25 May 2022

Restricting Muslim Brotherhood propaganda: Effects on discrimination and incitement to violence

Dr. Evin Ismail

The Muslim Brotherhood TV channel Mekamaleen was shut down on the 29th April, 2022. In a statement to its audience, it announced that after eight years it would be leaving its base in Turkey for a relaunch in “different locations around the globe.” [1] This article will look at the propaganda of the Muslim Brotherhood and the prospects of restricting it.

Antisemitism of the Muslim Brotherhood

The founder of the Muslim Brotherhood, Hassan al-Banna, learned the importance of propaganda through the study of Nazi methods. [2] Both al-Banna and Muslim Brotherhood ideologue, Sayyid Qutb, admired Hitler. Qutb constructed Islamist antisemitism by combining Nazi antisemitism, mainly Hitler’s favored conspiracy theory used in the Holocaust, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, with distorted interpretations of Islamic scripture.

This Islamist antisemitism has projected a world view whereby Islam and Muslim identity is constantly constructed in relation to and against Jews, when in fact, Muslims and Jews had a rather peaceful coexistence for centuries before the establishment of political Islam. One example of its dire consequences is the mass killings of Jews in Iraq, the Farhud, instigated by Palestinian leader Hajj Amin al-Husseini in 1941. Islamist antisemitic propaganda still leads to violence in Europe. Here, it is important to emphasize the distinction between what is Islamic and what has been invented by Islamists.

After having carefully studied all mentions of Jews in the Qur’an, Firestone concludes that there is no antisemitism in the Qur’an. [3] Similarly, Lewis notes that “European antisemitism, in both its theological and racist versions, was essentially alien to Islamic traditions, culture, and modes of thought.” [4] However, Islamists have distorted certain historical descriptions of Jews in the Qur’an and applied them in today’s context when, rather, they should be viewed as specific historical accounts that ought to be understood in their contexts. Moreover, the Qur’an does not racialize Jews, nor does it dehumanize them or call for their destruction. [3]

Nevertheless, antisemitism and the call for the destruction of Jews were introduced to Muslim societies by the Muslim Brotherhood and the Palestinian leader Hajj Amin al-Husseini, who started cooperating with the Nazis in 1936. [5] Financed by the Nazis, al-Husseini spread propaganda, combining European antisemitism with distortions of Islamic scripture. [5] In its political endeavor, the Muslim Brotherhood cooperated with al-Husseini and was also financially supported by the Nazis. [5]

In fact, the Nazis invested more money in the Muslim Brotherhood than in any other anti-British organization in Egypt. [5] It is also important to note that the Muslim Brotherhood became a broad movement when it used the riots in Palestine for antisemitic campaigns, growing the organization from 800 members in 1936 to 200,000 members in 1938. [5]

Hence, antisemitism can be understood as what, to a large extent, underlines their ideology and constitutes their propaganda and recruitment tool, given that it transformed the Muslim Brotherhood into a broad movement. It is important to emphasize that Qutb’s writings had a profound role in the Iranian revolution in 1979. His books were translated into Persian and used to justify the revolution and building of a totalitarian Iranian Islamist state, a state that also spreads antisemitic propaganda throughout the world.

Mekamaleen TV

The Muslim Brotherhood TV channel Mekamaleen has continuously attacked the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia, and thus poses a security threat to the stability of these countries. Muslim Brotherhood propaganda also poses a security threat to Western countries. However, the impact and role of Muslim Brotherhood propaganda on radicalized groups in Europe and their violent antisemitic attacks is an under-researched area.

This article will demonstrate how Muslim Brotherhood propaganda, as displayed on the Mekamaleen TV channel, can be understood in the context of incitement to violence in Europe. It is based on a content analysis of antisemitic propaganda displayed on the YouTube channel of Mekamaleen. The analysis of the antisemitic content on Mekamaleen shows mainly four themes:

  1. The war against Islam conspiracy
  2. Conspiracies about Jewish world domination
  3. Discrediting of Muslim leaders through antisemitism
  4. Opposition to the existence of Synagogues

The war against Islam conspiracy

The war against Islam conspiracy is the most common antisemitic notion conveyed in Islamist propaganda, especially in ISIS propaganda. [6] It was developed by Sayyid Qutb, who combined distorted interpretations of the Qur’an with his reading of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a popular conspiracy theory, where Jews are accused of wanting to control the world. [6]

The war against Islam conspiracy is built on the claim that there is an ongoing and eternal war against Muslims led by Jews, sometimes together with Shiites, which needs to be fought violently until the end of time. It also advocates violence against Muslims not supporting Islamist ideology, since this automatically makes them part of “the Jewish camp.” [6]

