By Patrick Poole, Frontpage Magazine | Tuesday, April 17, 2007
Having considered in Part 1 the false distinction between “defensive jihad” and “global jihad” drawn by Robert Leiken and Steven Brooke in their response to me last week here at FrontPage, “A Response to Patrick Poole’s ‘Mainstreaming the Muslim Brotherhood’”, today I turn my attention to several national affiliates of the Muslim Brotherhood in the Middle East – the Palestinian terrorist organization HAMAS, the pro-HAMAS Islamic Action Front (IAF) in Jordan, the al-Qaeda-linked Islamic Constitution Movement (ICM) in Kuwait, and the genocidal National Islamic Front (NIF) government in Sudan. The activity of these respective Brotherhood affiliates, and their ties to the main Muslim Brotherhood group in Egypt, severely undercuts Leiken and Brooke’s assertion of a “moderate” Muslim Brotherhood.)
HAMAS and the Brotherhood: Strained Relations?
1) “Poole thinks that we only dare to treat Hamas “obliquely.” Hamas has murdered Israeli civilians and refuses to recognize the Jewish state, leading many observers to conclude that it wishes to exterminate it. But it is simply not “one of the most active fronts” of global jihad as claimed by Poole. The acrimony between Hamas and al Qaeda, the sustained fury with which the jihadists criticize Hamas for its policy of waging jihad for territory (in Israel) rather than religion (against all Jews) is documented in our article.
“As the Palestinian arm of the Brotherhood (but the relationship is more strained than Poole believes), Hamas adheres to the Brotherhood policy of “defensive jihad” and has never expanded its conflict to America. Many high- level figures in the Brotherhood take a pragmatic view of Israel. As one explained to us “we may not like it, but we have to accept the fact that Israel exists and is not going anywhere. We must start from this point.”
Let’s look at their initial Foreign Affairs piece to see what exactly was “documented in our article” concerning HAMAS:
“Even on the central issue of Israel, each national organization calls its own tune. Every Muslim Brotherhood leader with whom we spoke claimed a willingness to follow suit should Hamas—the Palestinian offshoot of the Brotherhood—recognize the Jewish state. Such earnest professions may be grounded in the confident assumption of Hamas recalcitrance, but that position nonetheless stands in sharp relief to that of most jihadists. As Zawahiri expresses the jihadist view, “No one has the right, whether Palestinian or not, to abandon a grain of soil from Palestine, which was a Muslim land, which was occupied by infidels”
… However, the Brotherhood’s failure to stress the religious dimension incenses the jihadists, who mock the Brotherhood (including Hamas) for conducting jihad “for the sake of territory” rather than for the sake of Allah.”
In total, there were only three mentions of HAMAS in their entire article, and they were found within these four sentences. No mention is made whatsoever in their original article of their terrorist activities, despite the fact that this is a regular sticking point between advocates of the “moderation” of the Brotherhood and critics of that position. In context of how large this problem looms for Leiken and Brooke, and short shrift they give it, I would say again that their treatment is “oblique” at best. More like downright evasive.
If it’s they argue that the relationship is “more strained than what Poole believes”, then I would contend that the relationships between the Brotherhood leadership in Cairo and HAMAS, as well as al-Qaeda and HAMAS, are closer than what Leiken and Brooke are willing to admit.
As I reminded readers in my previous critique of their Foreign Affairs article, HAMAS is a self-identified branch of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, as is claimed in their own charter:
The Islamic Resistance Movement is one of the wings of Moslem Brotherhood in Palestine. Moslem Brotherhood Movement is a universal organization which constitutes the largest Islamic movement in modern times. It is characterized by its deep understanding, accurate comprehension and its complete embrace of all Islamic concepts of all aspects of life, culture, creed, politics, economics, education, society, justice and judgment, the spreading of Islam, education, art, information, science of the occult and conversion to Islam. (HAMAS Charter, Article 2, emphasis added)
If Leiken and Brooke want to continue to claim that relations are strained between the Egyptian organization and their Palestinian brothers, someone should go over there and tell the respective parties. (I nominate the Nixon Center duo to go talk to the “democracy embracing” HAMAS. Do I hear a second?)
Take, for instance, the less-than-strained behavior exhibited between the two last year when the Brotherhood leaders extended their advice and active support for the Palestinian Authority elections where HAMAS won a majority and took control of the government. One of the first HAMAS operatives warmly received in Cairo by the Brotherhood in the run-up to the PA elections was “mother of martyrs” Miriam Farhat, who several years ago appeared on a HAMAS propaganda video urging her sons to launch attacks against Israeli soldiers and civilians, and all three eventually responded to her call. Did Leiken and Brooke run into “mother of murder” Miriam while they were waiting to have afternoon tea with Supreme Guide Mohammad Akef? I doubt they would tell us if they did, though she may be one of their sources for the supposed “strained relations”.
As should be clear by now, whatever differences and disputes exist between the Brotherhood and HAMAS (much like there can be in any organization, corporation or family), to claim that there is somehow some irreparable breach between the two is pure fiction.
2) “Hamas has murdered Israeli civilians and refuses to recognize the Jewish state, leading many observers to conclude that it wishes to exterminate it. But it is simply not “one of the most active fronts” of global jihad as claimed by Poole.”
Take a moment and read those two sentences again. (Go ahead. I’ll wait.)
I will note only in passing their patently absurd dismissal that the “defensive jihad”/terrorist campaign against Israel “is simply not ‘one of the most active fronts’ of global jihad”. It is statements like these that make it difficult, if not impossible, to take Leiken and Brooke seriously. The tragic part is that they are serious and are recognized card-carrying members of the Beltway intelligentsia, and listened to by policymakers.
