“Soft despotism is a term coined by Alexis de Tocqueville describing the state into which a country overrun by "a network of small complicated rules" might degrade. Soft despotism is different from despotism (also called 'hard despotism') in the sense that it is not obvious to the people."

Monday, January 29, 2007

Who is the Muslim Brotherhood? Why it matters.

28 January 2007
What will Happen if the Muslim Brotherhood Takes Control of Palestine?
Dr. Mamoun Fandy, Asharq al-Awsat (translated by MEMRI) Judeoscope

Scholar and Columnist Dr. Mamoun Fandy: ’If the Muslim Brotherhood, i.e., Hamas Wins in Palestine - They Will Set the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt at the Top of Egypt’s Political Pyramid’

In an article in Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, titled "What will Happen if the Muslim Brotherhood Takes Control of Palestine?", Egyptian-born scholar and columnist Dr. Mamoun Fandy [1] writes about the possibility of a Muslim Brotherhood takeover in Egypt and Syria. [2] According to Dr. Fandy, the rise to power of Hamas, which is the Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, will strengthen the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt.

The following are excerpts from the article:

"Palestine, as a Symbol, Remained the Monopoly of Arab Nationalism - Until Hamas Came to Power"

"Israel occupied and is still occupying the land of Palestine. Nevertheless, Palestine, in the symbolic sense, remained the monopoly of Arab nationalism - until the Hamas movement came to power. After the rise of Hamas - which, it must not be forgotten, is the Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood organization - the terms of the discussion on the [Palestinian] problem changed from pan-Arab nationalist terms to religious terms, in the Muslim Brotherhood version [of the religion].

"The struggle today has become a struggle over who will capture Palestine as a symbol - the Muslim Brotherhood, as represented by Hamas, or the nationalists, as represented by Fatah. The struggle for the liberation of Palestine as a territory has dropped to second place: [It has become less important than] the struggle to liberate the symbolic Palestine from the [control of the] pan-Arab nationalists and transfer it - this holy of holies of Arab politics - to the Muslim Brotherhood.

"What, in effect, is the significance of the Muslim Brotherhood’s conquest of Palestine as a symbol?

"For 50 years, the Arab people gathered behind the nationalist [pan-Arab] slogan ’No voice is louder than the voice of war’ - [which refers to] the use of external [issues, such as the struggle against external enemies] - for defending the domestic [that is, for the defense of the regime at home]. In addition, [during] these 50 years, the Arab governments were extorted by some Palestinian leaders, who exported the Palestinian tragedy to [those government] in order to incite their peoples."

"Giving a Religious Character to the Palestinian Problem Will Transform It from a Resolvable Territorial Struggle to a Religious Struggle That Cannot Be Resolved"

"At that time, the incitement was nationalist [in character], while today - after the Muslim Brotherhood has conquered a significant part of the symbolic Palestine - the incitement has become Islamist, and the domestic has become commingled with the external. This is because the structure of the Muslim Brotherhood’s ideological discourse is not based on the separation of the domestic and the external; this is because their ideology transcends the borders of [particular Arab] states. Hasn’t the leader of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt said that he had no objection to having [even] a Malaysian Muslim rule Egypt, as long as it was not ruled by a Coptic Egyptian? Likewise, the Muslim Brotherhood conquest of the symbolic Palestine means giving the [Palestinian] problem a religious character - and herein lies the danger.

"First of all, giving the Palestinian problem a religious character will lead to a Malaysian Muslim having more rights in Palestine than a Christian Palestinian. Likewise, it will transform [the Palestinian problem] from a resolvable territorial struggle into a religious struggle that cannot be resolved... With regard to the regional level, I would like to explain why giving the Palestinian problem a religious character is dangerous for two important countries in the Arab world, [namely] Egypt and Syria."

"Whoever Reads the Egyptian Press Today Cannot But Notice that Egypt is Living in the Muslim Brotherhood Era"

"The success of the Muslim Brotherhood in Palestine means turmoil in Egypt. Egypt is today witnessing a fierce battle pitched between the ruling National [Democratic] Party and the banned Muslim Brotherhood party, and it appears that the battle is going to the Muslim Brotherhood. In light of the storm of responses to Egyptian Culture Minister Farouq Hosni’s statements about the hijab, [3] it became clear that [the number of] Muslim Brotherhood [supporters] inside the National Party might be greater than [the number of] members in the banned [Muslim Brotherhood] organization [itself], and that the Muslim Brotherhood has infiltrated into all Egypt’s state apparatuses.

"The Egyptian press is perhaps the best reflection of this infiltration: The front and back pages of Egypt’s government papers belong to the ruling party, while the 20 inside pages of every paper belong to the Muslim Brotherhood - and they do what they want with them, [via] their correspondents, theoreticians, and propagandists. Whoever reads the Egyptian press today cannot but notice that Egypt is living in the Muslim Brotherhood era."

