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Showdown on the Muslim Brotherhood By: Patrick Poole
FrontPageMagazine.com | Monday, April 16, 2007


I must admit that I was pleased last week when FrontPage Magazine’s editors informed me that they were about to publish a response by Robert Leiken and Steven Brooke of the Nixon Center to my article last month, “Mainstreaming the Muslim Brotherhood.” Before having had a chance to read their “Response to Patrick Poole’s ‘Mainstreaming the Muslim Brotherhood,’” I sincerely hoped that we might have the makings of an open and serious public policy debate.

I will admit that there are elements to their original article in the current issue of Foreign Affairs, “The Moderate Muslim Brotherhood,” that are sound, reasonable and uncontroversial, such as their recommendation that the U.S. must approach and consider each Brotherhood chapter in their respective countries as entities in their own right, rather than trying to consider the vast movement as a monolithic whole; and engaging reformists of all types in the Middle East. Who could possibly disagree? At other times in their original article they rely on making obvious statements of fact, such as that within the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood there are varying sentiments, programs and ideas, and the organization is not a monolith. O.K., no problem here.

 

But at the very points of controversy and dispute at issue, Leiken and Brooke make a wide variety of unsupported and circular claims that are central to their overall argument. The lynchpin of their thesis, that the Muslim Brotherhood has “rejected global jihad” and is “embracing democracy,” is simply asserted and assumed throughout their Foreign Affairs article, and those two points were the focus of my previous criticism. The only support they offer are quotes from several unnamed Brotherhood operatives, and the authors’ assurances that since they have traveled to and met with “reformist” Brotherhood leaders in several countries, they are in a unique position to make these otherwise unsupported claims. Their Foreign Affairs article offers neither footnotes nor citations to the work of other scholars in support of their position (and they barely offered a handful in their most recent missive). And as I noted in my original critique, in baldly asserting these positions, they either intentionally ignore or outright misrepresent evidence familiar to most researchers that fundamentally contradicts the very points they are advancing.

 

I hoped when I heard that they had offered a response to my critique that finally we could engage in a substantive debate over the issues I raised. But when I and FrontPage Magazine readers finally had the opportunity to read their response last Wednesday, those hopes of having an open and substantive debate were quickly crushed.

 

Once again, Leiken and Brooke rely on evasion, duplicity and outright lies (I’ll discuss one glaring example of this latter tactic in relation to statements they made regarding the Brotherhood’s Jordanian affiliate) – methods not dissimilar to those used by the Muslim Brotherhood itself – to avoid answering the hard questions posed not just by myself, but by analysts from all across the political spectrum, about the organization’s deep and long-time connections to terrorism, their supposed disavowal of violence, and the genuineness of their claims to be favorably inclined towards democratic activity.

 

When those tactics weren’t sufficient to argue their case, ad hominem attacks, rhetorical gimmicks and appeals to their vastly superior intellect and professional experience as Beltway insiders were used to fill in the gaps. As Douglas Farah has noted, these are precisely the same bush-league tactics Leiken and Brooke used just a few weeks ago in their Center’s publication, In The National Interest, (“Strategic Thinking about the Muslim Brotherhood”) to falsely smear another critic, Yousef Ibrahim, who raised many of the same concerns about the Muslim Brotherhood in an op-ed in the NY Sun that took issue with their Foreign Affairs article. Confronted with the facts by Farah and others, Leiken and Brooke were forced to half-heartedly retract their smear against Ibrahim.

 

But they tried to throw some of that same mud on me. This is just one example.

 

Poole wants us to think that the government was suppressing only Muslim extremists. This would come as a surprise to the activists, journalists, bloggers, and everyday citizens who have been arrested, beaten, tortured, and generally intimidated for supporting the very same political reforms endorsed by the Muslim Brotherhood.

 

What Leiken and Brooke attempt to do here is to manufacture an absurdly ridiculous position and impute it to me to characterize me as either: 1) slightly to the right of Attila the Hun; 2) a wanna-be “internet intellectual” without the slightest clue of what I’m talking about (a theme they pick up later); 3) a certifiable loon; or 4) all the above.

 

Anyone familiar with the art of rhetoric will readily identify the sleight-of-hand gimmick being used here – the “straw man” argument. It would be much like them telling you my favorite pastimes are drowning kittens and tossing cuddly Labrador puppies into a wood chipper. You get the point.

