April 21, 2007
The Muslim Brotherhood's Conquest of Europe
by Lorenzo Vidino, Middle East Quarterly, Winter 2005
Since its founding in 1928, the Muslim Brotherhood (Hizb al-Ikhwan al-Muslimun) has profoundly influenced the political life of the Middle East. Its motto is telling: "Allah is our objective. The Prophet is our leader. The Qur'an is our law. Jihad is our way. Dying in the way of Allah is our highest hope."
While the Brotherhood's radical ideas have shaped the beliefs of generations of Islamists, over the past two decades, it has lost some of its power and appeal in the Middle East, crushed by harsh repression from local regimes and snubbed by the younger generations of Islamists who often prefer more radical organizations.
But the Middle East is only one part of the Muslim world. Europe has become an incubator for Islamist thought and political development. Since the early 1960s, Muslim Brotherhood members and sympathizers have moved to Europe and slowly but steadily established a wide and well-organized network of mosques, charities, and Islamic organizations. Unlike the larger Islamic community, the Muslim Brotherhood's ultimate goal may not be simply "to help Muslims be the best citizens they can be," but rather to extend Islamic law throughout Europe and the United States.
Four decades of teaching and cultivation have paid off. The student refugees who migrated from the Middle East forty years ago and their descendants now lead organizations that represent the local Muslim communities in their engagement with Europe's political elite. Funded by generous contributors from the Persian Gulf, they preside over a centralized network that spans nearly every European country.
These organizations represent themselves as mainstream, even as they continue to embrace the Brotherhood's radical views and maintain links to terrorists. With moderate rhetoric and well-spoken German, Dutch, and French, they have gained acceptance among European governments and media alike. Politicians across the political spectrum rush to engage them whenever an issue involving Muslims arises or, more parochially, when they seek the vote of the burgeoning Muslim community.
But, speaking Arabic or Turkish before their fellows Muslims, they drop their facade and embrace radicalism. While their representatives speak about interfaith dialogue and integration on television, their mosques preach hate and warn worshippers about the evils of Western society. While they publicly condemn the murder of commuters in Madrid and school children in Russia, they continue to raise money for Hamas and other terrorist organizations. Europeans, eager to create a dialogue with their increasingly disaffected Muslim minority, overlook this duplicity. The case is particularly visible in Germany, which retains a place of key importance in Europe, not only because of its location at the heart of Europe, but also because it played host to the first major wave of Muslim Brotherhood immigrants and is host to the best-organized Brotherhood presence. The German government's reaction is also instructive if only to show the dangers of accepting Muslim Brotherhood rhetoric at face value, without looking at the broader scope of its activities.
The Muslim Brotherhood
The situation in Germany is particularly telling. More than anywhere else in Europe, the Muslim Brotherhood in Germany has gained significant power and political acceptance. Islamist organizations in other European countries now consciously follow the model pioneered by their German peers.
During the 1950s and 1960s, thousands of Muslim students left the Middle East to study at German universities, drawn not only by the German institutions' technical reputations but also by a desire to escape repressive regimes. Egyptian ruler Gamal Abdel Nasser's regime was especially vigorous in its attempts to root out the Islamist opposition. Beginning in 1954, several members of the Muslim Brotherhood fled Egypt to escape arrest or assassination. West Germany provided a welcome refuge. Bonn's motivations were not simply altruistic. As terrorism expert Khalid Durán explained in his studies on jihadism in Europe, the West German government had decided to cut diplomatic relations with countries that recognized East Germany. When Egypt and Syria established diplomatic relations with the communist government, Bonn decided to welcome Syrian and Egyptian political refugees. Often, these dissidents were Islamists. Many members of the Muslim Brotherhood were already familiar with Germany. Several had cooperated with the Nazis before and during World War II. Some had even, reportedly, fought in the infamous Bosnian Handschar division of the Schutzstaffel (SS).
One of the Muslim Brotherhood's first pioneers in Germany was Sa‘id Ramadan, the personal secretary of Muslim Brotherhood founder Hassan al-Banna. Ramadan, an Egyptian who had led the Muslim Brotherhood's irregulars in Palestine in 1948, moved to Geneva in 1958 and attended law school in Cologne. In Germany, he founded what has become one of Germany's three main Muslim organizations, the Islamische Gemeinschaft Deutschland (Islamic Society of Germany, IGD), over which he presided from 1958 to 1968. Ramadan also cofounded the Muslim World League, a well-funded organization that the Saudi establishment uses to spread its radical interpretation of Islam throughout the world. The U.S. government closely monitors the activities of the Muslim World League, which it accuses of financing terrorism. In March 2002, a U.S. Treasury Department-led task force raided the group's Northern Virginia offices looking for documents tying the group to Al-Qaeda, Hamas, and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. In January 2004, the Senate Finance Committee asked the Internal Revenue Service for its records on the Muslim World League "as part of an investigation into possible links between nongovernmental organizations and terrorist financing networks." This privileged relationship with the oil-rich kingdom granted Ramadan an influx of money, which he used to fund the powerful Islamic Center of Geneva and to bankroll several financial and religious activities. Hani Ramadan, Sa‘id's son, currently runs the Islamic Center. Among its other board members is Sa‘id's other son, Tariq Ramadan, who recently made headlines in the United States when the Department of Homeland Security revoked his visa to teach at Notre Dame University. Sa‘id Ramadan's case is not isolated.
