Time to re­assess the Mus­lim Brother­hood

The Washington Times Daily - - POLITICS - Robin Sim­cox, The Her­itage Foun­da­tion’s Mar­garet Thatcher Fel­low, spe­cial­izes in na­tional se­cu­rity and ter­ror­ism is­sues at the Wash­ing­ton-based think tank.

Pres­i­dent Trump has talked a lot about de­feat­ing “rad­i­cal Is­lamic ter­ror­ism.” Yet which groups fall into that cat­e­gory? The Is­lamic State cer­tainly does. But what about the Mus­lim Brother­hood? Its brand of Is­lamism means it is cer­tainly no ally to us. Yet how to re­spond to the Brother­hood is in some ways even more com­plex than how to re­spond to ISIS.

The Mus­lim Brother­hood was formed in Egypt in 1928 by Has­san al-Banna. A school­teacher, al-Banna be­lieved that Mus­lim so­ci­eties were de­clin­ing in the face of Western sec­u­lar­ism. He dreamed of a restora­tion of pure Shariah law and an Is­lamic caliphate.

He founded the Mus­lim Brother­hood as an or­ga­ni­za­tion ded­i­cated to Is­lamiz­ing so­ci­ety, with a vi­sion of ap­ply­ing Islam as an al­len­com­pass­ing po­lit­i­cal sys­tem. What be­gan as small gath­er­ings and lectures at mosques and cof­fee­houses over time trans­formed into Islam’s largest re­li­gious and po­lit­i­cal net­work.

In their de­sire for a caliphate and ap­pli­ca­tion of Shariah, the Brother­hood shares cer­tain char­ac­ter­is­tics with Salafi ji­hadi groups such as al Qaeda. In­deed, the Brother­hood once pos­sessed an armed wing, and Brother­hood off­shoots are now des­ig­nated ter­ror­ist groups. Leg­is­la­tion in­tro­duced in the Se­nate calls for of­fi­cially des­ig­nat­ing the Brother­hood as a for­eign ter­ror­ist or­ga­ni­za­tion.

Yet today’s Mus­lim Brother­hood is more equiv­o­cal about when and where acts of vi­o­lence should be car­ried out, and its ties to ter­ror­ism in the West are not clear-cut. It still wants to Is­lamize so­ci­ety and con­tin­ues to make ex­cuses for cer­tain ter­ror­ist move­ments, en­cour­ages re­li­gious seg­re­ga­tion and cham­pi­ons a re­ac­tionary in­ter­pre­ta­tion of faith over a sense of cit­i­zen­ship. This is all deeply un­pleas­ant — but in a free so­ci­ety, such opin­ions are within the bound­aries of the law.

So what can the U.S. do? The first step is to get its own house in or­der.

The Hud­son In­sti­tute’s Zeyno Baran and other schol­ars note that the Mus­lim Brother­hood has had a pres­ence in the U.S. since the 1960s. In re­cent years, sev­eral groups as­so­ci­ated with the Brother­hood have come un­der le­gal scru­tiny. The North Amer­i­can Is­lamic Trust, the Is­lamic So­ci­ety in North Amer­ica and the Coun­cil on Amer­i­can Is­lamic Re­la­tions were listed as unin­dicted co-con­spir­a­tors in a ma­jor ter­ror­ist fi­nanc­ing trial that led to a spate of con­vic­tions con­cern­ing the fund­ing of Ha­mas, the Pales­tinian ter­ror­ist out­fit closely tied to the Brother­hood.

De­spite this, CAIR has since been hosted at the White House and worked along­side the FBI and the Depart­ment of Home­land Se­cu­rity.

To help re­solve these types of is­sues, the U.S. should es­tab­lish a com­mis­sion to con­duct a thor­ough, up-to-date review of the Brother­hood’s ac­tiv­i­ties in the U.S. and in­ves­ti­gate the for­eign ties of Brother­hood-linked groups op­er­at­ing do­mes­ti­cally. While this com­mis­sion does its work, gov­ern­ment agen­cies should adopt a safety-first ap­proach and stop all en­gage­ment with do­mes­tic groups his­tor­i­cally tied to the Brother­hood.

Ad­mit­tedly, this is haz­ardous ter­rain for law­mak­ers, who quite un­der­stand­ably de­sire to en­gage with Mus­lim com­mu­ni­ties in their states and dis­tricts. For one thing, Is­lamist groups muddy the waters by es­tab­lish­ing front groups, mak­ing it harder to assess their ide­o­log­i­cal lean­ings. Fur­ther­more, there will be me­dia re­sis­tance; in­evitably, many will dub the com­mis­sion an Is­lam­o­pho­bic witch hunt. Ob­jec­tions may also come from those who still subscribe to the no­tion that the Brother­hood can be used as a fire­wall, a safe out­let for vent­ing rad­i­cal Is­lamist sen­ti­ments that could oth­er­wise man­i­fest them­selves in ter­ror­ist at­tacks.

This is per­haps the most in­sult­ing idea of all. Any­one sug­gest­ing that the Ku Klux Klan could be used by the U.S. gov­ern­ment as a fire­wall to pre­vent far-right ter­ror­ism would be laughed out the room. It does a great dis­ser­vice to Amer­i­can Mus­lims to treat them dif­fer­ently.

It also does them a great dis­ser­vice to sug­gest that the Brother­hood’s ex­treme ide­ol­ogy is any­thing other than a fringe opin­ion here in the U.S. The Mus­lim Brother­hood is not the gate­keeper to ma­jor­ity Mus­lim opin­ion that its lead­ers like to pre­tend they are. The key is mak­ing sure it stays that way.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.