 

But just to make it clear, this is something that they have entirely invented themselves (see entry: “making sh-t up”) in an attempt to discredit me without bothering to take issue with something I actually have said or written. In the nearly 20 years of my professional life, I cannot recall ever speaking or writing a single kind word in favor of the Mubarak regime. Nonetheless, they have uncovered my secret motives to make you believe that Mubarak is only suppressing extremists (like the “moderate” Muslim Brotherhood)!

 

Again, this is not the first time that they have been caught “making sh-t up” about their critics in recent weeks (will I also be afforded a public retraction?). And yet we’re supposed to take them entirely at their word that the Muslim Brotherhood has “rejected global jihad” and “embraces democracy.”

 

Before getting into my detailed rejoinder to their response, let me qualify that in debating the issue over how the United States deals with the Muslim Brotherhood, reasonable, informed and well-intentioned people can disagree. This is precisely the point at which open and substantive debate should be encouraged, and FrontPage Magazine should be given kudos for opening their electronic space to different sides of the issue. But since Leiken and Brooke have resorted to running from an honest debate, I feel an obligation to provide some correction to their dissembling.

 

One of the first claims they make in their response to my article is that “we will answer all of Poole’s arguments, notwithstanding that he evaded all of ours.” But in fact, two of the central claims of my original critique receive not a single word of mention from Leiken and Brooke in their response:

 

1)      the analysis I gave of the Brotherhood’s 2004 “Reform Initiative” as a counter-example of the group’s “embrace” of democracy (see also, Dr. Sayed Mahmoud Al-Qumni, “The Muslim Brotherhood’s Initiative as a Reform Program,” Brookings Institution paper delivered at the Conference on Islamic Reform [Oct. 5-6, 2004]); and

2)      the use of the Brotherhood’s extensive international banking network to support virtually every Islamic terrorist organization in the world, including Al-Qaeda (see Michael Isikoff and Mark Hosenball, “Terror Watch: How Osama bin Laden Finances Terror,” Newsweek [May 24, 2004] and Douglas Farah, “The Little Explored Offshore Empire of the International Muslim Brotherhood,” International Assessment and Strategy Center [April 18, 2006] and Khaled Dawoud, “Brotherhood faces WTC Fallout,” Al-Ahram Weekly No. 560 [November 15-21, 2001])

 

This omission is no surprise, of course, as the evidence against their position is simply overwhelming and not really a matter of dispute amongst scholars; I assume that this is why they thought it best to evade these topics altogether.

 

With that introduction, let’s look at their response to me in detail.

 

“Rejecting Global Jihad” – A Distinction without a Difference

 

1)         “Poole states that we claim the Brotherhood “rejects jihad.”  But this phrase appears nowhere in our article.  Instead, we asserted that that all factions of the Muslim Brotherhood “reject global jihad.”  We used the term for a reason.”

 

The first claim is fairly easy to deal with. As I noted in my original article, the phrases “rejecting jihad” and “embracing democracy” are taken straight from their article’s own summary statement:

 

Even as Western commentators condemn the Muslim Brotherhood for its Islamism, radicals in the Middle East condemn it for rejecting jihad and embracing democracy. Such relative moderation offers Washington a notable opportunity for engagement – as long as policymakers recognize the considerable variation between the group's different branches and tendencies. (Emphasis added.)

 

Apparently the distinction they are trying to draw between “rejecting jihad” and “rejecting global jihad” was just as lost on their editors at the Council on Foreign Relations as it was to me and other readers. But now they have cleared the matter up for us. They explain:

 

Global jihad is Osama Bin Laden and Ayman al Zawahiri’s unconditional violence against a broad range of targets: “Jews and Crusaders,” America and its allies, Great Britain, Israel, Spain, Turkey, Indonesia, Tunisia, Morocco and even Saudi Arabia. This cannot be demagogically equated with the Brotherhood notion of defensive jihad.

 

They want us to conclude that blowing up Jewish schoolchildren in Israel and killing American soldiers in Iraq is not part of al-Qaeda’s “global jihad” against “Jews and Crusaders,” but rather, part of the Brotherhood’s “defensive jihad,” notwithstanding that Jewish schoolchildren are precisely the “Jews” and American soldiers are the “Crusaders” al-Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood both have in mind!

