The Obama Administration and elected officials from both parties suffer from a profound misunderstanding of what the Muslim Brotherhood is.
The State Department welcomes the Islamist group’s bid for the Egyptian presidency. It even told Customs and Border Protection not to conduct a secondary inspection of Brotherhood officials coming to the U.S., even though one of them was implicated in a child pornography investigation. Once in America, the Brotherhood delegation met with National Security Council officials. A spokesman defended the meetings because, in his words, it is “committed to democratic principles, especially non-violence.”
The claim that the Brotherhood does not advocate violence or terrorism is demonstrably false. It is only non-violent in Egypt because it would be counter-productive, but it supports violence in Israel and elsewhere. In September 2010, the Brotherhood’s Supreme Guide, Mohammed Badi, declared that Muslims are obligated to wage jihad against the U.S. and Israel and must commit to “raising a jihadi generation that pursues death just as the enemies pursue life."
The Muslim Brotherhood has never once condemned Hamas or its terrorist actions. In fact, the Brotherhood is an unwavering supporter of Hamas and the terrorist group is one of its affiliates. Hamas even changed its name to define it as “a branch of the Muslim Brotherhood-Palestine.”
The Muslim Brotherhood logo, (left). The Arabic word at the bottom of the circle is waidu, meaning “prepare,” and comes from the first word of Qur’anic verse 8:60, which tells Muslims to “Make ready your strength to the utmost of your power, including steeds of war, to strike terror into the hearts of the enemy.” The Brotherhood's motto is: Allah is our objective, Muhammad is our Prophet, the Quran is our law, Jihad is our way, and dying in the way of Allah is our highest aspiration.
The Vice Chairman of the Brotherhood’s political party in Egypt, the Freedom and Justice Party, says Hamas is a “resistance group” and that Egypt should host its offices. The Brotherhood’s website includes supporting “Palestinian resistance” as part of its platform. When Israel agreed to release over 1,000 prisoners in exchange for Gilad Shalit, the Brotherhood hailed it as a vindication of Hamas’ violent jihad. On November 24, top officials publicly called for attacks on Jews and a Brotherhood affiliate said Muslims must “revive the duty of jihad in all its forms.”
The Brotherhood is unflinching in its calls for the ultimate destruction of Israel. Former Supreme Guide Mehdi Akef says it will “resist them [Zionists] until they no longer have a country.” It flatly rejects a permanent two-state solution. Its most senior cleric, Sheikh Yousef al-Qaradawi, below, is among the most influential supporters of violent jihad and suicide bombings, calling himself the “mufti of martyrdom operations.” He says that the Holocaust was a judgment upon the Jews by Allah and that he hopes Muslims deliver the next judgment. He turned down the Brotherhood’s request to become its Supreme Guide in 2004.
Brotherhood apologists are quick to point out that the group condemned the 9/11 attacks and has publicly clashed with Al-Qaeda and Iran. Their only difference is over strategy. The Brotherhood still considered Bin Laden to be a Muslim holy warrior and when he was killed, it honored “Sheikh Osama Bin Laden” and endorsed “legitimate resistance against foreign occupation.” Brotherhood officials regularly speculate that 9/11 was a Zionist conspiracy. As for Iran, Brotherhood officials went there last year and said Ahmadinejad is the “bravest man in the Muslim world.”
The Brotherhood’s participation in elections does not mean it is truly democratic. Qaradawi preaches "gradualism" towards the implementation of sharia-based governance. He is quick to point out that the Islamist definition of democracy is different than the West’s. He wants a “genuine type of democracy” that is “driven by the laws of sharia.”
Khairat el-Shater, the Brotherhood presidential candidate in Egypt who has won the affection of U.S. officials, says the same thing. “Sharia was and will always be my first and final project and objective,” he says. He met with the Salafists, the very people the U.S. hopes he will counter, and assured them that he’d create a council of clerics to review and approve all legislation. A translation of a concerning speech he gave on April 21, 2011 has been published. He said that the Brotherhood agenda is “restoring Islam in its all-encompassing conception,” “instituting the religion of God” and “Every aspect of life is to be Islamicized.”
