The Muslim Brotherhood
March 7, 2006 1:17 PM   Subscribe

The Muslim Brotherhood The Muslim Brotherhood Are they Islam’s version of the KKK or something much different? According to Robert Baer’s books on his experiences as a CIA agent in the middle east, the followers of the brotherhood are the one’s really responsible for the Lockerbie 747 terrorist attack, attacks against the embassies in Lebanon and Kenya, and very possibly 9-11. What is the history of the brotherhood and why have they been overlooked for so long? Britain seems to be taking an interest in them lately, what do they know that the U.S. refuses to acknowledge? Funded by the Saudis, supported by Iran, supporters of Hamas; by going after Al-Qaeda is the west on a wild goose chase that may end up with their own defeat? And finally, is this part of a secret war that Iran has waged against the U.S. since the embassy takeover after the Shah was forced to leave back in the late 1970’s? And finally, what does the Muslim Brotherhood have to say about all this?
posted by mk1gti (36 comments total)
There was a really interesting PBS documentary on a couple months ago. It was more broadly the rise of radical Islam and anti-semitism in the Middle East. It was quite long but can be summed up thusly: colonial oppression caused dissent, most noticeable change was the erosion of traditional Islamic values in favor of the West, and Nazism (Germany) taking advantage of the fact that they were a powerful European entity that did was not responsible for Imperialism.

They made the conclusion (or rather assumption if you will) that the Muslim Brotherhood was a proto-Al Qaeda. It was very interesting I recommend a viewing.
posted by geoff. at 1:24 PM on March 7, 2006

The more that I read about the Muslim Brotherhood, they may be the actual Al Qaeda and the organization the west calls Al Qaeda (The Base) just simply doesn't exist, it was the brotherhood all along. I know it's a long post, but much interesting stuff to go over here. Hope I haven't made it too long winded but still informative enough.
posted by mk1gti at 1:32 PM on March 7, 2006

Who, exactly, has been "ignoring" the Muslim Brotherhood? Sayyid Qut'b is pretty much required reading for anyone interested in contemporary Middle Eastern history--including terrorists.
posted by maxreax at 1:36 PM on March 7, 2006

As soon as I started reading up on Radical Islam on my own, I was reading about the Muslim Brotherhood. But those who get their information from the media could, in all likelihood, have never heard of this group. Good post.
posted by stinkycheese at 1:49 PM on March 7, 2006

More importantly, what will the CIA think when I click on the links?
posted by JJ86 at 2:04 PM on March 7, 2006

They've been in the news quite a bit lately, seeing as Hamas was formed out of the Muslim Brotherhood (a fact that I have heard umpteen times on NPR).
posted by trey at 2:07 PM on March 7, 2006

More importantly, what will the CIA think when I click on the links?
The CIA's toothless these days, although you might be more concerned about the NSA or the Office of Information Awareness (Information Retrieval, Tuttle not Buttle!)
posted by mk1gti at 2:08 PM on March 7, 2006

The Brotherhood doesn't have much to offer to the sisterhood...
posted by funambulist at 2:09 PM on March 7, 2006

Here's an interesting story about the Muslim Brotherhood in the U.S.
posted by mk1gti at 2:14 PM on March 7, 2006

great post. much reading to do.
posted by shmegegge at 2:16 PM on March 7, 2006

A decent potted history.

The more that I read about the Muslim Brotherhood, they may be the actual Al Qaeda

That's far too broad. The Muslim Brotherhood is a complex organization without an international hierarchy. In some nations (e.g. Jordan) it operates legitimately as a political party; in others (e.g. Egypt) it is illegal, at least in part due to past acts of terrorism. In others it has morphed completely into terrorist organizations (HAMAS, Hezbollah, Egyptian Islamic Jihad) that are properly considered offshoots. But in all cases it is basically the glue that holds the Islamist (i.e. Islam as principles for government) movement together.

I don't want to minimize their influence: clearly the movement is broadly jihadist, but I don't see particular evidence that there is a Muslim Brotherhood that is responsible for any given terrorist act, let alone the entire history of terror against the US. This would be a misunderstanding of the Islamist movement. Clearly there is consonance, but there are also key differences. The goal of the US (and UK) should be exploiting those differences and politically isolating the supporters of terrorism.

Lockerbie was Libya; the embassy bombings were East African Al Qaeda; and 9/11 was certainly Al Qaeda. To say that the perpetrators were associated with or sympathetic to the Muslim Brotherhood is only marginally more helpful than noting that they were all Muslim.