 

As one of the “demagogues” they are trying correct, I readily admit that I understand the jihadist concept of “near enemy” and “far enemy” (see Mark Sageman, Understanding Terror Networks [2004, University of Pennsylvania Press]), as well as the amorphous Islamic doctrine of “defensive jihad” (see David Cook, Understanding Jihad [2005, University of California Press]). The simple fact of the matter is, however, that within the context of the Muslim Brotherhood, “global jihad” and “defensive jihad” in the real world of the Middle East all involve terrorism directed at innocent civilians, such as the “defensive jihad” terrorist activities of the Brotherhood’s Palestinian chapter, HAMAS, which are actively supported by the whole of the Muslim Brotherhood movement internationally (more on HAMAS later).

 

By relying on the phrase “rejecting global jihad,” Leiken and Brooke are trying to draw a distinction without a difference. It’s all terrorism, and the fact that they are willing to admit that the Brotherhood tactically shies away from one but not the other is an admission that the Brotherhood has refused to disavow the use of violence and withdraw their financial, operational and rhetorical support for terrorist activities, which is expressly the point at issue. No amount of demagogic nuance that the pair want try offer should distract us from that cold, hard fact.

 

As I mentioned in my first article, that the Muslim Brotherhood still embraces violence as part of the political and cultural program is precisely the bone of contention for those in the West skeptical of the group’s intentions. So, if they haven’t renounced violence, on what basis are Leiken and Brooke trying to paint the Brotherhood as “moderate”? Honestly, I still don’t know. And in the U.S., that concern about the Brotherhood’s acceptance of violence is bipartisan. I previously noted that President Clinton’s Special Envoy to the Middle East, Dennis Ross, recently expressed his doubts about the Brotherhood’s rejection of violence:

 

He (Ross – ed.) added that he would not talk to the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and that despite its assertion that it wants to engage in the political process in Egypt, the movement supports the use of violence in other areas and this is the main problem. He firmly stated that as long as the movement supported violence as a means to achieve political objectives, then dialogue could not be established with such an organization. (Manal Lufti, “The Brotherhood and America, Part Three,” Asharq Al-Awsat [03/14/07])

 

Apparently, Ross didn’t get Leiken and Brooke’s memo. But this esteemed American diplomat’s assessment raises a more fundamental issue: U.S. foreign policy has always been that we will not deal with terrorism or its supporters. That position was resoundingly and forcefully restated in the days after 9/11 by Republicans and Democrats, conservatives and “Progressives,” alike.

 

But to buy into the “terrorism as defensive jihad” approach advocated by Leiken and Brooke, and to look the other way as the Brotherhood heartily endorses HAMAS suicide bombings and Hezbollah’s indiscriminate rocket attacks against Israeli civilians, this would be a fundamental reversal of this long-held foreign policy non-negotiable. Is this really the road that we as Americans want to go down?

 

Nonetheless, I am anxious to hear more from Leiken and Brooke about how the admitted Brotherhood’s support for terrorism in the name of “defensive jihad” clarifies their “moderate Muslim Brotherhood” thesis.

 

2)         “In fact, the Brotherhood began to reject the theological underpinnings of global jihad in the 1960s, with the publication of the volume Preachers, not Judges.  This work aimed to combat the theories of Sayyid Qutb, the group’s most prominent intellectual.”

 

In both their Foreign Affairs article and their recent responses directed at their critics, Leiken and Brooke have made much about the late Supreme Guide Hasan al-Hudaybi’s Preachers, Not Judges as representing the post-Qutb world of the Muslim Brotherhood that has continued up until today. In the Foreign Affairs article they write:

 

But from his own cell, Hudaybi disputed Qutb’s conclusion. Only God, he believed, could judge faith. He rejected takfir (the act of declaring another Muslim an apostate), arguing that “whoever judges that someone is no longer a Muslim ... deviates from Islam and transgresses God’s will by judging another person’s faith.” Within the Brotherhood, Hudaybi’s tolerant view—in line with Banna’s founding vision—prevailed, cementing the group’s moderate vocation. (p. 110)

 

This is where we see the realm of half-truths come into play in Leiken and Brooke’s analysis. It is true that Hudaybi wrote Preachers, Not Judges in critique of some of the jihadist doctrines picked up by Sayyid Qutb, though the book was explicitly directed at Mawdudi’s “The Four Technical Terms of the Koran,” rather than at Qutb (who Leiken and Brooke have to grudgingly acknowledge is nowhere mentioned in Hudaybi’s book, “The Moderate Muslim Brotherhood,” p. 113).

