The Muslim Brotherhood is the largest Islamist movement in the Middle East and is widely described as the most organized political force in Egypt.
Its membership is estimated at over 600,000.
Although it claims to be a “non-violent,” conservative organization, the Muslim Brotherhood has profoundly influenced Islamic terrorist organizations such as Al-Qaeda, Islamic Jihad and Hamas.
One of its disciples was the prominent Islamist theologian Sayyid Qutb, who provided the intellectual underpinnings of Al-Qaeda. Ayman al-Zawahiri, Al-Qaeda’s second-in-command, was once a member of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood.
As recently as 2004, the organization’s motto was as follows:
“Allah is our objective.
The Prophet is our leader.
Qur'an is our law.
Jihad is our way.
Dying in the way of Allah is our highest hope.”The Muslim Brotherhood was founded in 1928 by Hassan al-Banna. Banna is famously quoted as saying that “it is the nature of Islam to dominate, not to be dominated, to impose its law on all nations and to extend its power to the entire planet.”
The Muslim Brotherhood has a violent history. In 1946, the US Army issued an intelligence report, stating that the Muslim Brotherhood “maintains commando units and secret caches of arms.”
Throughout the 1940s, the paramilitary branch of the movement carried out targeted bombings and assassinations. In 1948, the Muslim Brotherhood was implicated in the murder of Egyptian prime minister Mahmoud Naqrashi. In 1954, the group allegedly tried to assassinate then-prime minister Gamal Abdul Nasser. The government banned the Brotherhood as a political party the same year.
The Muslim Brotherhood went underground only to resurface during the 1980s. It claimed to disavow violence and attempted to win political power as a religious and social organization. It was increasingly successful with allied candidates winning 17 seats in the parliament in 2000 and then a stunning 88 seats (or 20%) in 2005.
The Muslim Brotherhood is not a monolithic organization, but it does maintain a leadership structure and a core set of beliefs.
Its leader is called the “General Guide.” He has several “Deputy Guides.” Below them is the “Guidance Council” comprised of 15-16 senior leaders as well as a broader body (“The Shura”) comprised of roughly 100 members.
Mohammed Badi was elected the Eighth General Guide of the Muslim Brotherhood in January 2010. As noted by the U.S. Government’s Open Source Center, Badi is “influenced by the writings of famous MB ideologue Sayyid Qutb… [and is] known for his conservative views.”
In an interview on April 14, 2010, Mr. Badi said “we will continue to raise the banner of Jihad and the Koran in our confrontation with the enemy of Islam.” He went on to say, “The Muslim Brotherhood still considers the Zionists to be its main and only enemy. The Jews who occupy Palestine have their eyes set on Egypt.” [My emphasis]
Two days ago, a leading member of the Muslim Brotherhood, Muhammad Ghannem, reportedly told the Al-Alam Iranian news network that he “would like to see the Egyptian peopleprepare for war against Israel” adding that the world should understand that “the Egyptian people are prepared for anything to get rid of this regime.” He went on to say that the Suez Canal should be “closed immediately,” and that the flow of gas from Egypt to Israel should cease “in order to bring about the downfall of the Mubarak regime.” [My emphasis]
In 2007, the Muslim Brotherhood released a political platform, which contained a number of indications on how this organization would govern Egypt if it came to power.
According to the Congressional Research Service, the platform “called for the establishment of a board of religious scholars with whom the president and the legislature would have to consult before passing laws.”
As noted by Mohamed Elmenshawy – the editor-in-chief of Taqrir Washington and Arab Insight: “Reminiscent of Iran's Guardian Council, this undemocratically selected body could have the power vested by the state to veto any and all legislation passed by the Egyptian parliament and approved by the president that is not compatible with Islamic Sharia law.”
The same document raises the important question of the Muslim Brotherhood’s commitment to a pluralistic society. Despite pledges to treat minorities and women as equals, the platform allows neither to hold high public office. As stated in the platform, “non-Muslims are excused from holding this mission.” For women, the post of the Presidency or Prime Minister would “contradict with her nature, social and other humanitarian roles.” The draft also cautions against “burdening women with duties against their nature or role in the family.”
Mr. President, the people of Egypt and apparently its army are mandating the fall of the Mubarak regime. While we support human rights and democracy, we must heed growing warnings about the Muslim Brotherhood, their leaders and plans for taking Egypt back to the 13th century.
We have seen this movie before – in Iran, in Lebanon and in Gaza. To prevent a strategic reversal on the scale of what happened in Iran, the United States and her allies should do all it can to support Egypt’s army and secular leaders, ensuring no future for the Muslim Brotherhood. An Egypt locked under Sharia law and oppressing women, Christians or Jews would be a catastrophic setback for progress in the Middle East. Such a state could renounce the Camp David peace accords or even start yet another war with Israel. [My emphasis]
Decisive action and influence now will benefit the national security and economy of the United States later. The defeat of the Muslim Brotherhood and victory for Egyptian secular nationalists will be the best way to avoid war and restore economic confidence to the Middle East and wider world.