Global Muslim Brotherhood

1. What is the Glob­al Mus­lim Brotherhood?

Most observers are famil­iar with the pan-Islam­ic orga­ni­za­tion known as the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood in Egypt. Found­ed in 1928 by Egypt­ian school­teacher Has­san El-Ban­na, the Egypt­ian Broth­er­hood has been a well­spring of Islamism and polit­i­cal Islam since its incep­tion. Its impor­tance as a ‘spring­board’ toward rad­i­cal­iza­tion for indi­vid­u­als such as Al-Qae­da leader Ayman Al-Zawahiri and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed has been wide­ly dis­cussed. Far less known is the exis­tence of a glob­al net­work of indi­vid­u­als and orga­ni­za­tions that devel­oped as Mus­lim Broth­er­hood mem­bers dis­persed to oth­er coun­tries while flee­ing the peri­od­ic crack­downs on the orga­ni­za­tion in Egypt.

Many of these Mus­lim Broth­ers (Ikhwan) set­tled in Europe and the Unit­ed States, where they went on to found what have become some of the most promi­nent Islam­ic orga­ni­za­tions in their new home coun­tries. Once estab­lished, these orga­ni­za­tions began seek­ing legit­i­ma­cy and have worked to influ­ence and con­trol the devel­op­ment of Islam­ic dis­course and polit­i­cal activ­i­ty in their respec­tive coun­tries. Less pub­licly, they are almost always asso­ci­at­ed with fun­da­men­tal­ism, anti-Semi­tism, and sup­port for Hamas, Pales­tin­ian Islam­ic Jihad, and even Hezbol­lah. While claim­ing to dis­avow Al-Qae­da linked ter­ror­ism, the Ikhwan are at best luke­warm in their con­dem­na­tion of Islamist vio­lence and com­mon­ly issue state­ments jus­ti­fy­ing and sup­port­ing such vio­lence. When com­pared to the Egypt­ian orga­ni­za­tion, there has been rel­a­tive­ly lit­tle scruti­ny of the net­work that is referred to as the Glob­al Mus­lim Broth­er­hood. This net­work has become far more impor­tant to the Islamist move­ment world­wide than the Egypt­ian orga­ni­za­tion, which until recent­ly had been large­ly con­fined to activ­i­ties inside Egypt– where its mem­bers were under con­stant gov­ern­ment sur­veil­lance and con­trol until the fall of the Mubarak gov­ern­ment in 2011.

The Glob­al Mus­lim Broth­er­hood has been orga­nized in the Unit­ed States since 1963 when the Mus­lim Stu­dent Asso­ci­a­tion (MSA) was estab­lished by Broth­er­hood mem­bers flee­ing their home coun­tries. Key fig­ures in the MSA, as well as oth­ers linked to the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood, went on to form numer­ous oth­er orga­ni­za­tions, many of which have been recent­ly iden­ti­fied by the US gov­ern­ment in court doc­u­ments as part of the U.S Broth­er­hood. The Glob­al Mus­lim Broth­er­hood has been present in Europe since 1960 when Said Ramadan, the son-in-law of Has­san Al-Ban­na, found­ed a mosque in Munich. Since that time, Broth­er­hood orga­ni­za­tions have been estab­lished in almost all of the EU coun­tries as well as many non-EU coun­tries such as Rus­sia and Turkey. Many of these orga­ni­za­tions have band­ed togeth­er into an EU-lev­el lob­by­ing group known as the Fed­er­a­tion of Islam­ic Orga­ni­za­tions of Europe (FIOE), based in Brus­sels and which includes some 26 Euro­pean Mus­lim Broth­er­hood orga­ni­za­tions as well as being the par­ent body for oth­er pan-Euro­pean Broth­er­hood bod­ies such as the Euro­pean Coun­cil For Fat­wa and Research (ECFR). The Glob­al Mus­lim Broth­er­hood also includes impor­tant Sau­di insti­tu­tions, many of which were found­ed by Mus­lim Broth­ers who set­tled in the King­dom. These include the Mus­lim World League (MWL) and the World Assem­bly of Mus­lim Youth (WAMY), both of which were cre­at­ed to prop­a­gate Sau­di ‘Wah­habi’ Islam, a con­ser­v­a­tive ver­sion of Islam that teach­es that the only true form of the reli­gion is that which it is believed was prac­ticed cen­turies ago. These US, Euro­pean, and Sau­di orga­ni­za­tions, as well as Islam­ic orga­ni­za­tions in oth­er parts of the world, oper­ate as a coher­ent net­work– shar­ing sim­i­lar ide­ol­o­gy, back­grounds, fund­ing, and insti­tu­tion­al links. They hold numer­ous con­fer­ences year after yearattend­ed by the same core group of individuals.

