The Muslim Brotherhood Roundup

My Muslim Brotherhood threads gave rise to a bit of confusion about which book I was talking about. Obviously, I made a mistake in assuming that everyone on Ricochet was reading every word I write, 24 hours a day. Now that I think about it, that’s more than a bit silly and self-involved. A beginner’s mistake, really. Sorry, I’m learning on the job. On the bright side, I’m not the President of the United States.

Let me gather all those threads in one place, so we can get organized. 

Encounter Books: I Think I’m in Love With You and I’m Available on Saturday Night

Very Informal Poll: What Do You Know About the Muslim Brotherhood?

The Muslim Brotherhood: The Google Ban is Lifted

Andy McCarthy’s Broadside and the New Ricochet Book Club

What I’m leading up to here is a plea for more awareness of the history and role of the Muslim Brotherhood. Al Qaeda is a household name, but most Americans are only dimly aware of the Brotherhood.

This makes no sense. It leads to national security and foreign policy absurdities–such as Obama inviting members of the Brotherhood to attend his 2009 al-Azhar speech in Cairo. These are true enemies of the West. They are as dangerous as al Qaeda if not more, and their reach is certainly wider. They have no business getting anywhere near an American president. 

Without understanding what they are and what they’re after, you cannot properly understand what’s going on in universities throughout the West: The words “Qaradawi is now a trustee at Oxford University’s Centre for Islamic Studies” will not chill you to the quick, as they should. 

You will not understand why the IIIT network is hugely significant, or why the Malaysian government goes insane when the West fails to appreciate that opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim is not a martyr but an Islamist who played a key role in establishing this network. 

You will not grasp the significance of the presence of Muslim Brotherhood activists on the Mavi Marmara or why this link between the IHH and Turkey’s AKP government should have the world on red alert. 

You will not be able to understand what has happened in Europe, or why figures such as Tariq Ramadan should meet with our deepest skepticism because of his ties to the Brotherhood:

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.

The Brotherhood is the key. Saudi financing has given it an almost unimaginable reach. And most Americans have no clue what it is, to the point of not even recognizing the name–an unawareness that is, as far as I can see, a national security emergency.

I have differences with McCarthy’s approach and with the Team B-II approach. I think it’s a terrible mistake to use the word “Islam” and “Islamism” interchangeably. (The term “Islamism” is also inadequate, but at least it suggests a distinction.)

McCarthy’s entirely correct that Islamism is mainstream, rooted in Muslim scripture and favored by many prominent Islamic commentators. No one who knows anything about the subject would disagree.

But there is also significant dissent from this view in the Islamic world. Those who dissent from it are our friends and allies. Why on earth should we pronounce categorically, say, that “In Islam, homosexuality and adultery are capital offenses,” if there are practicing Muslims who think otherwise? Are we truly saying that we’re more qualified to interpret the Koran and all of its associated scholarship than Muslims who have come to another conclusion? Why would we shoot ourselves in the foot this way?

This isn’t a mere semantic quibble. We are at war with several interpretation of Islam, not all of Islam. Those who adhere to the most dangerous interpretations of Islam are the world’s foremost murderers of other Muslims. It’s insane to say to Muslim victims of Islamism that in fact, Islam is monolithic and it endorses their persecutors’ ideology.

And how far are we prepared to go in our willingness to declare our position on authentic Islamic theology–do we think the texts and scholars support the idea that the chain broke with the 12th Imam? How about the consecration of the number seven: Is that the true Islam or heterodoxy? Ata versus Hasan al-Basari–where do we stand on that? Asharism–that seem about theologically right to us?

Me, I’m staying out of the Koranic exegesis business. If you say you’re a Muslim, as far as I’m concerned, you’re a Muslim. If you say you can find scriptural and historic justification for a world view that allows you peacefully to co-exist with the West, that’s good enough for me. The last thing I’m going to tell you is, “No, you’ve got it wrong, if you’re a real Muslim you have to kill Jews.” That’s idiocy.

This is my main criticism of the Team B-II approach. But it shouldn’t obscure the overwhelmingly important point: The exclusive focus on terrorism is, precisely as McCarthy puts it, myopic. Because yes, there’s dissent from the extremist positions in the Islamic world, but there’s a hell of a lot of support for them, too, and al Qaeda is, as he puts it, just the most crude and obvious form of the threat.