 

But as Paul Harvey would say, “and now for the rest of the story…”

 

In fact, when Qutb’s seminal work outlining his jihadist doctrine, Signposts (also known as Milestones along the Road), was first published, Hudaybi enthusiastically received the volume and its jihadist program. The French Islamic scholar, Gilles Kepel, describes his excitement:

 

Hudaybi himself (whose opinion became far more measured after 1966) declared that the book vindicated all the hopes he had placed in Sayyid Qutb, who now embodied “the future of the Muslim mission” (da’wa). (Muslim Extremism in Egypt: The Prophet and the Pharaoh [1993, University of California Press], p. 30)

 

Prior to being thrown back in jail, Qubt’s extremist program was warmly embraced by the Brotherhood’s Supreme Guide, who thought that it ideologically represented the future of the organization. Things apparently changed with the 1965 crackdown by Nasser.

 

Hudaybi’s critical comments could be attributed to feelings of “buyer’s remorse.” Leiken and Brooke admit that his book was written from a prison cell following the wave of arrests by Nasser in 1965 that would cost Qutb his life the following year. Hudaybi was certain to remember that his life had been spared in 1954 after a member of the Brotherhood’s “special apparatus” made an assassination attempt on Nasser – an event that occurred on Hudaybi’s watch as Supreme Guide. It was only due to Hudaybi’s advanced age that his life was spared on that occasion (a number of Brotherhood leaders were executed). It is certainly understandable that Hudaybi abandoned his friend and colleague facing the executioner once again, but in light of his previous enthusiastic endorsement of Qutb’s ideas, it isn’t unreasonable to conclude that he did so more for pragmatic (like saving his skin) than principled reasons. Thus, in many respects, Hudaybi’s rejection of violence may be a reflection of the same reasons why the Brotherhood occasionally publicly rejects the use of violence today – not out of any ideological scruples, but for fear of being put out of business by the Egyptian regime.

 

That speculation aside, it is a fair question to ask: “Exactly how far did Hudaybi’s critique penetrate the Brotherhood and the Islamist movements in general?”

 

One objective measure we can consider is that Preachers, Not Judges has not been reprinted in Egypt since 1977 (the last edition I could locate through OCLC), nor from my survey has it been reprinted anywhere else in the Middle East since 1985, when a new edition came out in Kuwait. Conversely, Qutb’s Signposts is probably the top selling Arabic-language book of the past half-century.

 

It does seem truly odd that for a book whose ideas Leiken and Brooke contend are so controlling to the ideology of the Muslim Brotherhood movement today (Hudaybi) and critical to understanding the organization’s alleged rejection of Qutb’s program of violent jihad has been out of print in Egypt for a full three decades, while Qutb’s Signposts remains a staple in the Brotherhood’s membership training curriculum all over the world, including the required reading list of the U.S. branch of the Brotherhood, the Muslim American Society (though Hudaybi’s book is nowhere to be found on those same lists). Perhaps Leiken and Brooke can elaborate on that.

 

It also must be considered that a wide range of books have appeared from Brotherhood leaders in more recent decades, some of which advocate the very positions that Hudaybi rejected (Saeed Hawwa’s The Muslim Brotherhood: Objective, Stages, Method comes immediately to mind, as does virtually anything by Yousef al-Qaradawi). Yes, it’s true that there is a wide range of opinion with respect to Qutb’s views; and yes, Hudaybi nominally critiqued Qutb in Preachers, Not Judges; and yes, the leaders of the Brotherhood took up Hudaybi’s criticism in an attempt to control the younger, more radical elements that had developed both internal and external to the Brotherhood. But is that book anywhere representative of the views of the Brotherhood today? Leiken and Brooke offer no evidence whatsoever to support that position beyond their own testimony. And the circumstantial evidence seems to weigh heavily against it.

