Democracy and Human Rights are among the proudest values of the West and one of Western culture’s most significant achievements on the human level. These structures and values were not reached overnight, but were rather the outcome of lengthy wars, revolutions and blood spilt over the course of many decades.
Over time, these Western values transcended their local origins, and became one of the tools used by the West to evaluate and judge other countries and peoples, Despite the importance of the idea of democracy and human rights, the interpretation of these concepts has become an area of contention between the West and other countries, to the extent that in some cases these concepts have become tools to apply pressure and interfere in the affairs of others through reports issued by parliaments, commissions and Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to monitor human rights situation. Despite their importance for assessing the state of democracy and human rights in various parts of the world, the credibility of these reports has been disputed. Indeed, they may lack objectivity and accuracy due to reliance on sources that have specific political goals and interests and the pressure brought through material or political interests that have no obvious interests in the promotion of human rights and democracy.
What follows is a discussion of the “industry” of democracy and human rights and the role of groups influencing its industry and its orientations in the West; specifically, the role of the Muslim Brotherhood, and contradictory stances taken by those responsible for this industry, as a result of their being misled by the Brotherhood’s lies and misleading claims.
The End Justifies the Means
To begin, the following question should be asked: Does the Muslim Brotherhood believe in democracy? If so, does it accept western concepts based on the necessity of elections, orderly transfers of power, and the rulers’ obligation to govern on behalf of the people?
It is well known that democracy in its modern Western concept means the right to support partisan interests and a political based on elections that enable parliaments to exercise the right to legislate. Within this process, the people acting as voters have the supreme role. Hasan al-Banna, the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood in 1928, believed that partisan agitation and elections, the essence of the democratic process, were an absolute evil as they involved competition that separated the Islamic Nation or “Ummah” to the extent they disrupted peoples’ lives. Also, al-Banna rejected coalitions between more than one party as coalitions would lead to instability as he believed conflict between parties within a coalition was inevitable. Therefore al-Banna believed that there should be one party representing unanimity,  though he indicated the duplicity and pragmatism of the Brotherhood through his expressed approval of the achievements of Hitler and Mussolini in establishing one-party states as the main factor behind renaissance of both Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy. Following the end of World War Two, al-Banna reversed his position and concluded that the one-party state was actually the main cause of the defeat of Germany and Italy. In addition, Al-Banna himself, who opposed the ideas of democracy and elections, has in fact nominated for elections twice; once in 1942 before retracting the candidacy in return for a deal with the Wafd party; and a second time in 1944, when he was nominated for elections, but ultimately failed to gain enough votes.
After the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s, one the most important impacts on developments and changes on the global scene was the new dominance of the Western camp and the United States’ leadership of reform, political transformation and “democratization” processes for the countries of Eastern Europe previously dominated by Moscow. At that time, the Brotherhood in the West also understood that signal and presented themselves as a group that believed in democracy, elections, freedoms, and human rights. They also proclaimed themselves ready to carry out the task of democratizing the Arab world in the event that they took power in the region and that they would be allies that the West could rely on them. Rashid Ghannouchi headed those who developed this idea, as Ghannouchi claimed that democracy is basically derived from the Islamic concept of the Shura, which suggested that there was a compatibility between Western and Muslim notions of democratic practice.
In order not to lose his audience of Islamists, Ghannouchi promoted the possibility of using democracy as a mean to implement Sharia through democratic processes, that is, through elections. If the Islamists could gain a majority according to democratic principles, such a majority will allow them to control matters through the legislative structure in a way that would eventually enable them to change the state system and implement Sharia. This demonstrates once again the extent of Brotherhood pragmatism, opportunism, and the manipulation of values and concepts. Despite the great contradiction in content and application between the idea of the Islamic Shura and Western democracy, the Brotherhood promoted their own Islamic conception through duplicitous methods using different language for Western and Muslim audiences, which led to the invention of a new concept and term: “Churacracy.”
September 11: The Empowerment
The attacks on September 11 and reaction of United States and the other Western countries represented a golden new opportunity for the Muslim Brotherhood, as in the case of the collapse of the Soviet Union. The United States confronted a new problem requiring a new strategy, through which the Islamic World could be addressed to enhance the deteriorating image of the United States and gain support of the Muslim communities in the war against terrorism.
In this context, the United States launched several initiatives. In 2003, George W. Bush, during his speech in University of South Carolina, launched a plan for a free trade zone between the Middle East and the United States intended to foster the development and spread of democracy in the Arab countries. In 2004, the Greater Middle East Project was launched to encourage the reformation of the Middle East as a vast expanse from Afghanistan to Morocco using democratic reform and human rights tools. These initiatives resonated around the Arab World. They represented reform initiatives that encouraged the Muslim Brotherhood and its supporting countries. They represented the US vision for change in the region on the basis of partnership and sponsorship of democracy and human rights across the Islamic world.
