ArDO: Yes we want Lebanon to be the Switzerland of the East and Beirut the Paris of the East


 | HomeArchives  | Links|


 Device  Articles  Politics  Language  Pictures  History/Culture  History 

Brotherhood in the Shadows of al-Qaeda

By Adel Guindy

Many had wondered about Ben-Laden’s adamant denial of any responsibility regarding the 9/11 events, before he finally reversed himself in the tape broadcast in December 13, 2001.

It is not beyond his character to have lied then, but some Western Intelligence Services are reported to believe that rather than Ben Laden, who would have been hard pressed to organize and lead such an operation from his hideout in Qanadahar, it is more plausible that Ayman Zawahiri was the real mastermind. Zawahiri, a medical doctor who grew in Egypt through the ranks of the Muslim Brotherhood, would have used the Brotherhood’s nebulous international network as a facilitator for contacts and logistics. Having done the job behind the back of Ben-Laden, he would not have had a problem to manipulate and, a posteriori, explain to him the ‘success.’

Indeed, while Ben-Laden enjoys some charisma that helped his media success, he is a person with rather limited intellect and abilities. Someone else understood that and exploited it: Abdullah Azzam, a Jordanian ‘Brother,’ who had met him when he was still a student the King Abdel Aziz University in Saudi Arabia. As ‘Osama’ indicated his admiration of the Brotherhood and their challenge to Hafez el-Assad (in the Hama events of 1981 in Syria), Azzam saw in him a (rich) person who likes absolute idealisms, and invited him to join jihad in Afghanistan. He managed to convince Ben Laden of creating a ‘services bureau’ (maktab al-khadamat) whose task was to search for, and attract, volunteers from Egypt, Saudi, Pakistan etc; and to establish training camps for mujahideen in Afghanistan. Azzam settled in Pishawar in 1984 to personally oversee the activities of the mujahideen; thus becoming the real founder of the first ‘international of jihad,’ with the support of the Brotherhood and the League of Islamic World.

The experience left its deep marks on Ben Laden, who considered Azzam his guide and teacher. He became so convinced of the importance of jihad that he established in 1988 al-Qaeda (the ‘Base’) to further the implementation of the guide’s ideas. Azzam was assassinated the following year (not clear how, even though some suspect Zawahiri of plotting it). Ben Laden lost the Brother ‘guide’, but fell under the influence of the Brother ‘doctor,’ who, over the time, became the actual executive (or CEO) of al-Qaeda, while keeping for Ben-Laden the role of a chairman (and CFO!).

Abu Musaab al-Zarqawi is another Brother from Jordan. His notoriety as he leads the main ‘insurgency’ in Iraq, and his ferocious and bestial bloodthirsty need no further elaboration. His origins, and links, with the Brotherhood were only emphasized when some of those related to Islamic groups were surprised that the French authorities failed, during the crisis of the two journalists who were kidnapped in Iraq in 2004, to approach the Jordanian Brotherhood for help, as they are judged to be ‘the only ones who could influence Zarqawi.’

Another famous Brother is Khaled Sheikh Mohamed, considered as one of the masterminds behind 9/11 and personally responsible of kidnapping and slaughtering Daniel Pearl of the Wall Street Journal, in Pakistan in March 2002. He was born in Kuwait in 1965 in a pious family that became acquainted with, and strongly influenced by the thoughts of, some Brothers who had escaped Egypt in the early fifties to Kuwait. He later moved with the family to Pakistan, where the father worked, and then went to the US in the eighties to study engineering. On his way back he stopped by the Philippines and helped organize some terrorist and separatist groups. He then proceeded to Pishawar, where Ben Laden met him and admired his organizing abilities and jihadi thoughts, typical of the Brotherhood; and quickly occupied a leading post within al-Qaeda. He was arrested in Islamabad, Pakistan, in 2003 with several documents in his possession. (Notice that his nephew is none other then Ramzi Youssef, who is currently jailed in the US as a result of his role in the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center).

Omar Bakry, the Brother from Syria and the founder of the Muhajireen group, works out of Finsburry suburb to recruit Muslim British youth to join jihadi training camps. Like the other Brothers, he is a master of double speak.

Fadi Itani, who runs the Islamic Welfare (one of 400 associations grouped under the ‘Islamic British Council’) would not confirm whether he was a ‘member’ of the Brotherhood. He considers that al-Azhar and the Brotherhood in Egypt are ‘victims of the political situation in the country: They are denied the right of action, whereas democracy means allowing them to establish the kind of ruling system we want.’

One should not forget Tarek Ramadan, the grandson of Hassan al-Banna, the founder of the Brotherhood, and a shining star of propagating the Brotherhood’s ideas, with a special talent for evasion and elusiveness.

There are many others, including even some European converts who turned into Islamists, such as Luke, an Irishman who converted in 2002, and who usually strolls in the streets of Finsburry in his ‘Pakistani’ dress and red beard. He dreams of immigrating to a Muslim land “ order to deepen (his) ability to become a ‘true Muslim’ and afterwards… may join the jihad.”

