Thursday, February 10, 2011

So Who Is the Muslim Brotherhood?

Party logo

"Allah is our objective.

- The Prophet is our leader.
- Qur'an is our law.
- Jihad is our way.
- Dying in the way of Allah is our highest hope."

Muslim Brotherhood motto

With the events in Egypt capturing the attention of the world, the Muslim Brotherhood (Al-Ikhwan) has risen to universal recognition. Those who follow radical Islam know and understand who the Muslim Brotherhood is and what they represent. With the distinct possibility that this organization may ultimately come to power in Egypt, it is high time everyone knows and understands who they are.

The Muslim Brotherhood was founded in Egypt by Hasan al Banna in 1928. It began as a religious, political and social work group. The stated goal was-as it is now-to establish Islamic rule as a world-wide caliphate living under Shariah law. Here is a sampling of Al Banna's thought. (This was written by me in 2008 as part of my response to Brotherhood spokesman Ibrahim El Houdaiby when he referred me to Al Banna as "proof" of the Brotherhood's peaceful nature):

"In his book, The Way of Jihad, he quotes passages in the Qu'ran that speak to Jihad (in connection with fighting and dying in battle) and adds his comments, such as'

Qu'ran- Surat-aal-Imran (3), ayah 156-158

"O, you who believe! Be not like those who disbelieve (hypocrites) and who say to their brethren when they travel through the earth or go out to fight: "If they had stayed with us, they would not have died or been killed so that Allah may make it a cause of regret in their hearts. It is Allah that gives life and cause death. And Allah is all-Seer of what you do. And if you are killed or die in the way of Allah. forgiveness and mercy from Allah are far better than all that they amass (of worldly wealth etc). And whether you die or are killed verily, until Allah you shall be gathered."

Al-Banna's explanation

" Notice how forgiveness and mercy are associated with slaying and death in Allah's way in the first verse, and how the second verse does not refer to this because it is devoid of the idea of Jihad. In this verse, there is an indication of the fact that cowardice is one of the characteristics of unbelievers, but not of believers. And notice how today the unbelievers seem to be brave and the believers seem to be the cowards."

As the organization grew dramatically in the 1930s and 1940s, they were marked by opposition to the Egyptian government.  In 1948, a Brotherhood member assassinated the Egyptian prime minister. Shortly afterward, Al-Banna was killed by persons believed to be secret police or supporters of the murdered prime minister. In 1954, the Brotherhood was declared illegal after being blamed for an attempt to assassinate President Gamal Nasser.

Arguably the most infamous of Brotherhood figures was Amin al Husseini, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem. Husseini was a vicious anti-Semite who spent most of his life trying to drive the Jews from the region. Forced to flee under the British Mandate, Husseini wound up living in Berlin as a guest of Hitler during the war. From Berlin, he made many radio broadcasts to the Middle East urging his followers to rise up and drive the Jews out of the Middle East. He also helped organize a Muslim Bosnian SS division, which made their own contribution to the Holocaust in service to Hitler. Held in France after the war, geo-politics resulted in him being returned to Egypt by the French. He should have been put on trial as a war criminal.

Husseini with Hitler in Berlin 1941

Reviewing Bosnian SS division in WW II

Another  prominent member of the Brotherhood was Sayyid Qutb, a writer and Islamic scholar, who lived and studied in the US from 1948-1950, mostly in Greeley, Colorado. He returned to Egypt convinced that America was a morally rotten nation. Back in Egypt, he was arrested and convicted for being involved in a conspiracy to assassinate the president. He was hanged in 1965.

Sayyid Qutb.jpg
Sayyid Qutb

Aside from their history, the Brotherhood's more recent activities are of more immediate concern. The Brotherhood is the largest Islamic organization in the world. Still based in Egypt, they have their tentacles in several countries in the region and in the West. They deny having any presence in the US (as El Houdaiby told a UC-Irvine classroom in my presence in 2008), but make no mistake; they are here. The Brotherhood is in reality the umbrella organization for virtually every radical Islamist organization in existence. Osama bin Laden's right-hand man, Ayman al Zawahiri, was a member of the Brotherhood. They also have connections to US-based organizations like CAIR, the Islamic Society of North America, the Muslim Public Affairs Council, and the Muslim Student Association among others.

