The Muslim Brotherhood: Goals and Activities

This briefing is provided by a friend of RZIM.

Issue: The Muslim Brotherhood: Goals and Activities

1. Key Facts

  • The MB was founded by Hassan al-Banna, an Egyptian school teacher in 1928
  • It is committed to work towards the establishment of a global caliphate
  • It seeks to use social welfare and political activism to achieve its aims and is heavily committed to proselytizing (da’wa)
  • It is a long-term ‘grass-roots’ – based strategy which provides healthcare, education and welfare for people in exchange for their support.
  • The strategy is designed to inculcate the idea that ‘Muslim states’ have failed in their duty of care for their people because they have not been ruled in a truly Islamic way due to foreign influences in economics, legislation and policy.
  • The MB’s most prominent off-shoot has been Hamas, which is currently the government in Gaza.
  • The MB’s volunteer force was the only non-state army to fight in the first Arab-Israeli war in 1948.
  • Sayyid Qutb, who was executed following his part in the attempt to assassinate President Nasser of Egypt in 1964, remains the most influential MB ideologue.
    • Qutb re-interpreted the term ‘takfir’ (apostate) to describe any leader of a Muslim state who, in Qutb’s view, did not rule as a ‘true Muslim’: through shari’a.
    • The outworking of this doctrine was that such leaders were legitimate targets for assassination.
  • In the 1990s, Muhammad Ma’mun al-Hudaibi (former Supreme Guide to the MB) articulated the doctrine of the ‘Two Pillars’ which framed the MB’s long-term aims:
    • Shari’a would be the basis of all affairs of state and society
    • The unification and ‘liberation’ of all Muslim states from foreign rule and interference.
      *The MB’s informal spiritual leader, Yusuf al-Qaradawi is based in Qatar and is highly influential through the publication of his fatwas (shari’a rulings).
    • Qaradawi is believed to be the author of the strategic document called Toward a Global Strategy for Islamic Politics, commonly known as The Project (1982), which was discovered at the villa of the MB financier Yusuf Nada in Switzerland in 2001. It laid out an intergenerational strategy for the domination of Western Islam by the MB and the broader Islamization of the West.
    • His weekly TV program ‘Shari’a and Life’ (hosted by al Jazeera) reached over 60 million people per week until it ended in 2013.
    • In the annual list of the of the 500 most globally influential Muslims published by the Royal Islamic Studies Center,( Amman, Jordan) al-Qaradawi was ranked 33, up from the previous year’s 51.
  • The current Secretary General of the MB is Mahmoud Hussein
  • MB affiliated or run organisations in the US and Europe include (but are not limited to): Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), Muslim Students Association (MSA), Hizb ut-Tahrir, Islamic Relief, the Federation of Islamic Organisations Europe (FIOE) and the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR)

2. Data

  • The MB is active in at least 18 countries through affiliates
  • The state of Qatar loaned the MB Egyptian government of Muhammad Morsi $7.5 billion and has been an ongoing supporter of MB activities
  • 90% of Qatari money going to the EU is channelled into the MB, including the funding of over 140 Mosque and Islamic Center building projects all over Europe over the last ten years.
  • Turkey is now the principle place of refuge for the majority of the top MB leadership following the closing of most Gulf countries to the MB after 2013.
  • President Erdogan has been a loyal supporter of the MB and affiliated to them since the 1970s.
    *The MB collects dues and taxes from 600,000 people (including imposing the jiziya tax on Christians and non-Muslim minorities) in Egypt
  • So far, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Russia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Syria have proscribed the MB as a terrorist organisation.
    *The US is currently considering designating the MB a Foreign Terrorist Organisation.
    *Qatar reportedly funded Tariq Ramadan (grandson of Hasan al-Banna) €35,000 per month whilst he was in his post as an Islamics Professor at the University of Oxford before he relocated to Doha following allegations of rape.