But what if we were to take their statements at face value in light of their “defensive jihad”/”global jihad” distinction they have demanded is so important to understanding the “moderation” of the Muslim Brotherhood. The first position they identify with the Muslim Brotherhood and HAMAS; the second they identify with al-Qaeda. Has there been any recent movement between the two positions? In fact there has been.
During the Israeli-Hezbollah conflict last summer, none other than “Crazy Uncle” Ayman al-Zawahiri took to the airwaves to proclaim al-Qaeda’s solidarity with the conflict against the “Zionists”, and acknowledge this conflict’s role in the context of the larger “global jihad”:
In keeping with Al-Qaeda's belief in a global clash of civilizations, al-Zawahiri begins by stating that the "war with Israel" is not a conflict over treaties, nationalism, or disputed borders, but rather a "jihad in the path of God." The jihad aims not only for the "liberation of Palestine," but also "all land that was the realm of Islam, from Andalusia to Iraq."
Al-Zawahiri claims that the Israeli weapons that are "tearing apart the bodies of Muslims in Gaza and Lebanon" are provided and paid for by "all the countries of the crusader alliance," which must be made to "pay the price."
"How can we be silent?" he asks, enumerating a long list of heroes from Islamic history and promising that "we have once again taken to the field." (Dan Rimmage, “Al-Qaeda Addresses the Jihad-Versus-Resistance Conflict”, RFE/RL [July 31, 2006])
Here we see the convergence of the “defensive jihad” and “global jihad” positions. As I noted in my original article, it is precisely at this point that Mohammad Akef also announced his solidarity with Hezbollah and vowed to send 10,000 jihadists to fight alongside the Shi’ite terrorist group against the “Zionists” – an announcement that they go out of their way to dismiss:
“Poole points to statements of Muhammed Mahdi Akef, the current General Guide of the Muslim Brotherhood, promising to send 10,000 volunteers to the Lebanon conflict. These statements should be seen for what they are; demagogic posturing and populist rhetoric in the effort to capitalize on the very strong support for Hezbollah in the Arab street. Indeed, the 10,000 never materialized, and many Brothers we spoke with expressed deep embarrassment at Akef’s irresponsible statements.”
These statements hardly represent the sum total of the Brotherhood’s open support for Hezbollah last summer, and Akef was not alone in banging the drums of war within the organization. As Eli Lake of the NY Sun reported (“Leading Saudi Sheik Pronounces Fatwa against Hezbollah”), the Brotherhood sponsored a massive Friday afternoon rally in support of Hezbollah at the most important mosque in Cairo, Al-Ahzar. He also reported:
Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, however, has not rejected Hezbollah. In the last three days the organization has been condemning the shelling of Lebanon in Egypt’s parliament and pledged solidarity. One member who deals with the press yesterday said, “Of course we are supporting the resistance. We have no choice.”
The Brotherhood’s press spokesman must not have been among the “many Brothers” that Leiken and Brooke spoke to (who again have all gone unnamed thus far). And not everyone in Egypt saw Akef as the “doddering, slightly embarrassing old uncle” that they describe when he promised 10,000 jihadists for the struggle against the “Zionists” and calling for the assassination of Arab leaders that had not risen to his level of response on the Israeli-Hezbollah conflict.
It is here in the convergence of al-Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood on this issue that we see that Leiken and Brooke’s “defensive jihad”/”global jihad” distinction is nothing more than an intellectual abstraction intended to justify the behavior of the Brotherhood, yet maintaining a fictional separation from al-Qaeda for American audiences still sensitive about that whole 9/11 thing.
This reveals the absurdity of their “rejecting global jihad” claim of the “moderate” Muslim Brotherhood: the “defensive jihad” that the Brotherhood justifies against the “Zionists” in Israel and the Palestinian Authority, and the “American imperialists” in Iraq is in no way different than the “global jihad” against the “Jews and Crusaders” that al-Qaeda is also waging in Israel, the Palestinian Authority and Iraq (among other locations). Even an “armchair/internet intellectual” like me can figure that out, but apparently not card-carrying members of the Beltway intelligentsia.
3) “…Hamas adheres to the Brotherhood policy of ‘defensive jihad’ and has never expanded its conflict to America.”
I really feel sorry for these guys; they suffer from really poor timing. The day before their response was published last week, a report emerged that entirely undercuts this claim.
Last week a video statement was made public by a new organization, Iraqi HAMAS, which according to one international media report is affiliated with the Iraqi Muslim Brotherhood delegation in the Iraqi Parliament. This video shows Iraqi HAMAS forces engaged in “defensive jihad” by bringing down a US Apache helicopter and attacking US troops. Bill West, a contributor to Counterterrorism Blog, explains:
Today, a report surfaced in Adnkronos International (AKI) concerning a new terrorist group in Iraq calling itself “Iraqi Hamas.” Iraqi Hamas has apparently claimed responsibility for attacking and bringing down a US helicopter in Baghdad on Tuesday. The AKI report goes on to state that Iraqi Hamas is believed to be linked to the Islamist party in the Iraqi parliament (serious in its own right) and to the local branch of the Muslim Brotherhood.
