A review of almost twenty years of statements and documents produced by Global Muslim Brotherhood organizations makes it possible to understand the public approach of the Brotherhood toward terrorism. The analysis reveals that it is almost always possible to parse Brotherhood positions on terrorism into one of four conceptual categories, each of which follows in a logical progression:
1. DENIAL- Since the Brotherhood is pursuing Islamization and eventually Shariah (Islamic Law), it is necessary at all costs to deny that Islam as a religion has any connection to violence or terrorism. Of course, the Brotherhood represents Islamism as opposed to Islam in this regard. Still, since the general audience does not understand that distinction, Islam is the Brotherhood reference. They cannot afford to fail in this denial, and the denial strategy is usually pursued through sophistry. That is, the Brotherhood claims that Islam is unfairly associated with terrorism while Christianity, Judaism, and other religions are not (e.g., Abortion bombers are not called Christian Terrorists) and/or that other religious terrorism is just as dangerous as Islamic terrorism. The Brotherhood may be winning this battle.
2. DECEPTION- To defend Islam (Islamism) from charges that it is inherently violent/terroristic, the Brotherhood deceives the public about the nature of Jihad. This is necessary because Jihad plays an essential role for Islamism and the Brotherhood, and if the connection between Islam and violence is to be denied, Jihad must be explained away. (Again, the Brotherhood represents the “Jihadism” of the Islamists as opposed to the “classical Jihad” of Islam, but since that distinction is also lost on the public, the Brotherhood defends Jihad.) It does so usually in one of two ways, sometimes employing both deceptions. First, the Brotherhood claims that Jihad has little or no connection to violence and warfare (i.e., there is no “Holy War”) and is akin to various forms of inner struggle or self-improvement. Second, the Brotherhood suggests that Jihad is a form of “freedom fighting,” even comparing Jihad to the American Revolution. (There has been a suggestion that Jihad should be replaced with the term “Hirabah,” which, if successful, would represent a victory for the Brotherhood’s deception strategy.)
3. DEFENSE- Having staked out the positions that Islam is not violent and that Jihad is not connected with violence, the Brotherhood is left with the task of defending the violence carried out by Islamist groups. Since, according to the Brotherhood, these groups cannot, by definition, be motivated by Islamic ideology, there can be only one answer- they are fighting because of “legitimate grievances” and hence are “freedom fighters.” This defense of Islamist violence, which can be characterized as the doctrine of “defensive Jihad,” is mounted differently for Brotherhood-related groups such as Hamas as opposed to Al Qaeda. Because of the visible dispute over land, it is easy for the Brotherhood to suggest that the actions of Palestinian terror groups such as Hamas are based on such grievances. In reality, the Brotherhood has helped turn the conflict into a religious war. Given the sensitivity in the West towards terrorism at home, the Brotherhood has a far more difficult job explaining Al Qaeda terrorism which it does by suggesting that while nothing “justifies” such terrorism, Al Qaeda actions spring from justified anger at US foreign policy. This strategy provides a viable means for the Brotherhood to ally with the political far-left, and, in Europe, the Brotherhood has been successful in forging such alliances.
4. OBSTRUCTION- Having explained the violence of Islamist groups as a response to legitimate grievances, the Brotherhood is free to obstruct counterterror efforts. One portion of its efforts is devoted to protecting its charities (e.g., Holy Land and INTERPAL) and associated infrastructure, which help to support Hamas and other Palestinian terrorists. The second part of the effort lies in hindering broader counterterror policies which it does by providing inaccurate analysis, positing plots and conspiracies about a “war on Islam,” and opposing almost every counterterror initiative undertaken by Western governments, suggesting instead that the correct response to terrorism is to change Western foreign policy, the ultimate goal of the obstruction. Again, the natural ally is the far-left, and the Brotherhood has been successful in the US and UK in forming such alliances.
The Muslim Brotherhood’s public relations strategy regarding terrorism should be seen for what it is, a remarkably consistent and internally coherent means of obscuring the true aims and goals of the group.
[NOTE: This post was extensively updated on August 7, 2022.]