Heeding the Times from Harry Antonides' Desk

The Muslim Brotherhood:
In the Shadow of the Koran (II)

May 28, 2007

(T) he issue of terrorist financing in the United States is a fundamental example of the shared infrastructure levered by Hamas, Islamic Jihad and al Qaeda, all of which enjoy a significant degree of cooperation and coordination within our borders. The common link here is the extremist Muslim Brotherhood – all these organizations are descendants of the membership and ideology of the Muslim Brotherhood. (Richard A. Clarke, before the Senate Banking Committee, Oct. 22, 2003) 

In an open and free society, those who underestimate the evil of such men [as Khalid Sheik Mohammed, al Qaeda chief] become unwitting partners in crimes imagined and then perpetrated against the unwary and innocent citizens of that society. (Salim Mansur, Western Standard, April 23, 2007) 

The jihadists, who preach and practise violence in the cause of Islam, have perfected the art of playing the bad cop/good cop routine. In that they are mightily assisted by the naiveté and division within the West, including the U.S., which finds itself on the frontlines of the Western defences. 

The confusion about the true nature of militant Islam was amply demonstrated in a story reported in a Washington Post (Sept. 11, 2004) article by John Mintz and Douglas Farah, “In Search of Friends Among the Foes.” In May 2000, when Ishaq Farhan, a Jordanian leading opposition politician affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood, disembarked in New York, he was extensively interrogated by federal agents, refused entry to the U.S. and ordered to return to Jordan.  

But then U.S Embassy officials in Jordan swung into action and effectively undid the security officials’ work. A State Department representative personally delivered an immediate visa to Farhan as well the United States’ “ deep regret for the difficulties Dr. Farhan experienced.” 

Conflicting Signals

Sending conflicting signals by two different agencies of the same American administration is emblematic of a similar kind of confusion in the media about the nature of the enemy that has declared war on the free West. On the one side of this controversy are those who take seriously the threats against the free West by the Muslim Brotherhood and a slew of like-minded terrorist organizations. 

On the other side are those who look for the “root cause” of the Muslim hatred toward us within the West itself. Furthermore, they believe that the Muslim Brotherhood has broken with its violent past and is now prepared to embrace democracy and pluralism. The authors of “In Search of Friends Among the Foes” summarize this dilemma well: 

 FBI agents and financial investigators probe the group for terrorist ties and legal violations, while diplomats simultaneously discuss strategies for co-opting at least its moderate wings. In both sectors of the U.S. government, the Brotherhood often remains a mystery. 

How do we separate the moderates from the terrorists? This debate of late has come to focus on the Muslim Brotherhood, described by Mintz and Farah as “a sprawling and secretive society with followers in more than 70 countries. It is dedicated to creating an Islamic civilization that harks back to the caliphates of the 7th and 8th century, one that would segregate women from public life and scorn nonbelievers.” 

However, the Brotherhood (Ikhwan in Arabic) has also claimed that it has renounced violence in favour of democratic politics and pluralism. (You can find those claims on its website: www.www.ikhwanweb.info.)  Should we believe them? Let’s first consider the very informative Washington Post article by Mintz and Farah. 

They write that the Brotherhood has instigated Islamic revolution in Egypt, Algeria, Syria and Sudan. In the Palestinian territories it has given birth to Hamas, which has sent its suicide bombers into Israel and is committed to the destruction of the Jewish state. The Brotherhood has not renounced that position toward Israel. (In fact, the Brotherhood’s Supreme General Muhammad Mahdi Akef called for attacks in Palestine, Iraq, and Afghanistan in his weekly sermon on April 20.)  

The authors show that the Brotherhood has ties to many Islamist extremists worldwide, involving training, financing and indoctrination through an extensive network of Islamist organizations.  In the 1950s, the Brotherhood found refuge in Saudi Arabia, and there founded the largest Saudi charities, such as the Muslim World League in 1963 and the World Assembly of Muslim Youth in 1973.  

Global Missionaries

 Mintz and Farah explain: “Funded by petro dollars, they became global missionaries spreading the Saudis’ austere and rigid Wahhabi school of Islam, whose adherents at times describe all non-Wahhabis as infidels.” In 1990, the Brotherhood fell out of favour and was denounced by Saudi prince Nayef as “the source of all problems in the Islamic world.”  

The authors name names and provide an overview of the multi-faceted activities of the Muslim Brotherhood worldwide and also in the U.S. Ali Ahmed, Washington-based activist closely associated with the Brotherhood, is quoted as saying that among their main goals were “carving out havens for Muslims, propagating Islam in America and backing Israel’s destruction.”  

A U.S. official familiar with the federal investigation of former Brotherhood members stated that they had developed “’a disciplined strategy, specific goals’ to act on their plan to convert Americans, starting with U.S. military personnel, prison inmates and black people.”  The emphasis here is on patience in pursuing their goals. 

 In a 1995 speech to an Islamic conference in Ohio, Youssef Qaradawi, a top Brotherhood official and Qatari imam, predicted that victory will come through dawahIslamic renewal and outreach. He assured his audience: “Conquest through dawah that is what we hope for…. We will conquer Europe, we will conquer America, not through the sword, but through dawah.” (In his television program on Al-Jazeera in June 2004. Qaradawi said: “The democracy I call for is the democracy of Muslim society. It has fixed principles it does not violate, and red lines it cannot violate, and some principles that are not up for discussion.”) 

