[The author] takes a hundred pages to set the background first, tracing Mishal’s life from his birth on the West Bank in 1956 to his family’s flight after the Six Day War in 1967 and his teenage years as an exile in 1970s Kuwait. Here, as a college student and budding physics teacher, a devout young Mishal (“a nerd before the term was invented”) committed himself to the Muslim Brotherhood. He gathered around him in the early 1980s a coterie of political activists, who rejected as hopelessly corrupt and ineffective the secular version of Palestinian resistance led by Yasser Arafat’s Fatah and the PLO. While Arafat’s forces were cornered by Sharon’s army in Beirut and expelled to Tunis, Mishal and his fellow exiles embraced a new vision. It would rely on Islamic piety and endless networking across the Palestinian diaspora to inspire, and bankroll, a different kind of resistance. The Kuwaiti exiles saw themselves as part of the international jihad, then just starting to pitch the mujahideen against Soviet forces in Afghanistan. As yet non-committal over the use of violence, they set out to build support at the grass roots. Covert support came from US and Israeli sources, keen to back Islamic do-gooders as a softer and more acceptable face of dissent than the PLO. Mishal directed much of his fund-raising activities on behalf of the Muslim Brotherhood in Gaza, led by the wheelchair-bound cleric, Sheikh Yassin. When the first Intifada revolt broke out in the Occupied Territories at the end of 1987, Yassin proclaimed the formation of Hamas, to promote an uncompromising guerrilla war against Israel. Months later, Arafat decided to renounce violence and to recognize Israel. Mishal had no difficulty choosing between these two alternatives, and committed the Kuwaiti Brotherhood to Hamas.
Many well-known Islamic terrorists and extremists had their origins in the Muslim Brotherhood, not the least of whom was Ayman al-Zawahri, the number two leader of Al Qaeda.