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Deism versus Islam
The Muslim Brotherhood in Holland
by Lorenzo Vidino
Over the last few weeks Dutch media have published
information gleaned from Dutch intelligence files regarding the Muslim
One report indicated that Samir Azzouz and Noureddine
el Fatmi, two top members of the Hofstad group [an Islamist terrorist
organization of young Dutch Muslims] (and, later, of the so-called
"Piranha network") had close financial dealings with members of
the Brotherhood based in the Netherlands.
Another indicated that
the Brotherhood, through the European Trust (its powerful financial
arm in Europe), controlled two of the country's largest mosques.
The lively discussion taking place both in the Dutch parliament and
in the media as a consequence of these revelations resembles very
closely the debate that is taking place on this side of the pond at
various levels (and on this site). I have published an article in
the latest issue of Opinio, a Dutch weekly, regarding the
issue. While the article is in Dutch, below is the translation.
Recent media reports revealed that the Muslim Brotherhood, the oldest
and most influential of all militant Islamist groups, has gained a
foothold in the Netherlands, quietly placing itself behind two of the
country's largest and important mosques (de Rotterdamse Essalammoskee
en de Westermoskee in Amsterdam-West).
The debate at the Tweede Kamer that immediately followed the
revelation mirrors the discussion that is taking place among academics
and policymakers throughout Europe and America on the nature of the
Muslim Brotherhood and on whether it poses a danger to the West.
Some, including the Wetenschappelijke Raad voor het Regeringsbeleid (WRR),
consider that the Brotherhood has renounced the violence that has
characterized its activities since its foundation in the 1920s, has
embraced democracy, and can even be considered a viable partner in
attempts to contrast jihadi groups.
Others, both in the West and in
the Muslim world, consider this position naïve and based on statements
made by Brotherhood leaders for the consumption of credulous Western
ears, ignoring what the group says in Arabic and, more importantly,
what it does on the ground.
The truth is that, despite its recent claims of moderation, the
Brotherhood still adopts the same radical agenda that has
characterized it for the last 80 years.
In a December 2005 interview
to the London-based Arabic newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat, Mohammed Akef,
the group's official supreme guide clearly stated that "the Muslim
Brotherhood is a global movement whose members cooperate with each
other throughout the world, based on the same religious worldview --
the spread of Islam, until it rules the world."
On the Brotherhood's
website Akef also tellingly said: "I have complete faith that Islam
will invade Europe and America, because Islam has logic and a
And while the final goal of the Brotherhood is, as its
publications and leaders openly say, world dominance, the group adopts
different tactics to obtain it. Flexibility and deceit are the two
qualities that distinguish the Brotherhood from groups such as al
Qaeda and that have allowed the group to thrive throughout its
The Brotherhood, in fact, operates in different ways
according to the circumstances. In places were conflict is what it
deems the best option to achieve its goal, the Brotherhood will pick
up arms. In Palestine, for example, the Brotherhood operates through
Hamas (art. 2 of Hamas official charter states: "Hamas is one of the
wings of Moslem Brotherhood in Palestine.").
In the West, on the other
hand, the Brotherhood has chosen a completely different tactic. Having
realized that a full front confrontation, as the one al Qaeda is
attempting, against the West, is premature, given the relative
weakness of the radical Islamic movement, the Brotherhood has decided
for a more nuanced approach.
In the West violence and confrontation are replaced by a cleverly
engineered mix of penetration of the system through appeasement and
simultaneous radicalization of the Muslim population.
Its leaders publicly vow the group's dedication to integration and democracy,
representing themselves as mainstream, and seeking to portray
themselves as the representatives of the various Western Muslim
communities in the media and in dialogues with Western governments.
Yet, speaking Arabic or Turkish before their fellows Muslims, they
drop their facade and embrace radicalism.
representatives speak about interfaith dialogue and integration on
television, the group's mosques preach hate and warn worshippers about
the evils of Western society. While they publicly condemn the murder
of commuters in Madrid and school children in Russia, they continue to
raise money for Hamas and other terrorist organizations.
