Civilization Jihad

Is the Muslim Brotherhood Really a “Firewall Against Violent Extremism”?

Important facts argue otherwise.

BY Robert Spencer · @jihadwatchRS | May 2, 2016

Is the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization or one of the world’s foremost bulwarks against terrorism? Numerous mainstream terrorism analysts in Washington contend that it is the latter – but they have to ignore a mountain of evidence to do so.

Arguing in the Washington Post that Congress should not designate the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization, Mark Lynch of George Washington University and the Project on Middle East Political Science asserts that “the Muslim Brotherhood’s firewall against extremism” was “a very real thing in the decade following 9/11,” but that now, because of the al-Sisi government’s crackdown on the Brotherhood, “the key mechanisms by which the firewall operated have now dramatically eroded.”

Lynch notes that “prior to the Arab uprising, I argued that mainstream Islamists served as a firewall against more violent extremists.” This was because, he said, “the Brotherhood publicly articulated an ideology of nonviolence and democratic participation. It competed with al-Qaeda for recruits and for public influence, and kept its members tightly embedded within its institutional structures. The Brotherhood could compete with al-Qaeda and other extreme groups in ways that liberals and state elites could not.”

Apparently Lynch is unaware that al-Qaeda founders Abdullah Azzam and Osama bin Laden, as well as its current leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, were all members of or trained by the Muslim Brotherhood. Even more importantly, in building his case that the Muslim Brotherhood is a competitor to and bulwark against al-Qaeda and other jihad terror groups, Lynch ignores the fact that the Muslim Brotherhood and al-Qaeda have exactly the same ultimate goal. In his 2002 letter to the American people, Osama bin Laden wrote: “The first thing that we are calling you to is Islam” and criticizes the U.S. for not conforming to Islamic law: “You are the nation who, rather than ruling by the Shariah of Allah in its Constitution and Laws, choose to invent your own laws as you will and desire. You separate religion from your policies, contradicting the pure nature which affirms Absolute Authority to the Lord and your Creator.”

The Muslim Brotherhood shares the goal of replacing democratic rule with Sharia, as even CNN acknowledged in 2013: “The Muslim Brotherhood is a religious and political group founded on the belief that Islam is not simply a religion, but a way of life. It advocates a move away from secularism, and a return to the rules of the Quran as a basis for healthy families, communities, and states.”

The key difference between the Muslim Brotherhood and al-Qaeda and other jihad groups is that the Brotherhood works through the democratic process in order to undermine that process and ultimately destroy it, while the jihadis violently attack the installations of democratic governments in order to weaken and ultimately destroy them. For Lynch and other Washington policy analysts, this is an all-important distinction, but in reality it is a distinction without a difference: the Brotherhood and the jihad groups are two sides of the same coin, working for the same goal via different means.

What’s more, the assertion that the Brotherhood eschews violence isn’t even accurate. Lynch claims that “despite post-coup propaganda and arrests by the Egyptian regime, there is very little to substantiate the charge that the Brotherhood behaved like a terrorist organization during Egypt’s transition or embraced violence either ideologically or strategically.” But reality again explodes Beltway fantasy: Egypt’s El Nadeem Center for Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence documented 359 cases of torture by the Muslim Brotherhood regime during its one year in power. By way of comparison, this was ten times more than the number of cases documented annually during the notoriously brutal Mubarak regime.

Even worse, when the Brotherhood was toppled from power, it blamed its failure on Egypt’s Christians: Brotherhood members and supporters burned and looted nearly seventy churches and destroyed 1,000 Christian businesses and homes. According to the Rev. Khalil Fawzi of Kasr El Dubarrah Evangelical Church, the Middle East’s largest evangelical church, said: “The Muslim Brotherhood were the ones who called for aggression. They are responsible.”

In light of the Brotherhood’s willingness to engage in violence to further its ends, and the Sharia goal it shares with violent jihad organizations, Lynch’s recommendation that the U.S. work to strengthen the Brotherhood as a bulwark against al-Qaeda is the height of folly. It would be tantamount to aiding Mussolini in order to defeat Hitler, or electing Hillary Clinton in order to roll back the policies of Barack Obama.

By contrast, the Muslim Brotherhood Terrorist Designation Act is more realistic, quoting testimony from former FBI Director Robert Mueller stating that “elements of the Muslim Brotherhood both here and overseas have supported terrorism.” Supporters of terrorism richly deserve the terrorism designation. Mainstream analysis such as that of Mark Lynch have led the U.S. into numerous policy blind alleys, and needs to be decisively rejected now.

Robert Spencer is the director of Jihad Watch and author of the New York Times bestsellers The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades) and The Truth About Muhammad. His latest book is The Complete Infidel’s Guide to ISIS. Follow him on Twitter here. Like him on Facebook here.


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