Following Ramadan's ten-year presidency of the IGD, Pakistani national Fazal Yazdani briefly led the IGD before Ghaleb Himmat, a Syrian with Italian citizenship, took the helm. During his long stewardship (1973-2002), Himmat shuttled between Italy, Austria, Germany, Switzerland and the United States. Intelligence agencies around the world have long scrutinized Himmat's terrorist connections. He is one of the founders of the Bank al-Taqwa, a powerful conglomerate dubbed by Italian intelligence, "Bank of the Muslim Brotherhood," which has financed terrorist groups since the mid-1990s if not earlier. Himmat helped Youssef Nada, one of the Muslim Brotherhood's financial masterminds, run Al-Taqwa and a web of companies headquartered in locations such as Switzerland, Liechtenstein, and the Bahamas, which maintain few regulations on monetary origin or destination. Both Himmat and Nada reportedly funneled large sums to groups such as Hamas and the Algerian Islamic Salvation Front and set up a secret credit line for a top associate of Osama bin Laden.
In November 2001, the U.S. Treasury Department designated both Himmat and Nada as terrorism financiers.
According to Italian intelligence, the Al-Taqwa network also financed several Islamic centers throughout Europe and many Islamist publications, including Risalatul Ikhwan, the official magazine of the Muslim Brotherhood. After the U.S. Treasury Department designation, Himmat resigned from the IGD's presidency. His successor was Ibrahim el-Zayat, a 36-year-old of Egyptian descent and the charismatic leader of numerous student organizations.
The fact that IGD leaders Ramadan and Himmat are among the most prominent Muslim Brotherhood members of the last half-century suggests the links between the IGD and the Ikhwan. Moreover, reports issued by internal intelligence agencies from various German states openly call the IGD an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood. In particular, according to one intelligence report, the Egyptian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood has dominated the IGD since its early days.
The Muslim Brotherhood—led by Ramadan and Himmat—sponsored the construction of the imposing Islamic Center of Munich in 1960, aided by large donations from Middle Eastern rulers such as King Fahd of Saudi Arabia who, according to a 1967 Sueddeutsche Zeitung article, donated 80,000 marks. The Ministry of Interior of Nordrhein-Westfalen states that the Islamic Center of Munich has been one of the European headquarters for the Brotherhood since its foundation. The center publishes a magazine, Al-Islam, whose efforts (according to an Italian intelligence dossier), are financed by the Bank al-Taqwa. According to the interior minister of Baden-Württemberg, Al-Islam shows explicitly how the German Brothers reject the concept of a secular state. Its February 2002 issue, for example, states.
In the long run, Muslims cannot be satisfied with the acceptance of German family, estate, and trial law. … Muslims should aim at an agreement between the Muslims and the German state with the goal of a separate jurisdiction for Muslims.
The IGD, of which the Islamic Center of Munich is one of the most important members, represents the main offshoot of the Egyptian Brotherhood in Germany. But the IGD is also the quintessential example of how the Muslim Brotherhood has gained power in Europe. The IGD has grown significantly over the years, and it now incorporates dozens of Islamic organizations throughout the country. Islamic centers from more than thirty German cities have joined its umbrella. Today, the IGD's real strength lies in its cooperation with and sponsorship of many Islamic youth and student organizations across Germany.
This focus on youth organizations came after Zayat's succession. He understood the importance of focusing on the next generation of German Muslims and launched recruitment drives to get young Muslims involved in Islamic organizations. But a Meckenheim police report on the sharply dressed Zayat also reveals alarming connections. German authorities openly say he is a member of the Muslim Brotherhood. They also link him to the World Assembly of Muslim Youth (WAMY), a Saudi nongovernmental organization that seeks to spread Wahhabism, the radical and intolerant Saudi interpretation of Islam, throughout the world with its literature and schools. WAMY, which falls under the umbrella of the Muslim World League, has the stated goal of "arming the Muslim youth with full confidence in the supremacy of the Islamic system over other systems." It is the largest Muslim youth organization in the world and can boast unparalleled resources. In 1991 WAMY published a book called Tawjihat Islamiya (Islamic Views) that stated, "Teach our children to love taking revenge on the Jews and the oppressors, and teach them that our youngsters will liberate Palestine and Al-Quds [Jerusalem] when they go back to Islam and make jihad for the sake of Allah." The sentiments in Tawjihat Islamiya are the rule rather than the exception. Many other WAMY publications are filled with strong anti-Semitic and anti-Christian rhetoric.
Meckenheim police also link Zayat to Institut Européen des Sciences Humaines, a French school that prepares European imams. Several radical clerics lecture at the school and several European intelligence agencies accuse the school of spreading religious hatred. German authorities also highlight the fact that he is involved in several money laundering investigations. Zayat has never been indicted for terrorist activity, but he has dubious financial dealings and maintains associations with many organizations that spread religious hatred. The IGD may have changed leadership after the U.S. Treasury's designation of Himmat, but it did not change direction.
