Clarion Project is at the forefront of a campaign for the Trump administration to designate the Muslim Brotherhood as a foreign terrorist organization. Now arguably the leading expert on the organization joins that call. Maher Fargali is an Egyptian researcher of political Islam. He spoke with Clarion’s Ran Meir. Below is the interview with elements in video format.
What are the goals of the Muslim Brotherhood?
It is important to emphasize that all Islamist organizations have a theory that the “true Islam” doesn’t exist anymore. These organizations believe that governments are not ruling according to “true Islam” and that “true Islam” is absent [from the world] at the moment.
They believe it “true Islam’ must be brought back to govern the world. The Muslim Brotherhood as well as other similar organizations believe this theory.
Hassan al-Banna recreated this theory when he founded the Muslim Brotherhood. The basis of his concept was that he wanted to bring back Islam to rule and to lead the world. This was to be done by taking the parts of society that were sympathetic to this idea and making them into the organization. After that, the organization would mix with society-at-large and takes control of it. The Brotherhood would then succeed in being the ruling regime.
After that, it would expand and lead the world.
This was message of Hassan al-Banna when he talked about taking over the world.
The Brotherhood doesn’t want to be part of society, they want to lead society.
This is why the Brotherhood views the organization as more important than the society itself.
If there is a clash between the organization and the authorities, they will do all they can to protect the organization.
What is the difference between the activities of the Muslim Brotherhood inside Egypt and those of the international Brotherhood organization?
We know that the organization in Egypt is the one that founded the international organization. Hassan al-Banna himself established a department in the Brotherhood tasked with making international connections. It was only after that the international organization developed.
The real development of the international organization was carried out by Mustafa Mashhur (the fifth Supreme Guide of the Brotherhood). He started in Munich and from there expanded globally.
The Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt is not just a part of the international organization, they are the true leaders and the most important part of the organization, the backbone of the organization.
While there have been disputes over who runs the international organization (for example, is it the Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan or Kuwait), ultimately, it is the organization in Egypt that runs the international organization.
The organization was first like an octopus, with lot of arms reaching out — to students, Muslim societies, charitable organizations, etc. The main drawback of this approach was that it was possible to take off an arm of this octopus and the activities of this “arm” would simply end (for example, if the authorities would ban their activities, then their activities would end right there).
Now, they have changed. In the last seven years, they have moved into a being like a starfish. Using this strategy, when you cut off one of its tentacles, it gets absorbed into the rest of the organism. Basically, this means that it is indestructible.
Meaning, the Muslim Brotherhood became a general ideology that works inside society. They started implementing this strategy in Qatar. In 1995, when Qatar dismantled the Brotherhood, they became an ideology that penetrated society. They didn’t have a clear organization or leader within Doha or Qatar itself. This strategy proved successful and it was then implemented in Europe.
For example, you will find that the Association of the Islamic Organization in Paris announces that it is withdrawing from the Brotherhood. Or, that Hamas, for example, announces that they are no longer part of the Brotherhood. Yet in actuality, all of them are part of the Brotherhood because they share the same ideology of the Brotherhood.
Today, whoever promotes the ideology of the Brotherhood inside a given society is not necessarily the actual Brotherhood. The Brotherhood’s network includes a lot of organizations and associations that are not necessarily part of the Brotherhood but are all connected to each other [through promoting the same ideology].
For example, Tariq Ramadan [the grandson of Brotherhood founder Hassan al-Banna who was recently arrested in France for rape] is “independent” and always says he is not part of the Brotherhood. But he is in fact part of them (due to his ideology).
Sheikh Yusuf Qaradawi [known as the spiritual leader of the Brotherhood] also says that he is independent of Brotherhood but is also a part of them [for the same reason].
Then there are the people who are actually disconnected from the Brotherhood but operate as independent forces that serve the organization. The Brotherhood in Egypt is the organization that invented this method.
The Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood is part of the international Brotherhood organization which uses the strategy of the starfish to enable them to take control of a certain sector of global society and expand from there.
Is there any relationship between the Brotherhood and ISIS or al-Qaeda?
Without a doubt, there are connections. Firstly, they adhere to the same ideology, that Islam – “true Islam” – should rule the world.