Mintz and Farah provide the sort of information that would make many of us conclude that the Muslim Brotherhood is a two-faced jihadist organization that in no way can be considered a possible ally in our struggle against radical Islam. 

Moderates or Opportunists?

The impression given by Robert Leiken and Steve Brooke writing in the prestigious Foreign Affairs magazine (“The Moderate Muslim Brotherhood” – March-April 2007) is quite different. The tenor of their article is to discredit the critics of the Brotherhood and to assure us that the U.S. is making a serious mistake in not regarding this organization as an ally. 

They write that the Brotherhood won the battle with its jihadist members and now is completely committed to “the path of toleration” and has found “democracy compatible with its notion of slow Islamization.” 

 Leiken and Brooke allow for the possibility that the Brotherhood’s commitment to democracy is no more than a tactical and transitory step – an opportunistic move to what Bernard Lewis has described as “one man, one vote, one time.”  But they hasten to assure us that the Brotherhood is not like that.  

They tell us that on the basis of their extensive discussions during the past year with dozens of Brotherhood leaders and activists from Egypt, France, Jordan, Spain, Syria, Tunisia, and the United Kingdom they have concluded that the Brotherhood has rejected “global jihad while embracing elections and other features of democracy.” But the evidence they produce is mostly anecdotal and often based on the views of unnamed representatives and allies of the Brotherhood. 

They write that the Brotherhood’s anticipated way to power is not revolutionary but based on the strategy of “winning hearts through gradual and peaceful Islamization.” They believe a  senior member” who assured them that it would be unjust for the Brotherhood to come to power without majority support.  

Another spokesman told them that if the Brotherhood would obtain political power and then “should rule unwisely,” it would deserve to be defeated. Mintz and Farah conclude this paragraph by saying that in their many conversations with the Brotherhood allies in the Middle East – no specific countries or names mentioned – they “heard many expressions of confidence that it would honour democratic processes.” 

The article wanders through the Brotherhood’s various alleged mutations from jihadist to a trustworthy member of the respectable and peace-loving democratic family. They work hard at putting the best possible face on the Brotherhood policies, though it has never wavered from its position that Israel is illegitimate and the major stumbling bloc to peace in the Middle East. 

Leiken and Brooke report that the Brotherhood is willing to recognize Israel’s right to exist but only on the condition that Hamas must first agree to such recognition. The problem is that Hamas has steadfastly stuck to its determination to destroy Israel. In other words, the Brotherhood agrees with those who want to eliminate Israel, while hiding behind the skirts of Hamas, one of it own offspring and a fanatic terrorist organization that is a prime instigator of violence, murder and chaos in the Middle East. 

The authors’ declaration that the Brotherhood has renounced terrorism is accompanied by a caveat that in fact nullifies that declaration. They admit that it authorizes jihad in countries and territories “occupied” by a foreign power. Consequently, the Brotherhood considers the struggles in Iraq (read the murder of coalition forces and thousands of Iraqis) and against Israel as “defensive jihad” against invaders, a concept Leiken and Brooke describe as “the Muslim functional equivalent to the Christian doctrine of  ‘just war.’” 

This is a short sampling of the arguments with which these authors seek to inform the public about the Brotherhood’s internal politics and their policies in a number of host countries. The upshot of their advice to U.S. policy makers is that it makes strong strategic sense, on a case-by-case approach, to begin a conversation with the Muslim Brotherhood.

 Glossing over Inconvenient Facts.

The main problem with their advice is that they gloss over many clear indications that the Brotherhood’s statements of their commitment to democracy and tolerance is no more than a tactical move to persuade a poorly informed public. 

In any case, it is clear that those who clamour for the Islamization of a society, which means the application of sharia law, are really calling for the one-party-state, in this case the one-religion state. Such a state is fundamentally opposed to a free and open society. The late Brotherhood’s Supreme Guide Mustafa Mashour put that in blunt language: 

Democracy contradicts and wages war on Islam. Whoever calls for democracy means they are raising banners contradicting God’s plan and fighting Islam.  

 Leiken and Brooke do not bother to explain to us the meaning of Al-Qaradawi’s “red lines it cannot violate.”  Instead, their article creates confusion about the difference between fake moderate and real moderate Muslims.  

That confusion has the result that real moderate Muslims are intimidated and ignored, and we are deprived of their much needed expertise and support. Let me conclude by giving voice to one of such Muslims who refuses to be intimidated, Zuhdi Jasser, a former U.S. Navy Lieutenant Commander, a physician, and founder of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy: 

As a devout anti-Islamist American Muslim I have been struggling to explain to all those who will listen the central incompatibility of the Islamist doctrine with America’s pluralist ideology. The literal Islamization of society, consciousness, and government, as advocated by the Muslim Brotherhood is an anathema to America as it is to a pluralistic and liberated Islam. Leiken and Brooke, in effect, whitewash an international organization whose mission is at odds with our own Constitutional system of governance.