The White House has rejected a request to label the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist group, describing the group as non-violent. The statement is not only at odds with known facts; it’s at odds with statements made by the White House only one year ago.
The White House statement came in response to a petition with 200,000 signatures citing the Brotherhood’s history of violence and how its preachers, particularly Sayyid Qutb, have bred multitudes of terrorists. Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates recently banned the Brotherhood as a terrorist group.
“We have not seen credible evidence that the Muslim Brotherhood has renounced its decades-long commitment to non-violence,” the White House said.
The Alleged Brotherhood Rejection of Violence
Firstly, the White House and many Western officials are misinterpreting an alleged repudiation of violence by the Muslim Brotherhood after the execution of Brotherhood ideologue Sayyid Qutb in 1966.
The reason for the use of the word “alleged” is because there is no Muslim Brotherhood manifesto of unequivocal non-violence anywhere to be found. For all the talk of this momentous change, the Brotherhood has never produced an authoritative declaration explaining this supposed ideological moderation.
The only cited text is a book with a translated title of “Preachers, Not Judges” or “Missionaries, Not Judges.” Sources differ as to whether it was published in 1969 or 1977, and it is said to have been written by the Muslim Brotherhood’s General Guide, Hasan al-Hudaybi, as he sat in an Egyptian prison.
The book is marked as the “moment” the Brotherhood transformed from a militant group to a non-violent educational group. It is often described as a formal rebuttal to the teachings of Sayyid Qutb.
However, top experts have concluded that the text was not even written by Al-Hudaybi, nor is there any evidence that it was written or endorsed by the Brotherhood.
One such expert is Dr. Barbara Zollner, Director of Islamic Studies at Birbeck College, University of London. Zollner wrote her doctoral thesis on the text; she also wrote a book about Al-Hudaybi.
“Overall, my argument is that Preachers, Not Judges was not written by Hassan al-Hudaybi, and secondly, it is not written as a response to Sayyid Qutb,” she says.
Zollner theorizes that the book is a product of the Egyptian government and Al-Azhar University based on the accounts of Egyptian officials and Brotherhood leaders at the time.
In fact, the book doesn’t even mention Qutb or call on Muslims to discard his preaching. Far from casting Qutb aside, the Brotherhood still exalts him and hasn’t lifted a finger to promote this alleged Al-Hudaybi text. Al-Hudaybi himself never promoted it.
On the contrary. “Qutb’s Signposts remains a standard part of the organization’s introductory membership curriculum … while Preachers, Not Judges has not been reprinted in Egypt for more than three decades and hasn’t appeared in print anywhere in the Arabic world since 1985,” explains Patrick Poole.
If this book were so seminal, the Brotherhood would at least have translated it into English and disseminated it. But, it has not, even though the Brotherhood has a frequently updated English-language website and Twitter handle.
One thing the book does is to rebut the Muslim doctrine of takfirism, a practice where Muslims declare another Muslim as an apostate without a trial or proof of treason. As can be seen historically and today, Takfirism leads to Muslim-on-Muslim violence because it enables Muslim extremists to unilaterally judge a co-religionist’s faith and essentially sentence him or her to death.
The Brotherhood and its apologists will counter that this analysis is proof that the Brotherhood proclaims non-violence today.
The context of this quote is important. It was said by the Foreign Affairs Secretary of the Brotherhood’s political wing in Egypt, the Freedom and Justice Party, about Egypt and only about Egypt.
A “Non-Violent” Group That Supports Violence Outside of Egypt
Western governments fail to understand that this stance is limited only to Egypt and is in accordance with the Brotherhood doctrine of "gradualism;" a pragmatic strategy of incremental change during periods of weakness.
Contrary to the White House’s statement, the Brotherhood does not rule out violence or terrorism entirely. In fact, it actively encourages violence in places outside of Egypt.
Tellingly, the Brotherhood’s Palestinian wing, Hamas, is officially designated as a Foreign Terrorist Organization by the United States.
Hamas’ charter states in Part 1, Article 2 that it is “one of the wings of the Muslim Brothers in Palestine. The Muslim Brotherhood Movement is a world organization, the largest Islamic Movement in the modern era.”
In 2011, Hamas officially changed its name to include, “a branch of the Muslim Brotherhood—Palestine.” The following year, a video appeared showing Hamas leaders, including Gaza Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, declaring allegiance to the Brotherhood and specifically to its jihad.
Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood have never denied their affiliation, nor have they ever condemned each other or severed ties. It is an indisputable affiliation. Former Egyptian President Morsi was actually the main liaison between Hamas and the Egyptian Brotherhood before getting into power.
The Muslim Brotherhood overtly endorses the violent destruction of Israel, suicide bombings and terrorist attacks against Israeli civilians. This fact also has never been disputed by the Brotherhood.
