Academic journal article Middle East Quarterly

The Muslim Brotherhood, Fountain of Islamist Violence

Academic journal article Middle East Quarterly

The Muslim Brotherhood, Fountain of Islamist Violence

Article excerpt

What to make of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB)? During the Obama years, it became commonplace for the U.S. administration and its Western acolytes to portray the Muslim Brotherhood as a moderate option to "more radical" Muslim groups. Thus, for example, U.S. director of National Intelligence James Clapper incredibly described the organization as "largely secular"1 while John Esposito of Georgetown University claimed that "Muslim Brotherhood affiliated movements and parties have been a force for democratization and stability in the Middle East."2

On the other hand, in 2014, the United Arab Emirates formally designated3 the Muslim Brotherhood and its local and international affiliates, including the U.S. based Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR),4 as international terrorist groups. A British government review commissioned the same year similarly asserted that

parts of the Muslim Brotherhood have a highly ambiguous relationship with violent extremism. Both as an ideology and as a network it has been a rite of passage for some individuals and groups who have gone on to engage in violence and terrorism.5

In the United States, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) and Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (RFla.) have recently introduced legislation to designate the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization. In February 2016, the U.S. House Judiciary Committee approved a house bill that calls on the State Department to designate the Muslim Brotherhood as a foreign terrorist organization. In July 2016, Rep. Dave Brat (R-Va.) introduced the "Naming the Enemy within Homeland Security Act," a bill that prohibits the Department of Homeland Security from funding or collaborating with organizations or individuals associated with the Muslim Brotherhood.6

The question is-which view is correct? Without doubt, the second one is. The Muslim Brotherhood has been a militaristic organization since its inception and has operated as a terrorist entity for almost a century. It influenced the establishment of most modern Sunni terrorist organizations, including al-Qaeda, al-Gama'a al-Islamiyya (GI), Hamas, and the Islamic State (ISIS). These organizations have either been founded by current or former Brotherhood members or have been directly inspired, indoctrinated, or recruited by MB members and literature. Contrary to what the MB propagates to Westerners, MB violence is not just in the past but is an ongoing activity.

Historical Background

The Muslim Brotherhood was founded in 1928 by Hassan al-Banna (190649), an Egyptian schoolteacher and sometime watch repairer from a small rural town north of Cairo. Reared in a deeply devout household steeped in the Hanbali school of Islamic jurisprudence popular among Wahhabi and Salafi jihadists,7 Banna engaged in Islamist activities from a young age, joining a local group that intimidated and harassed Christians and non-observing Muslims in his hometown.8 He was also fascinated by secret societies, cults, and fraternal orders, which flourished in Egypt at the time, and this obsession drove him to form the Brotherhood as a fraternity cult with its own secret militia-al-Tanzim al-Khass (the Special Apparatus, also known as the Secret Apparatus)-charged with strategizing, funding, and executing military training and terror activities.9

During the first few decades of its existence, the Special Apparatus carried out numerous acts of political violence in Egypt, notably the 1947 assassination of Judge Ahmed Khazinder Bey and the 1948 assassination of Prime Minister Mahmoud Nuqrashi Pasha, who reportedly considered outlawing the MB.10 At that time, according to a secret U.S. intelligence memorandum, the Brotherhood's "commando units" were estimated to possess "secret caches of arms ... reported to have 60,000 to 70,000 rifles."11 This military buildup was accompanied by infiltration of the Egyptian army, including the conspiratorial group of Free Officers, who in July 1952 overthrew the monarchy in a bloodless coup. …

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