The Muslim Brotherhood is No Friend
5:00 PM, Jan 28, 2011 • By THOMAS JOSCELYN
Riedel is correct in saying that the Muslim Brotherhood has drawn the ire of al Qaeda’s leaders for being “too soft.” But this glosses over the many ideological similarities between the two organizations. They both want to conquer lands in the name of Islam and establish Sharia law everywhere they can. They simply disagree about how to best accomplish that goal. Osama bin Laden and Ayman al Zawahiri, who were recruited by the Brotherhood as young men, did not leave the organization because they disagreed with its long-term goals. They were simply unwilling to compromise at a tactical level.
In Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood has been willing to use non-violent tactics, whereas al Qaeda has endorsed violent jihad to the bloody end no matter what. This does not mean the Muslim Brotherhood eschews violence (as illustrated by the quotes above). It simply means that the Brotherhood is more practical than al Qaeda when it comes to achieving its long-term goals, and is willing to use non-violent tactics as well as violence.
Moreover, the rivalry between al Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood does not preclude cooperation on the world stage. Here are just a few examples, chosen from many.
Osama bin Laden’s first real mentor was Abdullah Azzam, who was a member of the Muslim Brotherhood. Azzam had his own differences with some Brotherhood members and practices. But Azzam’s teachings are still widely cited by jihadists today, three decades after he first preached jihad against the Soviets in Afghanistan. And it was Azzam’s connections to Brotherhood organizations in Pakistan that gave bin Laden a firm footing in South Asia.
In the mid-1990s, Osama bin Laden was taken in by another member of the international Brotherhood, Hassan al Turabi. When bin Laden could no longer live in Saudi Arabia, Turabi brought him to Sudan. There, Turabi built a network of connections between various nefarious actors and introduced bin Laden to many of them. Turabi was probably one of the three most influential Brotherhood ideologues at the time – that is, while he was mentoring and sheltering bin Laden and al Qaeda.
Then there is Sheikh Abdul Majeed al Zindani, who remains a prominent Muslim Brotherhood cleric in Yemen. The U.S. Treasury Department has designated Zindani a terrorist because of his close, decades-long relationship with Osama bin Laden. Zindani has frequently recruited jihadists for al Qaeda.
And just this week CNN reported that the Saudis found in a recent investigation that the Muslim Brotherhood maintains ties to al Qaeda. Some members of the Brotherhood have “historic sympathies and connections” with al Qaeda, according to Saudi officials. Thus, Brotherhood money “occasionally” finds its way into al Qaeda’s hands.
Hosni Mubarak’s regime is no friend of freedom, even though it is certainly an ally against al Qaeda.
In all likelihood, an Egypt dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood (if that is how the turmoil plays out) would be neither.
Thomas Joscelyn is a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.
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