Clearly, these reports are worthy of further investigation and presumably the US military and Intelligence agencies are doing just that. That an operationally active terrorist organization in Iraq that has attacked US military personnel may have links to the Muslim Brotherhood should not surprise serious counter-terrorism professionals. Those US diplomats and politicians who believe the Muslim Brotherhood should be engaged as a peace partner should consider reports as the one just noted in AKI and all the available Intelligence material that surely exists related to this issue. (Bill West, “Some US Diplomats and Politicians Think MB = “Moderate” Brotherhood – They Should Think Twice,” Counterterrorism Blog, April 10, 2007; source article, ADNKronos International, “Iraq: Helicopter Attack Claimed by ‘Iraqi Hamas” April 10, 2007)
I suspect that Leiken and Brooke will respond to this new report by claiming that the relations between “Iraqi HAMAS” and the Muslim Brotherhood is “more strained than what Poole believes”, but the fact still remains that the Iraqi HAMAS is now killing Americans. If it’s Palestinian HAMAS, Iraqi HAMAS, or Kuwaiti HAMAS – all of which proclaim their association with the Muslim Brotherhood organization – that is killing US soldiers in the Middle East, is there really much of a difference from a US policy perspective?
Of course, Leiken and Brooke might believe that killing US soldiers is justified by the Islamic doctrine of “defensive jihad”, which as we saw earlier they attempt to equate with Christian “just war” teaching. I’ll leave it to them to clarify that point, but will quickly note that they attach the blame for these activities, not to the Muslim Brotherhood, but to the US itself. More on that later.
4) “Many high- level figures in the Brotherhood take a pragmatic view of Israel. As one explained to us “we may not like it, but we have to accept the fact that Israel exists and is not going anywhere. We must start from this point.”
Who exactly are these “many high- level figures in the Brotherhood” that “take a pragmatic view of Israel”? They only tacitly identify one – Dr. Abdel Monem Abul-Futouh, who is on the Brotherhood’s Guidance Council – in a link to someone else’s blog and provide absolutely no evidence themselves that his views are anywhere near representative of the organization’s leadership. Abul-Fatouh’s shrug of the shoulders while muttering “they’re not going anywhere” is at best the minority report of the Muslim Brotherhood’s official position on the state of Israel.
In fact, Muslim Brotherhood Supreme Guide Mohammad Mahdi Akef has given us plenty of enlightenment on the “pragmatic view of Israel” that is shared by “many high-level figures in the Brotherhood”. In an interview last year with Egypt Today, he reiterated the organization’s long-term objective of seeing the state of Israel destroyed:
While he asserts that the revision of Egyptian-Israeli relations is not among the immediate objectives of the Brothers’ MPs, he insists that his group still does not recognize the state of Israel — and recently landed himself in trouble for first denying the Holocaust, then backtracking from his comments amid the domestic and international uproar that followed. “We consider them [Israelis] an aggressive people who occupied a land unjustly. We will fight it by working on the progress of our nation. Ultimately, Israel would have no existence. At that point, if the Jews decide to live among us and share the same duties and rights as genuine citizens, they will be welcomed. However, they will never be able to live under an unjust aggressive state, God willing,” says Akef. (Noha El-Hennawy, “Around the Bloc,” Egypt Today [March 2006], emphasis added)
It should be noted that when Akef says “we consider…” and “we will fight…” he’s speaking on behalf of the Muslim Brotherhood. Nor is this remotely the first time that he had indulged in such rhetoric:
In an interview with the Egyptian weekly al-Ahram last week, the 77-year old Akef, who spent 20 years in prison, said: “I have declared that we will not recognize Israel, which is an alien entity in the region. And we expect the demise of this cancer soon. If they want to live with us as normal citizens sharing our rights and duties then we don't mind. But to remain an occupying tyrannical country, then this will not happen, God willing.” (Khaled Abu Toameh, “Hamas coordinates with ‘Brotherhood’”, Jerusalem Post [Dec. 20, 2005])
An actual “reformist” in Tunisia, Abdelwahab Meddeb, has offered a first-hand account describing an earlier Akef’s Holocaust-denial tirade:
"...I believe the speaker was the current [spiritual] guide of the Muslim Brotherhood, Muhammad Mahdi 'Akef. He was pounding his words like a political propagandist, yelling his advice and his threats from the heart of the mosque... He was condemning the passivity and cowardliness of the Mulsim countries and masses, while praising the Iranian president and his courageous stand, in particular with regards to Israel... A few days later the press published an announcement by the same 'Akef condoning the Iranian president's denial of the Holocaust. According to ['Akef, the Holocaust] is nothing but a myth intended to legitimize [the existence of] Israel...” (Nathalie Szerman, “Tunisian Reformist Abdelwahab Meddeb: It's Up To the Arab to Take the Courageous Step Of Questioning His Faith,” MEMRI Inquiry and Analysis No. 315 [January 10, 2007])
This anti-Jewish tirade by Akef – again, who is the top official in the Muslim Brotherhood organization, no matter how much Leiken and Brooke are advised to take his statements “with much salt” – was delivered in a Friday sermon at the prominent Al-Ahzar Mosque in Cairo, apparently just days before he issued a weekly statement offering support to Iranian President Ahmadinejad’s Holocaust denials and vows to “wipe Israel off the map”.
The “many brothers” holding to the “pragmatic view” of Israel’s existence that Leiken and Brooke refer to have limited their public statements to shoulder shrugs and mutterings to attentive Western policy wonks as they hit the hookah together. If we are to believe that they are the dominant voice within the Brotherhood, these “many brothers” need to be much more vocal.
“Poole makes much of the fact that four very hard-line members of a Jordanian political party (the IAF) affiliated with the Jordanian Muslim Brotherhood (and officially recognized by the Jordanian government) visited the family of Abu Musab al Zarqawi, the top terrorist in Iraq. We know something about Zarqawi- we wrote the first full account of his emergence as a terrorist leader, and a follow-up article documenting his challenge to Bin Laden. (Both of these articles, by the way, ran in The Weekly Standard, hardly the home of the “progressives” and “Democrats” among whom Poole demagogically places us).