We address here two initiatives that were launched in the context of the Greater Middle East Project:
- The Brotherhood Reform Initiative (March 2004)
The Brotherhood Reform Initiative that was launched by the Muslim Brotherhood covered the following themes: Political Reform, Judicial Reform, Election System Reform, Economic Reform, Education, Reform of al-Azhar, Elimination of Poverty, Social Reform, Women, Christians “Copts”, Cultural Aspects, and Foreign Policy. The key ideas were the following:
- Form of the State and Democracy: “We assert our wish to maintain to the system of the State as a republic, parliamentary, constitutional, and democratic system in line with the principles of Islam. The aspects of comprehensive reform would only be achieved in line with democracy, which we believe in”. This description of democracy by the Muslim Brotherhood generated much debate. The reference to democracy, followed by the sentence “which we believe in”, showed that the Muslim Brotherhood did not see democracy as a multilateral instrument to be utilized for reaching power, and then overthrow it as was done by Hitler and Mussolini, both of whom were admired by the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood, Hassan al-Banna. In response to this the United States Institute of Peace, in a 2005 report to Congress entitled “Promoting Middle East Democracy II: Arab Initiatives”, asked how the Muslim Brotherhood would be able to reconcile its views on Islamic principles with a commitment to democratic reform.
- Political reform: the Muslim Brotherhood targeted the army and police through the introduction of proposals that they should come under civilian control, namely through individuals who would be loyal to the Muslim Brotherhood as the ultimate authority. The aim was to prevent military interference as seen in 2013, when the army in Egypt intervened in the governance of the country based on claim of the people that the state should be protected from the Muslim Brotherhood’s plans to seize power.
- Women: The Muslim Brotherhood did not introduce any clarifications in relation to gender policy and reform aside to general references to women constituting “half of society”. Regarding women’s entitlement to a political role, this was conditional on them exercising this role in a suitable way without being “vulgar”. In addition, women were prohibited from high-ranking roles in government.
- Copts: The Reform Initiative did not introduce any guarantees or reassurances regarding the position Christians in relation to Muslim Brotherhood rule and the application of the principles of Islam. It also did not guarantee that Christians had clear citizenship rights similar to other Muslims under the ruling of the Islamists.
- Doha Declaration for Reform and Democracy (June 2004)
The Doha Declaration for Reform and Democracy was issued after a two-day conference hosted by the Gulf Studies Center at Qatar University and presided over by the Egyptian Saad Eddin Ibrahim, who played a significant role in promoting the Muslim Brotherhood project in the West World after September 11 with the support of Qatar. The most important outputs of this conference, which were included in the Doha Declaration, were as follows:
- The use of democracy as a method for change of all forms of ruling systems in the region, whether republic and monarchy.
- Limiting the power of military institutions in regional countries by excluding them from politics and ensuring civil control over them.
In this respect, there was an evident link between the Muslim Brotherhood reform initiative and the Doha Declaration. Both aimed at using democracy for comprehensive changes: supporting the Muslim Brotherhood’s aspirations to gain power in the countries where it had a presence; and ensuring control over those national institutions, in particular the military, which might oppose their program for governing countries in the region.
Indeed, despite the concerns of the United States, Muslim Brotherhood representatives succeeded in issuing many recommendations from significant centers with close ties with Washington policy makers. These included the report of the United States Institute of Peace of the Congress issued in two parts in 2005. Despite the Institute’s doubts about the intentions of the Muslim Brotherhood in relation to democracy and human rights, the Institute eventually recommended that the US could deal with the Muslim Brotherhood. The following is a sample of the Institute of Peace’s recommendations:
- The United States should engage Islamist parties on normative grounds. Throughout the region, Islamist parties have emerged as major actors and likely winners when allowed to compete without constraint. Some of these parties run on conservative agendas and promise to apply strict Sharia; others are more liberal and advocate a modern social agenda. Yet most are pragmatic and willing to compromise on how much Islamic law should be applied. This raises the issue of how to integrate Islamists into the democratic process without compromising the spirit of democracy or the rules and procedures that sustain it.
- Engagement with moderate Islamist reformers is essential. Given the Islamists’ strong popular appeal, the United States can no longer afford to call for democratic change in the region while ignoring one of its most powerful political forces. The United States should underscore the commonalities among the demands of secular and Islamist reformers, leveraging the overlap between them to inject greater momentum toward broad reform in the region.
These reports reflected the uncertainty in the US regarding the Islamists and the Muslim Brotherhood in particular. Though they discussed the fulfillment of the Islamists’ commitments in relation to democracy and human rights as well as the potential conflict with application of Sharia, they eventually recommended that US decision makers should work with them.
The Arab Spring: The Power and Reaping the Rewards
The pressure of the Western World led by the United States on the Arab governments paved the road to the Muslim Brotherhood to reach for power. This bid for power did not start, as believed by some, with the eruption of the protests during what was called the “Arab Spring” with the support of Obama’s administration. It started when the Western World adopted the Muslim Brotherhood as partner in the war against terrorism after the September 11 attacks.
In 2005, the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt succeeded, for the first time in their history, in gaining 88 seats in the parliament. This partially resulted from the Brotherhood adopting more pragmatic language for the comfort of the United States. For example, the Brotherhood traditionally attacked the Egyptian peace agreement with Israel signed by President Sadat, which was the direct reason for his being murdered by Islamists. However, in 2005, Mohamed Mahdi Akef, the Supreme Guide of the Muslim Brotherhood, stated to Associated Press “the Muslim Brotherhood would not seek to change the foreign policy of Egypt, including respecting the Peace Agreement with Israel, if it reached power”.