 

(For a good summary of the development of Qutb’s ideology after his death, see Olivier Carré, “From Banna to Qutb and ‘Qutbism’: The Radicalization of Fundamentalist Thought under Three Regimes,” Egypt from Monarchy to Republic: A Reassessment of Revolution and Change, Shimon Shamir, ed. (Boulder: Westview Press, 1995): 181-194)

 

3)         “In Foreign Affairs we did not ignore the violent residue in the Brotherhood.  We wrote ‘the Brotherhood does authorize jihad in countries and territories occupied by a foreign power. As in Afghanistan under the Soviets, the Ikhwan views the struggles in Iraq and against Israel as ‘defensive jihad’ against invaders, the Muslim functional equivalent of the Christian doctrine of ‘just war.’”

 

Here we are offered a classic example of rhetorical “bait-and-switch.” Nothing in the historic Christian doctrine of “just war” compares to the justification of terrorism that is part-and-parcel of the Brotherhood’s current interpretation of and apology for “defensive jihad,” e.g. HAMAS.

 

Another recent critic of Leiken and Brooke makes the same point about their equivocation here:

 

If I am unconvinced of the Brotherhood’s democratic convictions, what of Leiken and Brooke’s claim that it represents the antithesis of jihadism? They concede some nuance: “The Brotherhood does authorize jihad in countries and territories occupied by a foreign power. Like in Afghanistan under the Soviets, the Ikhwan views the struggles in Iraq and against Israel as ‘defensive jihad’ against invaders, the Muslim functional equivalent of the Christian doctrine of ‘just war.’”

 

This is rather like saying that the acts of Jack the Ripper were the “functional equivalent” of courtly love. Just-war doctrine insists above all that war be conducted with discrimination between civilians and combatants. The Brotherhood, by contrast, cheers on suicide bombings, and some of its branches perpetrate them. (Hamas, for example, is the group’s Palestinian wing.) (Joshua Muravchik, “The Brotherhood’s CreedContentions [April 9, 2007])

 

With such shameless attempts at moral equivalency, it makes it very difficult to engage in civilized debate. There just isn’t much room for adult discussion if Leiken and Brooke want to contend that Islamic terrorism, whether done in the name of “defensive jihad” or “global jihad,” is on par with Christian “just war” doctrine.

 

4)         “We abhor the Brotherhood’s stance on Israel and quarrel with them over other specific policies.  But they oppose Bin Laden, Zawahiri, and global jihad. We hold that this difference is significant enough to make the Muslim Brotherhood collocutors and specifically indicated the U.S. should begin a dialogue “with representatives of the Brotherhood’s reformist wing, especially those already living in the West.”

 

In their Foreign Affairs article, Leiken and Brooke go to great lengths to play up the historic differences between Al-Qaeda No. 2 Ayman Al-Zawahiri and the Brotherhood to reverse engineer a position that Zawahiri’s criticism is proof that the Brotherhood is “moderate.” Comments by the pair, such as “jihadists loathe the Muslim Brotherhood,” “these jihadists view the Brotherhood’s embrace of democracy as blasphemy,” “the acrimony between Hamas and Al-Qaeda,” and (my favorite) “the sustained fury with which the jihadists criticize Hamas” are all intended to convey the impression that the groups are deadlocked in intractable ideological warfare. Nothing could be further from the truth.

 

Admittedly, though Zawahiri was brought up through the Brotherhood’s ranks and his contacts with Osama bin Laden began when the Brotherhood sent him as a doctor to Afghanistan in the 1980s (on this point, see Lawrence Wright, The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11 [Knopf, 2006], p. 44), bin Laden’s right-hand man has been fairly critical of the Brotherhood for years.

 

But contrary to Leiken and Brooke’s representations, Zawahiri’s vocal criticism seems to be almost singular among the ranks of the jihadists. In fact, Zawahiri’s recent outburst, delivered last year after the Brotherhood’s electoral gains in the Egyptian parliamentary elections, was a shock to the Brotherhood’s leadership, which they admitted caught them off guard:

 

Egypt's Moslem Brotherhood was stunned by criticism from al-Qaeda's Ayman al-Zawaheri over its participation in parliamentary elections, according to a report Saturday by Asharq al-Awsat newspaper.

Brotherhood spokesman Essam al-Erian told the Pan Arab daily that al-Zawaheri, whose latest video tape was aired by al-Jazeera satellite channel Friday, was the only person not to view the Moslem Brotherhood's participation in December's elections positively.

 

…Al-Erian charged that al-Zawaheri's criticism put the al-Qaeda man in the ranks of the ultra-secularists, and voices in the regime and the West that attacked the Brotherhood's participation in the elections.