“Of the four legislators who made the visit, three represented Zarqawi’s hometown (and the fourth was born in Faloujah, now the Israeli town of Kiryat Gat). The IAF’s base of support is in and around Palestinian camps and traditionally religious constituencies such as Salt and Zarqa. The IAF, mirroring the views of most Jordanians (and indeed most in the Middle East), very strongly opposed the war in Iraq and the U.S. presence there. While this does not excuse the deputy’s repulsive behavior, it also says very little about the Brotherhood’s overall stance on jihad. The IAF leadership distanced itself from the parliamentarian’s actions, and Jordanians were justifiably outraged at the IAF.
There is one critical statement here made that I want to highlight:
“The IAF leadership distanced itself from the parliamentarian’s actions…”
Let me be clear: this claim is nothing short of a categorical lie.
Instead of distancing themselves from the “repulsive behavior”, as Leiken and Brooke assert, when the Jordanian government arrested the four, the IAF rose to their defense and threatened to bring down the government in response. The head of the IAF, Zaki Saad Bani Rashid, engaged in behavior that bordered on a coup d’etat, as one analyst explained:
As reported in Al-Hayat (“Amman - Strident Declaration Inflames Confrontation with the Government and a Decision to Dissolve ‘The Islamic Centers Association’ Expected”) on Tuesday, the ill-received mourning for Zarqawi was followed by a declaration published by the “National Jordanian Conference” headed by the general secretary of the IAF, Zaki Saad Bani Rashid. In terms described by Al-Hayat as “inflammatory,” the declaration called for a new government which would break off cooperation with Israel and the United States, recognize Hamas, and provide assistance to the “resistance” in Palestine and Iraq. The Jordanian government responded by talking about the imminent creation of a “temporary administration” which would take over the Muslim Brotherhood’s Islamic centers, a suggestion interpreted to mean that they would be abolished. (Kirk H. Sowell, “Jordan-Muslim Brotherhood Conflict Heats Up After Zarqawi Homage” Threatswatch.org, July 5, 2006)
When Bani-Rashid was eventually forced by the threat of a government takeover of the IAF (the “temporary administration” mentioned above) to finally apologize for the four member’s actions, a number of IAF leaders resigned from the IAF’s governing Shura Council, because they were upset with Bani-Rashid’s apology and that three of the Zarqawi mourners were charged, the apology notwithstanding.
Remember that this incident occurred just months after al-Qaeda operatives, acting under orders from Zarqawi in Iraq, killed 59 people and injured more than one hundred in three coordinated hotel bombings in downtown Amman. Imagine four Democratic members of Congress paying a condolence call to the family of 9/11 ringleader, Mohammad Atta (on second thought, that might be too easy to imagine). The actions of the IAF leadership in response to this crisis were roundly condemned, as this editorial by the General Manager of Al-Arabiya TV exemplifies:
Instead of renouncing their colleagues’ behavior and supporting their country, members of the Jordanian Muslim Brotherhood treated them heroically and threatened to withdraw from politics, under feeble pretexts… The Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan ought to make up its mind: it can either support its own citizens or al-Qaeda’s terrorists. It is no longer possible to support terrorists shamelessly. The tape of al-Zarqawi where he praised the Amman bombings leaves no space for neutrality. The Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan should make it clear whether they are with their fellow citizens or their fellow “brothers”. (Abdul Rahman Al-Rashed, “Jordan’s Muslim Brotherhood vs. its Own People!” Asharq Al-Awsat, June 22, 2006)
Yet again we see that the rosy, apologetic picture of the Muslim Brotherhood that Leiken and Brooke paints for us is significantly different from reality. Maybe they are in their Impressionist policy period?
Since Leiken is quick to claim his superior knowledge relating to al-Zarqawi, he might recall that it was the IAF that pushed for the terrorist leader’s release from prison, along with a number of other al-Qaeda members, in 1999. The Jordanian government agreed to the release of Zarqawi and his associates in order to “engage” the so-called “moderate” Muslim Brotherhood – a policy that had catastrophic consequences and one that Leiken and Brooke demands that the US itself adopt.
We should also recall that on the same day that the horrific 11/9 Amman hotel bombings occurred, a report by Nasr Al-Majali was published by Elaph warning that splits were developing within the IAF, with the Palestinian faction wanting to appoint Zarqawi himself as their leader, as long as he gave up “slaughter, terror and murder”! That evening the IAF East Jordan faction received Zarqawi’s murderous response to their leadership offer.
And as for the “moderate” Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan, it should be noted that analysts have observed a rapid trend of radicalization of the IAF thanks to their Palestinian comrades, HAMAS.
Traditionally, the Muslim Brotherhood's leaders have been men of East Bank origin who have developed a modus vivendi with the regime that provided them with wide latitude in social and cultural matters in exchange for political support to the Hashemite ruling family. Yet recent years have witnessed the emergence of a bolder, more strident, largely Palestinian-led faction within the organization (and within the IAF itself) that borrows heavily from the motifs and strategy of Hamas. In March IAF leadership elections, Bani-Irshayd, a representative of the "Jordanian Hamas" wing of the organization was elected secretary general, the IAF's top post. While East Banker Jordanians still control a majority of the seats in the IAF, Bani-Irshayd's election represents a trend toward a growing Palestinian presence in the organization's leadership and suggests a potential "Hamasization" of the group. (David Schenker, “Hamas Weapons in Jordan: Implications for Islamists on the East Bank,” PolicyWatch #1098, Washington Institute for Near East Policy, May 5, 2006; emphasis added)
This radicalization of the IAF can be seen by the statements made by IAF leaders once again expressing the Muslim Brotherhood’s “pragmatic” views on Israel. In an interview last year with the Washington Post, Bani-Rashid, the head of the IAF, expressed his organization’s intent to revoke Jordan’s peace treaty with Israel, much like Supreme Guide Akef has threatened to do in Egypt should the Brotherhood come to power.