Thus we find in the European suburbs such Brotherhood discourse, which subjects everything to polarization: the world, between the ‘Islamic’ and the ‘infidel (West)’; Muslims, between the ‘true’ and ‘false.’ Without any exaggeration, they are the inventors of the idea of the civilizational clash.

Whatever the topic of discussion was with one Islamist group or another, and of whatever inclination it may be; the reference is always the Brotherhood and its ideology. This unanimity includes those who passed through the organization’s branches in Syria, Jordan, Egypt etc.; or those who ‘graduated’ through the European suburbs.

Ben Laden might have his own revengeful agenda against America, for dropping him after the fall of the Soviet Union; or against the Saudi royal family for allowing the American forces to tread the sacred land of Arabia. But Zawahiri, Zarqawi, Qaradawi and other Brothers, hold a long-term agenda aimed at imposing the Islamic rule, the world over. Their strategy includes terrorism as well as political activism and propaganda, as means to reach the ultimate goal. All this makes the Brotherhood more dangerous to the West, indeed the world, than Ben Laden. They have turned into a formidable international organization, with cadres who excel in double-speak and who further understand the Occident and its weak points way more than how the latter understands the ‘Orient’. Their strength is political, religious and economic; and must be taken seriously.

The danger of the ‘Islamist Fascism’ (to use the expression of Rachid Bougedra) does not only threaten the Western democracies, but also the peoples of the Islamic world; the first victims. One Egyptian journalist (who fears disclosing her name) says that “unless the government moves to do so something, Egypt will face within five to ten years [how optimistic!] a Sunni version of the Iranian revolution.”

 On the other hand, one may find certain Brothers who occasionally object to al-Qaeda’s acts. This would be nothing more than part of their usual duplicity, or stemming from fear that certain (terrorist) acts would threaten to undermine their achievements. One Brother says that “today, they are capable of jumping to reach the rule in many (Islamic) countries; but out of concern about their ultimate goal, they still seek some political backing. They, hence, need to further develop their political speech in the right ways…”

The book titled ‘Muslim Brotherhood in the Shadow of al-Qaeda’(1) includes a discussion with a senior personality with the French Intelligence services (RG), who urges the specialists to write more about the issue of the Brotherhood, as this could, hopefully, ‘awaken the politicians.’ He goes on to wonder whether the Western societies need a major catastrophe before they start to move. He ads “Let’s not deceive ourselves, for we are already in a state of war; even if this were not entirely clear to the eyes..” Isn’t that some kind of hyperbole? “Not at all” he replies. “I am talking about the reality… The Third World War is going on, without being ever declared. It concerns civilian populations, in their morale, their certitudes and, occasionally, their bodies… We must wonder whether our intelligence services are (fast enough) adapting to the realities..”

He adds something of extreme importance: “There is but one historical reference to which over 80% of Islamists in the Sunni world accord: the Brotherhood.” He further adds that “..even if most Islamists may not bother to be members, they have been profoundly marked by the Brotherhood’s discourse and ideas of Islam. This almost resembles the approach of the Soviet Communist Party, which had a very limited membership, but was the one to define the lines of action (for the parties) the world over. The influence and philosophy it carried was far more important than the individuals. And that is exactly what we find here..”

Al-Qaeda is, hence nothing more than a ‘mark’ or ‘franchise’ for terrorism. But for its ideology and the ‘distribution network’ it relies on the Brotherhood’s organization. In order to attract volunteers, there is need for an appealing message: jihad. The message is then spread through the nebulous network of the Brotherhood. The penetration is also done in a targeted manner; e.g. focused on some of the sub-cultural groups in the societies, using a persuasive discourse. It then becomes only a matter of time and money (provided by Saudi and Gulf sources), before convincing those targeted. Abolishing the intra-European borders has vastly facilitated the movement of people and money and the ability to penetrate the European societies.

Islamist totalitarianism spreads in similar ways as Nazism did: exploiting societal problems and trying to tempt the less-favored segments of the society. Discourse is made about social ‘reform’ which, obviously, goes through religion. It is not about religious reform, but a salafi (retrograde) movement to the origins of the religion; that is to a religious dogma dating back to the seventh century and embracing a corresponding view of the society. This is, then, presented as the Islam of the ‘moderates’, and any criticisms thereafter are quickly dubbed islamophobic. This was Hitler’s approach regarding the ‘good German’ as the one who adheres to Nazi ideology. So too is the ‘good Muslim,’ in their regard, as one who adheres to their teachings.

This ‘Green Totalitarianism’ is not a mere religious fanaticism; but rather an ideology of global destruction; some kind of a racist and theocratic totalitarianism which is especially more dangerous because of the associated deep and pathological hatred of Jews and ‘Crusaders’. So jihad has begun, and whoever wants to harm the infidels is guaranteed the recognition and gratitude of the Brothers.

After the end of the Cold War, a new ideological war rages on. It finds financial, logistical and religious support out of Saudi, Pakistan, Jordan, etc. In all cases, the common denominator is the Brotherhood and their network.