These facts not only discredit the White House’s position that the Brotherhood is non-violent, they discredits the White House’s position that the Brotherhood is not a terrorist group.
Brotherhood apologists argue that the group does not provide material support to Hamas. Moreover, ideological support does not qualify one as a terrorist. These arguments are false on two accounts:
Firstly, the Brotherhood and Hamas are one, by their own admissions. This isn’t a discussion about two separate entities. Secondly, material support has occurred.
In November 2008, the U.S. Treasury Department designated a network of charities called the Union of Good because they were “created by Hamas leadership to transfer funds to the terrorist organization.”
The board of directors has dozens of prestigious Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas members. According to the Israeli intelligence officials, the Union of Good is “the umbrella organization for Hamas and Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated Islamic charity funds.”
The Union of Good is led by Sheikh Yousef al-Qaradawi, the Muslim Brotherhood’s extremist spiritual leader. He was twice asked to serve as the Brotherhood’s Supreme Guide, once in 1976 and again in 2004.
Qaradawi said he had to decline because it “might constrain my actions, even if this is the Muslim Brotherhood under whose umbrella I grew and which I so defended." The Brotherhood, in return, hailed him as “one of the Muslim Brotherhood’s spiritual leaders in the world.”
The Muslim Brotherhood’s American branch also materially supported Hamas. The U.S. government successfully prosecuted a Brotherhood front in Texas named the Holy Land Foundation for financing Hamas.
The Justice Department proved that the Holy Land Foundation was an entity of the U.S. Muslim Brotherhood’s Palestine Committee. The leader of the Palestine Committee until 1992, Mousa Abu Marzouk, is now the Deputy Chairman of Hamas’ Political Bureau.
A “Non-Violent” Group with Declared Violent Intentions
The Muslim Brotherhood has openly declared its intention to directly engage in violence and has boasted of its direct material assistance to Hamas.
In 2008, Akef even expressed his intention for the Muslim Brotherhood to directly fight the U.S. military and Israel. He said, “Now, if we are permitted, we will send fighters to oppose occupation—whether of Iraq or Palestine.”
In 2009, Akef said, “We have been effectively supporting our Palestinian brothers, especially since the Israeli attacks on Gaza.”
Multiple proofs exist that show that the Muslim Brotherhood has endorsed violence and even participated in violence since the organization’s supposed repudiation of violence in the 1970. For example, the Brotherhood:
Muslim Brotherhood: “Moderate” Because It Only Supports Al-Qaeda Sometimes
Both the Bush Administration and Obama Administration too often mistook the Brotherhood’s condemnations of the 9/11 attacks and some acts of terrorism as a condemnation of all acts of terrorism and violence.
The best example of this misunderstanding is the Brotherhood’s stance on Al-Qaeda.
The Brotherhood’s condemnation of 9/11 and Al-Qaeda has led some officials, such as Director of the Office of National Intelligence James Clapper, to see the Brotherhood as a “moderate” adversary of Al-Qaeda. The Brotherhood itself uses disagreements with Al-Qaeda to claim it is a “centrist,” “moderate,” “peaceful,” and “democratic” organization.
In 2008, the Brotherhood’s Supreme Guide Akef said his group was not linked to Al-Qaeda but endorses its actions “against the occupier and not against the people.”
“When Bin Laden fights the occupier then he is a mujahid, when he attacks the innocent and citizens then this is rejected,” Akef said.
The Brotherhood shortly thereafter emphasized its criticism of Al-Qaeda is not a declaration of non-violence, especially against U.S. troops, saying, “The Muslim Brotherhood stands with the resistance, especially in Palestine and Iraq, Afghanistan and other countries … the principle of resisting the occupiers is the natural right of all peoples and all laws and consistent with norms and international laws.”
After U.S. forces killed Osama Bin Laden in 2011, the Brotherhood condemned the operation as an “assassination” and honored Bin Laden as a “sheikh.” It reiterated its support for “legitimate resistance against foreign occupation of any country,” specifically identifying the U.S., Israel, European Union and NATO as occupiers in Palestine, Iraq and Afghanistan.
The Brotherhood’s religious leadership issued a fatwa in 2004 specifically authorizing the killing of U.S. soldiers in Iraq. Astonishingly, President Obama named one of those leaders, Sheikh Abdullah Bin Bayyah, as an example for Muslims to follow in condemning the Islamic State, and invited him to the White House where, on June 13, 2014, Bin Bayyah met with National Security Council members (including senior NSC director Gayle Smith). Bin Bayah is also a Hamas supporter.
The Brotherhood’s endorsements of killing U.S. soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan clearly categorizes it as a violent organization, despite the White House’s assertion.
Muslim Brotherhood’s Deception About Violence
The Muslim Brotherhood’s deceptive use of semantics is well-known. Words such as “democracy,” “terrorism” and “justice,” are redefined by the organization to make it appear moderate. The Brotherhood even manipulates the word “violence” to this end.