On 30th November 2016, Mekamaleen TV published an interview titled “Jihad is the only solution to confront the Jews and Shiites in their war against Muslims.” [7] It referred to the war in Syria and was broadcasted when ISIS still held territories in Syria and Iraq. The conspiracy itself and its call for violence show how the Muslim Brotherhood ideology has inspired ISIS in its rationalization of its violence. Another example of this conspiracy was broadcasted on the 9th January 2018, in a discussion on Syria, where a commentator on Mekamaleen TV stated that the conflict between Assad and Israel is non-existent and that Assad is in power in Syria only because Israel wants him to be. Hence, given this conspiracy, Assad is understood as being part of the Jewish camp in the war against Islam. The war against Islam conspiracy, as propagated by the Muslim Brotherhood and later also ISIS, had a profound role

 in motivating young people to join ISIS. Hence, the Muslim Brotherhood infrastructure in Europe had already laid the groundwork for the worldview that would eventually justify violence and joining terrorist organizations.

Conspiracies about Jewish world domination

The Muslim Brotherhood frequently uses antisemitic conspiracy theories about supposed Jewish global power. On Mekamaleen, these theories are also reflected through the claim that Jews control the media and the film industry. For example, on 7th July 2018, there was a discussion on Mekamaleen titled “Why did the Jews succeed in controlling the film companies and not the Arabs despite having money.” [8] These conspiracies originate from Sayyid Qutb, who wrote that Jews utilize culture to control the world. [6] Another broadcast from 5th June 2018 is titled: “The Jews believe that whoever controls Jerusalem controls the world, so they fight to occupy it by force.” [9] These conspiracies about Jewish power are clearly inspired by Qutb, the war against Islam conspiracy, and the Protocols of the Elders of Zion.

Discrediting Muslim leaders through antisemitism

Another common theme on Mekamaleen is an opposition to normalization with Israel. However, this opposition is framed in antisemitic terms and directed mainly against Muslim leaders. Therefore, there is a pattern of discrediting Muslim leaders through antisemitism. This pattern also frequently recurs in ISIS propaganda. [6] Hence, it appears that the Muslim Brotherhood has inspired ISIS to utilize this propaganda strategy. On 24th June 2020, there was a Mekamaleen broadcast, titled “A Saudi preacher calls for the restoration of relations with Jews. Sheikh Issam Talima opens fire on him,” [10] where the guest, a Muslim Brotherhood activist, criticized the Saudi message of interfaith tolerance. On 5th May 2016, a video titled “Indeed, Sisi has made achievements only for the Jews and not for the Egyptian people”  [11] appeared on Mekamaleen TV. In this video, a commentator states that President Sisi only serves the Jews. The Muslim Brotherhood has also claimed that President Sisi is Jewish, in an attempt to discredit him as a leader. [12] Thus, using antisemitism to discredit Muslim leaders is a common propaganda strategy developed by Qutb and used by the Muslim Brotherhood and ISIS.

Muslim Brotherhood opposition to synagogues

Muslim Brotherhood propaganda also demonstrates a fixation with negative portrayals of synagogues. On 9th December 2018, Mekamaleen TV broadcasted a discussion titled “For the first time, a synagogue opened in the Emirates.” [13] The discussion centers around details of the synagogue and is supposed to enrage the viewer over the fact that a synagogue is opening in a Muslim country. Furthermore, on 11th January 2020, the same channel shared another video titled “The opening of the synagogue in Alexandria after its restoration at a cost of 100 million pounds.” [14] It is a short video intended to upset the audience and once again discredit the Egyptian state by claiming it only serves “the interests of Jews.”

These negative portrayals of synagogues in Muslim Brotherhood propaganda can lead to violence against Jews. For instance, in 2017, newly arrived Syrian refugees threw firebombs at the synagogue in Sweden’s second largest city, Gothenburg. In Denmark, in 2015, an ISIS-inspired perpetrator killed a guard at Copenhagen Synagogue. In Texas, a man recently took hostages in a synagogue; in recordings from the attack, he referred to “wars in Muslim countries” as a justification for his attack against Jews. [15] What all these attacks have in common is that they are inspired by the Muslim Brotherhood ideology that teaches Jew-hatred, within the context of the conspiracy of an ongoing war against Islam.

Prospects in banning Muslim Brotherhood propaganda

The history of the Muslim Brotherhood and its current propaganda shows that it promotes an ideology that incites the violence of the militants. Therefore, from a national security perspective, it is crucial to restrict their propaganda. Closing down Mekamaleen TV is an important step but the risk of it re-establishing itself in new places, as it promises to do, means that restrictive measures need to be taken, especially in Europe. While the UAE and Saudi Arabia [16] are leading the crucial work against extremist interpretations of Islam, the situation in Europe is dire. Jewish children in Europe, for example, need to attend heavily surveilled schools with armed guards, a sight that does not exist at other non-Jewish schools in Europe. However, even though the Muslim Brotherhood ideology significantly contributes to these security threats, the European response to restricting the ideology has been somewhat unclear. In Sweden, for instance, some Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated groups receive state funding and have their own schools.