While the Egyptian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood has chosen Munich as its base of operations in Germany, its Syrian branch is headquartered in Aachen, a German town near the Dutch border. The former Carolingian capital, with its famous university, is now home to a large Muslim population including the prominent Syrian Al-Attar family. The first Attar to move to Aachen was Issam, who fled persecution in his native country in the 1950s when he was leader of the Syrian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood. Other members of the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood soon followed. With time, Islamists from other countries adopted Attar's Bilal mosque in Aachen as their base of operations. From hosting exiled Algerian terrorists to operating a charity designated by the U.S. Department of Treasury as a financial front for Hamas, Aachen is well known to intelligence agencies throughout the world.
The Syrian Muslim Brotherhood base in Aachen kept close relations with their Egyptian counterparts. For example, confirming the tendency of important Muslim Brotherhood families to close alliance through intermarriage, Issam al-Attar's son married the daughter of Al-Taqwa banker Youssef Nada. Links between the two Muslim Brotherhood branches are more extensive than a single marriage, however. The Aachen Islamic Center reportedly received funding from Al-Taqwa. Staff members have rotated between the Islamic Centers in Aachen and Munich. For example, Ahmed von Denffer, editor of the Islamic Center of Munich's Al-Islam magazine, came to Munich from Aachen. Nevertheless, some distance remains. The Syrian Muslim Brotherhood has never joined the IGD, instead preferring to keep some form of independence.
Of all of Zayat's financial activities, the one that has attracted the German authorities' greatest suspicion has been his association with officials of Milli Görüş (National Vision, in Turkish). Milli Görüş, which has 30,000 members and perhaps another 100,000 sympathizers, claims to defend the rights of Germany's immigrant Turkish population, giving them a voice in the democratic political arena while "preserving their Islamic identity. But Milli Görüş has another agenda. While publicly declaring its interest in democratic debate and a willingness to see Turkish immigrants integrated into European societies, some Milli Görüş leaders have expressed contempt for democracy and Western values. The Bundesverfassungsschutz, Germany's domestic intelligence agency, has repeatedly warned about Milli Görüş' activities, describing the group in its annual reports as a "foreign extremist organization." The agency also reported that "although Milli Görüş, in public statements, pretends to adhere to the basic principles of Western democracies, abolition of the laicist government system in Turkey and the establishment of an Islamic state and social system are, as before, among its goals."
Milli Görüş' history alone indicates why the group should be considered radical. Former Turkish prime minister Nehmettin Erbakan, whose Refah Party was banned by the Turkish Constitutional Court in January of 1998 for "activities against the country's secular regime," is still Milli Görüş' undisputed leader, even if his nephew Mehmet Sabri Erbakan is its president. The 2002 European Milli Görüş meeting held in the Dutch city of Arnhem, where Nehmettin Erbakan was the keynote speaker, provides a glimpse into Milli Görüş' ideology. After a tirade against the evils of integration in the West and U.S. policies, Erbakan declared that "after the fall of the wall, the West has found an enemy in Islam. A Bundesverfassungsschutz report reveals Milli Görüş' real aims:
While in recent times, the Milli Görüş has increasingly emphasized the readiness of its members to be integrated into German society and asserts its adherence to the basic law, such statements stem from tactical calculation rather than from any inner change of the organization.
Milli Görüş pushes an agenda similar to that of the IGD, even if its target is more limited. Nevertheless, both Milli Görüş and the IGD collaborate on many initiatives. There is also a family connection. Zayat married Sabiha Erbakan, the sister of Mehmet Sabri Erbakan. The siblings' mother is also involved in politics and runs an important Islamic women's organization in Germany. The Zayat family is active as well. Ibrahim el-Zayat's father is the imam of the Marburg mosque; other members of his family are involved in Islamic organizations. As Udo Ulfkotte, a political science professor specializing in counterespionage at the University of Lueneburg and an expert on Islamic terrorism, notes, the Erbakans and the Zayats lead networks of organizations that aim at the radicalization, respectively, of the Turkish and Arab communities in Germany.
IGD and Milli Görüş are active in their efforts to increase political influence and become the official representatives of the entire German Muslim community. With well-endowed budgets, their mosques provide social services, organize conferences, and distribute literature nationwide. As the Office for the Protection of the Constitution (Landesverfassungsschutz) in Hessen notes:
The threat of Islamism for Germany is posed … primarily by Milli Görüş and other affiliated groups. They try to spread Islamist views within the boundaries of the law. Then they try to implement … for all Muslims in Germany a strict interpretation of the Qur'an and of the Shari‘a. … Their public support of tolerance and religious freedom should be treated with caution.
It presents a problem that politicians and security services in Germany view the IGD and Milli Görüş so differently. But, as Ulfkotte wrote about Zayat in his book, Der Krieg in unseren Staedten (The War in Our Cities), "politicians of all colors and parties try to reach out to him." For example, the prestigious Berlin Catholic Academy invited Zayat to represent the Muslim point of view in an inter-religious meeting organized by the academy in October 2002. German politicians and Christian institutions regularly partner themselves with Milli Görüş in various initiatives. Milli Gazete, the official journal of Milli Görüş, once stated that "Milli Görüş is a shield protecting our fellow citizens from assimilation into barbaric Europe." Nevertheless, German politicians meet regularly with Milli Görüş officials to discuss immigration and integration issues. The fact that an official like Ahmed al-Khalifah, IGD secretary general, represents Islam before members of parliament who are discussing religious tolerance, shows the success of Brotherhood-linked organizations' efforts to gain acceptance as the representatives of German Muslims. The Office for the Protection of the Constitution well described these efforts, saying that Milli Görüş (and the IGD) "strives to dominate regional or nationwide federations and umbrella organizations for Muslims which are increasingly gaining importance as interlocutors for state and ecclesiastical authorities and thus to expand its influence within society."
