Rabeb Haddada : Researcher at the International Center for Strategic Security and Military Studies
Translation: Rania Salah
1/ Muslim Brotherhood and the Militarization of the Political Conflict
2/ Main Causes behind the Muslim Brotherhood’s Collapse
ü Internal factors: Leadership crises and the Clash of generations
ü External factors: The Growing International Awareness of the Muslim Brotherhood Threat
3/ The Muslim Brotherhood Organization in the New World Order
ü First scenario: Forging New Alliances
ü Second scenario: Change of Concentration Areas and Strategies of Activity
The Muslim Brotherhood in the New World Order
The Muslim Brotherhood is a political Organization par excellence that has all its components wrapped around one ideology, which is the “Islamization of States”. According to the organization’s ideology, their declarations and their propaganda, the Muslim Nations are “Kuffar” (apostate) nations who have abandoned their true religion and have been influenced by the Western thought. The Muslim Brotherhood believe that such elements grant them the right to renew the Dawah by infiltrating societies from within, using organizations and associations, and approaching people to spread what they believe to be the authentic religious teachings.
A complete project for advocacy in which the Muslim Brotherhood saw a right to lead the Islamic Dawah after a new concept appeared in their ideology which is the “New Jahiliyyah” (New Pre-Islamic Ignorance). According to this concept, the Muslim Nations were considered infidels and required a new Islamic leadership led by the “Supreme Leader” of the Muslim Brotherhood Organization, who would undertake the responsibility of a “Master” of the whole Islamic Nations. Homelands are inexistent in the Muslim Brotherhood’s project, but rather all dissolve and unite under the same organization to which they have Supreme Allegiance and rely on Bai’ah.
From the Muslim Brotherhood’s perspective, “Islamic Education” is their primary goal. Through this perception, the Organization sought to influence educational curricula as well as penetrate State institutions through political parties and apparatus, and put its ideologies into legal texts, educational curricula, and economic systems (Islamic finance, Halal products, etc.). The Muslim Brotherhood sought to spread a religious living and behavioral system for the group, all under the emblem of Islam.
The consolidation of Extremist Ideologies had a great influence in the manufacture of armed organizations. It was the intellectual cradle in which major extremist and terrorist leaders such as Osama Bin Laden, Al-Zawahiri, Al-Zarqawi, as well as Al-Baghdadi grew up.
This fanatic inclination towards “Jihad” and the armed activity appeared more with the teachings and theories of Egyptian author and Muslim Brotherhood member Sayyid Qutb. Qutb was a prolific writer in the 1960’s, who worked on what he believed to be the social and political role of Islam, particularly in his book Ma’alim fi Al-Tariq (Milestones). He therein set down the intellectual guidelines for “Offensive Jihad”. Sayyid Qutb spent the 60’s period in Egyptian penitentiaries, publishing books for the Organization’s followers, in the form of an ideological base and fieldwork methods, which features became clear in the 70’s through the emergence of many armed terrorist organizations.
Confrontations heightened between the Muslim Brotherhood and the regimes of their own countries. Currents of infidelity and immigration emerged, the most significant of which was the current led by Shukri Mustafa in the 1980’s, in which he called the Muslim Brotherhood’s chiefs to leave their countries and head towards different nations. Europe and the United States of America were the main destinations of the movement’s leaders.
The Organization has expanded that period. Its features and orientations changed with the change of the global situation for nearly a century since its foundation. The Muslim Brotherhood became comprised of 67 branches, belonging to 7 international divisions, with each region supervised by a leader: North Africa, Europe, North America and Latin America and Canada, East Asia and the Pacific, Central Asia, Yemen and the Gulf, Iran and Afghanistan, and the Levant Countries.
However, the world is experiencing a major political transformation, which is reflected in the level of change of alliances and strategies of major regional powers and even areas of control and influence in the face of a global pandemic that has exhausted countries and increased cyberwars.
What might change in the Muslim Brotherhood’s strategies in this new system, in which the war on militant movements has been declared?