While much remains to be learned about how the Glob­al Mus­lim Broth­er­hood is coor­di­nat­ed and led, US court doc­u­ments released dur­ing the Holy Land Foun­da­tion ter­ror­ism financ­ing tri­al indi­cate a degree of struc­ture pre­vi­ous­ly unknown. In addi­tion, one indi­vid­ual holds a posi­tion of such esteem and influ­ence with­in the Glob­al Mus­lim Broth­er­hood that he is referred to here as the leader of the net­work. Sheikh Youssef Qaradawi is a high­ly influ­en­tial the­olo­gian liv­ing in Qatar who also heads the Euro­pean Coun­cil for Fat­wa and Research and appears on a week­ly Al Jazeera tele­vi­sion pro­gram. Sheikh Qaradawi first rose to promi­nence through his par­tic­i­pa­tion on the edi­to­r­i­al board of Al-Dawa mag­a­zine, an Egypt­ian pub­li­ca­tion that was allowed to cir­cu­late dur­ing the regime of Anwar Sadat and which was large­ly financed by mon­ey com­ing from Sau­di Ara­bia. The Al-Dawa edi­to­r­i­al board was com­posed large­ly of Mus­lim Broth­ers who had fall­en out with the Broth­er­hood Supreme Guide over their will­ing­ness to coop­er­ate with the Egypt­ian regime.

2. Is there any oth­er evi­dence for the exis­tence of a Glob­al Mus­lim Brotherhood?

Sev­er­al of the lead­ers of the Egypt­ian Mus­lim Broth­er­hood itself have acknowl­edged the exis­tence of a Glob­al Mus­lim Broth­er­hood. In July 2007, the then Supreme Guide of the Egypt­ian Mus­lim Broth­er­hood explained:

This blessed move­ment found­ed by our mar­tyr Imam- Allah have mer­cy on him- ensued a huge move­ment which is present in more than sev­en­ty coun­tries all over the world, and is still spread­ing and bear­ing fruits.

Also in July 2007,  Kamal al Hel­bawi, the MB’s for­mer offi­cial spokesman in the West, said in a news­pa­per interview:

Gen­er­al­ly speak­ing, no coun­try is devoid of the MB, whether large or small, Arab or inter­na­tion­al. In the West, there is an Islam­ic move­ment that fol­lows al Ban­na, but there are also oth­ers that have dif­fer­ent references.”

In June 2008,  the first Deputy Chair­man of the Egypt­ian Mus­lim Broth­er­hood was asked about the “inter­na­tion­al Mus­lim Broth­er­hood and replied:

There are enti­ties that exist in many coun­tries all over the world. These enti­ties have the same ide­ol­o­gy, prin­ci­ple and objec­tives but they work in dif­fer­ent cir­cum­stances and dif­fer­ent con­texts. So, it is rea­son­able to have decen­tral­iza­tion in action so that every enti­ty works accord­ing to its cir­cum­stances and accord­ing to the prob­lems it is fac­ing and in their framework.

In 2010, a US ana­lyst wrote about com­ments made by Mohammed Akef, for­mer Supreme Guide of the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood in Egypt:

.… Mohammed Akef has made it clear that FIDE, FEMYSO, and their mem­ber orga­ni­za­tions fall under the large umbrel­la of the glob­al Mus­lim Broth­er­hood and, more specif­i­cal­ly, the trend led by Qaradawi. “These orga­ni­za­tions and insti­tu­tions are inde­pen­dent and autonomous. We do not con­trol them,” said Akef in an inter­view with the Swiss jour­nal­ist Syl­vain Besson. “It is the Broth­ers abroad that con­trol them. The struc­tures linked to Qaradawi are orga­ni­za­tions of the Broth­er­hood direct­ed by the Broth­ers of dif­fer­ent coun­tries.” An orga­ni­za­tion’s mem­ber­ship in the FIOE and in FEMYSO pro­vides a for­mal indi­ca­tor of its affil­i­a­tion with the Euro­pean wing of the New West­ern Brothers.