How’d we get to this mistaken view of the Brotherhood? There are a few reasons.
Firstly, compared to the fiery rhetoric of Al-Qaeda and Salafist puritans, the Brotherhood does appear moderate—but moderate is a relative term. Condemnations of 9/11, use of Western-friendly language, pragmatic strategies of non-violence and participation in elections are mistakenly viewed as proof that the Islamists share our interests and values.
The second factor is the influence of Brotherhood front groups, Islamist apologists and efforts to marginalize anti-Islamist Muslim voices. Brotherhood fronts and allies earn the cooperation of government officials by casting themselves as the representatives of the Muslim community. This is a bi-partisan problem. Law enforcement and counter-terrorism officials are among those that have been won over, as well as major universities.
The U.S. Special Envoy to the Organization of the Islamic Conference, Rashad Hussain, has a long history with Brotherhood groups. Azizah al-Hibri sits on the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom and says “Islamic fiqh is deeper and better than Western codes of law.” Her resume includes once having a top position with the American Muslim Council, a Brotherhood front and relationships with similar groups.
The person that most influenced President Obama’s speech in Cairo was Dalia Mogahed, left. She was appointed to the President’s Advisory Council of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. She is a close associate of John Esposito, one of the top defenders of the Brotherhood and its groups in the U.S. Mogahed is a staunch defender of the Council on American-Islamic Relations and the Islamic Society of North America; two Brotherhood fronts that the federal government says are tied to Hamas. When the government labeled them as “unindicted co-conspirators” in the terrorism financing trial of the Holy Land Foundation, she said it was part of a “concerted effort to silence, you know, institution-building among Muslims.”
Another close associate of John Esposito is William Taylor, who now leads the State Department’s Office of Middle East Transitions. When Taylor was vice president of the U.S. Institute of Peace, it sponsored a conference organized by Esposito’s organization on April 28, 2010 that the Global Muslim Brotherhood Daily Report described as “perhaps the largest public gathering of global Muslim Brotherhood leaders and U.S. government officials to date.”
Taylor’s office provided election training to the Muslim Brotherhood. He defended it by saying that the U.S. isn’t picking sides. “As long as parties, entities, do not espouse or conduct violence, we’ll work with them,” he said. He further said we “should not be afraid of” working with Islamists and “we need to…judge people and parties and movements on what they do, not what they’re called,” inferring that the fear of the Brotherhood is inspired by the inclusion of the word “Muslim” in its title. He positively compares the Brotherhood with the Ennahda Party of Tunisia, another so-called “moderate” party whose extremism is ignored.
The failure to understand the Brotherhood was on display during Director of National Intelligence James Clapper’s embarrassing testimony to Congress. The factual errors in his statements, such as calling the Brotherhood “secular,” overshadowed the greater point he was trying to make: The Brotherhood is non-violent, democratic and should be seen as a partner. In January, he described it as a “moderate Islamist” group that can serve as a counter to Al-Qaeda.
At the same time, the Brotherhood and its allies marginalize competing voices within the Muslim community and pressures government agencies, especially those involved in counter-terrorism, to blacklist their critics. In the process, these groups get influence over counter-terrorism training and law enforcement policies. For example, the Chicago Police Superintendent recently spoke at a fundraising banquet for the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
An example would be how the Brotherhood-tied groups are foaming at the mouth because Dr. Zuhdi Jasser, right, an anti-Islamist Muslim activist, was recently appointed to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom. Jasser was previously nominated to the State Department Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy but was blocked at the last moment with no given reason. It’s safe to assume that these same groups were responsible.
This intelligence failure is the fruition of a decades-long Muslim Brotherhood campaign. And, like with other intelligence failures, we will one day look back and wonder how we could’ve gotten it so wrong.
Ryan Mauro is a fellow with the Clarion Fund. He is the founder of WorldThreats.com and a frequent national security analyst for Fox News Channel.
This article appeared originally on The Institute on Religion and Democracy.