ANALYSIS: Interview With Muslim Brotherhood Leader Illustrates Brotherhood Deception Operations


Muslim Brotherhood leader Kemal Helbawy (aka Kemal Helbawi) gave a an interview in May which illustrates what might be called the “deception operations” of the global Muslim Brotherhood. Helbawi is known as the former official spokesperson of the Muslim Brotherhood in the West and is one of the founders of the Muslim Council of Britain, a U.K. umbrella organization comprised largely of Muslim Brotherhood organizations. In the interview with London daily Asharq Al-Awsat, Helbawy confirms the existence of a global Muslim Brotherhood network:

Generally speaking, no country is devoid of the MB, whether large or small, Arab or international. In the West, there is an Islamic movement that follows al Banna, but there are also others that have different references.”

He adds later:

.. he was a firm believer in the fact that MB members should declare themselves everywhere they go and that although that may be unrealistic it is also difficult due to the tightening of security measures. Al Helbawi added that there was no publicly declared MB organization except in Egypt, Syria and Sudan.

Despite the acknowledgment of the Brotherhood’s international operations, Helbawi also spends a great deal of time in the interview attempting to disavow what is often referred to as the “international organization” of the Muslim Brotherhood”:

For the duration of over three hours in his West London home, al Helbawi emphatically negated the existence of the so-called MB international organization, despite having established an office in London in 1995. He said that there was ‘MB international coordination’ and insistently referred back to the term whenever the notion of ‘international organization’ was mentioned.He said, “When we refer to an organization, it is something similar to military factions that have a leadership and where its members heed commands and obey, whereas what does exist is international coordination. It’s almost like federal work; there are meetings, continuous consultations, exchange of experience, networking and joint efforts. This also includes education and its curricula for future generations, consultations over them and the exploitation of experts and specialists in the countries in which we live, or the ones where we spread our calling.”

While this statement parallels similar such denials by other Muslim Brotherhood leaders, credible media reports have detailed what is known as the Brotherhood’s “Tanzim al-Dawli” (international organization) said to have been created on 29 July 1982 under the influence of then Brotherhood Supreme Guide Mustafa Mash’hur. This structure is reportedly comprised of about 25 members representing different countries including Ahmed al-Rawi, the former president of the Federation of Islamic Organizations in Europe (FIOE). The existence of such a structure is consistent with the high degree of organization of the U.S. Muslim Brotherhood as revealed in the release of documents in the Holy Land Foundation terrorism financing trial.

Unusually, the interviewer suggests that the headquarters of the international organization is located in Germany and asks Helbawi about rumors that it will be moved to London. At first, Helbawy denies the existence of a headquarters outside of Egypt, but then later in the interview appears to confirm the possibility:

Some of the media outlets had stated that the MB recently held a conference in London and that one of the decisions reached was to move the main headquarters from Berlin to London. His response to this allegation: “I do not know. I was busy in another conference at the Center for Terrorist Studies in east London and then I traveled abroad.”

(The reference to Berlin is unclear. The Brotherhood has long had an important base of operations in Munich.)

When asked about the source of Muslim Brotherhood financing, Helbawy asserts that the Brotherhood is entirely self-financed:

Over the most opaque and controversial element, also arguably the most important dimension of the MB, which is the organization’s financial backing, al Helbawi said, “Firstly and lastly we depend on God, then on ourselves and our pockets. Imam Hassan al Banna used to advise that every member allocate a portion of their salary to the MB throughout their life and part of their wealth upon their death. There is no other organization that apprehends the meaning of solidarity and unity like the MB.”

The question of the Egyptian organization’s financing aside, the organizations and individuals comprising the global Muslim Brotherhood have in fact received substantial outside funding from Saudi Arabia and Gulf countries. An interesting example of such funding has recently come to light in the form of a history of the Islamic Society of Stanford University which revealed that the Saudi Muslim World League paid all the expenses for U.S. Muslim Brotherhood leader Jamal Badawi and his family to teach Islamic history at Stanford in the late 1980’s.

Finally, Helbawy disavows violence on the part of what he calls those having “extremist thoughts and takfir tendencies:

In response to the claim stated by observers and Islamic experts that the MB organization is responsible for the birth of violent movements which it has failed to quell from the outset, al Helbawi said, “The impious and virtuous sons and fathers emerge from the same womb; the mothers and fathers are not responsible for this crime. This is why when the MB [members]found out that there were youth in prisons and detention centers who had radical extremist thoughts and takfir [denouncing others as disbelievers]tendencies,  … the MB has always adopted a moderate approach, which is followed by their youthful affiliates and which clearly has plans that are detached from violence.”

Begging the question of the relationship of the Muslim Brotherhood to the global jihadist movement, the Brotherhood has never shied from supporting violence when it deems such violence to be justified, the most glaring example being its fervent support of Hamas. Also, as a previous post has also noted, armed Muslim Brotherhood units were reported to have been operating in Lebanon during the 2006 war with Israel.

(Note: citation for report on the Tanzim Al-Dawli based on FBIS translation of an article from Le Monde.)

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