of Islam.
* There is a clear relationship between Freemasonry, Judaism, and international Zionism. It has controlled the activities of high Arab officials in the Palestinian conflict.
* Any Muslim who affiliates with it, knowing the truth of its objectives, is an infidel to Islam.
Active, practicing Freemasons know these allegations have absolutely no merit. Unfortunately, many Islamic countries do not believe in the separation of church and state. Communities that are governed by strict Qur’an-based Sharia law, which is believed to have been derived directly from the Prophet Mohammad, strongly accept that they are following God’s law, which supersedes any law that is written by Man. Freemasonry, which developed during the Enlightenment in Europe, is seen as promoting Western values that encourage blasphemy towards the Islamic faith. The recently publicized brutal punishments of non-believers by Islamic extremist groups like ISIS (the Islamic State), Al Qaeda, Boko Haram, the Taliban, and strict governments like Saudi Arabia and Iran, are stark examples of Sharia law taken to its most severe level. As a result, being a Freemason can result in prison, torture, and even a death sentence in these places.
Because Freemasons are seen as agents of pro-Israeli Zionism, conspiracy theories about Masons are rampant throughout Islamic communities. One of the most common sources of such theories originates in a pamphlet that has been widely distributed for more than a century. In the late 1800s, the Okhrana, the Russian Czar’s secret police, created a notorious piece of propaganda called the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. In it, a secret meeting was described of a group of Jews who discussed their world domination plans, with the Freemasons as their accomplices.
The Protocols are the origin of a widely supposed “conspiracy” of a secret group of Jewish bankers who control the world’s governments, economies and religions. According to various versions of the Protocols, Jews are behind a plan for world conquest, and use Freemasons as their willing stooges. Jews and the Masons control the press and the courts, and Jewish revolutionaries use liberalism to weaken religion and governments. Jewish intellectuals confuse the common people, and they replace traditional educational curriculum to discourage independent thinking, and encourage immorality among children. They use their international banking monopolies and the use of credit to destroy the economy, favoring paper currency not tied to the gold standard. Jews and the Masons control governments from behind the scenes by blackmailing politicians. And during times of great emergencies, Jews will suspend civil liberties and then secretly make the measures permanent.
When Adolf Hitler came to power, he partially used the Protocols as justification for his plans to exterminate the Jews. Freemasons were also on his hit list, and they too were sent to concentration camps. One of the many popular slogans of the Nazis was “All Masons Jews — All Jews Masons!”
The Protocols have been rewritten and circulated for over a hundred years, and today they can be found all over the Internet, posted by a wide range of conspiracy-believing groups. The Protocols remain very popular in Islamic countries, including Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Iran, and especially the Palestinian territories, where they are distributed as official texts for school children to study. In 2002, a multi-part television docu-drama was produced for several Arab language networks based on the Protocols, entitled Knight Without A Horse. There are many other organizations, including the American Nation of Islam, some militia groups, the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas, and the American Nazi Party who still peddle the Protocols as fact.
Another area of contention between Islam and Freemasonry concerns something most Masons believe to be harmless, but Muslims clearly do not. The Ancient Arabic Nobles of the Mystic Shrine, now more correctly known as simply the Shriners, was started in the 1870s as the playground of Freemasons. The language of its ceremonies, and its costumes and decorations, came straight out of the exotic Tales of the Arabian Nights. Shriners called their jurisdictions oases; built their buildings to look like mosques, some complete with minarets and domes; wore fezzes; and adopted the Arabic phrase al salam aleikum (“peace be with you”) as a greeting. Unfortunately, many devout Muslims do not think such things are a homage to their culture. Instead, they feel their faith and culture is being mocked.
Open attacks against Freemasons by Islamic extremists are very rare, but they do happen. One violent event occurred in 2004, when attackers with automatic weapons and explosives burst into a Masonic lodge in Istanbul, Turkey, sprayed it with bullets, and set off several bombs. One person was killed, along with one of the terrorists, and six people were injured. Ultimately, eighteen suspects were questioned, and ten were charged with the operation. In 2006, a Muslim man was arrested in Atlanta, and was accused of providing material support to terrorists. He had taken videotapes of the Scottish Rite House of the Temple in Washington DC, which were uploaded to an al-Qaeda computer expert in London. He told investigators that he “believed Freemasons were like the Devil.”
Stories of theft and vandalism of Masonic lodges have been happening with greater frequency around the world, and most recently a Masonic lodge in California was burned to the ground under suspicious circumstances that are being investigated. With religious-inspired violence increasing, Masons need to be aware of the dangers that conspiracy theorists pose to our fraternity, especially when they decide to do more than just vent their anger over the Internet. In the Milwaukee situation, the suspect took a public tour of the building and made note of upcoming events, exit doors, stairwells and other details that would not be of interest to most casual tour-goers. Every lodge should consider an alarm system and other security measures, such as installing security cameras, locking their outer doors during meetings, and perhaps even asking local police departments to drive through their parking lots during meetings and events.
It is unfortunate that an organization that prides itself so much on love for our fellow man should have to consider our own safety, but that is the nature of the times in which we live. In particular, ISIS and al-Qaeda both are actively recruiting would-be terrorists via social media like Facebook and Twitter, encouraging them to strike against their own neighbors by any means possible.
Unfortunately, Freemasons make an easy target because we are so visible and our organization is deemed blasphemous to their beliefs.