In April 2014, Muslim Brotherhood Secretary-General Mahmoud Hussein said, “The Brotherhood, since its establishment, rejects and condemns violence. Members of the group have never resorted to armed struggle except against foreign occupation.”
Meaning, Hussein’s definition of violence excludes “armed struggle…against foreign occupation.”
The author personally experienced the Brotherhood’s deception over the term “violence” in an August 2012 exchange in English on Twittter. The Brotherhood tweeted an article stating, “We do not use violence or force against opponents.”
When challenged, the Brotherhood admitted that attacks on “aggressors and invaders of our lands” are not included in its definition of violence. The group even conceded that it was “not referring only to soldiers.”
One of the clearest examples of the Brotherhood’s deception on the topic of violence can be found in an interview on CNN with former Islamist Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi, from the Brotherhood’s “Freedom and Justice” party. CNN’s host, Elliot Spitzer, asked Morsi, “Will you then, right now, disavow the use of violence against the state of Israel?"
“We do not use violence against anyone. What’s going on [sic] the Palestinian land is resistance…it’s the right of the people to resist imperialism,” he answered.
A study of the Muslim Brotherhood by the think tank Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, found that the texts of Hassan al-Banna, the founder of the Brotherhood, were filled with calls for violence. The study cites Fereydoun Hoveyda, former Iranian ambassador to the United Nations, as writing:
“While training terrorists and directing murders, Sheikh Hassan denied involvement in the assassinations and attacks, using what Shiite clerics called ketman (holy dissimulation). Indeed, deceiving infidels was admitted by all Muslims, and Shiites even extended the dissimulation to other Muslims when the security of their ‘cause’ was at stake.”
Lying for the sake of jihad is also permissible according to the Reliance of the Traveler, an authoritative book on sharia law translated and endorsed by the International Institute of Islamic Thought and Fiqh Council of North America, two U.S. Muslim Brotherhood entities.
“Lying is sometimes permissible for a given interest … When it is possible to achieve such an aim by lying but not by telling the truth, it is permissible to lie if attaining the goal is permissible … and obligatory to lie if the goal is obligatory,” according to Reliance of the Traveler (section R8.2).
The CEO of the U.S. Muslim Brotherhood’s Holy Land Foundation and his colleagues were recorded by the FBI extensively discussing using misleading semantics. The leader was heard emphasizing over and over, “War is deception!”
In a 2007 court filing in a terrorism prosecution, federal prosecutors state:
“From its founding by Muslim Brotherhood leaders, CAIR [Council on American-Islamic Relations] conspired with other affiliates of the Muslim Brotherhood to support terrorists … the conspirators agreed to use deception to conceal from the American public their connections to terrorists.”
Possible MB Violence Inside Egypt
Given the Muslim Brotherhood’s history of deception, violence and advocacy of violence, it is highly questionable whether the Brotherhood even is telling the truth when it claims to be non-violent inside Egypt.
An Egyptian commission concluded that the Brotherhood provoked the Egyptian security forces into violent clashes and committed violence of its own. This is supported by rhetoric from Brotherhood leaders and supporters, eyewitness testimony and videos.
The Brotherhood’s statements in English about the violence in Egypt contradict its Arabic statements that called on Muslims to protest the Egyptian government and to die for the Muslim Brotherhood cause.
Brotherhood opponents also claim that the Brotherhood has links to Ansar al-Maqdis, the Egyptian affiliate of the Islamic State (ISIS) that is publicly critical of the Brotherhood. While president, Morsi released many imprisoned Islamist terrorists, substantiating the reports of these secret deals.
The Egyptian government has announced the arrests of Hamas terrorists in Egypt on multiple occasions who were planning attacks, but Hamas claims it has no members in the country.
The Brotherhood may condemn terrorist attacks on Egyptian forces and churches, but it is certainly aware that its incendiary rhetoric inevitably leads to that outcome. It is not a surprise when Christians are attacked after the Brotherhood accuses the church of declaring war on Islam and Muslims.
At the very least, the Brotherhood is guilty of instigating violence.
The Muslim Brotherhood’s support for violence is a fact that is very easy to establish. There is no nuanced grey area where the White House can defend its statement. It’s patently false.
Either the White House made a conscious decision to deceive the public (even though it knew it’d get caught) or the decision-making process in the federal government is so dysfunctional that policy-makers are left ignorant of basic facts.
Neither scenario paints an encouraging picture. Our top officials are in dire need of briefings about the Muslim Brotherhood and its Islamist ideology and strategies.
Ryan Mauro is ClarionProject.org’s national security analyst, a fellow with Clarion Project and an adjunct professor of homeland security. Mauro is frequently interviewed on top-tier television and radio.