In late October, a series of exchanges here at American Thinker debated the extremism or moderation of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, the largest and oldest Islamist organization in the world and the de facto political opposition party in Egypt. Events a few weeks later in Cairo rendered much of that discussion moot.
The exchange was initiated by Alyssa Lappen's article "Islam's Useful Idiots", which challenged the foreign policy realist view that the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt are political moderates and are committed to political reform in Egypt through peaceful means, notwithstanding their sometime-violent rhetoric and long history of using and supporting terrorism. In particular, Ms. Lappen took issue with statements delivered at a recent forum hosted by the NYU School of Law, where panelists represented the Muslim Brotherhood as "reformist" and "progressive", and therefore, no threat to democracy in Egypt and a potential partner for peace for the US. Later that week, Ms. Lappen's article prompted strong responses from Nick Fielding and Alexis Debat - both of whom were panelists at the NYU forum noted by Lappen. Both accused her of misrepresenting their comments at that forum and reiterated that the Muslim Brotherhood was nothing to fear. In the spirit of fair debate, The American Thinker included detailed responses by Ms. Lappen to Fielding and Debat's accusations.
In December, however, a militarized parade of Muslim Brotherhood youth cadres demonstrated with sticks, chains and martial arts displays at Cairo's Al-Ahzar University, the most historic Islamic academic institution and one of the largest universities in the world, effectively putting the lie to contentions that the Muslim Brotherhood intends to pursue its goal of imposing shari'a law and instituting an Islamic government in Egypt through non-violent means (an almost ridiculous proposition on its face).
A December 18th oped by Jameel Theyabi in Dar Al-Hayat, "The Brotherhood's Power Display", describes the Muslim Brotherhood's military rally and what it means:
The military parade, the wearing of uniforms, displaying the phrase, 'We Will be Steadfast', and the drills involving combative sports, betray the group's intent to plan for the creation of militia structures, and a return by the group to the era of 'secret cells'...this development comes as a clear Brotherhood announcement that the group is capable of acting and reacting to developments, and by these demonstrations, it is seeking to deliver a news flash that says: "The group is still out there, and is capable of military action, recruitment of new elements, military training and mobilization...I believe that the group's public power display represents a kind of coded message to awaken sleeper cells within Egypt and abroad.
Apparently the only element missing to make this event the perfect setting for an al-Qaeda recruiting video were the obligatory scenes of young jihadis navigating through sets of monkeybars and jumping through the fiery "Ring of Death". In a scene reminiscent of the Brotherhood's Palestinian sibling, HAMAS, or of Hezbollah in Lebanon, this military parade is not only a show of force, but a coming-out of sorts - an Islamist debutante ball.
This turn of events in Egypt should come as no surprise to those familiar with the Muslim Brotherhood's history and ideological development. As Theyabi notes, the re-militarization of the Muslim Brotherhood hearkens back to its founding era under Hassan al-Banna, when the Brotherhood's "Secret Apparatus" engaged in numerous acts of terror and assassination. In fact, al-Banna's death in February 1949 came as direct retaliation by the Egyptian government for the assassination by Brotherhood members of Prime Minister Mahmud Fahmi Nokrashi. Then there is also the litany of violence, terrorism, revolution and bloody coups committed over the decades by Muslim Brotherhood organizations throughout the Middle East and Africa (HAMAS and the genocidal Brotherhood-backed regime in Sudan come immediately to mind).
The real $64,000 question for the US in light of the militarization of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood is whether this is a foreshadowing of the future here at home. It is no secret that the Muslim Brotherhood has established a vast network of organizations in the US, most notably the Muslim American Society (MAS) and the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA).
An extensive investigation published by the Chicago Tribune in September 2004, "A Rare Look at Secretive Brotherhood in America" , cites MAS officials as admitting that it was founded by Muslim Brotherhood members (it should be noted that the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood's current General Guide and Supreme Leader, Mohammed Mahdi Akef, was one of the MAS founders) and that the organization's ultimate goal is "to create Muslim states overseas and, they hope, someday in America as well", but we are assured that this objective will be achieved through peaceful and democratic means - much like what has been promised by the Brotherhood in Egypt for several decades now.
The militarization of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt should give pause to those who advocate engagement with the Brotherhood in Egypt by the US as a partner for peace and stability in the Middle East. It should also prompt some sober reflection by the government officials, university academics and media officials who are quick to embrace MAS and other US-based Brotherhood front groups as "moderates". The recent military parades in Cairo have essentially tipped the hand of the Muslim Brotherhood's lengthy international duplicity; with a sizable Brotherhood presence in the US, we don't want to get too far down the road before we discover that we were duped about their intentions here as well.