Monday, May 26, 2014
2. The Muslim Brotherhood in North America (Back to the Past, The Palestinian Cause)
The primary focus of this paper is Canada. However, the Muslim Brotherhood in Canada cannot be understood in isolation. Most of the Canadian organizations are tied to those from the United States and many individuals with Canadian addresses serve or have served on US based boards or in their organizations. In short, like many other aspects of Canadian relations with the US, there are cross border ties that go back years. Additionally, the Muslim Brotherhood has its roots in the Middle East and has organizations in multiple countries. The context of this history is required for understanding.
The geographic unit of analysis used in this report refers to North America as being Canada and the United States of America. This is to reflect the view that the Muslim Brotherhood often sees Canada and the USA as an integral area of operations or lump the two together. This is reflected in their own documentation. For instance, the 1991 General Memorandum[i] refers directly to “Absorbing Muslims and winning them with all of their factions and colors in America and Canada for the settlement project.” The Muslim Brotherhood adherent group the “Islamic Association for Palestine” (IAP) produced a document entitled “An Introduction to the Bylaw of Palestine Committee in North America and Canada”.
Additionally, the front organizations for the Muslim Brotherhood in Canada and the USA often use similar or parallel naming conventions. The Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) is active in both Canada and the USA. The Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) has its Canadian branch named CAIR-CAN.[ii]
As such, when referring to North America, it can be assumed that it is Canada and the USA as a collective reference. When this document wishes to refer to specific issues and events in one county or the other, it will refer to Canada, the United States or the USA.
No slight or exclusion of Mexico is intended nor should it be perceived, rather most of the organizational documents reflect a focus on Canada and the USA.
The role of organizations such as the Islamic Circle of North America expanding into Mexico[iii] should be the subject of a separate analytical paper.
The three great Abrahamic faiths of Judaism, Christianity and Islam all have minority fundamentalist[iv] movements which believe in creating a better future by returning to the political (and cultural) standards of the past. These factions tend to be exclusivist and are intolerant of other religions with a particularly well developed opposition to secularism.
Within Islam, a number of movements are attempting to politicize the faith and society in a virulent way and each of these has strong views on the past. Broadly speaking, these movements are being led by groups such as the Khomeneists, the Wahhabis and the Muslim Brotherhood. The Khomeneists are primarily Shia, while the others are mainly Sunni. While each movement has its peculiarities and various backers, they tend to believe society would be greatly improved if it was re-arranged to reflect a certain interpretation of archaic principles.
Islam at the Turn of the 20th Century
Islam as a faith and culture was in a state of upheaval at the turn of the century in 1900 and particularly so by 1924. Varying streams of belief had different ideas on what the future should look like. As with many others, Sayyid Jamāl ad-Dīn al-Afghānī[v] looked at the state of Islam and bemoaned how a once great civilization had fallen to a point where most Muslims lived under colonial rule. He wrote about a pan-Islamic movement that would build a new and modern Islam that would re-establish the strength. Others wrote about the idea of returning Islam back to its former glory by the belief in Salafism. A Salafist believes that the first three generation of Muslim after the death of the Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) were the "Pious Predecessors" (as-Salaf as-Saleh) and that all Muslims should seek to emulate their lifestyles and beliefs.
In 1924, following a series of events in Turkey, the National Assembly pronounced the end of the roughly 400 year old Ottoman Caliphate on 03 March 1924.[vi] While the Caliphate in Turkey had been previously reduced to a figure head role only, its final abolition was a shock to many observers.
Seen through one particular lens of history, the abolition of the Ottoman caliphate meant the final destruction of the remnants of the Islamic Empire(s) and civilization that had been in existence for more than 1200 years. In this view, a once great empire had collapsed to a point where all of it was now under colonial control or had been in other ways, destroyed.
One of those observers was a young Egyptian teacher named Ahmad Abd al-Rahman al-Banna. He would become known to the world as Hassan Banna - the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood.