 

… “What's strange is that al-Zawaheri did not know about the warning from the European Union, the United States and (Israeli Premier Ariel) Sharon against Hamas in the Palestinian legislative elections,” al-Erian continued.

 

The EU said in December that it might halt its aid to the Palestinian Authority if Hamas wins the elections. 'We are waiting to see where al-Zawerhi stands,' al-Erian added. (Deutsche Press-Agentur, “Muslim Brotherhood ‘Stunned’ by al-Zawaheri Criticism” [01/07/06])

 

Even according to the Brotherhood’s own spokesman, Zawahiri stands alone amongst jihadists in his criticism. And as I will discuss later, Al-Qaeda and HAMAS are working hand-in-hand in the Palestinian Territories since the latter has come into political power, notwithstanding the “sustained fury” the Nixon Center duo say exists between the two organizations.

 

This should give us considerable pause when considering Leiken and Brooke’s grandiose statements about the supposed acrimony and bitter hatred that they allege exists between the Brotherhood and Al-Qaeda. They’re sure to argue that as the No. 2 man in the organization, he speaks for all; but when it comes to the Muslim Brotherhood’s Supreme Guide Mehdi Akef, they dismiss him as a “doddering, slightly embarrassing old uncle.” When necessary, they try to have it both ways.

 

They also fall victim to the very problem they caution others about – treating al-Qaeda as a monolith. Apart from Zawahiri’s criticism, there’s no indication that his position is nothing more than the minority report among al-Qaeda; and as I’ll discuss below, there is significant evidence documenting current active cooperation between HAMAS and al-Qaeda.

 

One noted expert, Lydia Khalil of the Jamestown Foundation and the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point, offers a wiser and much more nuanced perspective that the differences between the Muslim Brotherhood and al-Qaeda are one of tactics, and not of overall strategy:

 

Despite what al-Zawahiri claims, the Muslim Brotherhood has not relinquished the goal of Islamic governance, although their methods to achieve it may have changed. Nor have the Ikhwan embraced the United States. For the Muslim Brotherhood, Islam cannot be separated from governance or political life…Although the Muslim Brotherhood has moderated its rhetoric, tactics and approach over the years, its overarching goal of Islamic governance has not wavered despite its efforts to publicly de-emphasize this fact. (Lydia Khalil, “Al-Qaeda & the Muslim Brotherhood: United by Strategy, Divided by Tactics,” Terrorism Monitor Volume 4, Issue 6 [March 23, 2006], pp. 7-8)

 

Khalil also took note of a public statement made by one of the Brotherhood’s leaders and parliamentary representatives:

 

Al-Zawahiri’s criticism of the Muslim Brotherhood’s election strategy has not compelled the Ikhwan to change tactics, but neither has it cause them to forgo sympathizing with the militant jihadist struggle coordinated by al-Qaeda… Egyptian MP and Muslim Brotherhood member Ragib Hilal Hamida has been on the record stating that he supports al-Qaeda and that the Quran condones terrorism. He clarifies his position by claiming that terrorism is not a criminal act, but rather a resistance to occupation and the influence of non-Islamic powers, which is legitimate in the eyes of the Quran.

 

“Terrorism is not a curse when given its true meaning. [When interpreted accurately] it means opposing occupation as it exists in Palestine, Afghanistan and Iraq…From my point of view, bin Laden, al-Zawahiri and al-Zarqawi are not terrorists in the sense accepted by some. I support all their activities since they are a thorn in the side of the Americans and the Zionists.” (Roz al-Yousef, January 28-February 3). (Khalil, “Al-Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood,” p. 9)

 

So much for the Brotherhood “opposing Bin Laden, Zawahiri, and global jihad”!

 

Here we see that the distinction that Leiken and Brooke implore us to make between “global jihad” and “defensive jihad” is not one that at least some of the leading members of the Muslim Brotherhood are willing to accept. Perhaps they will tell us next that Hamida is a “hard-line” and “controversial figure,” much like anyone else from the Muslim Brotherhood that says or does something that doesn’t fit into their tight little “rejecting global jihad” and “embracing democracy” package.

