The English language website of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood has issued a rather extraordinary statement in connection with the recently-resigned Obama campaign Muslim outreach adviser. The statement opens repeating what has now become the standard accusations of “islamaphobia”, a charge routinely leveled by the global Muslim Brotherhood against it’s critics:
The ongoing controversy in the U.S. surrounding resignation of Mr. Mazen Asbahi, Muslim-outreach advisor to presumptive democratic presidential candidate Senator Barack Obama, is quite intriguing. Mr. Asbahi is an Arab American corporate attorney who resigned last week amidst allegations of old loose ties with individuals associated with organizations thought to be linked to the Muslim Brotherhood (MB). Mr. Asbahi’s crime is that he also appeared as a guest speaker before such organizations allegedly linked to the MB. Islamic organizations in the U.S. described the campaign against Mr. Asbahi as “nationwide efforts by Islamophobes who seek to deny Muslims access to the political process.”
Previous posts have detailed a more accurate accounting of these events which refute the widely reprinted statement that Mr. Asbahi’s ties to the Brotherhood are “old and loose.”
The statement goes on to deny that the Muslim Brotherood has any “representation” in the U.S and lists all of the organizations routinely identified by the GMBDW as part of the U.S. Brotherhood, stating that it has “absolutely has no organizational links, ties, or associations” with any of these organizations:
The MB has repeatedly denied it has any representation in the U.S., nor does it maintain any links with any of the Islamic or charitable organizations in the U.S. We have previously clarified that moderate and pragmatic Islamic thought is not exclusive of the MB, however, there are many other Islamic movements and organizations throughout the world that have the same mainstream principles as the MB but not necessarily part of its organizational structure. In this regard, the MB confirmed that it absolutely has no organizational links, ties, or associations with any of the Islamic organizations in the U.S., including but not limited to: The Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA), The Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), The Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC), the Muslim Student Association (MSA), the Muslim American Society (MAS), and the International Institute of Islamic Thought (IIIT).
Space prohibits an exhaustive listing of the links, ties, and associations of all these organizations with the global Brotherhood but it is instructive to consider the case of the Muslim American Society (MAS). The Chicago Tribune reported in 2004 that Mohammed Mahdi Akef, now the Egyptian Brotherhood Supreme Guide, says he helped found the MAS by lobbying for the change during trips to the U.S. The Tribune investigation further reported that despite an alleged push for openness by Akef and other MAS leaders, the MAS decided that it would operate by concealing its Muslim Brotherhood affiliation.
Investigative research has also extensively documented the Muslim Brotherhood origins and ties of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), created by Brotherhood leaders who were instrumental in the earlier founding of the Muslim Student Association (MSA) and who also went on to found the International Institute of Islamic Thought (IIIT). Other research has documented the origins of the Council of American Islamic Relations (CAIR) out of the Hamas infrastructure in the U.S. Both federal prosecutors and a cache of internal U.S. Brotherhood documents introduced into federal court proceedings further identify and support the identification of many of the organizations in question as part of the U.S. Muslim Brotherhood.
Rather oddly, after denying the ties to the Muslim Brotherhood, the Egyptian Brotherhood statement goes on to acknowledge the origins of many of these organizations in the Muslim Brotherhood:
There are however, ideological similarities between the MB and most of above mentioned Islamic organizations for the fact that these ideologies represent mainstream moderate Islamic thinking. However, some of the founders or members of these organizations were at some point in their lives either members or sympathizers of the MB in their native countries before they migrate to the U.S. or other countries. During the 1960s, many members of the MB have fled Egypt to escape persecution by the Egyptian regime. Most of them settled in European countries or the U.S. and benefited from the atmosphere of freedom and prosperity in these countries and continued to practice and promote moderate Islamic thought. Thus, several local Islamic organizations were created to help Muslims integrate within their local communities and engage in charitable work mandates by Islam. Islamic work worldwide was also enriched by Muslim students who studied abroad and were keen on practicing their religion. In the U..S, several of these local active groups have merged and created large national organizations widely known throughout the country.