1928 and the Founding Years
The founding of the Muslim Brotherhood has been extensively covered in a number of books and other publications. Among those are Hassan Al-Banna and His Political Thought of Islamic Brotherhood which can be found on IkhwanWeb, the official English language website of the Muslim Brotherhood.[vii] Also on IkhwanWeb is a Glimpse into the History of Muslim Brotherhood[viii] and Establishment of the Muslim Brotherhood.[ix]
Another source is The Society of the Muslim Brothers by Richard Mitchell. A more recent (2006) overview is offered by the book by Brynjar Lia’s The Society of the Muslim Brothers in Egypt: The Rise of an Islamic Mass Movement 1928-1942.
For a quick review of its founding and history, the BBC World News Website has an overview, extracts of which are below:[x]
Founded (1928) by Hassan al-Banna, the Muslim Brotherhood - or al-Ikhwan al-Muslimun in Arabic - has influenced Islamist movements around the world with its model of political activism combined with Islamic charity work. The movement initially aimed simply to spread Islamic morals and good works, but soon became involved in politics, particularly the fight to rid Egypt of British colonial control and cleanse it of all Western influence.
While the Ikhwan say that they support democratic principles, one of the group's stated aims is to create a state ruled by Islamic law, or Sharia. Its most famous slogan, used worldwide, is: "Islam is the solution."
After Banna launched the Muslim Brotherhood in 1928, branches were set up throughout the country - each running a mosque, a school and a sporting club - and its membership grew rapidly. By the late 1940s, the group is estimated to have had 500,000 members in Egypt, and its ideas had spread across the Arab world.
At the same time, Banna created a paramilitary wing, the Special Apparatus, whose operatives joined the fight against British rule and engaged in a campaign of bombings and assassinations.
The Egyptian government dissolved the group in late 1948 for attacking British and Jewish interests. Soon afterwards, the group was accused of assassinating Prime Minister Mahmoud al-Nuqrashi. Banna denounced the killing, but he was subsequently shot dead (1948) by an unknown gunman - believed to have been a member of the security forces.
In 1952, colonial rule came to an end following a military coup d’état led by a group of young officers calling themselves the Free Officers. The Ikhwan played a supporting role - Anwar al-Sadat, who became president in 1970, was once the Free Officers' liaison with them - and initially co-operated with the new government, but relations soon soured.
After a failed attempt to assassinate President Gamal Abdul Nasser in 1954, the Ikhwan were blamed, banned, and thousands of members imprisoned and tortured. The group continued, however, to grow underground. This clash with the authorities prompted an important shift in the ideology of the Ikhwan, evident in the writing of one prominent member, Sayyid Qutb.
Qutb's work advocated the use of jihad (struggle) against jahili (ignorant) societies, both Western and so-called Islamic ones, which he argued were in need of radical transformation. His writings - particularly the 1964 work Milestones - inspired the founders of many radical Islamist groups, including Islamic Jihad and al-Qaeda. In 1965, the government again cracked down on the Ikhwan, executing Qutb in 1966 and transforming him into a martyr for many people across the region.
The development of the Muslim Brotherhood has not been linear. There have been a number of individuals who had or still have an impact on how the Muslim Brotherhood sees itself, its goals and the world around it. As the founder, Hassan Banna has left his indelible print on the organization. Others such as Sayyid Qutb, Hasan al-Hudaybi and Yusef Qaradawi have left greater or lesser imprints. The Council on Foreign Relations recently gave an overview of the effects of the works of Sayyid Qutb:[xi]
Qutb developed a doctrine of armed struggle against the regime in Egypt and beyond while writing from prison after his arrest for the assassination attempt. His work, particularly the 1964 manifesto Milestones, has provided the intellectual and theological underpinnings for many militant Sunni Islamist groups, including al-Qaeda and Hamas. Extremist leaders often cite Qutb, who was hanged in 1966, to argue that governments not based on sharia are apostate and therefore legitimate targets of jihad.
Though establishing an Islamic state based on sharia was at the core of the Brotherhood's agenda, the group gained prominence by effectively providing social services where the security state failed.
The Brotherhood renounced violence at the insistence of Anwar al-Sadat, Nasser's successor, who allowed the group to preach and advocate in exchange for its support against his political rivals, Nasser loyalists and leftists. Sadat paid lip service to sharia and freed imprisoned Islamists. He was assassinated in 1981 by members of al-Jihad who had split with the Brotherhood and resented Sadat's notional commitment to sharia, as well as the 1979 peace treaty with Israel.