Does the Muslim Brotherhood confinement in the corner might bring back the militarization movements and the work of secret apparatus to the surface?
Why did Europe abandon the Muslim Brotherhood?
Who will be Organization’s ally?
1/ Muslim Brotherhood and the Militarization of the Political Conflict.
The Organization worked on establishing a state within a state in every region in which they settled. This has become the custom of the movement. In addition to the political and civil institutions, the Organization has a secret military apparatus, that make them believe that their violence is legitimate and allows them to defend their existence against the “rebels disobedience”.
The creation of the secret apparatus proceeded in parallel with the formation of the organization. The military force went public in the 50’s, as the government realized the presence of weapons depots (Ezbet Farghali, October 22nd, 1948). A series of assassinations followed this event (the Prime Minister of Egypt Ahmad Maher Pasha in 1945/ Egyptian Minister of Religious Endowments Husayn Al Dhahabi / plotting the assassination of Gamal Abdel Nasser, etc.).
The sixties and the seventies were a period of bloody conflict between Authorities and the Muslim Brotherhood, which resulted in the killing of many of its leaders, such as Sayyid Qutb, the arrest of more than 32 other leaders, and the rest fled the country.
Since 1982, the Organization appeared with a new strategy, abandoned direct confrontations with the regime, and promoted that it has quit its military system or what they call a “special organization”. The Muslim Brotherhood marched towards forming progressive political parties, exporting violence and armed extremism to other organizations structurally separate from theirs, however, carrying the Organization’s ideological genes. The most prominent among these groups was Al-Qaeda.
The chaotic situation in the Arab countries has been a favorable atmosphere for the private activity of the Muslim Brotherhood, which it has not abandoned. Rather, for decades, its work has become more intelligence than military, eventually restoring armed activity during the Arab Revolutions, particularly in Egypt. The Organization sought on the one hand, to militarize the political conflict through its secret body and, on the one hand, bring into action armed forces such as Hasm and Liwa Al-Thawra Movements.
The military action parallel to political activity is not the result of a specific period or circumstance, but rather of an idea rooted in the culture of the leaders of the Organization, inherited from Hassan Al-Banna, who considered that “The matter has not become a joke, and that sermons and sayings are no longer effective, and that deep faith, accurate training and constant work must be combined”.
These military apparatuses are considered a polarizing pole for young people who tend to be dynamic and active in the field. It thus attracts a wide range of youth through extremist ideas, harnesses leaders to train them, and integrates them into networks and cells of armed activity.
Tunisia is also one of the countries in which its political rivals have been attacked by the Ennahda Movement’s invisible hands. On September 24, 2018, the Defense Committee of the assassinated politicians Chokri Belaid and Mohamed Brahmi presented evidence and documents proving the involvement of the secret apparatus of Ennahda Movement in the assassinations, while the State authorities are obstructing to proceed with the investigations.
When the issue of the secret apparatus of Ennahda came to public, it raised terror in most of the people. The ideal picture they had of a political party that reflects the Islamic and Arabic identity was destroyed for a few. Another group of people were unable to confront the deep state of the Muslim Brotherhood in Tunisia.
All aspects of the Organization and its plans, whether in their Arab countries or in the European countries, where they have settled for centuries, were made public. The fear of the Muslim Brotherhood has grown and has given rise to a response against the Organization, which is experiencing a time of great weakness and dispersion.
2/ Main Causes behind the Muslim Brotherhood’s Collapse.
· Internal factors: Leadership crises and the Clash of generations
The Organization works on highlighting political leaders who can have popular support and who possess the characteristics of modern leaders, able to achieve popularity and majority around them. However, this failed because the members of the Muslim Brotherhood are raised on the basis of an unwavering education, based on obedience and compliance with one opinion, where the personal characteristics of the individual dissolve for the sake of the Organization.