 

Then we come to the supposed “acrimony between Hamas and al-Qaeda.” But the reality is that since the HAMAS Palestinian Authority electoral victory last year, the West Bank and Gaza have become al-Qaeda safe havens – all with the approval and assistance of HAMAS. Apparently the relations between the two are not as acrimonious as Leiken and Brooke would have us believe.

 

One definitive analysis that puts the lie to these claims of an acrimonious relationship is by Lt. Col. Jonathan Helevi. In a detailed report published in the wake of last year’s Palestinian Authority elections, “Understanding the Direction of the New Hamas Government: Between Tactical Pragmatism and Al-Qaeda Jihadism,” Halevi has a section entitled, Hamas and Al-Qaeda: Partners in Global Jihad, that is so important to the issue at hand that the section bears worth reprinting in its entirety:

 

On March 2, 2006, PA Chairman Abbas told Al-Hayat (UK) that he had received intelligence information indicating the presence of al-Qaeda operatives in the West Bank and Gaza,22 just two days after Israel publicized the arrest of two al-Qaeda operatives in Nablus. Azzam Abu al-Ads and Bilal Hafnawy were indicted for recruiting operatives to carry out terror attacks for al-Qaeda and planning a combined terror attack in Jerusalem with a suicide bomber and a car bomb. Members of the gang who were recruited by al-Qaeda's infrastructure in Irbid, Jordan, were arrested by Israeli security forces at the Allenby Bridge on December 10, 2005, when returning from Jordan.23

 

However, on March 15, 2006, Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal called Abbas' warning about an al-Qaeda infrastructure in the PA "unfortunate," adding that "we don't understand the logic behind these statements." He emphasized that "al-Qaeda has no presence on Palestinian soil."24 Yet on April 4, 2006, Al-Hayat reported "a definite presence" of al-Qaeda operatives in the Gaza Strip who had just infiltrated from several Arab countries including Egypt, Sudan, and Yemen.

 

It has been known for some time that al-Qaeda operatives are present in the Palestinian Authority. In August 2000, Israel's security service uncovered a terror network linked to al-Qaeda and headed by Nabil Okal, a Hamas operative from Gaza, who underwent military training in camps of the terrorist chieftain Osama bin Laden in Pakistan and Afghanistan during 1997-1998.25 In July 2005, al-Qaeda gangs fired Kassam rockets at the Israeli town of Neve Dekalim in Gush Katif and also disseminated a video documenting its activities.26 On October 7, 2005, the Palestinian news agency Ma'an published a declaration circulated in Khan Yunis in which al-Qaeda announced the establishment of a branch in Gaza. The declaration, signed with the name "Qaedat Aljihad in Palestine," states that the organization's main goals are: implementing Islamic law (Sharia), setting up a Sharia state, reviving the idea of the caliphate in the hearts of the Muslims, and working to create a worldwide Islamic caliphate.27

 

More recently on March 26, 2006, a senior Hamas figure, Muhammad Sayyam, met in Peshawar, Pakistan, with Sayyid Salah al-Din, leader of the Kashmiri terror organization Hezb ul-Mujahidin,28 which had training camps in Afghanistan until the Taliban's fall from power and functioned as an al-Qaeda affiliate.29 Sayyam heads the Yemeni branch of the Palestine Scholars Association, which advocates uncompromising jihad against the infidels and legally sanctioned suicide bombings against civilians in Israel. He sees the role of Muslim religious sages as spiritual guides whose task is to motivate the masses to struggle against Islam's enemies and attack them with suicide bombings.30

 

Saudi Islamist cleric Sheikh Dr. Nasser Al-'Omar hosted a reception for a Hamas delegation led by Khaled Mashaal in Riyadh on March 12, 2006, also attended by prominent clerics and Islamists, some of whom had served prison terms for their suspected support of al-Qaeda or for criticizing the Saudi government.31

 

In honor of a visit to Yemen by Khaled Mashaal on March 20, 2006, the Hamas office in Yemen organized a conference to recruit financial aid for the Hamas movement and the new Hamas government. Sheikh Abd al-Majid al-Zindani also took part in the conference, meeting with Mashaal, calling on participants to assist the Hamas regime, and setting a personal example by contributing 200,000 rials.32 Zindani stressed that "the support we can provide at present is money (emphasis added)," hinting at other forms of support for Hamas in the future.