Zentralrat, the Islamist Umbrella
In 1989, under the auspices of Abdullah at-Turki, powerful dean of Bin Saud University in Riyadh, the Saudis created the Islamische Konzil Deutschland (Islamic Council of Germany). Turki assumed the presidency with other top positions held by Ibrahim el-Zayat, Hasan Özdögan, a high-ranking Milli Görüş official, and Ahmad Khalifa, an officer from the Islamic Center of Munich. While an official German parliament report describes the Islamische Konzil as just "another Sunni organization," such an assumption indicates a dangerous misunderstanding of the Saudi relationship to German Islamists.
The trend toward consolidation took a step forward in 1994 when German Islamists realized that a united coalition translated into greater political relevance and influence. Nineteen organizations, including the IGD, the Islamic Center of Munich, and the Islamic Center of Aachen, created an umbrella organization, the Zentralrat der Muslime. According to a senior German intelligence official, at least nine out of these nineteen organizations belong to the Muslim Brotherhood. The German press has recently investigated the Zentralrat president, Nadeem Elyas, a German-educated Saudi physician and an official of the Islamic Center of Aachen. Die Welt linked Elyas to Christian Ganczarski, an Al-Qaeda operative currently jailed as one of the masterminds of the 2002 attack on a synagogue in Tunisia. Ganczarski, a German of Polish descent who converted to Islam, told authorities that Al-Qaeda recruited him at the Islamic University of Medina where Elyas sent him to study. Elyas said he could not remember meeting him but did not deny the possibility that Ganczarski, who never completed high school, might have been one of the many individuals he had sent over the years to radical schools in Saudi Arabia. Saudi donors paid all of Ganczarski's expenses. Ganczarski was not alone. Elyas admitted to having sent hundreds of German Muslims to study at one of the most radical universities in Saudi Arabia.
The Zentralrat, which portrays itself as the umbrella organization for German Muslim organizations, has become, together with the IGD and Milli Görüş, the de facto representative of three million German Muslims. Even though the IGD is a member of the Zentralrat, the two organizations often operate independently. Their apparent independence is planned. With many organizations operating under different names, the Muslim Brotherhood fools German politicians who believe they are consulting a spectrum of opinion. The media seek the Zentralrat's officials when they want the Muslim view on everything from the debate about the admissibility of the hijab (headscarf) in public schools, to the war in Iraq, and so forth. Politicians seek the Zentralrat's endorsement when they want to reach out to the Muslim community. Many German politicians are uninformed about Islam and do not understand that the view and the interpretation of Islam that the Zentralrat expresses, as does the IGD and Milli Görüş, is that of the Muslim Brotherhood and not that of traditional Islam.
Accordingly, the Zentralrat expresses total opposition to any ban of the hijab, supports Wahhabi-influenced Islamic education in schools, and endorses a radical position on the Middle East situation. While many Muslims endorse these views, the problem is that the Zentralrat neither represents nor tolerates those with divergent views. Moderate German Muslim groups lack the funding and organization of Muslim Brotherhood-linked groups. In terms of numbers, influence on the Muslim community, and political relevance, the Zentralrat and its two most important constituent parts, the IGD and Milli Görüş, dominate the scene. With ample Saudi financing, the Muslim Brotherhood has managed to become the voice of the Muslims in Germany.
Recently, the German public was shocked to hear what is preached inside Saudi-funded mosques and schools. In the fall of 2003, a hidden camera-equipped journalist from Germany's ARD television infiltrated the Saudi-built King Fahd Academy in Bonn and taped what it taught to young Muslim children. One teacher called for jihad against the infidels. While the images elicited a rebuke from German politicians, the rather sterile debate about Saudi influence on German Muslims has not effected tangible change. Saudi officials and Saudi-run nongovernmental organizations continue to groom Muslim Brotherhood organizations.
First Germany, Then Europe
While the Muslim Brotherhood and their Saudi financiers have worked to cement Islamist influence over Germany's Muslim community, they have not limited their infiltration to Germany. Thanks to generous foreign funding, meticulous organization, and the naïveté of European elites, Muslim Brotherhood-linked organizations have gained prominent positions throughout Europe. In France, the extremist Union des Organisations Islamiques de France (Union of Islamic Organizations of France) has become the predominant organization in the government's Islamic Council. In Italy, the extremist Unione delle Comunita' ed Organizzazioni Islamiche in Italia (Union of the Islamic Communities and Organizations in Italy) is the government's prime partner in dialogue regarding Italian Islamic issues.