The Team B answer is to focus on the notion of Islamic law in our definition of “moderation.” Moderates, they say, don’t merely reject terrorism per se, they reject the entire notion of an Islamic law that takes precedence over secular law.

I’m absolutely agreed that focussing on the latest terrorist outrage du jour leads people to overlook the significance, for example, of massive Saudi donations to Georgetown University and to fail to understand what a sinister and insidious effect this is apt to have on the foremost feeder school for American diplomacy. It’s also why the world overlooks developments that cannot lead to anything good in places such as Turkey and Malaysia.

But the words to focus on are not Islam and Sharia–they’re Muslim Brotherhood and Saudi money. Those words give us a much more precise understanding of who, and what, are the problems. They suggest a much more coherent and targeted policy response.

I don’t want anyone in the White House who can’t answer the question I asked about the Muslim Brotherhood without resorting to Google.

I can afford to learn on the job. The president can’t.  

  1. Claire Berlinski
    C
    Peter Christofferson: Claire Berlinski: “I have differences with McCarthy’s approach and with the Team B-II approach. I think it’s a terrible mistake to use the word ‘Islam’ and ‘Islamism’ interchangeably.”

    You’re not suggesting that McCarthy makes that mistake, are you? Because that strikes me as a mischaracterization of his position.

    He distinguishes them, yes, but then blurs it again by writing repeatedly “Islam says,” “In Islam,” etc. I’m eager to talk to him about this; seems he’s eager to talk to us, so we’ll talk about it. I think it will be an interesting conversation.

  2. Paladin

     It seems the problem with the Muslim Brotherhood is that, officially and on the surface, the MB pursues its goals of establishing worldwide Islamic hegemony and sharia in totally legal ways, through advocacy and monetary donations and democratic processes. It’s hard to work up the kind of awareness you’re talking about compared to a group that crashed hijacked airliners into American landmarks.

    I’m sure that deep down somewhere there is money that goes to funding the murder machines of terror, but as it doesn’t seem to be obvious at this time what are we to do?

    What should the targeted policy response be if it cannot be proven in a court of law that any of the Saudi donations or Muslim Brotherhood activities in the US are illegal? I am despairing of thinking what can be done about this. Even if the public outcry was massive, is there a university in the United States that would turn down a $20 million private donation?

  3. Claire Berlinski
    C
    Robert McKay:   Even if the public outcry was massive, is there a university in the United States that would turn down a $20 million private donation? · Dec 6 at 7:39pm

    There was a mayor of New York City who did something similar.

  4. Paladin
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.

    Robert McKay:   Even if the public outcry was massive, is there a university in the United States that would turn down a $20 million private donation? · Dec 6 at 7:39pm

    There was a mayor of New York City who did something similar. · Dec 6 at 7:41pm

    That mayor’s like are not to be found on the board’s of educational institutions, I fear. And the context of his refusal for that $10 million donation was that the donor had said 9/11 was America’s own fault because of her foreign policy. And there are probably a huge number of university professors and presidents who might agree that America had it coming. Depressing.

    I agree completely that they are an evil organization and pose a greater threat: the ones who pretend to be your friends are the worst enemies, who smile and shake your hand while they shove the dagger in your chest. Those who declare themselves enemies to the death can at least be trusted at their word. How do we stop them though? Can we get the ball rolling on a PR campaign as large as theirs to discredit them?

  5. Jason Hart
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.: Me, I’m staying out of the Koranic exegesis business. If you say you’re a Muslim, as far as I’m concerned, you’re a Muslim. If you say you can find scriptural and historic justification for a world view that allows you peacefully to co-exist with the West, that’s good enough for me. The last thing I’m going to tell you is, “No, you’ve got it wrong, if you’re a real Muslim you have to kill Jews.” That’s idiocy.

    My sense has always been that McCarthy’s much more concerned with the geopolitical issues than with the finer points of the religion. Due to the crushing influence of the Brotherhood and the House of Saud, Muslims willing and able to peacefully co-exist are all but completely overshadowed when it comes to foreign policy.

    I’m happy you live in a tolerant Muslim neighborhood, but I can’t hold it against Andy McCarthy if he doesn’t spend energy making distinctions the Muslim Brotherhood and the Saudis work constantly to erase!