The Brotherhood considered the regime Mubarak inherited from Sadat "stultifying, corrupt, and oppressive," scholar Nathan Brown writes. He says the group reconciled its ongoing commitment to Qutb's principles with its renunciation of violence by focusing on the concept of a "vanguard," in which the group seeks to Islamize society "through a [political] elite" as much as it does "through mass work and engagement."
Brotherhood-affiliated candidates first participated in local and parliamentary elections as independents in 1984. Within the Brotherhood, members vary in the orthodoxy of their interpretations of Islam, as well as their ideological versus pragmatic inclinations, but the conservative and insular old guard has dominated in recent years.
The Brotherhood emerged as a dominant political force in Egypt following Mubarak's removal from office amid mass protests in February 2011 in part because its organizational capacity was unmatched, but the group's electoral victories were tarnished by power struggles with the judiciary and the military. Battles over the drafting of a new constitution were a particular flash point.
According to the IkhwanWeb[xii], the official English language site of the Muslim Brotherhood, a variety of membership types exist within the Muslim Brotherhood:
Al-Banna wrote in his diaries (Proceedings of Third Congress) a paragraph subtitled (The Practical Structure of Muslim Brotherhood) in which he mentioned the following…:
General membership: given to everybody accepted by district administration provided that this person shows his readiness to be righteous, agrees to sign membership form and pays a volunteering subscription.
Brothers membership: given to every Muslim accepted by the district administration- the member of this category is called "Associate Member".
Practical membership: given to every Muslim accepted by the district administration and agrees to maintain his duties (Al-Banna detailed these duties); such a member is called "Active Member".
Jihad membership: limited to Active Members that the general executive bureau (GEB) realizes his observance of duties and commitments.[xiii]
Note the issue that only inner members get to know the secrets of the organization.
The concept of layered membership levels of “active” or associate members and moving up through the levels is common in the adherent organizations as well. This extract from the website of the Muslim Association of Canada makes it clear that:
There are 4 categories of membership in MAC: regular, active, associate, and youth. Regular and active members are voting members and can participate in the election of National Convention delegates as well as serve in various capacities within the Association. To become a regular member, one must have participated in a program of self-development acceptable to the Education Committee. On occasion, some of the activities of the Association are open only to regular and active members. The requirements for associate and youth membership are less stringent. Associate and youth members are non-voting members but may participate in many of the Association's activities and give input and advice.[xiv]
The MAC says that it is directly inspired by the founder of the Muslin Brotherhood, Hassan Banna. They state this openly on their website by saying:
MAC's roots are deeply enshrined in the message of Prophet Mohammad. It’s modern roots can be traced to the vigorous intellectual revivalist effort that took hold in Muslim societies starting in the early twentieth century. This revival aimed at reconciling faith with the challenges of modernity and providing a clear articulation of balance and moderation in understanding Islam. In the Arab world, this revival culminated in the writings of the late Imam Hassan al-Banna and the movement of the Society of Muslim Brothers (commonly known as the Muslim Brotherhood). Al-Banna’s core messages of constructive engagement in society, focus on personal and communal empowerment, and organizational development had a deep impact on much of the Muslim world.[xv]
As can be seen, the Muslim Brotherhood has had a mixed history of using social movement organizational methods as well as political violence combined with secrecy. The two streams co-exist and no general resolution has been reached on the primacy of one approach or the other. Various levels of membership and secrecy are hallmarks of the organization, while these vary as well over time and geographic location.
However, the primary feature of the Muslim Brotherhood remains and that is the imposition of a “new” society through dawah and education, both used in combination with persuasion and force.