It may be helpful to think of the Muslim Brotherhood as the political arm of jihadism, the way that Sinn Fein is the political arm of the IRA -- but only in a very broad sense, as there is no integration of the leadership or ideology, only general consonance of goals.
posted by dhartung at 2:34 PM on March 7, 2006

What maxreax and dhartung said.

Sayyid Qutb previously on MeFi.
posted by languagehat at 3:30 PM on March 7, 2006

Lockerbie was Libya; the embassy bombings were East African Al Qaeda; and 9/11 was certainly Al Qaeda.
Robert Baer's book See No Evil makes a very good case that all of these could be placed with the Iranians and the terrorist organizations they supported. Libya did not have a hand in Lockerbie except as a scapegoat.
It is much more likely that Iran targeted Lockerbie as revenge for the downing of an Iranian Airbus passenger jet by a U.S. guided missle destroyer.

'but surely the American naval downing of a civilian Iranian airliner only six months before Lockerbie makes more sense', Fisk wrote.
quote from the cited article with a quote by Robert Fisk, this issue is also discussed in See No Evil.
posted by mk1gti at 3:50 PM on March 7, 2006

According to a BBC documentary "Power Of Nightmares" Al-Quaida was first used by the C.I.A. to lable the "lurking terrorist cells". The name Al-Quaida was adopted by them because they knew it would give them recognition.
I call em freedom fighters. That's what Reagan called em when they were fighting Russian invaders.
Now that America is the invader we call em "terrorists". That's spin for ya.
posted by indifferent at 4:02 PM on March 7, 2006

Ehhhhhhhhh, I think you'd have a hard time labelling Al-Qaeda as "freedom fighters." Seeing as they're a stateless group, it's not really possible that we're invading their country. You're playing fast and loose with a lot of separate conflicts.
posted by trey at 4:04 PM on March 7, 2006

They would have a state, but the C.I.A. keeps destroying them in favor of installing brutal dictators. Exaples too long to list...
posted by indifferent at 4:16 PM on March 7, 2006

Here's more info from a Sunday Herald piece on the Lockerbie bombing.

Basically, the Iranians, working through Syria and funding a Jordanian-Palestinian in Germany who manufactured five bombs, one of which ended up on the Lockerbie 747, the other bombs were recovered intact. It's complex, but so is the issue of Al-Qaeda and islamic terrorism. This is not something that can be summed up as 'they're the bad guys, we're the good guys, they should just do as we say and get over it.' These organizations have been at it for a very, very long time and are very well organized and very difficult to penetrate due to language, ethnic barriers and other barriers. It's not like the good ole' days in the CIA where they would just roll up to some embassie's cocktail circuit and try to b.s. their way into a defector to their cause. Those days are well and truly over and hanging onto that mindset only hurts the nation that tries to pursue that course. It's a dead dog that won't hunt.
posted by mk1gti at 4:22 PM on March 7, 2006

Here's more info from the article on the Islamic Brotherhood in the U.S.

In Egypt, where the group began in 1928 as an opposition movement to the British-backed Egyptian monarchy. Its founder and leader was schoolteacher Hassan al-Banna, who advocated a return to fundamental Islam as a way to reform Muslim societies and expel Western troops.

The Brotherhood slogan became: "Allah is our goal; the Messenger is our model; the Koran is our constitution; jihad is our means; and martyrdom in the way of Allah is our aspiration."
posted by mk1gti at 4:38 PM on March 7, 2006

but what do spy1 and spy2.gif look like?
posted by delmoi at 5:03 PM on March 7, 2006

Good post! the payoff to Lybia(scapegoat) was being removed from the list of rouge nations,the Scottish Judges involved complained about the excessive American oversight(fixing) of the trial.
posted by hortense at 5:04 PM on March 7, 2006

I know, it's really interesting all the little ins and outs of this whole thing, I didn't even know the brotherhood existed until I read Robert Baer's books; he really had a good overview of the history of the organization and what they may have been involved in over the past several years. Really mind-blowing stuff.
posted by mk1gti at 5:12 PM on March 7, 2006

I've said it before and I'll say it again: You do realize that we're all on their list now?
posted by Suparnova at 5:38 PM on March 7, 2006

The Muslim Brotherhood managed to get 20% of the seats in last year's legislative elections in Egypt (last paragraph) by running as independents, even though everyone knew who they were. This was done because Mubarak only allowed handpicked parties to actually run a campaign. Together they have more seats than the official opposition.
posted by clevershark at 5:46 PM on March 7, 2006

I'm too well aware that those who don't live with their heads up their poop chutes may or may not be on a list, it's what those who are on the list do that is important.
Commenting on message boards about radical islamic organizations while very clearly not supporting them is very different from being on a freeper site and advocating the death of Clinton for accepting a blowjob.
posted by mk1gti at 5:48 PM on March 7, 2006

