Baby Thrown Out With Bathwater Yet Again: Epic Media Failure By Vox On US Muslim Brotherhood

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There has been a great deal of media attention of late paid to a proposal reportedly under consideration by the Trump Administration to designate the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization. Almost of all of the mainstream media reports on the subject have focused entirely on attacking those supporting the designation, a network of groups and individuals comprising the so-called “Counter-Jihad movement.” One of the most egregious of these recent reports, at least with respect to the US Muslim Brotherhood, is a piece titled “Trump’s Counter-Jihad, How the Anti-Muslim Fringe Conquered the White House” and published by Vox, an American news and opinion website owned by Vox Media. The bulk of the Vox piece is devoted to what the GMBDW considers a comprehensive and commendable examination of the Counter-Jihad movement that we ourselves once described as “an assorted collection of ideologues, religious zealots,  pundits,  and outright extremists.” In a post devoted to this very subject, however, we wrote in regard to some of the theories pushed by the Counter-Jihad movement:

…while theories such as those listed above may be fanciful and extreme, they often contain more than a degree of truth which is why the GMBDW originally reported on them. That said, the degree to which the current Republican candidates and their advisors have espoused them only allows the US Muslim Brotherhood to discredit them in their entirety which is why we opened this post citing what we labeled the great PR victory being handed to such groups such as the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) …. Therefore, it is critical that while we clearly and stridently condemn the Islamophobic rhetoric of the Republican candidates and their advisors, we also implore that the baby not be thrown out with the bathwater by refusing to examine whatever reality exists behind their claims.

The current Vox piece is yet another example of how the truth about the Muslim Brotherhood in the US is being lost amidst the ongoing and rightful attempts to expose such irresponsible rhetoric. The arguments advanced in the Vox piece show a stunning lack of familiarity with the subject, a failure to do the minimum of “due diligence”, and in one case, a highly selective and misleading reading of a US court ruling  advanced as supporting evidence for Vox’s analysis. The piece begins its analysis of the Muslim Brotherhood in the US by correctly identifying the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood:

It’s a group you’re probably at least passingly familiar with. Founded in Egypt in 1928, the Brotherhood is one of the oldest and most influential Islamist groups in history. The group’s goal has long been the toppling of the Egyptian government and its replacement with a Sunni theocracy.

….

Today, the group’s influence is relatively limited — Egypt’s military dictator, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, overthrew Morsi in 2013 and since then has viciously suppressed Brotherhood activity. According to Human Rights Watch, he has killed more than 1,000 individuals linked to the Brotherhood and arrested many, many more.

However, Vox then turns it attention to the notion that “the Brotherhood is not defined by its founding chapter in Egypt, or even its various open branches and offshoots (like the Palestinian militant group Hamas or the moderate Islamist Ennahda party in Tunisia)” and cites a well-known Counter-Jihad ideologue who says:

the Brotherhood is not defined by its founding chapter in Egypt, or even its various open branches and offshoots (like the Palestinian militant group Hamas or the moderate Islamist Ennahda party in Tunisia). The hidden history of the 20th century, … is a history of the Brotherhood’s stealth penetration of the West.

“Of course the MB still has the resources to act in the US and Europe,” …. “Its organizations here were well-established and handsomely funded before Sisi came along.”

Vox then asserts that one of the the only examples of evidence for the existence of a widespread Muslim Brotherhood network in the US is the so-called “Grand Jihad” document authored in 1991 by Mohammed Akram (aka Mohammed Adlouni), then a leader in the very same US network. Vox then tries to discredit the document by asserting:

The evidentiary basis for this claim is extremely thin. For one thing, scholars of the Brotherhood have found no evidence that Akram’s memo was an accurate representation of the Brotherhood’s reach.

“Nobody has ever produced any evidence that the document was more than something produced by the daydream of one enthusiast,” Nathan Brown, a George Washington University professor who studies the Brotherhood, told Religion Dispatches’ Sarah Posner in 2011. “Nothing in anything that I have heard has ever struck me as similar in tone or content to the ‘master plan.’”