In addition, the goals of the Brotherhood are as they were in the beginning. They are for a world-wide caliphate through Jihad. Their methods, however, are now to present themselves as peaceful, democratic reformers who oppose Mubarak and want to bring democracy to Egypt. That is what al Houdaiby  told me and a UC-Irvine class in 2008. Their goal is to spread Islam throughout the world using existing legal, democratic laws in the West to advance their agenda. It is widely believed that the Brotherhood was involved in the founding of CAIR (1994). In 1993, the FBI documented a meeting in Philadelphia involving members of Hamas, in which it was discussed the need to establish a mainstream Muslim organization in America to represent the US Muslim population. According to FBI testimony, the chairman emeritus of CAIR, Omar Ahmad, and its current chairman, Nihad Awad, were present at the meeting representing the Muslim Brotherhood Palestine Committee in America. They became the co-founders of CAIR.

And then there is the Muslim Brotherhood's chief religious cleric and scholar, Yusuf al Qaradawi, currently based in Qatar. Qaradawi is another individual El Houdaiby quoted to me as an example of how moderate the Brotherhood is. El Houdaiby challenged me to research Qaradawi, which I did. Here is what I said to El Houdaibi when I reported back to him on what I had learned.

"Qaradawi (for the benefit of the reader, a long-time Muslim Brotherhood scholar) This man may fit your example of a moderate who rejects violence, but that is not the case when it comes to suicide bombings against Israeli civilians.

He is quoted in telling a BBC reporter:

"An Israeli woman is not like women in our societies because she is a soldier."

"I consider this type of martyrdom operation as an evidence of God's justice."

"Allah almighty is just; through his infinate wisdom, he has given the weak a weapon the strong do not have and that is their ability to turn their bodies into bombs as Palestinians do."
(See comment thread.)

Here is a video I posted subsequently showing Qaradawi waxing eloquent about Jews.

Finally, during El Houdaiby's UCI presentation, I confronted him with English and Arabic copies of a document seized by the FBI and presented as a government exhibit in the Holy Land Foundation trial in Dallas. It was a letter written by a Brotherhood official in the Middle East to several organizations in North America.

"I directed Mr Al-Houdaiby's attention to page 7 of the document, section 4, which is entitled: "Understanding the Role of the Muslim Brother in North America". I then read aloud the passage, which follows below:

"The process of settlement is a 'Civilization-Jihadist Process' with all the word means. The Ikhwan 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 and the hands of the believers so that it is eliminated and God's religion is made victorious over all religions. Without this level of understanding, we are not up to this challenge and have not prepared ourselves for Jihad yet. It is a Muslim's destiny to perform Jihad and work wherever he is and wherever he lands until the final hour comes, and there is no escape from that destiny except for those who chose to slack. But, would the slackers and the Mujahedeen be equal".

El Houdaiby was visibly flustered and stated that the document was a forgery.

So now we have our president all but personally deposing Mubarak while his director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, describes the Brotherhood as some sort of Arab Salvation Army. This is no defense of Mubarak, who is an authoritarian, pretty much like every Arab government. Whatever his faults, he has kept Egypt stable and out of war (with Israel) for thirty years while being a key ally to the US. True, it should be up to the Egyptian people to decide their rulers, but let us be under no illusion as to what the Muslim Brotherhood is. In my view, once Mubarak leaves, only the Egyptian military can keep the Brotherhood from rising to power.

1 comment:

Siarlys Jenkins said...

Egyptians are a lot like Americans. We vote out governments based on whether we feel economically comfortable or feel like we are in danger of losing our jobs or creature comforts, regardless of ideology. The Muslim Brotherhood became a significant presence (as distinct from a band of true believers patting each other on the back) by developing a network of effective social services in the poorest sectors, which are a rather large portion of the population.

So, if the army can supervise a transition to something both moderately prosperous, for everyone, not for a favored few, and if the like of El Baradei, and the young unknowns who inspired this uprising, can continue to do the same, the Brotherhood will be sidelined. If not, they may indeed come to power. Hamas won an election because Fatah was so corrupt.

On the plus side, this uprising was not organized or led by the Brotherhood. They came into it late, because the masses were in the streets, not in a leadership position. For those who believe in political freedom and democratic expression, it is their revolution to consummate, or lose control of.