Some, eager to create a dialogue with their increasingly disaffected
Muslim minority, overlook this duplicity. Yet the Brotherhood's plans
are there to be seen. In 1990 Yusuf al-Qaradawi, possibly Sunni
Islam's most influential scholar today and the unofficial theological
leader of the international Muslim Brotherhood, published a book
called Priorities of the Islamic Movement in the Coming Phase.
This 186-page treatise can be considered the most recent manifesto of the
Islamist revivalist movement. As Qaradawi explains in the
introduction, the "Islamic Movement" is meant to be the "organized,
collective work, undertaken by the people, to restore Islam to the
leadership of society" and to reinstate "the Islamic caliphate system
to the leadership anew as required by sharia."
After examining the
situation of the "Islamic Movement" throughout the Muslim world, the
dissertation devotes significant attention to the situation of Muslims
living in the West.
Qaradawi explains how Muslim expatriates living in
Europe, Australia and North America "are no longer few in numbers,"
and that their presence is both permanent and destined to grow with
new waves of immigration. While Qaradawi says that their presence is
"necessary" for several reasons -- such as spreading the word of Allah
globally and defending the Muslim Nation "against the antagonism and
misinformation of anti- Islamic forces and trends" -- it is also
Because the Muslim Nation, and therefore Muslim
minorities "scattered throughout the world," do not have a centralized
leadership, "melting" poses a serious risk. Qaradawi warns, in other
words, that a Muslim minority could lose its Islamic identity and be
absorbed by the non-Muslim majority.
Qaradawi sees the lack of Muslim leadership not only as a problem,
however. He also views it as an unprecedented opportunity for the
Islamist movement to "play the role of the missing leadership of the
Muslim Nation with all its trends and groups."
While the revivalist
movement can exercise only limited influence in Muslim countries,
where hostile regimes keep it in check (the Brotherhood is outlawed in
several Muslim countries), Qaradawi realizes that it is able to
operate freely in the democratic West.
Muslim expatriates disoriented
by life in non-Muslim communities and often lacking the most basic
knowledge about Islam, moreover, represent an ideally receptive
audience for the movement's propaganda. Qaradawi asserts that
revivalists need to take on an activist role in the West, claiming
that "it is the duty of [the] Islamic Movement not to leave these
expatriates to be swept by the whirlpool of the materialistic trend
that prevails in the West."
Having affirmed the necessity of the Islamist movement in the West,
Qaradawi proceeds to present a plan of operation. The Egyptian-born
scholar openly calls for the creation of a separate society for
Muslims within the West.
While he highlights the importance of keeping
open a dialogue with non-Muslims on the surface, he advocates the
establishment of Muslim communities with "their own religious,
educational and recreational establishments." He urges his fellow
revivalists to try "to have your small society within the larger
society" and "your own 'Muslim ghetto.'"
Qaradawi clearly sees the
Islamist movement playing a crucial role in creating these separated
Muslim communities and thereby providing it with an unprecedented
opportunity to implement its vision, at least partially. Its local
affiliates will run the mosques, schools, and civic organizations that
shape the daily life of the desired "Muslim ghettoes."
What Qaradawi outlines in his treatise might, at first glance, appear
to be nothing more than a fantasy. In reality, it corresponds to what
the international network of the Muslim Brotherhood has been doing in
the West for the past fifty years.
Since the end of World War II, in
fact, members of the Muslim Brotherhood have settled in Europe and
worked relentlessly to implement the goals stated by Qaradawi.
In almost every European country, they founded student organizations
that, having evolved into nationwide umbrella organizations, have
become -- thanks to their activism and to the financial
support from Arab Gulf countries -- the most prominent
representatives of local Muslim communities.
They established a web of
mosques, research centers, think tanks, charities and schools that has
been successful in spreading their heavily politicized interpretation
The consequences of their activities of radicalization of the
Muslim population are particularly dangerous considering the tensions
between Muslim minorities and the rest of society that are present in
Holland and in virtually every European country.