The issue of Palestine is central to the Muslim Brotherhood and has been almost since its inception. The Muslim Brotherhood’s views on Palestine are completely uncompromising and they have ongoing violence and confrontation as a policy contrary to any form of peace or accommodation. While a variety of reasons exist for this, one of the most prevalent is that one of the three Holy Sites of Islam in in Jerusalem.[xvi]
The Muslim Brotherhood was formed in 1928. Its first attempt at formally involving itself in a foreign political situation was its involvement in the Palestinian situation in 1936. The Muslin Brotherhood, like many others in the Arab and Muslim world, were concerned about the expansion of Zionism and they feared a breakup of the existing territory which would result in a Zionist state. Following World War Two and in the run up to the creation of Israel in 1948, the Muslim Brotherhood had individuals and groups fighting in the area.
It is entirely plausible that the involvement of the Muslim Brotherhood in the Palestinian cause in the 1948 war led to the assassination of Hassan Banna himself.
The Brethren participation in the (1948 Palestine) war though initially welcome, became a two-edged sword for the government as the combat experience of the Brotherhood and rumors of their intent to overthrow the government became well known. Consequently, a military order, dated 8 December 1948 (No. 63) was promulgated disbanding the Brethren and its branches, closing all their centers, seizing all papers and assets of the organization. All funds and companies were taken and many arrests were again made. Al-Banna attempted to negotiate with the government but his efforts came to nought as al-Nuqrashi[xvii] was assassinated on 28 December 1948. Following this execution blamed on the Brethren, al-Banna reversed his militant stand and publicly denounced the violent activities of this society. The effort again was to no avail and on 12 February 1949 al-Banna himself was assassinated by members attributed to the Sadist party. [xviii]
The view that the Palestinian cause is a priority can be seen in the North America arm of the Muslim Brotherhood. For example, in 1988, the Muslim Brotherhood in North America produced a document with the title An introduction to the bylaw of Palestine Committee in North America and Canada. In this document there are references to the Palestinian cause which occupies a “large space.” The cover page of the document reads:
Due to the developments of the cause of the Palestinian Muslim people, the important developments produced by the blessed Intifada in the Occupied Territories and the impact it had on the Muslim Brotherhood Movement, and particularly the directions of his eminence the General Guide and the latest visit to America by the Palestine Section, formed by the executive office of the Brotherhood in the event countries, which discussed the cause and its developments with their Brothers in the leadership of the Group here in America, the Palestine Committee was formed to serve the Palestinian cause on the U.S. front.
Since the Committee's scope of work is limited to the Palestinian cause which occupies a large space on the Islamic, Brotherhood and international front, the brothers in the Committee thought that there should be bylaws which spell out the Committee's authority and its relationship with the leadership of the Group in America. If these bylaws are an initiative by the Committee, the matter in the end depends on the direction and the approval of the leadership of the Group for any forms of work. (8/14/1988)[xix]
In October of 1992, the Muslim Brotherhood in North America distributed an internal memo with the title Islamic Action for Palestine. The memo is quite clear on the links between Palestine, Muslim Brotherhood founder Hassan Banna and the Muslim Brotherhood itself. One of the key paragraphs makes this clear by stating:
Palestine is the land which moved from one honor to another by the arrival of the representatives of the 20th century innovator, martyr Imam Hassan al-Banna, and they transferred it to the Muslim Brotherhood Movement and branches for the Ikhwan were formed in the cities of Palestine in the early 40's. Palestine is the one for which Muslim Brotherhood prepared armies – made up from the children of Islam in the Arab and Islamic nations – to liberate its land from the abomination and the defilement of the children of the Jews and they watered down its pure soil with their honorable [xx]blood which sprouted into a Jihad that is continuing until the Day of Resurrection and provided a zeal without relenting making the slogan of its children "It is a Jihad for victory or martyrdom."
In a special non-periodical bulletin (Issue 1- Dated 01 October 1992) the Muslim Brotherhood sends the following information to its various Masuls (leaders) and gives advice and a plan on how to address Palestinian issues.[xxi] From this, it is clear that the Muslim Brotherhood will resist any suggestion of self-rule for the Palestinians and instead opt for further conflict and continue on the path of violence (see point 5 as follows).
The Movement has decided to adopt the following position from the Self-Rule: "Rejecting the administrative self-rule, rejecting the elections related to it, refusing to take part in them, and calling upon the Palestinian people to boycott them".
Based on that, the Movement has decided to take the following steps:
1 - Announcing this position of ours to the media and explaining the truth behind the Self-Rule and its dangers to the present and the future of the Cause.