According to Dr. Badra Gaaloul, “The nine years-experience of the Muslim Brotherhood rule in the Arabic countries proved that the group has not emerged into the political arena as a cadre who is distinguished by the characteristics that must be met by a modern civil party member, among which, is the advantage of criticism, the possibility of difference and the diversity of opinions, bur rather as an incubator for the breeding of extremists and recruited fighters”.
A vacancy occurred in the position of the General Guide of the Organization, following the arrest of the General Guide of the Muslim Brotherhoods, Mahmoud Ezzat, upon entering Egypt in 2020. Thus, the rivalry among the leaders escalated, as each one of them attempted to carry out their own election campaign and promote themselves as the ideal leader.
Among those figures was the leader of Ennahda Movement in Tunisia, who sought to become the General Guide of the Muslim Brotherhood, considering his success in the creation of a model for a modernist political figure as the one the Organization has been pursuing. However, Ennahda leader found himself in direct conflict with the Turkish President Erdogan, who entered the race to lead the Muslim Brotherhood as well. The list of candidates is extensive and involves figures of Qubtism, which as a movement, has dominated the Organization for many years. Among this list were the baron of money and economics Youssef Nada, in addition to Mohamed Al-Bhiri who has both control and influence over external files, and who was thought to be the secret General Guide of the Muslim Brotherhood, after a long debate about the leadership.
In the end, allegiance was pledged to Ibrahim Munir, the Secretary General of the Organization, the General Guide’s deputy, and one of the most prominent members of the London Office. However, objections were raised against this appointment, on behalf of many leaders as well as new generations.
With regard to governance, the leadership crisis of the Muslim Brotherhood has become common in the last decade, and the public figures who have been appointed are no longer able to attract adequate support. For the most part, the Organization is no longer in the possession of leaders who fit the position of a General Guide, as drawn by the Muslim Brotherhood’s thought. This has opened the door to competition for the Khilafa (succession) and brought the internal dispersal of the Organization into public. The new General Guide, Ibrahim Munir, was criticized by prominent Sheikhs of the Muslim Brotherhood, such as “Issam Talimah”, who accused the new Guide and his office responsible of handing Ezzat to the authorities.
On the other hand, the appointment of the new General Guide came days prior to a campaign organized by the Muslim Brotherhood to demonstrate against the Egyptian regime on September 17, 2020. This campaign was supported by media outlets with Qatari and Turkish funding, but it failed severely and did not receive a popular response, which means that the organization and its leaders lost their weight and radiance from the popular category that influenced them and mobilized them in their protests.
With regard to the new generations of the Organization, they opposed the new General Guide, since they consider that all leaders who lived outside their Arabic countries for a long time, especially Egypt, are subordinated to foreign countries’ regimes and serve their interests. The question of leadership and many intellectual differences widened the gap between the generations of the organization whose origins and branches are torn apart. The fear of intellectual and institutional discontinuity, and the enrolment of youth, active strength, and mobility to other classes, forced the organization to enter an adjusting and changing course since 2015.
· External factors: The Growing International Awareness of the Muslim Brotherhood Threat
The European countries received the leaders of the Organization as political opponents when they fled their countries. They settled in different European countries and established broad popular bases by manipulating immigrants and creating their financial, civil, and religious institutions. These elements presented their involvement card in European affairs and they reached a stage of mastery that enabled them to influence the political decision-making process in the cities in which they are clustered, in addition to the conduct of local affairs.
According to Dr. Badra Gaaloul, “The Muslim Brotherhood’s Organization received financial support from European countries to use them then send them back later to destroy their own countries. European countries used to train members of the Muslim Brotherhood for extortion and negotiation with the rulers of their countries, in the so-called file of the oppressed opposition, but they did not know that these could become a threat on their societies.” The European intelligence reported that most of the terrorist operations in Europe were not carried out by foreign extremists, as Europeans claimed, but 56% of those attacks were carried out by European people, which indicates that the Muslim Brotherhood’s reach did not only surpass immigrants, but rather influenced European youth and young people through the educational curricula, in mosques, and on social networks, which have guided the group to achieve its aims in what they call the Islamization of States.