Their web site is nearly identical to BBC News's.
posted by shoos at 6:23 PM on March 7, 2006

Perhaps they had access to the former BBC staff members working for a regional news organization now?
posted by mk1gti at 6:42 PM on March 7, 2006

Great post MK1GTI! BTW Anti-Fascist researcher Dave Emory has done numerous excellent radio programs documenting the history of the The Muslim Brotherhood. These are all searchable at his "Spitfire List" or here at this blog site.
posted by thedailygrowl at 11:32 PM on March 7, 2006

mk1gti: I appreciate your position, but a Libyan agent was convicted. You're relying on a news report of an alleged secret report, which is possibly interesting and even true, but is basically an alternate theory.

Then you're saying it was the Iranian government, the Syrian government, and the PFLP-GC (which is very much a creature of the Syrian government). I'm not certain how bringing in these known hierarchical organizations with histories of terrorist action bolsters your assertion that the Muslim Brotherhood is behind it all (your Herald article doesn't even mention them).

Then you go on with some aphorisms and suggest that the issue is "complex", but it's you who is seeking a convenient simplification. If the Brotherhood is behind it, who is the leader? Who ordered the hits? What planning agency was responsible for training, procurement, logistics? These are not features which reflect the Muslim Brotherhood per se although, as I said, they may well reflect individual Islamist or jihadist organizations that have strong connections to the Brotherhood. Myself, I simply don't agree that the Brotherhood has a military structure or military strategy or military objectives. You're arguing against the social construction of Al Qaeda as a repository for all evil (a reasonable position: they are often handled in an exaggerated manner in the media, and certainly by politicians), but you're constructing an alternate image of the Muslim Brotherhood in its place that doesn't square with other known facts.

I can find Baer interesting and provocative without swallowing all that he believes (or says he believes), so this isn't about Baer, either.

I call em freedom fighters. That's what Reagan called em when they were fighting Russian invaders.

The mujahideen, the Taliban, and al Qaeda all overlap slightly, but are not the same things. Most of the Afghans couldn't give a rat's ass about bin Laden's jihad (guy in turban firing bolt-action rifle at rock across valley: "I'm a little busy here?").
posted by dhartung at 11:59 PM on March 7, 2006

Baer's writing is some of the best and most sobering of its kind, but when he parrots the myth that flight 93 was taken down by the passengers (or at least accepts the official version unequivocally) I suspect that he's partly full of shit. Great post, and great discussion, btw. I am almost as interested to read what Baer writes as I am to know dhartung thinks about it. This is what I love about MeFi.
posted by Tommy Gnosis at 5:23 AM on March 8, 2006

Regarding Libyan guilt over the Lockerbie bombing, I'll just include the info below and a link to the Sunday Herald piece about the case for everyone to review and compare against the BBC article. I think it makes much more sense for Iran seeking revenge for the accidental Airbus shootdown than for the Libyan's to 'just do it for no reason' as is indicated in the BBC article. There is no indication as to motive from the Libyans. Iran on the other hand has a pattern of using other nation's terrorist organizations as surrogates to execute it's plans. In this case it was a Jordanian who made the Lockerbie bomb, not a Libyan. Info below.

Top-level intelligence sources say the files comprise debriefing notes taken by FBI agents from Marwan Khreesat, a Jordanian bomb-maker. The files detail how Khreesat was behind a Palestinian terrorist cell operating in West Germany just months before the PanAm attack.

He was caught with bombs identical to the one that exploded over Lockerbie. Khreesat's devices comprised Toshiba Bombeat radios wired with Semtex and fitted inside brown suitcases - an exact replica of the PanAm bomb. He admitted making five bombs, but only four were ever recovered. Intelligence sources believe that the fifth device was the Lockerbie bomb.

I think that when you see a news article that states someone was caught with four of five devices identical to the one used to take down Lockerbie it seems more logical than the vague explanation of guilt from the BBC article.

Regarding the Muslim Brotherhood, they are an organization that encompasses many nations, some branches are more militant than others. It is not the Brotherhood as a whole who has engaged in this, just more militant factions. Read the articles for more info.

Regarding the Syrian connection, Iran has used Syria as a proxy in the past, here's some info on that.
posted by mk1gti at 7:51 AM on March 8, 2006

I think it makes much more sense for Iran seeking revenge for the accidental Airbus shootdown

That's fair. But if it was Iran, what role did the Muslim Brotherhood play? Are you saying that Iran's Shi'ite theocrats are working on behalf of the largely Sunni Muslim Brotherhood? Or are you instead saying that Iran's secret services, skilled at playing even a tough mofo of a country like Syria, are also playing the Muslim Brotherhood? You're really not bolstering your argument here.