According to IAF leader Bani-Irshayd, “We are clear....We reject this treaty because it is against Jordan’s national interest. But we will move cautiously. We will ask for a referendum on it.” (Daniel Williams “Political Islam’s Opportunity in Jordan,” Washington Post, April 13, 2006)
Nor does the IAF express any reluctance in embracing their terrorist Palestinian brothers. That same Washington Post article later says,
The party sympathizes with Hamas, formally known as the Islamic Resistance Movement, which the United States and European Union have labeled a terrorist organization. "We have a special feeling for Hamas in the face of the Zionist project," Saad [Bani-Irshayd] said.
At this point, Leiken and Brooke will probably try to respond that the recent attempt by HAMAS to disassociate themselves with the IAF disproves my point about the Hamasization of the IAF; but to raise the issue results in some very inopportune questions for them about what the most “moderate” and most politically active Muslim Brotherhood affiliate in the Middle East was doing working in cooperation with the most violent element of the Muslim Brotherhood in the first place. I doubt that they’ll be eager to admit that that HAMAS has submitted the dispute between the two organizations to none other than Supreme Guide Mohammad Akef. Maybe things weren’t so strained after all? (Stayed tuned for how they spin this!)
We can also observe how this most “moderate” element of the Muslim Brotherhood still uses the threat of violence when it doesn’t get it’s way politically. After the Jordanian government instituted new measures last year to combat terrorism by targeting terrorist supporters (HAMAS) in response to the 11/9 bombings, IAF leader Bani-Rashid hinted that such a move would have violent repercussions, saying that the “continuation of repression of people’s choices (HAMAS – ed) will lead to atmospheres where extremism can thrive replacing the moderate Islamic groups.” (United Press International, “Jordan Enacts New Anti-Terror Law,” [May 29, 2006])
And yet, IAF leader Bani-Rashid is the exact same individual that Leiken and Brooke quote in their Foreign Affairs article as carrying the banner of anti-jihad:
The leader of the Jordanian Islamic Action Front, the Muslim Brotherhood’s political party in Jordan, said that his group outdoes the government in discouraging jihad: “We’re better able to conduct an intellectual confrontation, and not a security confrontation, with the forces of extremism and fanaticism.” (“The Moderate Muslim Brotherhood”, p. 112)
On that same day that the IAF chief was threatening violence, a report in the Jordanian daily Al Rai described how IAF deputy Mohammad Abu Fares and a gang of IAF thugs assaulted an imam at a mosque located in a refugee camp in Irbid in an unsuccessful attempt to seize the podium and deliver the Friday sermon. This is the same IAF deputy that was one of the four MPs who visited Zarqawi’s family, and after taking criticisms from family members of those killed in the 11/9 bombings, said in reply, “We (Muslim Brotherhood) are not in a place to pass judgment onto other people categorizing who is a believer and who is not.” But in his Friday sermon that week (no imam assault involved on that occasion), he praised Zarqawi as a mujahid. Apparently they were in a place to pass judgment.
The Kuwaiti Muslim Brotherhood, Jihad, and Al-Qaeda
Another example identified by some advocates of a “moderate” Muslim Brotherhood is the chapter in Kuwait, where the political wing of the Brotherhood, the Islamic Constitutional Movement, represents the largest parliamentary bloc (see Nathan Brown, “Pushing toward Party Politics? Kuwait’s Islamic Constitutional Movement,” Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Carnegie Paper No. 79 [January 2007]).
The Kuwaiti branch broke away from the larger Brotherhood organization in 1991 as a result of the international organization’s stand against the Gulf War, but relations have steadily improved and the Kuwaiti branch resumed attending international Brotherhood events several years ago (see Wendy Kristianasen, “Kuwaiti’s Islamists, Officially Unofficial,” Le Monde Diplomatique [June 2002]).
And yet while Muslim Brotherhood backers in the West hail the alleged democratic achievements and intents of the Kuwaiti Muslim Brotherhood, it is perhaps one of the most radical for preaching jihad, advocating for the imposition of shari’a, and financing terrorism. When Kuwaiti authorities decided to crackdown on jihadist activity, there was only place to start – the Muslim Brotherhood – as Stephen Ulph of the Jamestown Foundation explained:
Against this backdrop of accelerated jihadist activity, Kuwaiti authorities conducted an investigation into mosque preachers suspected of disseminating hard-line jihadist ideology. Although the investigation also embraced preachers of the Shi'ite denomination, most of the twelve or so under investigation were Sunni clerics of Egyptian nationality, who predominate Kuwaiti mosques. A significant portion of these have ties with the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood which, while advertising its interest in participation within Egypt's political system, is less reticent about calling for radical solutions abroad. (Stephen Ulph, “Kuwait Steps up Anti-jihad Activities,” Terrorism Focus 1:3 [September 03, 2004], emphasis added)
The Brotherhood’s aggressive cultural campaign to impose shari’a on Kuwaiti society is best exhibited by their continual efforts to amend Article 2 of the country’s constitution to shift the language from saying that shari’a is “a main source of legislation” to shari’a is “the source of legislation”.
For an organization that is acclaimed by the Beltway intelligentsia in the US as an advocate of women’s rights, the Brotherhood has been the leading advocate of the continued segregation of women from society. It should also be noted that in 2001 the head of the Kuwaiti Muslim Brotherhood, Abdullah al-Mutawa, famously predicted the “wrath of Allah” would fall upon the whole of Kuwaiti society due to a women’s soccer match and the broadcasting of women’s sports events during the Sydney Olympics.