  6. Robert Bennett

    Thanks for the roundup Claire.  This was informative, and I want to read Andy McCarthy’s book now.  I see how this is a problem, but if I’m not mistaken giving money is not a crime.  We can’t declare war on the Brotherhood for a Muslim-Christian outreach center.  Informing people about this is a good start to combat the brotherhood, but it seems like they deal in ideology and not violence.  Therefore, this is an ideological battle and not a military one.  Although this is not an organization of peace as it seems.

    I wonder what our president can tell us about the brotherhood.  Maybe Daisy is behind it all.

  7. Paladin
    Robert Bennett: …I see how this is a problem, but if I’m not mistaken giving money is not a crime.  We can’t declare war on the Brotherhood for a Muslim-Christian outreach center.  Informing people about this is a good start to combat the brotherhood, but it seems like they deal in ideology and not violence.  Therefore, this is an ideological battle and not a military one.  Although this is not an organization of peace as it seems.

    A better statement of the same general point I was trying to make. Although I wonder if the information from the link you posted is enough to have them added as a terror organization? After all, the are advocated armed insurrection against the lawfully elected government of the US.

    “Phase Four: Open public confrontation with the Government through exercising the political pressure approach. It is aggressively implementing the above-mentioned approach. Training on the use of weapons domestically and overseas in anticipation of zero-hour. It has noticeable activities in this regard.

    “Phase Five: Seizing power to establish their Islamic Nation under which all parties and Islamic groups are united.”

  8. Paladin

    That ought to be enough, right? Enough to declare them a terror group and shut them down here and who cares what the Saudis or international community says?

    The Smith Act is still on the books.

    “Whoever, with intent to cause the overthrow or destruction of any such government, prints, publishes, edits, issues, circulates, sells, distributes, or publicly displays any written or printed matter advocating, advising, or teaching the duty, necessity, desirability, or propriety of overthrowing or destroying any government in the United States by force or violence, or attempts to do so; or Whoever organizes or helps or attempts to organize any society, group, or assembly of persons who teach, advocate, or encourage the overthrow or destruction of any such government by force or violence; or becomes or is a member of, or affiliates with, any such society, group, or assembly of persons, knowing the purposes thereof – Shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than twenty years, or both, and shall be ineligible for employment by the United States or any department or agency thereof, for the five years next following his conviction.”

  9. Peter Christofferson

    Claire Berlinski: “I have differences with McCarthy’s approach and with the Team B-II approach. I think it’s a terrible mistake to use the word ‘Islam’ and ‘Islamism’ interchangeably.”

    You’re not suggesting that McCarthy makes that mistake, are you? Because that strikes me as a mischaracterization of his position. For example, from the Broadside under consideration:

    “…sharia usefully divides Islamists from authentic Muslim moderates. True moderate and reformist Muslims embrace the Enlightenment’s veneration of reason, and, in particular, its separation of the spiritual and secular realms. For them, sharia is a reference point for a Muslim’s personal conduct, not a corpus to be imposed on…a pluralistic society.”

    In other words, it’s not about how Muslims choose to interpret their faith, or whether we should presume to interpret it for them. Rather, it’s about insisting that Muslims among us, like citizens of other faiths, agree to live according to the bedrock principles of our society, namely Constitutional self-government, freedom of conscience, freedom of speech, economic liberty, and equality under the law.

  10. Andrea Ryan

    In reading the article you recommended earlier An Explanatory Memorandum: On the General Strategic Goal for the Group in North America this alarmed me:

    On page 10 of 18…

    17- Understanding the role and the nature of work of “The Islamic Center” in every city with what achieves the goal of the process of settlement: The center we seek is the one which constitutes the “axis” of our Movement, the “perimeter” of the circle of our work, our “balance center”, the “base” for our rise and our “Dar al-Arqam” to educate us, prepare us and supply our battalions in addition to being the “niche” of our prayers.

    This is in order for the Islamic center to turn – in action not in words – into a seed “for a small Islamic society” which is a reflection and a mirror to our central organizations. The center ought to turn into a “beehive” which produces sweet honey. 

    …(cont.)

