Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Obama wants to dialogue with Muslim Brotherhood-they are islamic jihadists

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This week - Who are the Muslim Brothers?

History, ideology, and evolving tactics

Major changes are expected to occur in Egypt in the coming months and years, as the country of 83 million reshapes itself to adjust to the post-Mubarak era.

A myriad of political forces are in a race with one another to build up bases of popular support ahead of the upcoming parliamentary and presidential elections, scheduled for October or November.

The elections will provide a most significant glimpse into Egypt's future, that will allow observers to identify the forces that will play big roles in running the country.

As the elections approach, one organization in Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood, is enjoying a head start in the race over the other political parties and ideologies.

The Muslim Brotherhood has spent the past six decades working to create a loyal support base among Egyptian society, while waiting for the day that the secular autocracy of Egypt would crumble.

Founded by Hassan al- Banna in 1928, the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood believes in the establishment of a fundamentalist state ruled according to a strict interpretation of Sharia (Islamic law). (i)

The Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood's history can be divided into two phases; In the first, it grew from 800 members (1936) to 2 million members (1948), and took part in a direct, ideologically-driven confrontation with the Egyptian state, in an effort to rise to power and realize its vision.

In the second phase, it adopted a deceptive pragmatism aimed at allowing it to survive and grow inside a secular-run Egypt, while also branching out around the world to create a global network, made up of overt and covert branches. (ii)

After its founding, as the movement grew over the next two decades, tensions with the Egyptian establishment grew with it.

In December 1948, A Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated gunman assassinated Egyptian prime minister Mahmud Nokrashi. Soon afterwards, Egyptian security forces killed the movement's founder, Hassan Banna in retaliation. (iii)

In 1954, secular nationalist leader Gamal Abdel Nasser banned the Brotherhood, and it has remained officially prohibited in Egypt right up until the toppling of ex-president Hosni Mubarak.

The Brotherhood's ideology places secular Arab regimes as the biggest obstacle to setting up fundamentalist Islamist states. The organization's motto is: "Allah is our goal, the Koran is our constitution, the Prophet is our leader, jihad is our way, and death in the service of Allah is our loftiest goal." (iv)

These ideas have been expressed most virulently by Islamist ideologue and Muslim Brother Sayyid Qutb, who published the seminal book, Milestones. In his book, Qutb called for the establishment of a 'true' Islamic state.

Qutb divided the world into a "House of Islam," defining this as any country where the most stringent and fundamentalist interpretation of Islam reigns as the law of the land, and the "Land of the War," which is the rest of the world.

"A Muslim can have only two possible relations with Land of War: peace with a contractual agreement, or war,- he wrote. (v)

Muslims who do not support jihad are "hollow and full of contradictions," and stuck in a state of darkness, Qutb wrote. He identified secular Arab states as puppets of the West's satanic camp.

Qutb was executed in Egypt in 1966. His writings have become the foundation of most radical Sunni Islamist organization.

Throughout the 60s and 70s, thousands of members of the Muslim Brotherhood were imprisoned in Egyptian jails, and many were routinely tortured.

The destructive confrontations with the Egyptian state led to a new generation of Muslim Brotherhood leaders who came to the conclusion that in order to achieve their objectives, they would need to adopt a more pragmatic, tactically flexible modus operandi, that would enable them to work within Egypt's political system in order to eventually replace it.

The organization's ideologues came to believe that instant jihad was useless as long as the Muslim masses were not sufficiently indoctrinated with their ideas.

Armed rebellion would be pointless, they reasoned, until the Egyptian people themselves would demand a "House of Islam" Shari'a state.

The Muslim Brothers therefore dedicated themselves to spreading their ideology and interpretation of Islam throughout society in a nonviolent manner, and set up a large network of charities, medical clinics and social aid stations to spread their ideas to the poor.

Hence, while the objective of an Islamist state is unchanged, the means of reaching it " via the ballot rather than the bullet " has evolved.

This is in contrast to violent present-day jihadis, known as Salafis, which are the elements that form the al-Qaeda network. Salafis believe that force of arms alone can create a radical Islamic state.

While Al-Qaeda and the Muslim Brothers emerged from common roots, and share common goals, they have splintered into two wholly different forces today, and a bitter rivalry exists between the two over the correct path to realize their aims.