Beyond that, the organizations themselves flatly deny being agents of the Muslim Brotherhood

No evidence…really? In 2009, the GMBDW editor published a 64 page research monograph with 260 end notes devoted solely to the subject of whether or not the claims of the Grand Jihad document with respect to the Muslim Brotherhood in the US would stand up to close scrutiny. As the report concluded:

The leadership of the U. S. Muslim Brotherhood (MB, or Ikhwan) has said that its goal was and is jihad aimed at destroying the U. S. from within. The Brotherhood leadership has also said that the means of achieving this goal is to establish Islamic organizations in the U. S. under the control of the Muslim Brotherhood. Since the early 1960s, the Brotherhood has constructed an elaborate covert organizational infrastructure on which was built a set of public or “front” organizations. The current U. S. Brotherhood leadership has attempted to deny this history, both claiming that it is not accurate and at the same time that saying that it represents an older form of thought inside the Brotherhood. An examination of public and private Brotherhood documents, however, indicates that this history is both accurate and that the Brotherhood has taken no action to demonstrate change in its mode of thought and/or activity.

Vox made no effort to contact either the GMBDW or its editor with respect to the above report and instead chose to rely on the unsubstantiated opinion of political scientist Nathan Brown who once famously asserted 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.” VOX also adds as further evidence the unsurprising fact that “the organizations themselves flatly deny being agents of the Muslim Brotherhood.”

Vox then turns to the Holy Land Foundation (HLF) whose leaders were convicted in 2008 of funneling money to Hamas. (As Vox correctly notes, the Akram “Grand Jihad” memo was actually uncovered during the HLF investigation). One of the most important outcomes of the case was a controversial list of some 246 individuals and groups named by federal prosecutors as unindicted co-conspirators. Included in the list were two groups frequently identified by the GMBDW as important parts of the US Muslim Brotherhood- the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), identified as a member of the US Muslim Brotherhood’s Palestine Committee and/or its organizations and the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), identified as a member of the US Muslim Brotherhood. VOX attempts to discredit the list by selectively citing only part of the ruling by a US District Court in connection with attempts by the various groups to have their names removed. Vox writes:

But in addition to the five leaders of the HLF who were actually convicted in the case, more than 246 individuals and Muslim groups, including ISNA and CAIR, were named as “unindicted co-conspirators” in the indictment — meaning the prosecutors believed they were linked to HLF’s scheme but couldn’t prove it.

They couldn’t prove it because they had no real evidence for this claim. ISNA and CAIR later filed a suit alleging that the prosecutors had unjustifiably damaged their reputation by mentioning them in the indictment. Their evidence was that counter-jihadists were using it to smear them, and the court agreed.

“There is no real dispute that CAIR suffered injury to its reputational interest by being listed as an unindicted co-conspirator in this terrorism case. Press accounts and blog entries have reported, based on this case, that CAIR is a criminal organization that supports terrorism,” the presiding judge ruled. “The government has not argued or established any legitimate government interest that warrants publicly identifying CAIR and 245 other individuals and entities as unindicted co-conspirators.”

No real evidence, really? It seems that VOX ignored the following from the same court ruling:

Evidence presented in a public trial is inherently different from the Government publishing a list of persons alleged to be co-conspirators. The public may make its own judgment from evidence presented at trial. The evidence may be examined and conclusions can be drawn as to whether the evidence establishes what the government claims it does. But a published list from the Government naming individuals or entities as co-conspirators without any supporting evidence is not subject to such scrutiny. Therefore, the Court finds it appropriate to seal the entire list of unindicted co-conspirators but stops short of ordering CAIR, ISNA and NAIT’s names expunged from any documents filed or produced by the government.

In other words, the court found only that the list should have been sealed due to the lack of public access to the supporting evidence and not because there was “no real evidence for this claim”. In fact, the same court ruling said for example:

The four pieces of evidence the government relies on, as discussed below, do create at least a prima facie case as to CAIR’s involvement in a conspiracy to support Hamas.

Perhaps more importantly and relating to the question of the existence of a US Muslim Brotherhood, are other conclusions by the court including:

  • That the Government had “produced ample evidence to establish the associations of CAIR, ISNA and NAIT with HLF, the Islamic Association for Palestine (‘IAP’), and with Hamas.”
  • “The Muslim Brotherhood supervised the creation of the ‘Palestine Committee,’ which was put in charge of other organizations, such as HLF, IAP, UASR, and ISNA.”
  • “During the [1993 Philadelphia] conference, Palestine Committee members discussed using ISNA as official cover for their activities”

In reality, and contrary to the claims by Vox, there is substantial evidence for the existence of a widespread and substantial network of organizations in the US referred to by both the GMBDW and federal prosecutors as the US Muslim Brotherhood. Thus, the current Vox piece is yet one more example of the ongoing an epic media failure by the US media to properly cover the subject of the Brotherhood in the US. As always, the GMBDW stands ready to assist any credible and responsible journalist in this regard but at the same time, we admit we are not holding our breath.

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