As the Bush Administration and US counterterrorism officials responded to 9/11 by going after al-Qaeda’s network of financial support, they observed a common thread stretching from the Gulf States, Europe, to the US, all tied to al-Qaeda – the Kuwaiti Muslim Brotherhood. As the US campaign against al-Qaeda’s financial networks intensified, one of the first stops in the Middle East for then-US Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill was Kuwait.
Former counterterrorism czar Richard Clarke offered testimony before the Senate Banking Committee in October 2003, where he identified multiple points of contact between the Kuwaiti Brotherhood and the highest levels of al-Qaeda.
· The Kuwaiti government allegedly provides substantial funding to charities controlled by the Kuwait Muslim Brotherhood, such as Lajnat al-Dawa. The U.S. Department of Treasury and the United Nations Security Council designated Lajnat al-Dawa on January 9, 2003 as a supporter of al-Qaeda. Lajnat al-Dawa and its affiliates had offices in the U.S. in Michigan, Colorado and Northern Virginia. (p. 6)
· The Kuwait Finance House was allegedly an investor in BMI. The Kuwait Finance House is reported to be the financial arm of the Muslim Brotherhood in Kuwait. Several al-Qaeda operatives have allegedly been associated with the Kuwaiti Muslim Brotherhood, including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Suliman abu Ghaith, Wadih el Hage and Ramsi Yousef. On January 9, 2003, the Treasury Department designated the Kuwaiti Lajnat al-Dawa as a terrorist entity. Lajnat al-Dawa reportedly spawned out of and is controlled by the Kuwaiti Muslim Brotherhood. (p. 11)
· Tareq Suwaidan, a leading member of the Kuwaiti Muslim Brotherhood, reportedly engaged in financial transactions with BMI. (ibid.)
In 2003, some Kuwaiti Brotherhood members went one step beyond preaching jihad and financing terrorism to form their own military wing – the Kuwaiti HAMAS Movement. Drawing explicitly from Muslim Brotherhood clerics, they expressed their intent to target American “invaders” and “crusaders”, though they weren’t near as concerned about American “crusaders” when America led the effort to free Kuwait in the Gulf War.
In analyzing the charter for Kuwaiti HAMAS, Islamist expert Reuven Paz noted three important themes:
The language, terms used, and the forum in which this declaration was placed clearly indicate the work of the Muslim Brotherhood and not any other radical group affiliated with Qa`idat al-Jihad.
The recent Fatwahs of Al-Azhar and the Qatar-based Egyptian Sheikh Yousef al-Qaradawi,(2) the main Islamic authority for the Palestinian Hamas, motivated the author or authors of this declaration. It was not necessarily motivated by the writings and declarations of bin Ladin, Qa`idat al-Jihad, or several of the Islamic scholars and clerics that are affiliated with al-Qa`ida in Saudi Arabia or the Gulf States.
In recent weeks, Sheikh Ahmad Yasin, the leader of the Palestinian Hamas, and his senior aides, such as Abd al-Aziz al-Rantisi, have given public interviews in which they stated that in the event of an American attack against Iraq, Hamas might attack American interests. Hamas senior official, Dr. Mahmoud al-Zahhar, declared recently: “If Iraq is attacked…all American targets will be open targets for every Muslim, Arab or Palestinian.” (Reuven Paz, “The Establishing of Hamas Kuwait,” Project for the Research of Islamist Movements (PRISM) Occasional Paper Vol. 1, No. 2 [March 2003)
In forming Kuwaiti HAMAS, the organizers have not only drawn on ideological support from Brotherhood figures, but picked up the theme of attacking Americans from the leaders of Palestinian HAMAS. Yet again, this all puts the lie to Leiken and Brooke’s claim that HAMAS is not targeting Americans (covered in detail above with reference to last week’s attack on US troops by Iraqi HAMAS).
But despite the Kuwaiti Muslim Brotherhood’s ties to al-Qaeda, in the recent Carnegie report cited above concerning the Brotherhood’s significant political role in that country, never once were the al-Qaeda ties mentioned or the extensive radical and jihadist activities of the organization – a curiously reoccurring phenomenon that seems habitual for the Beltway intelligentsia.
The opposition of Western policy wonks notwithstanding, at least one prominent Kuwaiti intellectual, Ahmad Al-Baghdadi, has insisted that the US should designate the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization:
"Perhaps the most puzzling thing is the U.S.'s silence regarding the Muslim Brotherhood, despite the fact that [this organization] supports terrorism, whether by supporting Bin Laden … or by publishing terrorist fatwa s, or by calling to destroy democracy…
"Does the U.S. expect this organization to become like the Turkish Justice and Development Party [the ruling party in Turkey,] and expect to have political contacts with it, assuming that it is an opportunistic party operating by the principle of 'the ends justify the means?' [Is] the U.S. expecting that the Muslim Brotherhood organization will similarly agree to maintain political contacts with the U.S.?… If the conservative right-wing in the U.S. believes this, it is mistaken, since this political organization, which [only] exploits religion, does not believed in rights, justice, or equality, nor does it believe in human rights – so how can the U.S. believe them? Is this not pure nonsense? (“Kuwaiti Intellectual: The Muslim Brotherhood Organization Should Be Put on the U.S. Terrorist List,” MEMRI Special Dispatch Series No. 843 [January 7, 2005])
I agree, Ahmad; it is pure nonsense.