This isn't about whether there's something more than the official explanation, or the conviction of a Libyan. I'm asking because you are saying there is concrete proof to something besides Libya -- a valid enough claim -- and then using that to hand-wave your way to some sort of vague indictment of the Muslim Brotherhood as the instigator, planner, or whatever it is (you haven't exactly said). That's nothing but guilt by association. If concrete proof is your stock in trade, please supply it to underscore your claims about the Muslim Brotherhood.
posted by dhartung at 12:56 PM on March 8, 2006

The role that the Muslim Brotherhood played is this: back in the days of the Soviet-Afghan war Wahhabi arabs combined with the Muslim Brotherhood, in addition to many other muslims that journeyed from all over the middle east as well as other parts of the world to take part in the jihad against the soviets, just as they are doing now in Iraq and Afghanistan and Chechnya and other areas where they are engaging in their 'fight against the infidels'. For motivation, reference their slogan below:

"Allah is our goal; the Messenger is our model; the Koran is our constitution; jihad is our means; and martyrdom in the way of Allah is our aspiration."

I would say that's a pretty good summation of the reaction of militant muslims today in the middle east towards westerners trouncing their tulips.
As far as playing the Muslim Brotherhood, they've been doing it in Lebanon, Palestine, Saudi Arabia and now Iraq and Afghanistan for many years now. As the saying goes, 'The enemy of my enemy is my friend.'

As far as concrete proof goes, I believe I've pretty much provided all that and more. I really don't think these guys are just hanging out under a palm tree somewhere thinking 'Y'know, those nazarene infidels and jews aren't such bad guys, we should all just be friends and get over it. Shucks.' Again, review their motto and their past actions and their motivations.
What exactly leads you to believe the Muslim Brotherhood is a benevolent organization? You certainly seem to be defending them enough here.
As far as what the Iranians are up to these days, they've stated quite clearly they want Iraq to become an allie if not a surrogate of itself, something members of the Iraqi parliament don't seem to have a problem with, and if the majority wins, so be it, that's democracy.

As far as further evidence of the Iranian connection, read below:

The Iranian delegation, consisting of both military and religious instructors, recruited a number of young, militant Lebanese clerics affiliated with the Lebanese branch of Al-Da'wa, a radical Iraqi Shi'ite fundamentalist group, and Islamic Amal, a breakaway faction of the Amal movement, which had become more secularized under the leadership of Nabih Berri. Most of the radical clerics who formed the nucleus of Hezbollah's leadership had been educated in the Shi'ite seminaries of southern Iraq, particularly Najaf, where Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khomeini and other ideologues in Iran spent many years in exile. As a result of these ties, they embraced Khomeini's concept of the just jurisconsult (al-wali al-faqih), the ideological basis for clerical rule, enshrined in Iran's 1979 constitution. In a 1985 manifesto, the leadership of Hezbollah pledged loyalty to Khomeini and to the goal of establishing an Islamic state in Lebanon.

The majority of Saudis and a significant number of muslims in the middle east are Wahhabis, not Sunnis and therefore much closer in ideology to the Shi'ites of Iran.

Just so there's no confusion, I'm not saying sunni's and shi'ites are uniting. That's not going to happen. What I am saying is Wahhabis and Shi'ites most probably are.

Here's more info on attempts at reproachment between the Muslim Brotherhood and Shi'ite muslims

(I'm learning much today, thanks for keeping me honest dhartung)
posted by mk1gti at 2:11 PM on March 8, 2006

No problem, mk1gti. Mutual respect here.

What exactly leads you to believe the Muslim Brotherhood is a benevolent organization?

Well, one of the first things I said was It may be helpful to think of the Muslim Brotherhood as the political arm of jihadism. But I also pointed out that there is no such thing as the Muslim Brotherhood that operates hierarchically and pan-nationally.

Mainly I'm trying to point out that there's been a great deal of water-muddying the last several years in terms of the various Arab and Muslim political movements. The Bush rubric of "terrorism" is far too broad to be useful in any but the most general way. Saddam was secular, not Islamist, but the argument from Washington has been that the Iraqi insurgents are all the same brand of "terrorist" as Al Qaeda. This is why I believe it's important to make distinctions.

The majority of Saudis and a significant number of muslims in the middle east are Wahhabis, not Sunnis and therefore much closer in ideology to the Shi'ites of Iran.