"The Muslim Brotherhood Has Taken Over Egypt’s Domestic Arena"

"As was clarified to me by a member of the National Party, ’There is [only] one party in Egypt, and that is the Muslim Brotherhood.’ For more than 30 years, the Muslim Brotherhood has been gaining control over Egypt’s domestic arena, its streets, its institutions, and its press, and nothing stands between it and [full] control, except for foreign issues, the first of which is the Palestinian problem. If the Muslim Brotherhood in Palestine [i.e. Hamas] wins, they will set the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt at the top of Egypt’s political pyramid; when [Hamas leader, Palestinian Prime Minister] Isma’il Haniya comes to Egypt, he will go to the Cairo branch of the Muslim Brotherhood offices, instead of meeting with the senior officials of the Egyptian state. Likewise, we will hear Haniya defending from Gaza the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, bestowing upon them the legitimacy of the Palestinian problem - which in the Arab mentality is above all criticism."

"Syria is a Candidate for Takeover by the Muslim Brotherhood"

"Syria particularly is a candidate for takeover by the Muslim Brotherhood. The legitimacy of the ruling secular Ba’th party in Damascus is supported by two Islamist crutches: Shi’ite and Sunni. The first is embodied by Hizbullah. (In a way unprecedented in the history of Syria during the era of Assad Sr. and Assad Jr., Syrians today wave the picture of Hassan Nasrallah along with that of their president.) The second crutch is the Hamas movement, represented by [movement] leader Khaled Mash’al, who resides in Damascus.

"If the Palestinian problem is given a religious character, in accordance with the Muslim Brotherhood’s ideas, Assad will lose both of these crutches. He may fall, and Syria will fall with him, into the hands of the Muslim Brotherhood, who went through blood-soaked periods during the era of Assad Sr., and who doubtlessly aspire [to capture power] in Damascus. Perhaps today the Syrian regime is gaining tactical advantages by means of Khaled Mash’al, but these [same advantages] may, in the short or medium term, [end up being] a reason for its collapse."

"Al-Jazeera is the Channel of the Muslim Brotherhood"

"The Muslim Brotherhood has at its disposal trans-border media, from newspapers to satellite channels, which have taken over the minds of millions - not only in Egypt and Syria, but throughout the entire Arab world. These are media that are tried and [ideologically] guided, that level accusations of heresy and treason against those who disagree with them...

"’[Al-Jazeera] is the channel of the Muslim Brotherhood," said Muhammad Dahlan, a sworn Fatah man, as he described Al-Jazeera TV, which is today incontestably the biggest Arab news channel. If the Muslim Brotherhood takes over the symbolic Palestine, the Muslim Brotherhood channel [formerly Al-Jazeera] will serve as a propaganda outlet for the new religious symbolism of the Palestinian problem.

"Al-Jazeera wastes no time, and it is already propagandizing for [Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood leader] Mahdi ’Akef and the [Muslim Brotherhood] organization, at the expense of the Egyptian state; for [Syrian Muslim Brotherhood leader Ali Sadr Al-Din] Al-Baynouni and his party, at the expense of the Syrian state; and for the Muslim Brotherhood in Algeria at the expense of the Algerian state. If you watch a debate program presented on [Al-Jazeera] by a [certain] non-Muslim host, you will be amazed at the supreme effort he makes to defend the Muslim Brotherhood, and you’ll think that by the time the program is over, he will be reciting the Muslim oath of allegiance. [4]

"The Muslim Brotherhood takeover of the symbolic Palestine will not liberate the land of Palestine - not before the Muslim Brotherhood subjugates the entire Arab world to its rule. The Muslim Brotherhood prefers to eliminate the nearby enemy [the existing Arab states] in order to prepare the means for facing the distant enemy [Israel]..."

Judeoscope is a collaborative space open to all whatever their ethnicity or religion. To submit news, articles and announcements, write us at Judeoscope gives preference to papers written in English and French but will consider texts in Spanish, German, and Hebrew.


  1. There's a good lesson to be learned here about incrementalism. We should be adapting our tactics to absorb and reflect this strategy.

  2. In December, the Egyptian authorities arrested some 140 Muslim Brotherhood members after student members of the group staged a militia-style demonstration at Al-Azhar University in Cairo.

    Officially banned in 1954 for its attempt to set up an Islamic government, the Muslim Brotherhood has 88 seats in 454-member lower house of parliament after its members ran as independents in 2005 legislative elections.

    Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has proposed constitutional amendments that include prohibition of forming any political party on religious bases.

    Brotherhood Members

  3. Rufus,

    Iraq's army announced Monday it killed the leader of a heavily armed cult of messianic Shiites called "the Soldiers of Heaven" in a fierce gunbattle aimed at foiling a plot to attack leading Shiite clerics and pilgrims in the southern city of Najaf on the holiest day of the Shiite calendar.

    Senior Iraqi security officers said that as part of the plot, three gunmen were captured in Najaf after renting a hotel room in front of the office of Iraq's most senior Shiite spiritual leader, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, with plans to attack it.

    The fierce 24-hour battle was ultimately won by Iraqi troops supported by US and British jets and American ground forces, but the ability of a splinter group little known in Iraq to rally hundreds of heavily armed fighters was a reminder of the potential for chaos and havoc emerging seemingly out of nowhere. Members of the group, which included women and children, planned to disguise themselves as pilgrims and kill as many leading clerics as possible, said Maj. Gen. Othman al-Ghanemi, the Iraqi commander in charge of the Najaf region.

