RECOMMENDED READING: Comparing Three Muslim Brotherhoods: Syria, Jordan, Egypt


Israeli Professor Barry Rubin has written an article for the MIddle East Review of International Affairs in which he compares the Muslim Brotherhood organizations in Syria, Jordan, and Egypt. In the article, Dr. Rubin takes up the subject of the relationship between the Brotherhood and Al-Qaida which is commonly assumed to be implacably hostile. He contradicts this notion stating:

..the Brotherhood and the jihadists are the two main Islamist streams today. They are not enemies, and there has been no violent conflict between them, nor has there been a great deal of ideological battle. Yet at the same time they are rivals, following different strategies and knowing that one or the other would gain mass support and perhaps state power. Thus, it would be misleading to speak of cooperation, except in the special case of Iraq…

He goes on to discuss the difference between Al Qaida and the Brotherhood two in terms of their notion of the enemy with Al Qaida focusing on the “far enemy”, Israel, the United States, the West in general, while the Brotherhood prefers to concentrate on the “near enemy”, namely Israel and the Arab governments. He also observes that the Brotherhod is “tactically flexible” viewing the revolutionary process with a long view which accommodates compromise, the use of elections, social services, etc while Al Qaida is focused solely on armed struggle. While Israeli analysts are sometimes thought to have a vested interest in linking the Muslim Brotherhood/Hamas with the “global jihad”, it might also be said that Israel’s enemies have an equal interested in the opposite position. Empirical evidence such as overlapping Brotherhood/Al Qaida networks in Europe, shared funding sources, and ideologues who bridge both camps such as Abd al-Majid al-Zindani in Yemen suggest that the Brotherhood/Al Qaida relationship is not well understood. Further analysis would seem prudent in light of recent moves by the U.S. government to establisher closer relations with the Muslim Brotherhood.

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