No doubt, Leiken and Brooke will charge him too with “muddying the windshield” and making such a “childish” call by expressing his skepticism about claims of a “moderate” Muslim Brotherhood; though whether they also designate him an “armchair/internet intellectual” remains to be seen. If so, I can testify that he’ll be in good company
Up the Blue Nile Without a Paddle
“Poole’s (sic) alleges that the National Islamic Front (NIF)’s behavior in the Sudan is a good index of how the Brotherhood will rule should it come to power elsewhere. But though the NIF presents itself as the Muslim Brotherhood in the Sudan, it is a specific creature of Hasan al Turabi, who publicly and contentiously broke from the Brotherhood in the 1970s. A smaller faction remained closer to the traditional (Egyptian) Brotherhood line. This faction has considerable disagreement with al Turabi and the current policies of his government.”
I have a frank confession to make: I really like to watch Leiken and Brooke at work. They offer more rhetorical shakes, shimmies, twists and turns than a jive dance competition. Here we’re treated to a full floor show.
Notice in the quote above their claim that the NIF, the Sudanese Muslim Brotherhood affiliate, “is a specific creature of Hasan al Turabi”. While I think that it is an exaggeration to say that the NIF is a “specific creature” of Turabi, I will readily concede that his role has been instrumental. (For the development of the Brotherhood in Sudan and Turabi’s role, see Prof. Gabriel R. Warburg, “The Muslim Brotherhood in Sudan: From Reforms to Radicalism,” The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Modern Islamic World; reprinted, Project for the Research of Islamist Movements (PRISM) Islam in Africa Research Project, August 2006)
But with respect to Turabi, we are told that he “publicly and contentiously broke from the Brotherhood in the 1970s”. This, I imagine, is an intentional attempt to put distance between Turabi and the Brotherhood to detach the latter from Turabi’s active support of al-Qaeda (he famously hosted bin Laden in Khartoum from 1991-1996) and his essential role in forging the network of global jihad through his conferences featuring virtually every Islamic terrorist organization in the Middle East, including Hezbollah and other Shi’ite organizations. Sudan has also been the primary state supporter of terrorism on the African continent, backing the Islamic Courts Union in Somalia, and playing a critical role in the 1998 US Embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania.
And then there is the war the NIF government waged against the indigenous Christian population in the oil-rich south of the country, which claimed the lives of 2 million people, as well as the current ethnic cleansing campaign against non-Arab Muslims in Darfur directed by the government in Khartoum.
While Leiken and Brooke now claim in response to my earlier criticisms that Turabi broke with the Brotherhood in the 1970s, we read in their Foreign Affairs article that in the 1980s, Turabi was in their estimation “the Sudanese Muslim Brotherhood powerhouse”:
In the early 1980s, the Egyptian Ikhwan sought to establish coordination among dozens of national offspring. But opposition was universal. Right next door, the Sudanese Muslim Brotherhood powerhouse Hasan al-Turabi protested, “You cannot run the world from Cairo.” (“The Moderate Muslim Brotherhood”, p. 115)
So we can watch as Leiken and Brooke shimmy and shake regarding Turabi depending on the particular circumstance, and whether they are making a case for the “moderate” Muslim Brotherhood (where Turabi is a “Muslim Brotherhood powerhouse” serving as bulwark against organizational hegemony in the 1980s), or if they are responding to critics (where they push Turabi’s connections to the Brotherhood as far back as possible). Several answers for the price of one!
It is true that many Muslim Brotherhood leaders in the Middle East are now openly critical of Turabi. But the reason they reject Turabi is that he is now too liberal for their tastes, particularly on his understanding of the role of women in society! Take, for instance, this condemnation last year of Turabi by one of the leaders of the Jordanian Muslim Brotherhood:
The outlawed but tolerated Muslim Brotherhood Organization also blasted Sudanese Islamic leader Hassan al-Turabi for issuing edicts allowing Muslim women to wear a less rigid veil.
Salem Falahat, spiritual guide of the Brotherhood, whose political wing, the Islamic Action Front, controls the biggest opposition bloc in parliament, told United Press International Wednesday, "al-Turabi is condemned for issuing edicts rejected by any Muslim ulema." (United Press International, “Jordanian Islamists Blast Gadhafi, Turabi” April 12, 2006)
Hasan al-Turabi represents the contradictions seemingly endemic to the Brotherhood: he now argues for the liberalization of the very shari’a proscriptions that he himself imposed as Attorney General of Sudan. And while now he is vilified by Muslim Brotherhood clerics as a liberal, not long ago he was a shining example for Muslim Brotherhood leaders everywhere about what could be achieved if they could attain power and impose their Islamist agenda.
And while Turabi’s NIF/Muslim Brotherhood regime was committing genocide in the South, no word of protest was uttered by Brotherhood leaders – a policy that continues today with their genocide in Darfur in the East. Douglas Farah recently noted this deafening silence:
It is striking that the Brotherhood-related groups across Europe and the United States, and the regimes in the Gulf (particularly Saudi Arabia) that support them have raised not a single protest over the genocide in Darfur. They have raised hundreds of millions of dollars to build their infrastructure and rally to the cause of Hamas and occasionally Hezbollah. But not one word of condemnation for their regime in Sudan.
Al Turabi opened his country to bin Laden and any other Muslim, precisely because he was implementing the Ikhwan strategy of creating a non-territorial Islamic state that welcomes all Muslims (including crossing the Shia-Sunni divide, and Youssef Nada has made clear in his public statements and the Brotherhood ties to Iran, also unexplored and unexplained in the Leiken/Brooke piece). (“As Sudan Crisis Lingers, it is Worth Recalling it is a Brotherhood Government,” [March 27, 2007])
And when Turabi played host to terrorists from all over the Middle East in the 1990s during his conferences in Khartoum, representatives of the Muslim Brotherhood were right there in the mix (see Yossef Bodansky, Bin Laden: The Man Who Declared War on America [Prima, 2001], p. 103).
