In Europe, the Muslim Brotherhood is keen to present itself as a nonviolent and pro-democracy movement, which is why many Western governments refrain from including this group on their terrorist list, despite their recognition of the long-term danger posed by the Brotherhood’s security and social activity. At least some security and police forces in Europe state that the Muslim Brotherhood is in fact an extremist Islamist movement that has to be monitored.
This gives an impression that the group stands in contrast with the terrorist jihadist movements in Europe, because the presence and activities of these organizations contradict the policy that the group wants to draw for itself first, and it may prevent it from freedom and turn it into an isolated group. But the truth may be quite the opposite, and this may explain that the secretive work of the group is still considered one of its most important tactics, despite the freedom granted to Islamic movements by European laws.
The main factor that pushes the movement to secret cooperation with jihadist groups are the common intellectual roots, followed by the political benefits that the group derives from the spread of violence in the Muslim communities in Europe, and finally the Brotherhood shares with these organizations the goal of destroying non-Muslim countries. The group recognizes that reaching this goal cannot be achieved by relying on the democratic face.
This study highlights the reasons that motivate the Muslim Brotherhood to work with other terrorist organizations, and to enhance its work within Muslim environments in Europe, in addition to the benefits that the group obtains as a result.
Common Intellectual Roots
The Brotherhood supports violence when it matches its interests, e.g. in Syria and the Gaza Strip. In fact, this is due to the establishment of global jihad and Islamic radicalism together with the establishment of the Muslim Brotherhood in 1928. The Brotherhood represented the ideological reference and organizational core that inspired all terrorist organizations. Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri began his terrorist activity as a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, while Ruhollah Khomeini drew inspiration from them.
The Brotherhood has maintained a “purely tactical relationship” with violence, even if it repeatedly declares to be a non-violent group. The Muslim Brotherhood’s goal is to establish Muslims as a closed group separated from the rest of society. It is trying to “infiltrate the education sector in a variety of ways” to reach its goals, according to a joint Austrian report, written by historian Heiko Heinich and political scientist Nina Schulz.
The policy of socially separating Muslim communities from their surroundings and closing them down represents the largest service provided by the group to terrorist organizations, because it thus creates the suitable environment for terrorism.
Travel of European fighters to join the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant is the clearest evidence of the group’s support for terrorism, as the group’s leaders issued fatwas calling for jihad in Syria, and this had a clear role in the strength of terrorist organizations.
In May 2013, the Western press predicted the start of the influx of foreign fighters into Syria, after Yusuf al-Qaradawi, the Egyptian Brotherhood cleric, called on Sunni Muslims around the world to fight the regime of President Bashar al-Assad and Hezbollah in Syria. Since 2015, Western newspapers have predicted that Al- Qaradawi’s statement would lead to an influx of foreign fighters into Syria, potentially turning Syria’s civil war into an all-out sectarian conflict encompassing the entire region.
The terrorist operations carried out in Europe serve the group’s goals by isolating Muslim communities from Western society, supporting the idea of an Islamic ghetto, which al-Qaradawi focused on when he said: “What has preserved ideas and customs is the small league called the ‘Jewish ghetto’, so seek to establish your own Islamic ghetto in Europe.”
The ultimate common goal between the Brotherhood and the terrorist organizations in Europe
Egyptian Brotherhood writer Sayyid Qutb divided the world into two categories: “the land of Islam” and “the land of war”, the latter classification includes every territory where the Islamic State and Sharia have no control.
Jihad is thus an obligatory condition for a Muslim for the sake of Islam, while his refusal to do so is a violation and a deviation from the Brotherhood’s ideology. Before that, Hasan al-Banna had developed a clear theory of offensive jihad against infidels as an individual duty for every Muslim.
With the influx of large numbers of Muslims to the West, enjoying the freedom of movement granted by Western democracy, a number of Muslim Brotherhood thinkers, including al-Qaradawi, found in the West an opportunity for preaching work, so that Europe would be described as “Dawaa land.” The Brotherhood’s presence in Europe would give the Brotherhood many advantages whether materially or morally, and accordingly seeking to work closely with political decision-makers, Muslim Brotherhood supporters rejoice in the talk that “Rome will fall from within, when Muslims are strong enough”.
Establish an Islamic state governed by sharia law in Europe remains the ultimate goal, by destroying Western regimes and strengthening the Muslims’ power. Brotherhood’s goal is not different from the jihadist factions, so the presence of jihadists and their work to destabilize Western countries does not contradict the policy of the Muslim Brotherhood and serves its goals.
Muslim Brotherhood is a cross-border movement that seeks a “seven-stage plan to change societies”. As Heinisch and Scholz describe the plan written by Egyptian founder Hassan al-Banna, it should “eventually lead to the Islamization of the whole world,” the establishment of an Islamic caliphate that encompasses the world is the long-term goal.
Islamic extremism supports the Brotherhood’s control over Muslim communities
Muslim Brotherhood has developed plans to infiltrate decision-making centers and has succeeded in many cases, exploiting the West’s need to deal with the threat of terrorism coming from jihadists, and as a result, the Brotherhood became the government’s partner in its struggle against terrorism. For example, in the UK, the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) has been appointed by the government to Imams National Advisory Board (MINAB) to fight extremism. The group’s various institutions received many government aids in various Western countries, especially in Germany, which made it appear as an influential group in Muslim communities.
The Brotherhood pursues a dual policy, based on presenting itself as a representative of Muslims in Europe, so that Western governments will resort to it for information about jihadist activity, and at the same time, it tolerates some jihadist activity when it serves its interests.
European politicians and the media often deal with Brotherhood institutions as representatives of Islamic societies, because the Brotherhood is a well-organized and resolute movement, which tends to “outperform rival Islamist currents”.
When European elites search around for Muslim interlocutors to participate, those from the Brotherhood’s environment often seem to be the only option, because they give the impression that they are much larger and more representative than they really are.
The reliance of decision makers on organizations associated with the Muslim Brotherhood reduces the space in which these governments can work with the Muslim communities in Europe, and enhances the group’s control over the Muslim environment there, especially with the ideological rapprochement between the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamic associations, especially those close to the Turkish government.
Today, some governments are scrutinizing the activity of the Muslim Brotherhood, which has reduced the group’s ostensible activity, specifically its relations with organizations designated as terrorist by Western countries. The defeat of the Brotherhood has reduced its political importance globally, so it may resort to covert action, especially some of the pressures it was exposed to in France and Germany, where it was excluded from the large Islamic blocs representing Muslims in those countries.
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