 

On February 24, 2004, U.S. authorities had designated al-Zindani as a terror supporter, "loyal to Osama bin Laden and a supporter of the al-Qaeda organization." The U.S. Treasury Department stated: "The U.S. has credible evidence that al-Zindani, a Yemeni national, supports designated terrorists and terrorist organizations" and "has a long history of working with bin Laden, notably serving as one of his spiritual leaders." The statement said al-Zindani "support[ed] many terrorist causes, including actively recruiting for al-Qaeda training camps," and in 2004 "played a key role in the purchase of weapons on behalf of al-Qaeda and other terrorists."33

 

Relations between al-Qaeda and Hamas go back to the early 1990s. In April 1991, Sudanese leader Hasan Turabi hosted a "Popular Arab and Islamic Conference" in Khartoum that brought together for the first time Islamists from the Middle East, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. In addition to Hamas, Osama bin Laden also attended and in subsequent years turned Sudan into his main base of operations. Turabi continued to host this jihadist gathering in 1993 and 1995; Hamas training camps in Sudan existed alongside those of al-Qaeda. Their solidarity could be inferred from bin Laden's explicit reference to Hamas founder Sheikh Ahmad Yassin as one of the five ulema on which bin Laden based his August 1996 Declaration of Jihad Against the U.S.34

 

As noted in the case of al-Zindani, al-Qaeda and Hamas have long shared global funding mechanisms. On October 22, 2003, Richard A. Clarke, the former National Counterterrorism Coordinator on the U.S. National Security Council, acknowledged that Hamas and al-Qaeda had a common financial infrastructure: "the funding mechanisms for PIJ [Palestinian Islamic Jihad] and Hamas appear also to have been funding al-Qaeda."35

 

Even though Hamas and al-Qaeda share a similar worldview that seeks to impose worldwide Islamic rule, recently disagreements have erupted between the two organizations over how to implement the Islamic revolution. In a taped missive on March 5, 2006, Ayman al-Zawahiri, bin Laden's deputy, called on Hamas to continue its armed struggle and reject agreements signed between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. Al-Zawahiri emphasized that "no Palestinian has the right to give up even a grain of Palestinian land," and warned Hamas against "the new American game that is called a political process," alluding to democratization. Khaled Mashaal responded by saying that Hamas did not need advice from al-Qaeda, and will continue to act in keeping with its worldview and the Palestinian interest.36

 

Mashaal's reaction indicates a difference between Hamas' agenda and al-Qaeda's. Al-Qaeda totally rejects any element of Western influence and sees terror as the most effective means to overthrow the infidel regimes, spread Islam, and establish Islamic rule. Hamas, however, is prepared to make a pretense of going along with the Western democratic rules of the game and thereby exploit them to remove the infidel regimes, propagate Islam, and install Islamic rule that will eliminate democracy. Yet, in substance, Hamas has not rejected the heart of al-Zawahiri's advice: it still refuses to give up armed struggle or recognize past Israeli-Palestinian agreements, and it steadfastly refuses to state that it is prepared to make peace with Israel. In other words, Hamas is prepared to adopt a pragmatic tactic that does not violate its basic principles as a means of realizing its ultimate long-term goals, which are no different from al-Qaeda's. (Lt. Col. Jonathan D. Halevi, “Understanding the Direction of the New Hamas Government: Between Tactical Pragmatism and Al-Qaeda Jihadism,” Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs Policy, Jerusalem Issue Brief No. 542 [May 1, 2006]; footnotes are in the original and can be accessed by following the link to the article)

 

I anticipate that Leiken and Brooke will have the chutzpah to tell us that Halevi is actually making their point about the difference between “defensive jihad” and “global jihad,” but in fact, Halevi clearly demonstrates that if there is any difference, it is because they are operating in different stages of the same global jihad, not that the Brotherhood has renounced violence to any degree. The evidence provided in this report also directly challenges that the Brotherhood and HAMAS has “rejected global jihad” – the crux of Leiken and Brooke’s thesis. Halevi’s documentation also eviscerates their claim that there is a root of eternal hatred between HAMAS and al-Qaeda, and the rest of his report is also instructive on how the larger Muslim Brotherhood organization fits into this cozy global jihadist love triangle.

 

But if all else fails, they will always have “Crazy Uncle Ayman” to appeal to!

(To be continued tomorrow in Part 2.)

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Patrick Poole is a regular contributor to Frontpagemag.com and an anti-terrorism consultant to law enforcement and the military.


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