The emblem of the Muslim Brotherhood, and its founder, Hassan al-Banna.
US President Donald Trump is working to designate the Muslim Brotherhood a foreign terrorist organization (FTO), the White House announced on April 30. The spokesman for Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), Omer Celik, responded by saying that if the United States designated the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization, it would “hamper democratization efforts in the Middle East and serve militant groups like Islamic State.”
The Muslim Brotherhood, however, founded in Egypt in 1928, is a pro-jihad, Islamist movement that has branches throughout the world and seeks to implement Islamic sharia under a global caliphate. Terrorism is only one of the methods the Brotherhood employs, and among its, goals, “democratization” has never been seen as one of them.
Muslim Brotherhood founder Hassan al-Banna openly announced that his aim was to bring back the caliphate. The Muslim Brotherhood’s official English-language website quotes Banna:
“Islam does not recognize geographical boundaries, nor does it acknowledge racial and blood differences, considering all Muslims as one Umma [global community of Muslims]. The Muslim Brethren [Muslim Brotherhood]… believe that the caliphate is a symbol of Islamic Union and an indication of the bonds between the nations of Islam. They see the caliphate and its re-establishment as a top priority…”
According to a report by the Counter Extremism Project (CEP):
“Banna was concerned with what he considered the greatest threat to Islam: the rise of secularism and Western culture in Muslim societies. To counter this danger, Banna began dawa (proselytization) in schools, mosques, and coffee houses, spreading his pan-Islamist ideology and emphasizing the need to return to sharia.
“In the 1950s and 1960s, the Brotherhood’s most notable theorist, Sayyid Qutb, promoted jihad as an offensive force to be used against secular Arab governments… Indeed, Qutb helped to re-popularize the Islamic concept of takfir, by which Muslims serving a secular ruler are rendered apostates and thus legitimate targets for execution.”
The Counter Extremism Project has also documented ideological and operational links between the Brotherhood’s ideology and terrorist groups like al-Qaeda and ISIS (Islamic State):
“CEP has recorded 44 individuals and groups tied to the Muslim Brotherhood, including terrorist groups, foreign fighters, extremist propagandists, and political leaders.
“The writings of Muslim Brotherhood founder Hassan al-Banna and early Brotherhood ideologue Sayyid Qutb have helped mold the ideologies of violent terror groups like al-Qaeda, ISIS, and Hamas.
“Al-Qaeda co-founders Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri proclaimed 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, and ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi all belonged to the Muslim Brotherhood before assuming roles in their respective terror networks.
“Internationally designated terror group Hamas is a direct offshoot of the Brotherhood, created as the organization’s Palestinian wing.”
Professor Barry Rubin, the editor of the 2010 book The Muslim Brotherhood: The Organization and Policies of a Global Islamist Movement, noted that one could refer to multiple Brotherhoods, mainly those in Egypt, Jordan, and Syria as well as the Middle Eastern and European Brotherhoods. He wrote:
“While following tactics and strategies appropriate for its specific circumstances—and also based on the preferences of its local leaders—the Brotherhood does seek a thoroughly Islamized society and polity in which it exercises state power.
“As for violence or terrorism, there is no principled opposition to such tactics…”
“Regarding al-Qa’ida, the Brotherhoods approve in principle of its militancy, attacks on America, and ideology (or at least respects its ideologues), but views it as a rival. An example of this kind of thinking comes from Rajab Hilal Hamida, a Brotherhood member in Egypt’s parliament, who said:
‘From my point of view, bin Ladin, al-Zawahiri and al-Zarqawi are not terrorists in the sense accepted by some. I support all their activities, since they are a thorn in the side of the Americans and the Zionists. . . . [On the other hand,] he who kills Muslim citizens is neither a jihad fighter nor a terrorist, but a criminal and a murderer. We must call things by their proper names!'”
“The Brotherhood, however, is not only a Middle Eastern or even a Muslim-majority country phenomenon anymore,” Rubin warned. “With the massive migration of Muslims to Europe, the Brotherhood—with its history, organization, cadre, clear ideology, and international connections—was in the perfect position to affect their thinking and compete for their leadership.”
Rubin defined the Muslim Brotherhood as “by far the most successful Islamist group in the world”:
“What is clear and vital is that while other Islamist groups have made more dramatic appearances, launched huge terrorist attacks, and fought civil wars, the Muslim Brotherhoods have shown more staying power and better organizational skills. The Brotherhoods’ ability to maneuver, build bases of support with patience, pose as moderate, and employ both violent and electoral tactics, make them far more impressive political actors. The oldest of modern Islamist groups, the Brotherhoods seem to have the brightest future, albeit their rule would bring tragedy and disaster to the communities they seek to dominate and the societies they seek to rule.”
Omer Celik, however, spokesman for Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), has said that a US designation of the Brotherhood a terrorist entity would “undoubtedly yield extremely wrong results regarding stability, human rights, basic rights and freedoms in countries of the Islamic world.”
“At the same time, [Trump’s move] is the biggest support that can be given to the propaganda of Daesh,” he added, referring to Islamic State.
Celik seems to employ a common tactic of the Brotherhood: Trying to pose as a pro-democracy, moderate movement while at the same time trying to eliminate secularism and the rule of law in his own country and enabling armed jihad in the wider region. As Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said early in his career: “Democracy is like a train; you get off once you have reached your destination.”
“… [T]he Muslim Students’ Association (MSA) founded in 1963, the North American Islamic Trust (NAIT) 1971, the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) 1981, the International Institute of Islamic Thought (IIIT) 1981, the Islamic Association for Palestine (IAP) 1981, the United Association for Studies and Research (UASR) 1989, the American Muslim Council (AMC) 1990, the Muslim American Society (MAS) 1992, the Muslim Arab Youth Association (MAYA), the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) 1994, and others. In fact, nearly all prominent Islamic organizations in the United States are rooted in the Muslim Brotherhood.”
The Muslim Brotherhood has done enormous damage to human rights, freedoms and peace across the world and particularly in majority-Muslim countries. The Trump administration’s designating the Brotherhood as a terror organization would be an effective blow to pro-sharia and jihadi groups across the globe and help to bring about less violence and more stability to both the Muslim and non-Muslim worlds.
Uzay Bulut, a Turkish journalist, is a Distinguished Senior Fellow at Gatestone Institute.