The statement then asserts what might best be called a distortion of the facts by asserting that the “ties between the MB and any of the U.S.-based organizations were extensively scrutinized during the Holy Land Foundation trial.”:
Most of the alleged ties between the MB and any of the U.S. based organizations were extensively scrutinized during the Holy Land Foundation trial and were found groundless by the juries in court case that ended in mistrial. The prosecution in this case failed to establish any evidence that link the MB as an organization with any of the Islamic organizations in the U.S., but instead presented the court with notes, diaries and minutes of meetings among individuals who were not in any form or shape part of the MB and were not representing it, although they might of shared its ideology as we previously alluded to.
The Muslim Brotherhood ties of the Holy Land defendants were not part of the charges against them and this statement appears to be designed rather to discredit the internal Brotherhood documents discussed above that were introduced as part of the trial.
Next, the statement claims that the global Muslim Brotherhood network is “Hollywood fiction” while at the same acknowledging the “coordination among the different MB chapters in various countries, in which the MB has formal presence or representation”, as good a definition as any of a network:
The so called Global Network of the Muslim Brotherhood is merely a Hollywood fiction that only exists in the minds of those who created it as part of their scare tactics to insight fears among the public and instigate government hostilities. There is no “global network” for the Muslim Brotherhood, but rather coordination among the different MB chapters in various countries, in which the MB has formal presence or representation, which clearly does not apply to the U.S. This coordination among international MB chapters mainly revolves around political issues, sharing experiences in the field of public Islamic work and exchange new ideas.
The issue of the U.S. Muslim Brotherhood has already been discussed so it is instructive to look at others who have also identified a global Muslim Brotherhood network. For example, the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), which few would describe as a “radical special interest group”, describes the global Muslim Brotherhood network as follows:
The original Egyptian organization has spawned branches in 70 countries. These organizations bear the Brotherhood name, but their connections to the founding group vary and some of them may provide financial, logistical, or other support to terrorist organizations.
As an earlier post discussed and contrary to the CFR statement, it appears that none of the Brotherhood organizations outside of Egypt identifies themselves as such. However, as that post also observed, Brotherhood leaders themselves have acknowledged the existence of a global Brotherhood network. For example, in June of this year the first Deputy chairman of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood was asked about the “international Muslim Brotherhood and replied:
There are entities that exist in many countries all over the world. These entities have the same ideology, principle and objectives but they work in different circumstances and different contexts. So, it is reasonable to have decentralization in action so that every entity works according to its circumstances and according to the problems it is facing and in their framework.
The GMBDW has chosen to use the term “Global Muslim Brotherhood Network” as a shorthand to refer to the worldwide collection of Brotherhood “entities.” It should also be added that it would seem unlikely that given representation in 70 countries, a figure attributed to the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood Supreme Guide in a 2005 newspaper interview, the Brotherhood would have no representation in the U.S.
The end of the statement takes on the shrillest of possible tones asserting that unidentified “allegations” were made by organizations, presumably including the GMBDW and the Wall Street Journal, with an “extreme ideology of hate and evil.”
We call on the public to carefully examine any allegations spread by special interest groups in the U.S. to smear certain individuals or groups for political gain in a heated presidential campaign season. These radical special interest groups and lobbies are driven by extreme hate towards Muslims and feel that Islamic moderation and the presence of strong Islamic organizations in the U.S is a major threat to their extreme ideology of hate and evil.
It probably should be repeated at this point that no allegations were ever made by the GMBDW or the Wall Street Journal against Mr. Asbahi. As previous posts have discussed, the GMBDW merely identified public documents linking Mr. Asbahi to a variety of U.S. Brotherhood organizations followed by an inquiry by the Journal to the Obama campaign. At no time, has the accuracy of what was reported by the GMBDW been challenged.
We finally tracked down the statement by Akef about the MB being in more than 70 countries. It was in a speech he made about Hassan Al-Banna at an August 2006 Ramadan iftar dinner:
“This blessed movement founded by our martyr Imam- Allah have mercy on him- ensued a huge movement which is present in more than seventy countries all over the world, and is still spreading and bearing fruits.