Um, that's a huuuuge hand-wave. Wahhabis are the most "fundamentalist" of all Islamic sects in many ways. To them, Shi'ites are apostates and heretics, and should have their gold-domed mosques blown to high heaven (although I suspect that was actually a ratfuck intended to look like a religion-motivated act, you know, to spark a sectarian war). Anyway, Wahhabi is the house cult of the Sa'ud regime, and has been heavily promoted through financing of mosques via oil riches -- and has probably had significant influence (including, notably, the United States and parts of Europe). But it's a stretch to say even a majority of Saudis identify with the sect (other than because they have to). Salafi is probably more correct (it's a slightly broader label).

Note: I believe if you re-read that "rapprochement" article you'll find that it says the opposite of your conclusion -- there are patches across the schism, but they're not coming from e.g. the Muslim Brotherhood, which remains hostile to apostasy, they're coming from e.g. King Abdullah, who is attempting to quell greatly feared unrest from religious minorities rather than allow them to have common cause with other enemies of the regime.

Again, my point is not to defend the Muslim Brotherhood, but to demand a higher standard of analysis than lumping all sorts of "stirred-up Muslims" (in Brzezinski's classic wording) as some sort of organized movement. Indeed, the fact that there is no one recognized overall movement is one of the greatest advantages that the US has in the war on terrorism. Al Qaeda is a diffuse organization, but effective for all that; even so it does not have a political arm. The Muslim Brotherhood, to date, is far more influential among Arab peoples precisely because it is permitted to operate openly in many countries.

In others, such as Egypt, its being forced underground brings it closer in ideology and strategy to groups such as Egyptian Islamic Jihad (which is now identified with Al Qaeda since Zawahiri and bin Laden joined forces -- arguably a decision which made 9/11 logistically possible), but the worst thing we could do is follow Egypt's example -- especially in Iraq. So far the insurgency there is largely secular and essentially a stay-behind, Gladio-style network of essentially Ba'athist remnants. Every day we stay in Iraq, and especially every day that we back Shi'ite Islamists in Iraq, emboldens Sunni / Wahhabi / Ikhwan Islamist intentions. Even so, there is no evidence that I've seen that the Muslim Brotherhood has any kind of terrorist structure that emanates from the leadership (except, perhaps, in Egypt itself, arguably even in Saudi Arabia -- and that's why the Saudis were all too happy to export their loose screws). So, no -- no simple answers.

I agree that the Muslim Brotherhood, as an Islamist organization, is essentially at odds with Western values. But I'm willing to support Islamists who are willing to work within democratic systems. I'm very interested in seeing how HAMAS, to cite a current example, reacts over time to controlling the Palestinian Authority. Personally, I think they'll be forced to become more accountable both domestically and internationally (the cold water they got splashed with in Moscow was quite amusing). There's no guarantee they will, but if they do and they succeed in gaining political objectives for the Palestinian people, all the better -- and what an example that could set. Similarly the Muslim Brotherhood will now have (unofficially) some democratic responsibility in Egypt. Ultimately, just like Northern Ireland, or Germany, or the Congo, or wherever you want, it's simply impractical to kill or arrest them all, no matter what certain blogospearofdestiny types think.

Um. I think I'm rambling at this point. I had to reconstruct this post from one that didn't go through earlier. Anyway, I'm glad we've had this exchange.
posted by dhartung at 7:43 PM on March 8, 2006

Required Reading
posted by timsteil at 9:02 PM on March 8, 2006

I think you did a good job of recapping what I *intended* the post to be about, too much generalizing, which I guess I kind of wandered around a bit bumping into walls, yet also learned much in the process over the past two days. I agree that Abdullah is a moderating influence in Saudi Arabia these days, from what I've read he's trying to curb all the excess while bringing Saudis back to a more traditional and distinguished society (one where jobs are available so unemployed young Saudis won't be so easily enticed into the madrassas to have jihad preached at them 24-7).
RE Hamas, I'm hopeful too, I don't think the west is really giving them the chance they need. I think that ultimately they very well may make peace work, but it is going to take some work on the part of the west which so far is less than forthcoming and more dictatorial in nature when it should be diplomatic.
Again, if I gave the impression there was any kind of Sunni/Wahhabi/Shi'ite connection, I apologize, my bad. As I said, the past two days have been an opportunity to take what I've learned recently and fill in the blanks and correct some errors.
posted by mk1gti at 9:08 PM on March 8, 2006

Required Reading
posted by timsteil at 9:02 PM PST on March 8 [!]
Thanks timsteil, I've got an eight pound translation by Muhammad Assad from the Council on American-Islamic Relations that is way to heavy to lug around sometimes, the link you've provided will make for a nice little mouse click instead of a lug, heave and thud.
posted by mk1gti at 9:19 PM on March 8, 2006

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