2- Exposing the degree of retreat and concession practiced by the leadership of the Organization towards the Cause, and the deceit and cover up it practices against the Palestinian people,
3- Calling for a general public referendum at home and abroad regarding the issue of the Self-Rule.
4- Avoiding the resort to violence against the Self-Rule and its authorities.
5- Escalating Jihad actions against the Zionist enemy.
6- Working to form a broad Palestinian front that is opposed to the Self-Rule,
7- Broad mobilization in the Islamic world, to line up Islamic powers and groups to bear their responsibilities towards the Cause.
Another document that shows the centrality of views on the Palestinian cause can been seen in the Meeting Agenda for the Palestine Committee 7/30/1994.[xxii] The document is also of interest as it shows the relationships and commonality of interest of between a variety of adherent organizations. At the start of the agenda in (3) is the following line:
Future suggestions to develop work of the following organizations: IAP[xxiii] HLF[xxiv] UASR[xxv] - Coordination CAIR
The document suggests that a normalization of relations between Muslims/Arabs on one side and the “Zionist entity” (Israel) on the other would be not be in their interest. In other words, this 1994 document, written after the announcement of the Oslo Accords, makes it clear that a normalization of relations in the Middle East between the Arab states and Israel must be resisted by the Muslim Brotherhood.
The Islamic and Arabic world is being overrun by a vigorous campaign to normalize the relations between the Muslims and the Arabs from one side, and the Zionist entity from another side. Hardly a day passes without us hearing that some Arab or Muslim country has established diplomatic or commercial relation with the Zionist entity. This campaign is not limited to countries only but also extends to Arab and Muslim organizations. So after normalizing the relation between the American Zionist organizations and the Arab organizations and personalities in America in the early seventies, under the name and the umbrella of democratic dialogue to attempt to understand the Middle East conflict, Dr. Edward Sa'id, one of the participants in these dialogues, says that the Zionist organizations were planning this type of dialogues in order to break the psychological barrier that the Arabs and Palestinians have so that they accept the Jews and their country, and that the surrender that the Palestinian Liberation Organization has come to was a natural outcome of this kind of dialogues that were done in the course of twenty years before the surrender.
There must be an awakening for us, we who own the cause of Palestine and Islam, so that this normalization process does not pass us by and we become the only ones who are "extremists" and radical and that it will be said that "the Palestinian Muslims" reject while others agree, and this is a formidable danger that does not serve the Islamic aspect of the Palestinian cause.
Confrontation work plan:
A. The activation of the role of (MAS) to educate the brothers in all work centers, mosques,
and organizations on the necessity of stopping any contacts with the Zionist organizations
and the rejection of any future contacts. And it may be appropriate that we do not reject
contact in one time but link between the Bosnian cause and the Palestinian cause so that if
the Jews wanted to hold a demonstration against the Serbs in Bosnia, then we ask to have a demonstration against Israel for what it is doing in Palestine at the same time.
B. Holding meetings with the imams and administrators of Islamic centers in major cities so as to activate their role in confronting the infiltration of their organizations.
C. An internal Brotherhood committee to fight the normalization of relations and monitor the brotherhood organizations and others, and giving advice to them in the best ways.
D. Direct communication with the Islamic organizations in general to discuss the matter with them and to attempt to stop the normalization that is happening under any umbrella.
