Carnegie Analyst Says International Muslim Brotherhood Operates Like College Fraternity


In testimony before a House intelligence subcommittee, Carnegie Endowment Mideast analyst Nathan Brown once again attempts to reassure the West about what he calls the “International Brotherhood” which he describes as a “group of loosely linked, ideologically similar movements” that in his characterization, resemble something like a group of college fraternities. Dr. Brown writes:

There is an international Muslim Brotherhood organization that works to coordinate among the movements in various countries. But it does not matter very much. The various movements do follow a similar general model, but they are free to apply it very differently according to what they see as appropriate for their own societies. So while country-based organizations swap ideas—and sometimes contribute funds—across countries, the formal international organization is almost irrelevant. At a global level, the Brotherhood is no Mafia. Nor is it a rigid and disciplined Stalinist-style Comintern. It most closely resembles today’s alliances among various like-minded organizations like socialist or Christian Democratic parties. These are tame frameworks for a group of loosely linked, ideologically similar movements that recognize each other, swap stories and experiences in occasional meetings, and happily subscribe to a formally international ideology without giving it much priority. There is every reason to be interested in the Brotherhood’s myriad (and surprisingly diverse) country-based movements, but there is no reason to fear it as a menacing global web.

A previous post has taken up this reassuring claim in a previous post noting that, as in Dr. Brown’s testimony, no evidence is presented to backup the assertion that the Global Muslim Brotherhood is “loosely structured”. As that post also noted:

… 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. 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…..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” …

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 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 Dr. Brown’s additional claim that the Global Muslim Brotherhood somehow resembles “organizations like socialist or Christian Democratic parties” and whose members merely “swap stories and experiences in occasional meetings”, the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs recently published a report which documented how the Global Muslim Brotherhood held numerous conferences in Turkey in the run-up to the Gaza flotilla. As that report reveals, Global Muslim Brotherhood leaders at the conferences appeared to be engaged in much more serious and threatening activity that merely “swapping stories”:

With the Hamas victory in the Palestinian elections in 2006 and the consolidation of the AKP regime’s control of Turkey under Prime Minister Erdogan, Istanbul became a center for Global Muslim Brotherhood political activity that included undertaking a worldwide effort to undermine the international standing of Israel. From 2006 until the dispatch of the Gaza flotilla, Istanbul hosted at least ten international conferences of the Global Muslim Brotherhood, and Global Muslim Brotherhood leader Sheikh Youssef Qaradawi began to visit Turkey frequently. Some of the conferences were centered solely on Palestine and Gaza, with titles such as “World Popular Conference for the Support of Palestine,” while others addressed the topic amongst other agendas, including two sessions of the International Union of Muslim Scholars (IUMS), headed by Youssef Qaradawi. Many of the conferences were organized by Turkish/MB network organizations such as UNIW or TGTV, and all of the conferences were attended by numerous Global Muslim Brotherhood leaders as well as various representatives of the Turkish government and/or AKP; on one occasion, Western flotilla activists were known to be present. There was discussion at several of the conferences of a new role for Turkey in the Islamic world, with some suggesting that Turkey would become the future nexus of the Islamic world, and fervent support was frequently expressed for Turkey and its prime minister. At conferences where Western reporters were present, participants were heard to call for violence in defense of the Al-Aqsa mosque and to laugh about the death of children during the Lebanon war. Israel was frequently vilified and demonized at the conferences by speakers, statements, and proclamations and described using terms such as racist and terrorist. Israel was accused of committing massacres and ethnic cleansing against the Palestinians and was said to be worse than the Nazis, having committed “hundreds of holocausts.” At one conference, delegates discussed the creation of a third jihadist front in Gaza in addition to Afghanistan and Iraq. At several conferences, there was discussion or a statement issued about the need to break the Israeli blockade of Gaza. At the 2008 Right of Return conference in Damascus, Hamas leader Mashaal raised the concept of sending a fleet of boats to Gaza in order to break the Israeli blockade, while Western activist Lauren Booth was reported to have brought a plan to open a ship line between Cyprus and Gaza that would “not only break the siege but also embarrass Israel on the side of democracy and human rights.”

In this case, as in others, the Global Muslim Brotherhood would appear to resemble more closely the “menacing global web” derided by Dr. Brown than the happy group “swapping stories” he describes.

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