Violence escalated in Europe and lone wolves’ operations increased, especially in 2020, in addition to the famous operations in France and Germany. This prompted a review of European support of extremist organizations and institutions operating under the umbrella of the Muslim Brotherhood, which became more like a death ghost of European countries that received it at some point and used it to serve their political agenda and extend their influence. However, the magic turned on the magician, and the seeds of the Muslim Brotherhood became a prickly vine, the bloodiest of European societies, leading them to implement national and regional strategies to fight political Islam and the ideology of extremism.
The initiating countries were the countries that represented the Organization’s first focal points, including Germany, which warned against the Muslim Brotherhood’s access to local and regional political positions, such as municipal councils and senates. Internal Intelligence in Berlin revealed that the Muslim Brotherhood and the Turkish Organization Milli Görüş own 600 influential leaders in Germany. Consequently, a series of widespread campaigns were launched by the German and French authorities, decisions to close organizations and societies suspected of being connected to the Muslim Brotherhood, to separate it from the political and social aspects under which it operates. In order to introduce further oversight and transparency, European countries have started to approve legislation to dry up sources of funding by means of new European laws relating to money laundering, banks and transfer companies.
The Organization was subjected to a European war that narrowed its activity and made it lose its most important pillars through which they used to expand their influence. This was a strong explanation for the Organization’s weakness, even in the Arab countries who witnessed political turmoil, it did not last long, as features of vigilance began to manifest. The collapse of the Muslim Brotherhood project appeared in Egypt, which represented their dream, as it was their starting point. Egypt, though, is the land of the sun and is not content with darkness. In addition, Ennahda’s growing influence in the Tunisian political arena seemed to diminish and whose star has faded in the people’s eyes. The Arab wave against the Muslim Brotherhood will escalate, following the Gulf reconciliation, which puts pressure on Qatar, as one of the key supporters of the Organization, which forced its residing leaders in Qatar to leave, thus losing the Gulf support.
Over the past two years, the European-Arab blockade of the Muslim Brotherhood has made them lose their authority in the areas of their historical focus, along with this regional and international conflict, which is perceived as the external cause for the movement’s collapse. More threatening causes are identified, which are the internal causes reflected in internal conflicts: the crisis of leadership on the one hand, and the intellectual disparity between the Organization’s generations on the other hand.
3/ The Muslim Brotherhood Organization in the New World Order
International and regional alliances have changed and will see further changes with the full implementation of Biden’s policy. This will have a direct impact on the Muslim Brotherhood, mainly at the level of new alliances, as well as changing the areas of activity and the strategy of action.
· First scenario: Forging New Alliances
The Organization has lost one of its best allies, Qatar, whose policy in providing support to the Muslim Brotherhood is clearly changing, otherwise it will lose significant financial and political support.
As for Turkey, its policy is mainly based on the Organization and has established a global network of institutions operating under the Muslim Brotherhood. Therefore, it will not abandon them, except that its policy may be forcibly moderated considering the new American policy, which will not take Turkey as an ally. Biden declared his war on Turkey and the Muslim Brotherhood, after being one of their biggest supporters. Political Islam has fallen, and it has eventually become a losing card, whereas the voices of those who refuse it have risen in both European and Arab countries. Biden will not risk and line up with the Muslim Brotherhood after his failure in implementing the American plan that Obama had previously set before him.
For the International Parties, the Muslim Brotherhood are being dismantled, and no choice will remain available except to be allies with non-international parties, by which we mean armed groups and other terrorist organizations such as Al Qaeda and Daesh.
The alliance of the Muslim Brotherhood with Al Qaeda and Daesh is not new, but it is secret and hard to track. Most of the Al Qaeda and Daesh leaders are, in the end, former members of the Muslim Brotherhood before heading for a more militant process, which is armed Jihad. This alliance will be much less than it was, and by avoiding well-known organizations such as Al Qaeda and Daesh, which draw the attention of the world and are targeted by security strategies, the Muslim Brotherhood will attempt to remain out of the limelight.
