RECOMMENDED READING: "The Iranian Brotherhood"


Mshari Al-Zaydi, the opinion editor of Asharq Al-Awsat a pan-Arabic daily newspaper based in London, has written an article about the relationship between the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood and Iran in which he argues that the Egyptian Brotherhood’s support for Iran is symptomatic of its frustration in not gaining power. Al-Zaydi opens the article by asserting the relationship between the Brotherhood and Shia Islam:

The truth is that there is a spiritual relation between the Muslim Brotherhood and Shia Islam that follows the Khomeini system based on the pretext that is always used; to confront the foreign enemy, whether it is Britain, Israel or America. Both sanctify politics and elevate it to the status of religion in exactly the same way that Iranian Hezbollah deals with foreign policy, as though it were a matter related to faith in God and a decree from the heavens above. This is exactly the approach that is followed by the Sunni Muslim Brotherhood: the escalation of politics, the focus of activity towards resistance, the antagonizing of others and the marginalizing of all other aspects of politics, including internal development policies……The idea behind this all is that there is a kind of political ‘kinship’ between the Sunni MB, its affiliates and the writers and journalists who support it and introduce themselves as independent Islamists or ‘nationalists’, and the Khomeini Shia movement and its various branches. What links these two sides is the significant involvement in politicizing classical Islam for the benefit of a political agenda and their specific visions of a solution for the state and society.There is hardly any methodological difference between the literature of the MB and a group like Hezbollah. One is reminded from time to time that one group is Shia whilst the other is Sunni by historical references or symbolic figures or the pure notion of Islam which is sometimes referred to as “Caliphate” or the state of “Sahib al-Zaman” [the master of time; a reference to the awaited Mahdi]. Amongst the Shia there are references to al Hussein, Al Abbas Ibn Ali and Zainab and Shia titles such as “Haidara” and “al Karrar”. Amongst the Sunnis [there are references to]Omar Ibn al Khattab, Salahuddin Ayoubi, Nour ad-Din [ruler of Damascus during the Zengid Dynasty]and so on and so forth.

Al-Zaydi later takes up the recent history of support for Iran by by the Egyptian Brotherhood Supreme Guide:

Based on this, it was not strange to hear the MB guide in Egypt, Mahdi Akif, vehemently defending the Iranian fundamentalist revolutionary trend to the extent that one would think he was born in Qom or in Jabal Amil [in southern Lebanon]! In an interview published in ‘Al Watan Al Arabi’ magazine in August 2006, in reference to the nature of the alliance between the MB and Hezbollah, Akif stated, “It is solidarity, alliance, support…everything.” When asked about the existence of an Iranian agenda to control the Arab region and expand Iranian influence, Akif stated, “Let leave this aside; talk of an Iranian agenda comes from the enemies of the Ummah [Islamic nation].” He expressed admiration for Iran’s argumentative discourse, and in reference to Tehran’s mullahs, he said: “When you speak to the Iranians, you find that their words are balanced by logic and evidence; they never speak about a desire to control and establish a global state.” These comments were made two years ago by the Muslim Brotherhood guide, yet nowadays, after the recent raid that was carried out by the divine party in Beirut, Akif pledges his support once again for the Khomeini party, brushing aside any talk about Iranian interference in Arab issues because only the sacred cause, confronting America and Zionism, is pure even if it means the destruction of all countries. In response to a warning about Hezbollah’s weapons being directed towards the inhabitants of Beirut and Mount Lebanon, Hezbollah’s representative at the recent Doha talks, Mohamed Raad, said, “Our weapons are sacred.”

Al-Zaydi concludes by arguing that the support for Hezbollah by the Egyptian Brotherhood stems from its frustration with not being able to duplicate the political success of Hamas and that it sees Iran as a vehicle for achieving such success:

The Muslim Brotherhood’s position towards Hezbollah’s raid is a grave one. What is strange is that despite Akif’s pragmatism and the MB’s usual political slyness, he gave up on word play this time and explicitly offered his support to Hezbollah’s actions. Moreover, a number of Egyptian Islamic voices that are considered moderate also chanted their support for Hezbollah on Al Manar television channel.Beyond the similarity between political fundamentalist thought, and beyond the exasperation towards the Egyptian ruling regime, it seems to me that the MB’s ‘Sayyed’ is keen to win over the ‘Sayyed’ of the resistance. And the master of both is Iran, which supports the Hamas Brotherhood, the first Brotherhood organization in the Arab world to establish authority despite its isolation and besieging. And in the end; it is an authority born of reality on the ground, with its ministries and agencies, and its supporter is none other than Iran and its disciple Hezbollah, the secretary-general of which repeats the name ‘Hamas’ almost as much as he uses the term ‘treason’ against all his opponents!The MB’s position is indicative of the depth of the crisis that it is experiencing as part of the Arab political system, and with which it is in a constant state of hostility. And perhaps it views, and rightfully so, that it has a wide support base and wonders why it hasn’t reached power like its offshoot Hamas.If the brotherhood has not considered that, and it most certainly has, then who else but the Safavid mullahs in Tehran can place it in power in what would be one of history’s greatest paradoxes.

Whatever the merits of Al-Zaydi’s analysis, previous posts have noted that the relationship between Iran and the global Muslim Brotherhood is complex. In Lebanon, for example, the Brotherhood has been working closely with Iranian-backed Hezbollah since the 1980’s. Faisal Mawlawi is the head of the Muslim Brotherhood in Lebanon and is also closely associated with Youssef Qaradawi, the leader of the global Muslim Brotherhood. He is the the Deputy Chairman of the European Council for Fatwa and Research, the theological body headed by Youssef Qaradawi as well as a trustee of the International Union of Muslim Scholars, also headed by Qaradawi. In addition. Mawlawi is a trustee of the Union of Good, a worldwide collection of Islamic charities chaired by Qaradawi that raises funds for Hamas. In August 2005, Mideast news sources reported that “combatants” from the Brotherhood in Lebanon were fighting alongside Hezbollah in Southern Lebanon and that the group’s support of Hezbollah dated back to the 1980’s. This is the only known instance of armed Muslim Brotherhood units operating openly since the 1940’s. A previous post discussed Qaradawi’s support for the Iranian nuclear program.

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