E. Activating the role of the Association [IAP] and its publications to take up its media role in this area.
The 1994 position above has not changed. The current “General Guide” of the Muslim Brotherhood is Muhammad Badie who arose to that position in 2010.[xxvi] His acceptance speech was posted on Ikhwan Web, which is the Muslim Brotherhood’s official English language website. His remarks, some 83 years after the founding of the Muslim Brotherhood make it clear that the Palestinian cause remains a priority for the organization. He states that the standard of loyalty to Islam and to Arabism is that this must be the first cause. He notes that:
The MB prioritizes the Palestinian case and considers it as the most important case for the nation, which measures the standard of loyalty to Islam, and Arabism and they do not spare any efforts to make this cause the first interest of ruling systems and nations until Palestine is free, God willing.[xxvii]
Muhammad Badie also gave another speech in 2010 in which he stated:
Every Muslim must act to save Jerusalem from the usurpers and to [liberate] Palestine from the claws of occupation. This is a personal duty for all Muslims. They must participate in jihad by [donating] money or [sacrificing] their life, in order to save [Palestine] and the men and women imprisoned [in Israeli jails], as well as [Jerusalem], the destination of the Prophet's Night Journey and the first Qibla [direction of prayer] in [Islam], and in order to enable all those who were expelled to return to their homeland, their homes and their property... …Do not be ashamed to declare jihad for the sake of Allah, because your life and glory [depend on it], as well as the departure of the occupier from your country, the restoration of your holy sites, and the safety of your home...[xxviii]
The centrality of the cause of Palestine among Muslim Brotherhood related organizations can be seen in the case of the International Relief Fund for the Afflicted and Needy, Canada (IRFAN-Canada). This charity lost is charitable status for this very reason. According to the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA)[xxix], IRFAN-Canada had transferred over 14 million dollars to a series of Palestinian HAMAS organizations. Key figures in the early years of setting up IRFAN Canada were individuals such as Dr. Wael Haddara, later to be a senior political aide to President Morsi of Egypt.
Another charity in Canada that lost is charitable status was WAMY (World Association of Muslim Youth). In the official letter from CRA to the charity’s president, Ayman AI-Taber, dated 05 January 2012, the CRA raises auxiliary concerns about WAMY’s parent organization being involved on a global basis in fund raising for the Palestinian cause.[xxx]
[i] A copy of the memorandum can be seen at: http://www.investigativeproject.org/documents/misc/20.pdf
[ii] See Section 18 of this paper for more information on CAIR and CAIR CAN.
[iii] Among many other references, see: http://www.icna.org/whyislam-noman-ali-khan-join-for-mexico-trip/
[iv] The term fundamentalism in a religious context probably entered the English language in the late 19th and 20th Century due to concerns about liberal Protestantism and a contrary belief in the inerrancy of the world of the Bible. See, among others, http://www.thefreedictionary.com/fundamentalist .
[v] See a brief bibliography of al-Afghani at: http://www.oxfordbibliographies.com/view/document/obo-9780195390155/obo-9780195390155-0002.xml
[x] See the full BBC profile of the Muslim Brotherhood at: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-12313405
[xi] See the entire January 2014 article Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood by Zachary Laub, which is online at: http://www.cfr.org/egypt/egypts-muslim-brotherhood/p23991.
[xiv] See the frequently asked questions section of the Muslim Association of Canada at: http://www.macnet.ca/English/Pages/FAQ.aspx.
[xvi] The three Holy Sites are in Mecca, Medina and Jerusalem.
[xvii] Maḥmūd Fahmī al-Nuqrāshī was a former Prime Minister of Egypt (1946)had been appointed the Military Governor of Egypt in 1948. He was attempting to destroy the Muslim Brotherhood. He was assassinated by unknown persons later that same year who were widely presumed to be members of the Muslim Brotherhood.
[xviii] Jayjock, Stephen C., Moslem fundamentalist movements and their impact on Middle Eastern politics, Monterey, California. Naval Postgraduate School, Issue Date 1979. URL h ttp://hdl.handle.net/10945/18803
[xix] An introduction to the bylaw of Palestine Committee in North America and Canada, page one.
[xxii] http://www.investigativeproject.org/documents/case_docs/717.pdf Bate #ISE-SW lB64/0000415
[xxiii] Islamic Association for Palestine
[xxiv] Holy Land Foundation
[xxv] United Association for Studies and Research (founded in Chicago in 1989 by Mohamed Akram Adlouni and registered by the State of Illinois Secretary of State file number 5566-789-6.)
[xxvi] Mohamed Badie (as of March 25th 2014) was in jail in Egypt along with more than 600 others. He was swept up in a mass arrest and mass trail orchestrated by the Egyptian government against the Muslim Brotherhood.
[xxix] The Canada Revenue Agency is the federal tax department of Canada. It has responsibility for the Income Tax Act which regulates charities and charitable status.