However, recently, on 5th May, the Swedish Security Service (SÄPO) demanded that two Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated schools in Sweden be shut down. The reason given was that the children at these schools were at risk of being radicalized. [17] This new development shows an increased awareness of Islamist ideology, where the Muslim Brotherhood can no longer claim to be “the moderates.” Moreover, given that a terrorist designation is often difficult to implement in Europe, a ban on Muslim Brotherhood propaganda ought to be an effective and crucial measure. The arguments for these restrictive measures against the Muslim Brotherhood can be divided into four categories:

  1. To prevent an ideology that incites violence
  2. To counter Islamist antisemitism and protect Jewish life
  3. To protect Muslims and Islam from a politicization of religion
  4. To prevent and counter anti-Muslim sentiments resulting from the Muslim Brotherhood’s conflation of Islam and Islamism

Conclusion

Muslim Brotherhood propaganda, as displayed on Mekamaleen TV, poses a serious security threat not only to Jews, but also the world. Therefore, the decision to shut down the TV channel was an important step. To prevent them from opening again and destabilizing societies, it is crucial to legislate against Muslim Brotherhood propaganda. There are now many changes underway in Europe, and the level of awareness has reached a point where such legislation is realistically viable soon. European countries are now at a crossroads where they are starting to understand that restricting Muslim Brotherhood propaganda is a necessity for building and maintaining safe, tolerant societies based on genuine coexistence. Indeed, Mekamaleen TV is now looking for a new location for its broadcasts in a world that is increasingly uninterested in hosting them.

References

[1] Mekameleen TV. Twitter Post. April 29, 2022. https://bit.ly/3wF8Zw0.

[2] Patterson, David. A Genealogy of Evil: Anti-Semitism from Nazism to Islamic Jihad. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010.

[3] Firestone, Reuven. “Is the Qur’an ‘Antisemitic’?” In An End to Antisemitism, Vol. 2, edited by Armin Lange, Kerstin Mayerhofer, Dina Porat and Lawrence H. Schiffman. Berlin: De Gruyter, 2020.

[4] Lewis, Bernard. “Muslim Anti-Semitism.” Middle East Quarterly 5, no.2 (June 1998).

[5] Küntzel, Matthias. “Nazi Propaganda in the Middle East and Its Repercussions in the Postwar Period.” In An End to Antisemitism, Vol. 3, edited by Armin Lange, Kerstin Mayerhofer, Dina Porat and Lawrence H. Schiffman. Berlin: De Gruyter, 2021.

[6] Ismail, Evin. “The Antisemitic Origins of Islamist Violence: A Study of the Muslim

Brotherhood and the Islamic State.” PhD diss., Uppsala University, 2022, pp. 102, 141 & 222. https://bit.ly/3lrQypq.

[7] Mekameleen TV. “Jihad Is the Only Solution to Confront the Jews and Shiites in Their War against the Sunnis.” YouTube Video, November 30, 2016. https://bit.ly/3lotWWG.

[8] Mekameleen TV. “Why Did the Jews Succeed in Controlling the Film Companies and Not the Arabs despite Having Money?” YouTube Video, July 7, 2018. https://bit.ly/3MxWzwG.

[9] Mekameleen TV. “The Jews Believe That Whoever Controls Jerusalem Controls the World, so They Fight to Occupy It by Force.” YouTube Video, June 5, 2018. https://bit.ly/3wC9Uxg.

[10] Mekameleen TV. “A Saudi Preacher Calls for the Restoration of Relations with Jews. Sheikh Issam Talima Opens Fire on Him.” YouTube Video, June 24, 2020. https://bit.ly/3wxSz8y.

[11] Mekameleen TV. “Indeed, Sisi Has Made Achievements Only for the Jews and Not for the Egyptian People.” YouTube Video, May 5, 2016. https://bit.ly/3LoFJit.

[12] “Al-Jazeera Commentator, Former MB Official, Gamal Nassar: Al-Sisi Is Jewish, Implementing Protocols of Elders of Zion in Egypt.” Memri TV. August 17, 2013. https://bit.ly/3wvUjis.

[13] Mekameleen TV. “For the First Time, A Synagogue Opened in the Emirates.” YouTube Video, December 9, 2018. https://bit.ly/3wCqkpk.

[14] Mekameleen TV. “The Opening of the Synagogue in Alexandria after Its Restoration at a Cost of 100 Million Pounds.” YouTube Video, January 11, 2020. https://bit.ly/3G3LnFn.

[15] https://bit.ly/3z3XIs3.

[16] For more on this, see Dr. Najah Al-Otaibi’s KFCRIS report on school reforms in

Saudi Arabia: https://kfcris.com/en/view/post/305.

[17] “Two Independent Schools Closed: ‘Risk of Children Being Radicalized’.” Dagens Nyheter. May 5, 2022. https://www.dn.se/sverige/tva-friskolor-stangs-risk-att-barnen-radikaliseras/.

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