They believe that society is ignorant and governments are not ruling according to sharia, thus there is a need to change society.
The ideology of Hassan al-Banna, which appeared in the writings of Sayyid Qutb [a leading Brotherhood member in the 1950s], is used by the extremist and takfiri groups that emerged afterwards.
The mode of thinking of al-Qaeda, ISIS and the Muslim Brotherhood is practically the same. Between the three, there are not very many ideological differences.
The Brotherhood tries to hide this, for example, when they talk to the British House of Commons, but that is a lie. The Brotherhood believes that, according to Islam, they are allowed to lie. They base this on the hadiths (sayings of the Islamic prophet Mohammed).
In times of war, it is allowed to lie and they are at war with the world. They are lying and this is a well-known fact.
The Brotherhood believes that the world must be changed as does ISIS and al-Qaeda. The only difference is only in the way.
The Brotherhood works in an elusive way. They work on four major fronts: economic penetration, media propaganda, religious propaganda and militarily.
Other groups, like al-Qaeda and ISIS, for example, don’t work on so many fronts. It is clear that these organizations choose to use the military option to try and change the world. These organizations also use the other fronts, but they all agreed on using force.
That is why it is easy for Brotherhood members to join these violent organizations.
For example, Bin Laden began as a member of the Brotherhood, as did al-Zawahiri (the current head of al-Qaeda). Sayyed Imam al-Sharif, the ideologue of al-Qaeda, also started with Brotherhood. The same with Abu Ubaidah al-Banshiri (al-Qaeda’s second-in-command under Bin Laden).
There is a recording of [Muslim Brotherhood spiritual leader Sheikh Yusuf] Qaradawi saying [ISIS leader] Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi “used to be with us in the Muslim Brotherhood.”
Abdullah Azzam [a founding member of al-Qaeda along with bin Laden and Zawahiri] was also a member of the Brotherhood.
The Brotherhood believes that organizations like ISIS and al-Qaeda serve its purposes and when these organizations weaken, the Brotherhood tries to penetrate and take them over.
At the same time, the Brotherhood tries to present itself to the world as more rational and less extreme than ISIS and al-Qaeda. This is exactly what they did in the last meeting of committee of the Muslims of Switzerland.
At that meeting, [Lebanese citizen] Imad al-Banani, the main force behind the Muslim Brotherhood in Europe, said the Brotherhood cannot be connected to ISIS and al-Qaeda and cannot be the moving force behind them.
This happened also in Egypt with the movements of Hasm and Liwa al-Thawra [both of which have been designated terrorist organizations by the UK]. They saw themselves as a continuation of the Brotherhood. They denounced democracy, carried arms, established various committees and were involved in armed, revolutionary activity.
The basis of all this was a book of the Muslim Brotherhood.
These organizations and others like them are acting in a similar way to ISIS and also coordinate their terrorist operations, including the last assassination attempt on the top security official in the Alexandria province in Egypt.
Does the Muslim Brotherhood pose a threat to the U.S.?
The Brotherhood in the Western world and in the U.S. are trying to get Muslims to live in ghettos. They are trying to separate the Muslims from the rest of the society in Europe, Canada, the U.S. and Australia. This is dangerous.
It would have been better in these countries for the Muslims to have integrated and be part of the society as equal citizens.
This has led to a kind of schizophrenia and to the phenomenon of lone wolves that carry out terror attacks in these countries.
The Brotherhood is [also] using Muslim communities to fund and support the Brotherhood in the Middle East.
Finally, there is no doubt that there is a real danger to the U.S. from the Brotherhood when Brotherhood members become ticking bombs and carry out terror attacks, or when they join organizations like ISIS or al-Qaeda.
How should the U.S. respond to the Muslim Brotherhood?
The first step is to diminish their activities, then they must be surveilled. We need to fight them ideologically, and we need to spread ideas that contradict their activities in the U.S.
All of these things will not be possible unless the Brotherhood is designated as a terrorist organization that has committed acts of violence and terror, not only in the West but also in the Middle East.
We only need to look at their bloody history, which is filled with hideous terror attacks.