In parallel to European Union integration efforts, the Muslim Brotherhood is also seeking to integrate its various European proxies. Over the past fifteen years, the Muslim Brotherhood has created a series of pan-European organizations such as the Federation of Islamic Organizations in Europe, in which representatives from national organizations can meet and plan initiatives. Perhaps the Muslim Brotherhood's greatest pan-European impact has, as with the Islamische Gemeinschaft Deutschland, been with its youth organization. In June 1996, Muslim youth organizations from Sweden, France, and England joined forces with the Federation of Islamic Organizations in Europe and the World Assembly of Muslim Youth to create a European Islamic youth organization. Three months later, thirty-five delegates from eleven countries met in Leicester and formally launched the Forum of European Muslim Youth and Student Organizations (FEMYSO), which maintains its headquarters in Brussels.
According to its official publications, FEMYSO is "a network of 42 national and international organizations bringing together youth from over 26 different countries." FEMYSO proudly stated in 2003 that over the preceding four years it had become
The de facto voice of the Muslim youth in Europe. It is regularly consulted on issues pertaining to Muslims in Europe. It has also developed useful links with: the European Parliament, the Council of Europe, the United Nations, the European Youth Forum, and numerous relevant NGOs at the European level.
Ibrahim el-Zayat, who held the presidency until his commitments in Germany forced him to step down, even used the FEMYSO perch to address the European Parliament. Because the Muslim Brotherhood provides the bulk of FEMYSO's constituent organizations, it provides the "de facto voice of the Muslim youth in Europe."
While FEMYSO claims that it "is committed to fighting prejudices at all the levels, so that the future of Europe is a multicultural, inclusive and respectful one," such statements ring hollow given the position of sponsors like the World Assembly of Muslim Youth which believes that "the Jews are enemies of the faithful, God, and the Angels; the Jews are humanity's enemies. … Every tragedy that inflicts the Muslims is caused by the Jews."
The Muslim Brotherhood's ample funds and organization have contributed to their success in Europe. But their acceptance into mainstream society and their unchallenged rise to power would not have been possible had European elites been more vigilant, valued substance over rhetoric, and understood the motivations of those financing and building these Islamist organizations. Why have Europeans been so naïve? Bassam Tibi, a German professor of Syrian descent and an expert on Islam in Europe, thinks that Europeans—and Germans in particular—fear the accusation of racism. Radicals in sheep's clothing have learned that they can silence almost everybody with the accusation of xenophobia. Any criticism of Muslim Brotherhood-linked organizations is followed by outcries of racism and anti-Muslim persecution. Journalists who are not frightened by these appellatives are swamped with baseless and unsuccessful but expensive lawsuits.
In some cases, politicians simply fail to check the backgrounds of those who claim to be legitimate representatives for the Muslim community. As in the United States, self-described representatives for the Muslim community are far more radical than the populations they represent. In other cases, politicians realize that these organizations are not the ideal counterparts in a constructive dialogue but do not take the time to seek other less visible but more moderate organizations, several of which exist only at the grassroots level, impeded by financial constraints.
What most European politicians fail to understand is that by meeting with radical organizations, they empower them and grant the Muslim Brotherhood legitimacy. There is an implied endorsement to any meeting, especially when the same politicians ignore moderate voices that do not have access to generous Saudi funding. This creates a self-perpetuating cycle of radicalization because the greater the political legitimacy of the Muslim Brotherhood, the more opportunity it and its proxy groups will have to influence and radicalize various European Muslim communities. The ultimate irony is that Muslim Brotherhood founder Hassan al-Banna dreamed of spreading Islamism throughout Egypt and the Muslim world. He would have never dreamed that his vision might also become a reality in Europe.
Lorenzo Vidino is deputy director at the Investigative Project, a Washington D.C.-based counterterrorism research institute.
The Muslim Brotherhood was founded in 1928 by Hasan al-Banna, a 22-year-old elementary school teacher, as an Islamic revivalist movement following the collapse of the Ottoman Empire and the subsequent ban of the caliphate system of government that had united the Muslims for hundreds of years. Al-Banna based his ideas that Islam was not only a religious observance, but a comprehensive way of life, on the tenets of Wahhabism, better known today as "Islamism", and he supplemented the traditional Islamic education for the Society's male students with jihadia training.
The Brotherhood grew as a popular movement over the next 20 years, encompassing not only religion and education, but also politics, through the Party of the Muslim Brotherhood, Hizb Al-Ikhwan Al-Muslimoon. It blamed the Egyptian government for being passive against "Zionists" and joined the Palestinian side in the war against Israel; and started performing terrorist acts inside of Egypt, which led to a ban on the movement by the Egyptian government. A Muslim Brother assassinated the Prime Minister of Egypt, Mahmud Fahmi Nokrashi, on December 28, 1948. Al-Banna himself was killed by government agents in Cairo in February, 1949.
The Egyptian government legalized the Brotherhood again in 1948, but only as a religious organization; it was banned again in 1954 because it insisted that Egypt be governed under shari'a (Islamic law).
Abdul Munim Abdul Rauf, a Brotherhood activist, attempted to assassinate Egyptian President Nasser in 1954 and was executed, along with five other Brothers. Four thousand Brothers were also arrested, and thousands more fled to Syria, Saudia Arabia, Jordan, and Lebanon.In 1964, Nasser granted amnesty to the imprisoned Brothers, hoping that their release would weaken interest in the recently formed Arab Socialist Union party; the result was three more assassination attempts by the Brothers on Nasser’s life. The top leaders of the Brotherhood were executed in 1966, and many others were imprisoned.