The "Muslim ghetto"
that Qaradawi theorizes and the Muslim Brotherhood is trying to build
in Europe is exactly what the Algemene Inlichtingen-en
Veiligheidsdienst has repeatedly warned about. In its 2002 report Van
Dawa tot Jihad, the AIVD specifically mentioned the disrupting effect
that the activities of the Muslim Brotherhood can have on Dutch
Openly stating that the Brotherhood is a group that "pursues
a type of society that is completely different from the democratic
legal order, using covert and non-violent means (covert Dawa)," the
AIVD warned that, "rather than confronting the state power with direct
violence, this strategy seeks to gradually undermine it by
infiltrating and eventually taking over the civil service, the
judicature, schools, local administrations, et cetera.
clandestine infiltration, covert Dawa may also be aimed at inciting
Muslim minorities to civil disobedience, promoting parallel power
structures or even inciting Muslim masses to a revolt."
The effects of the activities of the Muslim Brotherhood, as described
by the AIVD, can only magnify the already well known problems of
radicalization of parts of the Dutch Muslim youth.
In today's tense
environment, the continued emphasis of the Muslim Brotherhood on the
superiority of Islam over any other religion and system of government
can only exacerbate the already existing social tensions and
jeopardize the Nederlandse samenleving.
While the Western branches of
the Muslim Brotherhood rarely directly involve themselves with
violence (even though their financing of terrorist groups such as
Hamas is well documented), their contribution to the creation of an
"us versus them" mentality among Muslims is the first step towards
While stopping short of openly advocating violence in the
West, continuously preaching about the evils of democracy and the
alleged conspiracies of "infidels" against Islam can only create a
fertile environment for those who want to make the next step and use
Moreover, the Brotherhood's renunciation of violence seems more
opportunistic than genuine, considering that its European members use
fiery rhetoric to endorse terrorist operations in the Middle East.
While they are quick to condemn violence in the West to avoid becoming
political pariahs, they do not refrain from approving of it elsewhere,
notably in Palestine and Iraq, because they believe they can get away
It is not unreasonable to assume, therefore, that should it
become convenient for them to do so, the ever-flexible Brotherhood
would embrace violent tactics in the West as well.
A strong debate on the activities of the Brotherhood in Holland is
sorely needed. The discourse needs to be accompanied by a firm
understanding of the group's real agenda, and the experience of some
Middle Eastern countries can provide us with a good insight.
throughout the Muslim world have repeatedly warned about the threat
posed by the Brotherhood. Dr. Ahmad Al-Rab'I, the former minister of
education of Kuwait, sternly stated: "The beginnings of all of the
religious terrorism that we are witnessing today were in the Muslim
Al-Rab'I is right in pointing out that the
roots of all modern Islamist terrorist groups, from al Qaeda to
rag-tag gangs such as the Hofstadgroep, lie in the teachings of Hassan
al Banna and Sayyid Qutb, the top ideologues of the Muslim
Brotherhood. Today jihadi groups have decided to achieve their goals
through violence, resorting to terrorism as their tactic of choice.
The Muslim Brotherhood has opted for a more nuanced approach,
tailoring its modus operandi to the time and the place. But while the
tactics might differ, the final goals of the two currents are the
same, and the two movements represent simply two sides of the same
coin. The Brotherhood's added danger lies in its ability to fake
moderation, operate under our nose, and spread its divisive message
4. "De vermomde Moslimbroeders", http://opinio.nu/
Lorenzo Vidino is an analyst at the Investigative Project and the
Jebsen Center at Tufts University's Fletcher School of Law and
Diplomacy. He is the author of the book "Al Qaeda in Europe."
This appeared April 6, 2007 on the CounterTerrorist Website and is archived as
Excerpts from Will Durant's The Age of Faith Pages 162-186 Pub. 1950
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