By Tawfik Hamid
The Muslim Brotherhood and how to deal with it is a political dilemma for decision makers in the U.S. Recently, Rep. Sue Myrick held her House Subcommittee on Terrorism, Human Intelligence, Analysis and Counterintelligence hearing to examine the history, beliefs and positions of the Muslim Brotherhood.
The Muslim Brotherhood does not seem to be as violent as al-Qaeda. However, it is hard to completely separate them from the phenomenon of Radical Islam. The word they use for their slogan is “Wa-aidou” which is Arabic for “prepare.” This is taken from verse 8:60 of the Quran which states, “Prepare (Wa-aidou) against them (the Un-believers) to the utmost of your power, including steeds of war, to strike terror into (the hearts of) the enemies of Allah and your enemies, and others besides, whom ye may not know, but whom Allah doth know.” Therefore, the use of “Wa-aidou” underneath the two swords in the MB flag indicates this is much more complex word than many can imagine.
“Verse 8:60 of the Quran states, ‘Prepare (Wa-aidou) against them (the Un-believers) to the utmost of your power, including steeds of war, to strike terror into (the hearts of) the enemies of Allah…'”
Initial statements by some leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood after the January 25th revolution in Egypt seem promising. However, what the group says today can be very different from what they will do when they come to power.
The statements from the leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood are typically general statements without addressing the specifics of the issues. This approach allows the leaders of the MB the flexibility to completely change what they will say if they come to power. For example, the leaders of the MB defended religious freedom. However, this does not specifically state if a Muslim can convert to other another faith without being killed. Recently, a leading member of the MB mentioned on one of the mainstream Egyptian TV channels that it is so easy to convert to Islam but it so hard to leave it (his facial expressions actually changed from a peaceful smile when he was talking about entering into Islam to expressing anger and disgust when he mentioned leaving it). In addition, they speak about equality and yet they refuse to allow a Coptic or a woman to be the president. This was recently illustrated when several Islamists (including members of the Muslim brotherhood) in the Upper Egypt province of Quena, started a civil strike protesting the new governor mainly because he is a “Copt.” “It is hard to witness such destructive discriminatory reactions, but this superiority complex rhetoric is often found in Islamist groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood. These groups cannot accept Infidels or Non-Muslims as a ruler over Muslims.“
To understand how the US should deal with the Muslim Brotherhood it is vital to mention the following facts:
- The fall of Mubarak was inevitable and any intervention by the U.S. to stop it would have failed. So, it is better to deal with the current reality than just blame the U.S. government for not standing beside Mubarak.
- The MB is a reality on the ground. Ignoring their existence does not change the reality.
- There are growing internal conflicts and divisions within the MB. Some young members, female members, and some senior members have expressed several views that contradict the traditional views of the organization. These include acceptance of Copts in leadership positions, more roles for women in the organization, and different views about some of fundamental Hudud (punishments) in Islam such as stoning for adulteries.
- Due to several ideological reasons, the Muslim Brotherhood can not be a sincere ally to the U.S. They can only have a parasitic form of relationship with the U.S. The MB will use the U.S. support until they become more powerful.
- Anti-Semitism and Anti-Israeli views in Egypt are not limited to the MB. Secular groups in Egypt also share the same views.
The following are some recommendations for the U.S. decision makers on how to deal with the MB:
- The U.S. government MUST understand the reality of what they are dealing with. Asking about the specifics rather than general issues is vital. For example, it is important to know clearly the position of the MB on the intentional killing of Israeli civilians by Palestinian Islamic groups. It is also crucial to ask the MB about how they can respect the peace treaty with Israel (as they claimed) and at the same time uphold the Islamic principle, which is used by Hamas organization, to destroy Israel and erase it from the map. Furthermore, it is imperative to know how their new party that is called Al-Hureia Wa Al-Adala or “Freedom and Equality” will practically deal with freedom of Muslims to covert to other faiths. Or, how will they deal with equality between Muslims and Non-Muslims and between different genders. Pushing the MB on these specific points can help the U.S. officials to understand the real views of the organization.
- Maintaining a good relationship with the secular elements of the Military in Egypt. These military leaders are vital to protect Egypt from becoming another Taliban.
- Direct more of U.S. AID or other humanitarian support to Egypt toward the humanitarian efforts of secular organizations. In this way these organizations can compete with the MB in their humanitarian work. This will create a needed balance, allowing Egyptians to see that the MB is not the only giver of food and humanitarian work.
- The MB MUST know clearly that if they supported terrorist groups, such as the Hamas organization, they will confront a very strong action from the U.S. and they will also be considered and treated as a terrorist group. The “Paradise and Hell” approach of traditional religious education mimics the intentions of “Carrot and Stick” policies. Thus, a strategy of negative and positive consequences is effective when dealing with any Islamist groups.
- The U.S. AID to the country, if the MB took power, MUST be linked to their implementation of Human Rights.
“In brief, the U.S. may soon face the situation where the Muslim Brotherhood is in control of the government of Egypt.”
In brief, the U.S. may soon face the situation where the Muslim Brotherhood is in control of the government of Egypt. It is vital that the U.S. clearly understands the position of the MB towards the activities of terrorist groups such as Hamas. Equally important, is to convey a powerful message to the Muslim Brotherhood that any support for any terrorist group will have grave consequences both on the MB and on the whole country. U.S. support or aid to Egypt needs to be used wisely to avoid giving support to Islamist groups that can ultimately turn against the U.S.
[Editor’s note: Islamists have stated that if they take power in Egypt, they will destroy the Egyptian antiquities – they must be stopped!]