Nasser's successor, Anwar-as-Sadat, promised the Brothers that shari'a would be implemented as the Egyptian law and released all of the Brotherhood prisoners; however, the Brothers lost their trust in Sadat when he signed the peace agreement with Israel in 1979; four Brothers assassinated Sadat in September, 1981.Although officially banned by the Egyptian government since 1954, the Muslim Brothers captured 17 seats in the Egyptian Parliament running as independents; they also hold important offices in professional organizations in Egypt.
Today, a very complex financial network connects the operations of over seventy branches of the Muslim Brothers worldwide. During the Muslim Brothers' seventy-plus years of existence, there have been cycles of growth, followed by divisions into factions, including clandestine financial networks, and violent jihad groups, such as al-Jihad and al-Gama'at al-Islamiyya in Egypt, HAMAS in Palestine and mujahideen groups in Afghanistan.
April 20, 2007
Backgrounda. The Hamas (translated as 'zeal') - Also known as the 'Islamic resistance movement', Hamas is a Sunni Islamic organization, which was established at the beginning of the first Intifada, (December 1987) by Sheikh Ahmed Yassin.
b. The Foundations - The Hamas was established from cells of the Muslim Brotherhood organization that had already been active in the territories. The Muslim Brotherhood is recognized as a social movement, and constitutes a convenient arena for the activities of individuals and groups deriving extreme religious legitimacy from the organization. The Muslim Brotherhood does not only provide ideological and logistical support for the Hamas; The Egyptian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood was a significant influence behind the formation of the Hamas organization.
c. Ideology - The Hamas believes in the establishment of an Islamic theocracy over all the territory of the land of Israel, "from the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan River". In other words, the State of Israel has no right to exist. In the Hamas covenant that was published in August 1988, the organization emphasized its ambition to serve as an alternative to the PLO. In effect, it poses a challenge to the PLO in its opposition to the peace process and its call for the destruction of the State of Israel.
d. The Means - Alongside its terrorist activity, the Hamas also conducts civilian and social projects. The Hamas maintains a terrorist infrastructure in Gaza and the West Bank, and acts to carry out terrorist attacks in the territories and Israel. In addition, the Hamas conducts activities abroad including other parts of the Middle East, in the context of Dawa operations - social and civilian projects, including fundraising (through charity foundations and associations) and the recruitment of operatives. These activities also constitute direct and indirect assistance to the Hamas terrorist operations in Israel and abroad.
Sources of Funding
1. The Organizational Structure and the Syrian Connection - Syria serves today as an important base of the Hamas organization, from a political, information and operational perspective. Officials in the Hamas leadership reside in Syria and conduct their operations from there. This applies particularly to the so-called political office of the Hamas, headed by Khaled Mashal. They are in regular daily contact with the Hamas leadership in the territories, headed by Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, and with the terrorist operatives of Izz Al-Din Al-Qassam (Hamas battalions) in the territories.
The Syrian Government enables the Hamas leadership and its terrorist commanders to conduct their various activities on its soil, including the formulation of the Hamas operational strategy, the training of terrorist operatives, the funding of terrorist activity against Israel and assistance in the purchase of arms and ammunition.
2. Middle East Activity
The Hamas is active in a number of other countries in the Middle East, including Iran, Lebanon and Saudi Arabia. These countries provide support and assistance in funding and operations training.
3. The Financial Assistance Infrastructure
The Hamas has an extensive network of financial sources, operating within the framework of Dawa activity, with a total value of tens of millions of dollars a year.
Gulf States - A considerable proportion of the aforementioned funds originate from various sources in the Gulf States (The Gulf Cooperation Council States). Most of the funding is from Saudi Arabian sources, with a total value of $12 million a year.
Iran - Its contribution is estimated at $3 million a year.
Charitable associations in the Territories - Funds are raised for the Hamas through the mosques (a convenient domain for fundraising and recruitment of members) and through charity associations and foundations.
Charity associations overseas
Fundraising abroad and in the territories
4. Dawa and terrorism
It is not possible to separate the Dawa activities conducted for humanitarian purposes from the direct and indirect funding of terrorism: All the monies flow into a common fund, and are then channeled to the relevant activities, in accordance with needs and in coordination with the functions of the organization in the territories and abroad. The monies are transferred using the following means: bank transfers, moneychangers, private money services, unofficial networks for the transfer of funds and "unsuspecting" assistants. Thus, in view of the great difficulty in tracing the source of the money, its address and the motives behind the transfer of funds, it is essential that a strict and vigilant approach be adopted towards the entire fundraising network, operating within the framework of Dawa activity.
5. The Palestinian Street
The large amount of funds at the disposal of the Hamas organization and its members contribute to the enhancement of its standing on the Palestinian street. In the process, the Hamas is competing with the Palestinian Authority, and may eventually pose a threat to its legitimacy.