Current structure

Today, the Muslim Brothers in Egypt are led by Muhammad Badi, elected as head of the organization in 2010.

In addition to its national Egyptian structure, an international Muslim Brotherhood also exists, led by exiled Egyptian Sheikh Yussuf al-Qaradawi, who lives in Qatar, and who is considered by many to be the most preeminent Sunni scholar in the world.

Projected political power in Egypt

The Brothers took a back-seat as an organization during the Egyptian revolution, wanting to ensure that Mubarak was truly gone before raising their profile - a cautious conduct that was learned during its many violent run-ins with the Egyptian state.

Other senior members include the more charismatic Essam el-Erian. During a recent media interview with Radio Free Europe, el-Erian summed up the Brotherhood's goal of having the masses demand a Shari'a state, saying: "Shari'a comes from inside the people." (vi)

The Brothers have formed a political party to contest the upcoming parliamentary elections, called the Freedom and Justice Party. They have insisted that Egypt's new constitution be written after the parliamentary elections, because they are confident that they will win enough seats to significantly influence the future constitution.

Prof. Elie Podeh, of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem's Department of Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies, told me earlier this year that the the exact popularity of the Brothers cannot be measured due to the lack of democracy in Egypt, but that the 2005 parliamentary elections in Egypt saw 88 Muslim Brotherhood representatives - who ran as independents to bypass the ban on them - voted into the 454 member parliament.

The Mubarak regime had become alarmed at their influence, and not one Muslim Brotherhood candidate won a seat during the subsequent 2010 elections.

"That means that 88 out 454 is the minimum number of seats they could win, and their popularity could be greater," Podeh said.

Relations with Israel

In 2009, the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt published a draft charter on its website, in which it said that the peace treaty with Israel would be 'reviewed' if it came to power.

More recently, on August 23rd, el-Erian said in his Radio Free Europe interview that he rejected the right of the Jewish people to national self-determination, saying: [The] existence of a state for Jews is against all rules of states all over the world." (vii)

In the same interview, he added: "I hope the revolutions in the Arab world can change the map. All the maps can be changed."

Relations with Hamas

Hamas is one of the branches of the Muslim Brotherhood, as Hamas openly states in its charter.

The Muslim Brotherhood views Hamas as a sister organization which should be supported, and has justified Hamas terrorism and rocket attacks on Israeli civilians.

El-Erian said in his recent interview: "Hamas is a resistance group fighting for freedom and liberation of their lands from occupation. And the West must revise their knowledge about Hamas!"

Should the Muslim Brotherhood form a major part any future Egyptian government, Egypt's relationship with Hamas would drastically change, and the Hamas regime in Gaza could find itself with an ally to its south. Mubarak took a highly hostile view of Hamas, but the Egyptian blockade he place on Gaza together with Israel is already beginning to crumble.

A Muslim Brotherhood elections victory could greatly enhance Hamas's ability to smuggle Iranian weapons through Sinai into Gaza.

Relations with Iran

The Muslim Brotherhood would steer Egypt to friendly relations with Iran, according to El-Erian.

Relations with the US

The Brotherhood views the US as an imperialist dark force in the world, and has hinted it would seek to break Egypt's alliance with Washington should it come to power. "America has, during the Mubarak regime, imposed its policy and vision via Mubarak himself as a pharaoh. Now there are no pharaohs' Any decision must be taken in the parliament, in the cabinet, maybe it will be taken to referenda. There is no way to follow all American policies in the region or the world," El-Erian said. (viii)

(i) Steve Emerson, Report on Roots of Violent Islamist Extremism for State Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs, July 10, 2008, http://www.investigativeproject.org/documents/testimony/353.pdf

(ii) Emerson, Report.

(iii) The Muslim Brotherhood, Jewish Virtual Library, http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Terrorism/muslimbrotherhood.html

(iv) Emerson, Report.

(v) Qutb, Milestones.

(vi) Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood Leader Wants Reforms Across The Arab World, Radio Free Europe, April 23, 2011, http://www.rferl.org/content/interview_with_muslim_brotherhood_leader_essam_el-/24305890.html

(vii) Egyptian, Radio Free World

(viii) Egyptian, Radio Free World

Yaakov Lappin is author of the recently published book Virtual Caliphate; Exposing the Islamist State on the Internet, which takes the reader into the heart of the online jihadi presence. The book is available here.

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