According to what has been said by Dr. Khaled Okacha in a symposium organized by the International Center for Strategic Security and Military Studies, “The Muslim Brotherhood has resorted to secret alliances with mercenaries, so that they discard the radical aspect that links them to such organization. In this study, we fear the growing cooperation between these groups and the Muslim Brotherhood, as they do not move separately from one country to another and they consider these countries as stations with different scenarios that befit them. If the International community focuses on major armed organizations such as Daesh and Al Qaeda, we may witness an upsurge in the Muslim Brotherhood cooperation with mercenary militias, especially that they have demonstrated an ability in creating a threat in more than one region (Libya, Yemen, Azerbaijan, the Horn of Africa…). Therefore, armed militias will be the Muslim Brotherhood’s only option in the new decade, and we may witness a rapprochement between the two parties, as they are both active in high secret space and do not have a large, no do they have much attention, particularly if the armed militias are unknown.”
The change of alliances will be followed by an imperative change in strategies and concentration areas, and that in fully-fledged scheme to put in order the new decade in the framework of a different world order and new international circumstance.
· Second scenario: Change of Concentration Areas and Strategies of Activity
In addition to the countries known for the Organization’s presence therein, we find countries far from the spotlight in which the Organization’s covers in Europe have been revealed one by one, reaching its most secret branches, including those concentrated in the Balkan countries, particularly in North Macedonia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. A published report by the Globesic Center and the European Project to Combat Extremism (CEP) disclosed that the Organization has been rooted in these countries for a long time, and that it has been operating in secret. For instance, the first President of Bosnia was Izzat Izetbegovic, who also was a member of the Muslim Brotherhood and has earned a tremendous support from the Organization.
The Organization has become the center of attention of nearly all the European studies and reports of the second half of 2020. The latter will force the Muslim Brotherhood to withdraw to new areas where they can regenerate its cells. For various reasons, the relocation will most likely take place in South Asian regions such as Malaysia, Singapore, and Indonesia.
These small countries are qualitatively isolated from the spotlight, known for their stability and rising economic activity, which will be an opportunity for the Muslim Brotherhood to form economic activity and other institutions through which it operates. On the other hand, these countries are considered a fertile ground for their ideologies. Although they are known for their moderate religious currents, the increase in the number of Muslims will enable the Muslim Brotherhood to activate and penetrate the societal fabric and establish extremist currents, as has been the case in many countries, since the number of Muslims is very high, integration and assimilation in these new societies will be easy.
The Muslim Brotherhood’s leaders have already started exiting the countries that protected them, such as Qatar and European countries, towards Asia.
As for the Muslim Brotherhood’s usual strategies, they will also change. With the internationally declared war on terrorism and extremism, the Muslim Brotherhood will only bow before the storm, therefore, their strategies will be more versatile and moderate.
The closure of dozens of institutions and mosques, that fall under the dominance of the Organization, and which were considered as platforms to promote its extremist ideology, in addition to the classification of linked armed groups to the Muslim Brotherhood within the lists of terrorist groups such as Hasm movement, will reduce the institutional activity of the Organization. The Muslim Brotherhood may further resort to the virtual space through websites, smart applications, and platforms. This method will ensure that it reaches a large group of people, anonymously, without revealing identities or proving any relationship of the Organization to extremist activities.
Politically, the Muslim Brotherhood parties will be more inclined to engage in a modernist and democratic political discourse, that lines with the culture of democracy and freedom, which has been strengthened in the new generations, and which, for the most part, seeks to establish the idea of modernity and innovation. This strategy is not entirely new, but rather began to be adopted with many parties that consider the Turkish Justice and Development Party as a model.
After decades of expansion and the creation of a global structure that had the support of politicians and states in executing their international plans, the new decade will be a critical time for the Muslim Brotherhood, who will work to unite its ranks and gather its powers, in new and different regions, or to take different forms in the areas where it used to be active. The Organization will have new alliances with non-international parties and armed groups, in order to reinstate its foreign partners, such as Qatar and the United States of America.