A lot of people in the United States are talking about banning the Muslim Brotherhood, one of the world’s largest Islamist organizations. The movement has many detractors and supporters, and it can be difficult to know what’s really going on.
So who is the Muslim Brotherhood? What do its members really believe and why might they be a big enough threat to ban? And, how does that impact me?
What is the Muslim Brotherhood?
The Muslim Brotherhood is an international movement originally founded in Egypt with branches all over the world, including in the United States. Although it is not a single monolithic movement, the disparate factions share the same foundational ideology. The group does not represent all or even most Muslims (despite claiming to) and is fundamentally a political rather than a religious movement.
What does the Muslim Brotherhood Believe?
The British Government review of the Muslim Brotherhood’s activities in 2015 found:
“The founder and first Supreme Guide (spiritual leader), Hassan al Banna, called for the religious reformation of individual Muslims, the progressive moral purification of Muslim societies and their eventual political unification in a Caliphate under sharia law.”
According to the founding bylaws of the Muslim Brotherhood, the group aims to liberate Islamic countries from foreign rule, an understandable goal in 1928 when the group was founded and when Britain was ruling Egypt. However it does not stop there, the group’s official aim is to unite all Muslim countries, re-establish a caliphate and to implement sharia as a system of government.
The prime beliefs of the Brotherhood are firstly that it sees no distinction between religion and state – only Islam as the sole legitimate system. The second is a strong attachment to the ideals of social justice and the elimination of poverty and corruption, which it uses to recruit, primarily among its core support base, the lower middle class.
Its purported attachment to fighting economic injustice should not lead observers to think that the group is benign. Such economic programs do not detract from the group’s totalitarian nature.
What about Jihad?
Although it has officially renounced violence since the 1970s, this purported renunciation is false.
Founder Hassan al-Banna also wrote extensively on the importance of jihad and the “Art of Death.” This focus preached that death in the cause of jihad is a virtue and only by replacing love of life with love of death can the Muslim Brotherhood be triumphant.
Another Muslim Brotherhood ideologue, Sayyid Qutb, authored the seminal Islamist text Milestones while in prison in 1964. The text is seen as foundational in the genealogy of the Islamist movement, and influenced such terrorist luminaries as Abdullah Yusuf Azzam, Osama bin Laden’s mentor, and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the mastermind of 9/11.
The book created the modern political concept of jahilliya. In traditional Islamic discourse, jahilliya refers to the “age of ignorance” that mythically prevailed in Arabia before the arrival of Mohammed and the formation of Islam.
Qutb updated the concept to mean that any government which does not implement sharia as a system of government exists in a state of jahilliya. Such governments are illegitimate and need overthrowing – violently if necessary.
How Does This Impact Me?
The Muslim Brotherhood’s plan ultimately involves the entire world, including the United States. Muslim Brotherhood ideology is spread in conferences, in printed materials and by affiliated groups around the world. In particular in the United States, the Council on American Islamic Relations, the Islamic Society of North America and the Islamic Circle of North America have been linked to the international Muslim Brotherhood movement.
If the Muslim Brotherhood is allowed to, it will create an Islamic caliphate and implement a system of sharia governance, including the brutal hudud punishments such as stoning adulterers to death and cutting the hands off thieves.