6. Activity in the West
The Hamas organization is also operating in European countries and the United States, mainly among the Palestinian population, by conducting fundraising (through charity associations and foundations - Dawa activity). Some of the funds received are channeled to finance terrorist activity in Israel, and other monies are intended for the funding of Hamas civilian activity. The aforementioned associations and foundations include the following:
Great Britain - The Palestine Relief and Development Fund (Interpal)
USA - The Holyland Foundation (HLF)
Germany, Denmark, Belgium, Holland - Al Aqsa Foundation
France - Comité de Bienfaisance et Solidarité avec la Palestine
7. An investigation is being conducted in Britain regarding the Interpal fund. The operation of the Al Aqsa Foundation has been stopped in Germany and Denmark, following government intervention. The activity of the Al Aqsa Foundation in the Netherlands has been halted, following the issue of an administrative order (from January 2003). The Al Aqsa Foundation is still operating in Belgium. In the United States, the Government has halted the activity of the HLF. In France, the Comite De Bienfaisance Et Solidarite Avec La Palestine is still operating as before.
8. Activity in Asia
Hamas activity exists in Asia but is limited. Nevertheless, Hamas officials in Syria are in contact with Islamic organizations in Asia. It is reasonable to assume that the common religious identities shared by Hamas and other Islamic organizations pose potential dangers. This danger is exemplified by the presence of Palestinian students and Islamic organizations in countries such as Pakistan and India, amongst others, and the fact that Palestinians underwent training in Afghanistan. These Palestinian students are viewed by the Hamas as potential recruits.
9. Activity in Africa
Hamas activity in Africa is limited. There is recognizable activity in South Africa. Thus, The Holyland Foundation (HLF) has been active there, although the government is investigating its activities.
10. Recruiting Operatives Abroad
The Hamas has been conducting social activity in mosques that mainly serve the Palestinian immigrant population. These Palestinians are potential recruits for the organization (particularly Palestinian students) who are expected to return later on to the territories. As the recent terrorist attack at Mike's Place in Tel Aviv shows, the mosques can be used to recruit Muslim operatives (not just Palestinians) to carry out terrorist attacks in Israel.
11. The Cooperation of Organizations Abroad
The Hamas is assisted by other terrorist organizations overseas (with an emphasis on Al Qaida and the Hizbullah), with the aim of advancing strategic objectives. The ties between these parties are based upon personal contacts and their identification with Islam, and, particularly, the principle of Jihad. The links between these groups are also expressed through mutual operational assistance, thereby advancing the strategic goals of the Hamas organization.
The Free Muslims was created to eliminate broad base support for Islamic extremism and terrorism and to strengthen secular democratic institutions in the Middle East and the Muslim World by supporting Islamic reformation efforts.
The Coalition rejects the urgent desire by extremist groups to create a strict Islamic empire as a justification for terrorism. The coalition rejects the desire to help the Palestinians as a justification for terrorism. The coalition rejects the use of terrorism under any circumstances and will challenge the terrorists? propaganda machines head on.
The Coalition will seek to raise the peaceful voices of Muslims world wide. The terrorist and extremist Muslims will no longer go unchallenged. Their days of sympathetic leaching off the Muslim community are numbered.
In perfect postmodern fashion the use of terror falls into a multiplicity of options available to progressively infiltrate, confront, and eventually establish Islamic domination over the West. The following tactics and techniques are among the many recommendations made in The Project:
Networking and coordinating actions between likeminded Islamist organizations;
Avoiding open alliances with known terrorist organizations and individuals to maintain the appearance of “moderation”;
Infiltrating and taking over existing Muslim organizations to realign them towards the Muslim Brotherhood’s collective goals;
Using deception to mask the intended goals of Islamist actions, as long as it doesn’t conflict with shari’a law;
Avoiding social conflicts with Westerners locally, nationally or globally, that might damage the long-term ability to expand the Islamist powerbase in the West or provoke a lash back against Muslims;
Establishing financial networks to fund the work of conversion of the West, including the support of full-time administrators and workers;
Conducting surveillance, obtaining data, and establishing collection and data storage capabilities;
Putting into place a watchdog system for monitoring Western media to warn Muslims of “international plots fomented against them”;
Cultivating an Islamist intellectual community, including the establishment of think-tanks and advocacy groups, and publishing “academic” studies, to legitimize Islamist positions and to chronicle the history of Islamist movements;
Developing a comprehensive 100-year plan to advance Islamist ideology throughout the world;
Balancing international objectives with local flexibility;
Building extensive social networks of schools, hospitals and charitable organizations dedicated to Islamist ideals so that contact with the movement for Muslims in the West is constant;
Involving ideologically committed Muslims in democratically-elected institutions on all levels in the West, including government, NGOs, private organizations and labor unions;
Instrumentally using existing Western institutions until they can be converted and put into service of Islam;
Drafting Islamic constitutions, laws and policies for eventual implementation;
Avoiding conflict within the Islamist movements on all levels, including the development of processes for conflict resolution;
Instituting alliances with Western “progressive” organizations that share similar goals;
Creating autonomous “security forces” to protect Muslims in the West;
Inflaming violence and keeping Muslims living in the West “in a jihad frame of mind”;
Supporting jihad movements across the Muslim world through preaching, propaganda, personnel, funding, and technical and operational support;
Making the Palestinian cause a global wedge issue for Muslims;
Adopting the total liberation of Palestine from Israel and the creation of an Islamic state as a keystone in the plan for global Islamic domination;
Instigating a constant campaign to incite hatred by Muslims against Jews and rejecting any discussions of conciliation or coexistence with them;
Actively creating jihad terror cells within Palestine;
Linking the terrorist activities in Palestine with the global terror movement;
Collecting sufficient funds to indefinitely perpetuate and support jihad around the world;
For an English translation of "the Project":
April 18, 2007
The Islamic Resistance Movement, or Hamas, founded in 1987 in Gaza, is a wing of the Brotherhood, formed out of Brotherhood-affiliated charities that had gained a strong foothold among the local population. During the First Intifada (1987-93), Hamas militarized and transformed into one of the most violent Palestinian militant groups. Hamas had refused to accept the 1993 Oslo Accords, and has, particularly during the al-Aqsa Intifada, launched a series of attacks (including suicide bombings) against Israeli civilians.