    Shiite Cult

  4. We forget it cause the place is quiet, but if Saudi Arabia is the money, Egypt is the intellectual and population center of the Arab world. If any place makes a case for supporting dictators, its the success in keeping Egypt mostly harmless since '73.

    Consider Iran, isolated by being Persian and shiite, a minor allie of at that time 30 million fell into Khomeinism and look at the hassle since.

    A fall into radicalism of sunni arab Egypt, population 78 million and still growing fast? Terrifying.

    Egypt is the big game, everything up to now, is just a warm up.

  5. NYT, BAGHDAD, Jan. 29 —Iraqi forces were surprised and nearly overwhelmed by the ferocity of an obscure renegade militia in a weekend battle near the holy city of Najaf and needed far more help from American forces than previously disclosed, American and Iraqi officials said Monday.

    They said American ground troops — and not just air support as reported Sunday — were mobilized to help the Iraqi soldiers, who appeared to have dangerously underestimated the strength of the militia, which calls itself the Soldiers of Heaven and had amassed hundreds of heavily armed fighters.

    Iraqi government officials said the group apparently was preparing to storm Najaf, a holy city dear to Shiite Islam, occupy the sacred Imam Ali mosque and assassinate the religious hierarchy there, including the revered leader, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, during a Shiite holiday when many pilgrims visit.

    “This group had more capabilities than the government,” said Abdul Hussein Abtan, the deputy governor of Najaf Province, at a news conference.

  6. So who is to be believed, Mr Bush, speaking to Juan Williams or Abdul Hussein Abtan, the deputy governor of Najaf Province, speaking at a press conference?

  7. Very sobering report

    In a city that is increasingly tuned to bad news from Iraq, this report from the Brookings Institution, one of Washington's leading foreign policy think-tanks, makes sombre reading.

    "With each passing day," it says, "Iraq sinks deeper into the abyss of civil war."

    It argues that the Bush Administration's policy has to change "to reflect the painful reality that the US effort to bring peace and stability to Iraq has failed."

    Unlike last year's report from the bi-partisan Iraq Study Group, whose goal appears in large part to have been consensus at home, this Brookings study is a tightly-argued case for urgent practical steps to deal with a looming catastrophe.

    Its title - "Things Fall Apart: Containing the Spillover From An Iraqi Civil War" - says it all.

    Things in Iraq are bad now, but they could indeed still get much worse.

  8. You just had to ask that question, didn't you DR? You need to see the sunny side. I just have a bad feeling that one hell of a hard rain is going to fall.

  9. no problem rufus it merely reflects your thinking which in fact is a simplification about what one of our frequent posters, fellow peacekeeper has mentioned here, and on occasions, in other circles, at what he defines, if memory serves me correctly, as one great big cluster-fuck. In the future, KISS.

  10. I think we are getting close to having another US President getting down on the carpet except this time he will be curled in a ball sucking his thumb instead of, know what I mean.

  11. I love your optimism rufus, but this thing does not feel like it is winding down.

  12. whit,

    I am sorry to say the State Department never seems to learn a lesson.

  13. > Iraqi forces were surprised and nearly overwhelmed by the ferocity of an obscure renegade militia

    I am not going to judge the Iraqi Army until all the facts are known. For example,

    Wahli said the structure of the group [cult] was Shiite, but it involved Sunni fighters and "based on the level of training, support and financing, it obviously has received support from outside Iraq."


    The footage showed a wide trench ringing the encampment and a series of tunnels or bunkers dug into earthen mounds to offer protection. The video showed at least eight vehicles mounted with antiaircraft machine guns. Dozens of dead bodies, some burned, could be seen lying amid mortars, AK-47 assault rifles, rocket-propelled grenades and other weaponry.


    "The aggressive manner in which the Iraqi soldiers performed north of [Najaf] going after the anti-Iraqi forces was impressive," said Col. Michael Garrett, commander of the 4th Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division, in the statement.


    "There were extensive preparations, they were highly trained, and they fought in an orderly way," said Wahli. "Their leader kept insisting through a loudspeaker that they keep fighting, despite repeated attempts by the Iraqi security forces to get them to stop."

    Cult fighting

    The MSM in some of their summaries make the cult sound like a few Shiite religious nuts with rifles. But it was clearly a lot more than that. The Sunnis who were fighting had their own reasons, since they don't believe in any Shiite messiahs. Reports said Saddam supported the group years ago, and that some of the Sunni fighters were from Anbar. The foreign connections either like Al Qaeda, and maybe Iran.

    This seems to be the pattern, that the terrorists plan an attack using a core group of their best fighters, then add others. They add women and children for human shields, as there were in this battle. They recruit some with low to middle fighting skills to use as cannon fodder, the armed cult members in this case, or in other situations the suicide bombers. That's what Hizbollah did in Lebanon, and what has happened with the cult.

  14. Pretty effective piece of writing, thanks for the post.