Yves Bertrand, a previous director of the French Intelligence services says that starting from 1985 one could observe a fast evolution whereby the Algerian community at the Grand Mosque of Paris started to wane; to the benefit of the associations related to the Brotherhood. These have created in 1983 the ‘Union des Organisations Islamique en France’ (UOIF), which is linked to an extensive European and international Brotherhood network (including Egypt and Saudi Arabia), that links with the League of the Islamic World.

They exploit to the fullest, and in ways that out-do even Westerners, the West’s laws that protect liberties and provide unlimited freedoms of expression. They further attempt to penetrate vital institutions in a country like France (e.g. persistently seeking employment in the police, the administration and the army). They identify common causes with the various rejectionist movements, such as the anti-globalization, with an objective to be present and attract media coverage by any means. So the lobbying goes on, as well as the party-like activities without being a political party. In other words, they follow the tactics of the communist cells of the sixties, with an aim to prepare the ground for the national Islamic revolution.

They claim that Islam is unchangeable and, hence, incompatible with the Western societies which are, by definition, progressive and evolutional. The only rules they respect are respecting no rules, except for jihad. Whenever the action is for the sake of Islam, or in its name, a Brother would feel free to lie about identity, ideology and intentions. The Brotherhood has made of lying one of their most effective weapons; which makes cornering them all the more difficult, especially in the absence of any direct relations between a Brother and the organizational leadership.

The Issue the hijab in France revolved around testing the institutions of the state. Indeed, those who were most affected were probably the Jews, Sikhs and Christians who had to drop their ‘religious’ markings even though these never conveyed a particular (ostensible) ‘political message’ as much as the hijab. For hijab is generally not a simple, or neutral, dress but a ‘uniform’; a politico-religious attire.  One must remember that in all the countries, from Iran to Egypt and Pakistan and even Turkey (which is being re-Islamized, and its Kamalist secularism gradually abolished), the push for Islamization invariably starts with the struggle to spread and impose the hijab.

Most of the Islamist activists in Europe belong to the second or even third generations of immigrants; that is they are the product of the European society. This is because of the persistent efforts that target the most fragile individuals (for whatever socio-economical reasons) and cut them off their environment through the teachings of the Brothers which insist on the idea that belonging to Islam is not compatible with citizenship in Europe.

This happens at the time where the state, in a country like France, makes a lot of effort to ensure the full ‘integration’ of Islam and has, accordingly, helped establish in 2004 the ‘French Council of the Islamic Cult’, at the same footing with the councils representing the followers of other religions, and helped establish a special foundation to collect tax-abated donations aimed at building and running mosques and religious schools. However, the UOIF (linked to the Brotherhood) has managed to secure a majority of the membership of the Council.

The UOIF has created in 1990 the ‘European Institute for Human Sciences’ in the Burgundy area, in France, where students and teachers live unnoticed in an agrarian area, not too far from Switzerland and Germany. The board of the Institute includes the likes of Yossef al-Qaradawi (a leading figure of the Brotherhood who also heads the European Centre for Fatwa and Research, in the UK; which has issued fatwas (religious edicts) on the obligation of hijab, and in support of suicidal operations). The declared official objective of the Institute is to ‘provide higher religious studies to the specialists’, and it retains links with Islamic universities in Saudi, Kuwait, Qatar and Pakistan. The French Intelligence services, however, have some doubts about using it as a launch pad for the theorizers of Islamic fundamentalism, according to the thoughts of the Brotherhood…

One must remark here that many of the Muslims in Europe are non-practicing, or secularists. However, the Brotherhood and those associated to it, exploit, in adroit Machiavellian ways whatever immigrant-related problems may be in order to help further isolate Muslims and picture them as victims. It is a patient implementation of al-Banna’s step-by-step approach, gaining a point and a footstep everyday.

In conclusion, there seems to be a growing realization that even if al-Qaeda would claim the public honor of success in terrorist operations; it is the Brotherhood (in ideology, approaches and activities) which lies at the origin, even if it remained in the shadows. Claiming that it has no relation with Islamist groups, or that these are ‘outside its cloak’, is, at best, naïve. For the ‘cloak’ is one and the same. Even if it had numerous arms and legs, in an octopus-like form that could confuse the observer; the fact is that everybody does work together for the common objective.

Finally (leaving aside how would European societies face-up the challenges) one could not help notice the recent arm flexing of the Brotherhood in Egypt. They took to the streets with calls for ‘reform’ and ‘democracy’ - which really mean no more than demands to hand them the rule seat, gently and expeditiously. The reaction of the government was to arrest a few scores. Whether or not it is the right approach, this won’t make us forget that the Brothers and their cronies have for decades been left by the government to dominate, unchallenged, the media, education and the mosques. The result is an enviable success in shaping (or rather destroying) the public’s mind, and in penetrating the various branches of the administration.____________

Main references:    

1- ‘Frères Musulmans, dans l’ombre d’Al-Qaeda’, Emmanuel Razavi, éd.  J-C Godefroy. (The author is a reporter who had spent ample time with the Taliban, Hizbullah, Hamas and various Islamist groups hat mushroom in the city suburbs all over Europe).

2- ‘Le Sabre et le Coran’, Paul Landau, éd. Rocher.

The articles published on this site represent the opinion of their writers and not the opinion of the webmasters.