The Jordanian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood was formed in 1942, and is a strong factor in Jordanian politics. While most political parties and movements were banned for a long time in Jordan, the Brotherhood was exempted and allowed to operate by the Jordanian monarchy. The Jordanian Brotherhood has formed its own political party, the Islamic Action Front, which has the largest number of seats of any party in the Jordanian parliament.
The Muslim Brotherhood's main objective in Sudan was to Islamize the society and to institutionalize the Islamic law throughout the country where they succeeded. The Brotherhood penetrated into the ruling political organizations, the state army and security personal, the national and regional assemblies, the youth and women organizations of Sudan. They also launched their own mass organizations among the youth and women such as the shabab al-binna, and raidat al-nahda, and launched educational campaigned to Islamize the communities throughout the country. At the same time, they gain control of several newly founded, Islamic missionary and relief organizations, which led to spread their ideology. The Brotherhood members took control of the newly established Islamic Banks as directors, administrators, employees and legal advisors. Therefore the Islamic banks became the source of power for the Brotherhood. The Brotherhood of Sudan gain power for the process of the Islamicization of the laws, politics, the state and society of Sudan.
Somalia’s Muslim Brotherhood is known by the name Harakat Al-Islah or "Reform Movement". Nonetheless, the Brotherhood, has inspired many Islamist organizations in Somalia. Muslim Brotherhood ideology reached Somalia in the 1960s, but Al-Islah movement was formed in 1978 and slowly grew in the 1980s. The organization structured itself loosely and was not openly visible on the political scene of Somali society. They chose to remain a secret movement fearing the repressive regime of Said Barre. However, they emerged from secrecy when the regime collapsed in 1991 and started working openly thereafter. Most Somalis were surprised to see the new group they had never heard of, which was in the country since 1970s in secrecy.
April 17, 2007
Moderate Muslims face a cruel choice. They can either suffer corrupt and oppressive regimes or they can support groups that advocate violence. There is very little middle ground between the two extremes. Is there really a difference between a moderate and a radical, when both want an Islamic society based on the Shari`a? Furthermore, the MB do not want to establish a Muslim society in Egypt only, but wherever Muslim are predominant in a first time, and on a longer term basis, where their number is rapidly growing such as in Europe. Their dream is a gigantic Umma. The last step in the Muslim Brothers’ chain is "mastering the world with Islam.”
The Muslim Brothers do not define democracy the same way than Westerns do. The organization “only accepts to participate in such a system because more benefit will be achieved if they do…Ikhwan (the Muslim Brothers) accept personal freedom within the limits of Islam.”
The electoral process is only a small part of the edge that the organisation have in its political activism. By the mid 1990s, the Muslim Brothers were in control of sixteen of Egypt’s eighteen main professional associations including those for lawyers, teachers, engineers, and reporters. By this way, they were able to put pressure on the government, and get things done, such as benefits for their members. Credibility and sympathy is also given to the organisation every time the government is trying to crack the organization. Finally, the control of powerful student associations insures them with a strong political voice, keen to demonstrate and put pressure on the government. The Muslim Brothers have the power to inflame the streets and blockade the country, appealing to those organizations and the mosque.
The growing influence of the Muslim Brothers in the military and security services is also a major challenge for the regime that relies on the military for its survival. The Muslim Brothers is building a strong “fifth column.”
April 16, 2007
The state of ignorance (the lack of moral integrity), “jahiliya”, was denounced by the predicator, even if numerous members of the government were practising Muslims and received the approval of numerous Muslim organisations.
At its birth, the Muslim Brothers called for a sharia based society. This total change of society indicates that there is no separation between the state and religion. Brothers rejected the Western domination, Western society, and Western culture. Nevertheless, in 1939 the program was not clearly defined. Al-Banna suggested that if one desired he might: describe the Muslim Brothers as (1) a Salafite call, (2) a way based on the prophetic model behaviour, (3) a sufi reality…; (4) a political association…; (5) an education society…; (6) an economic company…; (7) and a collective thought.” He should have added the determination to end foreign domination.
In the second half of the 1930s, the Muslim Brothers were strongly engaged to help the Palestinians. They raised and channelled funds to fight the Jews, and intensified contacts with religious leaders in Palestine. Banna was interned from 1941 to February 1942 due to his critic of the British presence. The secret apparatus of the Muslim Brothers bombed British clubs during the Second World War, and assassinated Egyptian officials. In 1945, the Palestinian question became even more explosive, and the Muslim Brothers were organizing violent demonstrations against the Jews. Military training centers were set up to send volunteers in Palestine to fight “Zionism.”
But the shift is tactical, not strategic. The movement can resume violence if needs be, or follow the "peaceful" opposition to the regime if it considers this tactic more appropriate.