Leiken and Brooke take umbrage at my raising the issue of Sudan as an example of what a Muslim Brotherhood government might look like in Egypt, cautioning us not to look at the organization monolithically and attempting to distance the Egyptian organization for its Sudanese counterpart. But in fact, we have two examples of working Muslim Brotherhood governments – Sudan and the Palestinian Authority – and we would be derelict as analysts if these examples were left unexamined and off limits.
Upon inspection of the 2004 Reform Initiative, the Islamist governance program offered by the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood varies little from the actual practice of the government in Khartoum.
At this point, Leiken and Brooke are certain to remind us with respect to the Egyptian organization:
“…its road to power is not revolutionary; it depends on winning the hearts through gradual and peaceful Islamization” (“The Moderate Muslim Brotherhood”, p. 111)
But in both cases each organization attempted to ride revolutionary coups to power – in Egypt under Nasser, and in Sudan under Bashir; in the first instance, the Brotherhood turned on the revolutionary regime because it was not implementing their hoped-for Islamist agenda fast enough, and the coup they tried to ride to power ended up turning on them; in the second case, the Brotherhood was able to implement its social and political programs, with Turabi appointed as Speaker of Parliament – the second highest political position – in 1996 (though Turabi fell out with Bashir in a power struggle in 1999, and was eventually implicated in another coup in March 2004 and arrested; he was released in June 2005).
We should also remember that the Egyptian and Sudanese coups are not the only examples of revolutionary behavior by the Brotherhood:
In some nations – Egypt, Algeria, Syria, Sudan – the Brotherhood has fomented Islamic revolution. In the Palestinian territories, the Brotherhood created the Islamic Resistance Movement, or HAMAS, which has become known for its suicide bombings of Israelis. (John Mintz and Douglas Farah, “In Search of Friends among the Foes,” Washington Post [September 11, 2004], p. A1)
Does this mean that the Egyptians will try once again to use revolutionary means to obtain power? Certainly not. But we would be derelict in our analysis if we refused to consider that the Brotherhood has an organizational history in several countries – including Egypt – of utilizing revolutionary coups.
On the other hand, we also have an example last year of HAMAS coming to power through evolutionary means (elections), but it is important to note that they took control of the government there without renouncing their campaign of terrorist violence to any degree; in fact, we’ve seen almost constant violence between HAMAS and Fatah struggling for power since the elections.
Why is this important? In the two existing examples of Brotherhood affiliates coming to power, violence was and remains a component of both, though one was accomplished by a coup, and the other through elections. Both were cheered by the Brotherhood internationally, notwithstanding their sometimes public statements disavowing violence by Brotherhood leaders. They see no contradiction between these positions, because the use of violence is merely a question of tactics, not strategy. In the statements by their leaders and by their organization’s actions, we discover that achieving power to implement the Brotherhood’s program of Islamization is to be accomplished (pace Malcolm X) by any means necessary.
One expert has noted that when considering their program of Islamization, whether accomplished through violent or non-violent means, the end result is inevitably anti-democratic:
Recently, much has been made of the differences between violent and nonviolent Islamist groups. The implication is that, by renouncing violence, a group essentially punches its entry ticket into the democratic game. Yet, one must keep in mind three important facts. First, Islamists view violence as a tactic, not a strategy. The Islamist strategy is unchanging: the transformation of existing regimes into sharia-based states. Some groups use revolutionary means (i.e., violence) to achieve this revolutionary end, while others use evolutionary means (i.e., elections). The end is always the same, though—and always antidemocratic.
Second, no Islamist group has ever suspended violence except when pressured by a regime. In Algeria, Turkey, Jordan, Egypt, and elsewhere, Islamists eschew violence only when they have exhausted or been denied all alternatives to doing so. They have shown no evidence of a deep and long-lasting commitment to democratic politics.
Third, nonviolence is not the only commonly used test for inclusion in democratic politics; racism and ethnic incitement are widely used as well. For example, racist parties are banned in many European countries, and the literature and rhetoric of Islamist parties is often no less racist than that of these proscribed groups. (Robert Satloff, “U.S. Policy towards Islamists: Engagement versus Isolation,” Washington Institute for Near East Policy, September 24, 2005)
In terms of US policy, that the Muslim Brotherhood at times uses evolutionary means, rather than revolutionary, is not an accurate measure of determining their “moderation” when their stated ultimate goal of Islamization is considered. If evolutionary/revolutionary means was our ultimate guide, as Leiken and Brooke urge us, we would have to conclude (as Robert Satloff has hinted at above) that if the German Nazi Party had used elections to seize Austria, the Rhineland, the Sudetenland in Czechoslovakia, and half of Poland in the 1930s, US foreign policy should have recognized the Nazis as a “moderate” force of change in Europe.
Leiken and Brooke will no doubt protest at applying their logic in this manner, but the comparison between Nazism and all of it attendant horrors, and Islamism, as practiced in Sudan, Iran and the Taliban in Afghanistan, and advanced by the Muslim Brotherhood all over the world, including the West, fits perfectly.
Whether it is achieving power through coups, such as in Sudan; or through elections, like HAMAS in the Palestinian Authority (though still engaging in terrorism); or the parliamentary participation of Brotherhood affiliates in Egypt, Jordan, Iraq and Kuwait, they all adhere to the same inherently anti-democratic program of Islamization. There is no “moderate” Muslim Brotherhood to be found.