  11. Andrea Ryan

    Thus, the Islamic center would turn into a place for study, family, battalion, course, seminar, visit, sport, school, social club, women gathering, kindergarten for male and female youngsters, the office of the domestic political resolution, and the center for distributing our newspapers, magazines, books and our audio and visual tapes. In brief we say: we would like for the Islamic center to become “The House of Dawa”‘ and “the general center” in deeds first before name. As muchas we own anddirect these centers at the continent level, we can say weare marching successfully towards the settlement of Dawa’ in this country. Meaning that the “center’s” role should be the same as the “mosque’s” role during the time of God’s prophet, God’s prayers and peace be upon him, when he marched to “settle” the Dawa’ in its first generation in Madina. from the mosque, he drew the Islamic life and provided to the world the most magnificent and fabulous civilization humanity knew. This mandates that, eventually, the region, the branch and the Usra turn into “operationsrooms” for planning, direction, monitoring and leadership for the Islamic center in order to be a role model to be followed.

  12. Andrea Ryan

    After reading that how can anyone argue with the real purpose of the Ground Zero Mosque?  I’m interested in Robert’s comments about The Smith Act.

  13. Robert Bennett

    I can’t get this post out of my mind.  How do you combat money and donations?  I guess one way is with money too.  Do you think it would be just to declare that because the Brotherhood seeks the downfall of the west that our government can refuse all federal dollars to institutions that accept Saudi money?  This means cutting off Harvard and Georgetown and other “elite” institutions.  Not that I see it happening, but this organization seeks the West’s destruction, and it seems that our own government is cooperating with it.  I don’t see why we have to do so.

  14. Troy Senik, Ed.

    I had the opportunity (misfortune?) to spend an evening in Tariq Ramadan’s company a few months ago. What makes him dangerous is that he is not only a private radical, but a public sophist. Hearing his public remarks shorn of any knowledge of his biography, you would think he’s simply the kind of vaporous “intellectual” that gets fast-tracked for tenure these days. His public remarks are about as clear as a Martin Heidegger tract. Then again, Heidegger also had good reason to dissemble.

  15. Sisyphus

    Agreed on all points, Claire. The difficulty on the moderate Muslim track is, the moderate Old World Muslim has been terrorized by the Muslim Brotherhood types for generations and lives to avoid their attention, with a courageous handful of exceptions. Phrenologically, distinguishing between a Muslim Brotherhood drone and a moderate can be very tricky until one looks beneath the surface.

    Good luck getting folks who raise funds for a living, i.e., politicians, to see Saudi money in a bad light. Certainly our last four Presidents were not so inclined, and Reagan needed Saudi support to rein in oil prices. And the current guy is suppressing domestic production at every opportunity. How can you say such mean things about the Saudi’s when they contributed $200M to the renovation of the DC Childrens’ Hospital?

    Of course, Saud needs colonies. Their native population has boomed while revenues have mostly stagnated the last few decades. Since 50% of their domestically issued diplomas are in some form of Koranology, they have cultivated the perfect ruling class for a faithless world.

    Welcome to America: Sic semper tyrannis. 

  16. Bereket Kelile

    I just finished reading the Broadside. I have a feeling it’s going to make for an interesting dialogue. I have quite a few questions myself. One has to do with Sharia-Compliant Financing. If it prohibits investing in finance because of the issue with interest then what’s the point in investing in the first place? Isn’t it to get a return on your money? As an aside, why do I have to add “dialogue” to the dictionary so I don’t have to see the red squiggly line underneath it? 

  17. Capt. Aubrey

    Today I happened to be at a meeting at a local business school and one of the professors mentioned in passing that last year he’d been in Egypt because he was had developed some expertise in Islamic finance and wanted to learn more but he said, unfortunately there was so much fear of the Muslim Brotherhood that they weren’t teaching much about it. You have to go to London, apparently. I know nothing about Islamic finance myself but the conversation surprised me. 

  18. Peter Christofferson

    @berekt kelile: My guess is that you are using a US dictionary, and “dialogue” is more typically a UK-English spelling.

  19. Bereket Kelile
    Peter Christofferson: @berekt kelile: My guess is that you are using a US dictionary, and “dialogue” is more typically a UK-English spelling. · Dec 7 at 8:19pm

    Well, I’m in California so I guess so. And we all know how great our education is here. Thanks for the explanation. I wonder what the US spelling is and why I never learned it. Sometimes I also have the urge to write “labour” which may be due to the fact that I read the Economist. 

  20. Claire Berlinski
    C
    Robert Bennett: I can’t get this post out of my mind.  How do you combat money and donations? 

    I can’t get it out of my mind either. And I don’t know the answer. But we have to start by asking the right question, and this is the right question. 

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