3. Analysis
Over recent years, following its spectacular loss of power in Egypt in 2013 and its subsequent repression under the dictatorship of General (now President) Sisi, multiple news articles have proclaimed the death knell of the Muslim Brotherhood, or, at the very least, its sharp decline. Articles in respected outlets such as The Financial Times (6 February 2018) and on the BBC (13 April 2015) have been just two amongst many which have painted the MB as an organisation in terminal decline. Yet, whilst it is true that in Egypt certainly, the Brotherhood has suffered major reverses, there is little sign that it has been hurt globally.

Lorenzo Vidino, the Italian-born expert on the MB who wrote the seminal book The New Muslim Brotherhood in the West (2010) recently gave an interview to the Ahval Turkish online news portal in which he highlighted that, far from diminishing, the MB were thriving through increasingly open patronage of President Recep Erdogan of Turkey as well as the ongoing support of Qatar. This interview followed up on an article which Vidino had written for the highly regarded International Relations journal Foreign Policy (7 May 2019) in which Vidino analysed the increasing relationship between the MB and the Turkish government. Vidino’s insight is valuable and there are good theo-political reasons why President Erdogan’s Turkish government would want a close relationship with the MB.

Erdogan had been a long-term sympathiser of the MB, but his ambition to re-create the Ottoman Empire (as an antidote, he claims, to the chaos in the Levant and North Africa) has brought him into ever closer affiliation with the ambitions of the MB’s desire to create a global caliphate. The pressure that the MB has been under in its foundational heartland in Egypt has therefore pushed the Brotherhood senior leadership into closer alignment with the Turkish President. Through the Turkish diaspora in Europe, both Erdogan and the MB have been seeking to increase their influence. This patronage, coupled with the ongoing financial (and ideological) support from Qatar which comes through the ‘Qatar Foundation’ and the ‘Qatar Charity’; (two charities run by relatives and allies of the royal family), has more than offset the reverses that the MB has suffered over the past decade. Losses which include the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, the coup against the Egyptian MB government of Muhammad Morsi, the fall of Huma Abedin (former advisor to Hillary Clinton), its organisational proscription in a number of Gulf and Levant states and the Holy Land Foundation trial in the US (2007) which exposed so much of the MB network in the US.

The MB continues in its long-term strategy with patience. One of the internal criticisms of the MB’s taking of power in Egypt following the Arab Spring was that it had done so ‘too soon’: that the ground had not been fully prepared. As a result, they were quickly routed and they have been under pressure ever since. For that reason, The Project has continued to provide the central roadmap for the Islamisation of the West (and the world). The power of this plan is that, given that it is grass-roots orientated and intergenerational, reversals such as those described above become minor stumbling-blocks rather than major crises that provoke short-termist responses that might be counter-productive to the longer-term goal. In this regard they highlight something that churches and mission agencies appear to have largely forgotten in the West: that deep societal (even civilisational) change is possible only if one is prepared to work on long-term strategies rather than short-term, results-driven plans.

The MB is therefore an uncomfortable reminder to us involved in partnering in the Lord’s work that it is our task to sow, perhaps for decades, without necessarily seeing obvious results and to trust Him to harvest when His timing is right. It is unfortunate that a group dedicated to opposing Christ and changing Western civilisation should have grasped the value of long-termist thinking when so many in the west, influenced by 24-news-cycles seem to have forgotten it.

Resources
Anon, ‘Muslim Brotherhood: From Rapid Rise to Sharp Decline’ www.bbc.co.uk 13 April 2015.

Martyn Frampton, The Muslim Brotherhood and the West: A History of Enmity and Engagement, Cambridge (MA): Harvard University Press, 2018.

Roel Meijer, Global Salafism: Islam’s New Religious Movement, London: Hurst and Company, 2009.

Lorenzo Vidino, The New Muslim Brotherhood in the West, New York: Columbia Press, 2010.

------------------, ‘Erdogan’s long arm in Europe’ www.foreignpolicy.com 7 May 2019.

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