ANALYSIS; The Global Muslim Brotherhood Is No “Myth”


Writing in the Washington Post, analyst Lorenzo Vidino has published a piece titled “Five Myths About The Muslim Brotherhood” which includes the following passage statement, as one of the myths:

1. The Muslim Brotherhood is a global organization. Founded in Egypt in 1928, the Muslim Brotherhood saw its ideas quickly spread throughout the Arab world and beyond. Today, groups in more than 80 countries trace their ideologies to the Brotherhood, but these entities do not form a cohesive unit. Globally, the Brotherhood is more a school of thought than an official organization of card-carrying members. Attempts to create a more formal global structure have failed, and the movement instead has taken on various forms. Where it is tolerated, as in Jordan, it functions as a political party; where persecuted, as in Syria, it survives underground; and in the Palestinian territories, it took a peculiar turn and became Hamas. Though they interact through a network of personal, financial and ideological ties, Brotherhood entities operate independently, and each pursues its goals as it deems appropriate. What binds them is a deep belief in Islam as a way of life that, in the long term, they hope to turn into a political system, using different methods in different places.

It should be noted that the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, acutely sensitive to any charges of global coordination, cites the above statement on their website, presumably viewing it as positive to their cause. Vidino expands on these ideas in another article titled “The Global Muslim Brotherhood: Myth or Reality?”

Senior members of the Brotherhood have repeatedly made clear that, at the international level, it is not a structured organization of card-carrying members, but rather an ideological movement that transcends formal affiliation. Membership comes by adopting certain ideas and methods, not by swearing allegiance or signing one’s name in a secret registry…….Entities belonging to the “global Muslim Brotherhood” work according to a common vision but in complete operational independence. There are consultations and constant communication, but each is free to pursue its goals as it deems appropriate. Therefore the global Muslim Brotherhood is today most properly identified not as a group or even a loose federation, but simply as an ideological movement, in which different branches choose their own tactics to achieve their short-term goals in complete independence.

Vidino cites no actual evidence for the assertion that the Global Muslim Brotherhood is simply an “ideological movement” whose entities have “complete operational independence.” Even more concerning is that he does cite various proclamations from Brotherhood sources such as self-described foreign minister Youssef Nada or the Muslim Brotherhood website, all of which would have us believe that the Global Muslim Brotherhood is nothing more than “a common way of thinking.” However, it should not have to be repeated that the Brotherhood is, at it heart, a covert organization and their are few reasons to accept and many reasons not to accept their statements about themselves at face value. Where actual evidence exists, it points to a far more sophisticated organizational structure than admitted to by the Muslim Brotherhood itself. For example, documents and other material discovered buried in a residential backyard and introduced as evidence in a federal terrorism financing trial revealed a complex and sophisticated organization structure for the US Muslim Brotherhood. As a previous post explained:

Documents recently released as part of the Holy Land Foundation (HLF) terrorism financing trial suggest that the Muslim Brotherhood in the U.S. was far more structured and organized than previously known. Prior to the release of the documents, it was clear that the various organizations and individuals comprising the U.S. Brotherhood were networking extensively with each other but the existence of leadership structures could only be the subject of speculation. Now however, three of the documents shed light on such structures, at least as they existed at the end of the 1980’s and beginning of the 1990’s

This structure included a General Guide for the whole of the US Muslim Brotherhood, a Shura (advisory) Council and various committees in charge of different areas of responsibility, not the least of which was the Palestine Committee which, according to a Hudson Institute report was the forerunner of the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), a US advocacy group. In Europe, despite Vidino’s claims that the Muslim Brotherhood is “not even a loose federation”, the various Brotherhood entities have banded together to form the Federation of Islamic Organizations In Europe (FIOE), an umbrella group for the Muslim Brotherhood in Europe which appears to be far more than the “loose federation” derided by Vidino. Given how little is actually known about the Global Muslim Brotherhood is financed and led, it would behoove analysts to be far more cautious about either accepting statements by the Muslim Brotherhood itself or making undocumented assertions about how it is actually structured. In addition to the evidence to the contrary cited above, the GMBDW has provided numerous instances of global campaigns by the Global Muslim Brotherhood centered on issues including the Danish cartoons or the Gaza flotilla which appeared to be far more organized and internally coherent than what could have been expected by the uncoordinated movement described by Vidino. In the end, the idea of the Global Muslim Brotherhood as “a super-organization, a global Muslim Brotherhood central entity directing or coordinating the activities of these groups” is a straw man which hinders a serious investigation of how the Global Muslim Brotherhood is actually structured. As for the “official organization of card-carrying members”, before such a notion is ridiculed, the following section of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood bylaws, recently removed from their site, explains the oath which is required of Muslim Brotherhood members:

I pledge allegiance to the Almighty Allah to constantly uphold and safeguard the principles of Islam, to fight in the cause of Allah, to adhere to the terms and duties of the Brotherhood’s membership, showing as much as possible obedience to the just leaders in sorrow and in joy as long as it does not involve disobedience to Allah, I pay allegiance and may Allah be my witness . He may take the oath as a member before the Brotherhood’s Controller-General or his representative if it could not be given directly to the MB Chairman.

While there is no evidence suggesting that Muslim Brotherhood members and/or leaders outside of Egypt are required to take such an oath, does anybody believe that we have sufficient information on the workings of the Global Muslim Brotherhood to assert confidently that they do not?

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