At this time, the West including the United States also took a favorable view towards the Justice and Development Party (AKP) in Turkey, under the leadership of Erdoğan, as example of an Islamic movement that reflected the western values of democracy and human rights. In fact, Western governments looked at this model as a potential model for the Arab World that could be emulated by the Muslim Brotherhood. This perspective proved to be mistaken, as the ruling of the Islamists in Turkey subsequently became a significant source of threats to the security of the Western World itself, especially the European Union. Erdoğan turned against Western notions of democracy and human rights and the values of the secular republic founded by Ataturk. In the Arab World, the Brotherhood revealed, upon gaining power, their true intentions of controlling all State agencies and dismissing all non-affiliates such as secular and leftist groups that had aided the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood to power.
The Collapse and Export of Crises
The beginning of collapse of the Muslim Brotherhood project in the region was in Egypt in 2013. Demonstrations by millions of people in the streets rejected the authoritarian practices of the Muslim Brotherhood and its rejection of democracy and human rights. Egypt faced many difficulties because of this development, as Turkey and Qatar coordinated with the Brotherhood’s international organization to oppose the countries of moderation, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Saudi Arabia, and portray the events in Egypt, as a military coup against the principles of democracy, human rights, and peaceful transition of power. It also accused the UAE of leading a counter-revolution against the “Arab Spring”. Indeed, the Arab Spring was in fact the means by which the Muslim Brotherhood and their regional supporters, Turkey and Qatar, exploited the aspirations of the people and took power. The Brotherhood’s rise in the region also assisted Erdoğan’s plan to recreate an archaic “Ottoman caliphate” to rise contrary to the interests of the Arab countries. This explains the attacks by these countries against the countries of moderation, especially Egypt and the UAE.
Ultimately, the Muslim Brotherhood’s project to gain power in different regional countries collapsed, and with subsequent conflicts between the leaders of the International Muslim Brotherhood Organization, the Brotherhood resorted to targeting the countries of moderation on human rights questions. The means by which the Muslim Brotherhood targeted the countries of moderation came through two important international initiatives: a UNHRC declaration on human rights in Egypt and a European parliament resolution on human rights in the UAE.
The UNHRC declaration on human rights in Egypt
On March 12th, 2021, during the 46th Session of the United Nation Human Rights Council (UNHRC), a declaration signed by 31 countries was issued to condemn human rights conditions in Egypt. As an observer in this Council, the importance of the declaration was indicated by the United States being one of the signatories. The declaration was based on reports and recommendations of 100 organizations concerned with human rights that were allowed to remain anonymous under the terms of the resolution. By identifying the organizations involved, we find the clear fingerprint of the Muslim Brotherhood.
These organizations were:
- The Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS): run by Bahey eldin Hassan and based in Geneva, the CIHRS is affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood and uses human rights to justify a humanitarian defense of the organization.
- Amnesty International: Yasmine Hussein, wife of Wael Mussabeh, the Muslim Brotherhood Member, occupies a senior position in Amnesty and runs its Department of Beliefs and Human Rights.
- Democracy for the Arab World Now (DAWN): concerned with human rights in Egypt, UAE and Saudi Arabia alone in the region, DAWN explicitly mentions that it targeted these countries because of their relationship with the United States. As DAWN was located in Washington D.C, it sought to undermine the interests of the said countries in the US. It was worth noting that the founder of DAWN was the dissident Muslim Brotherhood member Jamal Khashoggi. In addition, the board of trustees included two individuals with close relationships with the International Muslim Brotherhood Organization: Nihad Awad, the Executive Director of Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), which also has close relationships with the Hamas organization; and Tawakkol Karman, a Nobel Prize winner and one of the most prominent faces of the Brotherhood in the “Arab Spring”. It was worth noting that Karman constantly agitated against the ruling systems in the Arab World, and justified using violence against the Tunisian government after the collapse of the Muslim Brotherhood in that country.
- Human Rights Watch (HRW): Known for being financed by Qatar, HRW issues reports attacking Egypt, the UAE and Saudi Arabia and promoting a pro-Muslim Brotherhood line. In accordance with statement of Saad Eddin Ibrahim, who was a member of the HRW’s Board of Trustees and a close consultant to the leadership in Qatar, HRW worked with Amnesty International to produce reports that lacked transparency and credibility. He mentioned, for example, that reports relating to the Rabaa Dispersal in 2013 were biased in favor of the Brotherhood. Moreover, HRW included many members of the Muslim Brotherhood among its Egypt specialists such Amr Magdi, who succeeded Salma Ashraf Abdul Ghaffar, daughter of the Muslim Brotherhood Leader Ashraf Abdul Ghaffar, who himself was convicted of belonging to the Muslim Brotherhood military militia in al-Azhar University. Salma Abdul Ghaffar joined HRW after leaving the “al-Karama Human Rights” organization, a Geneva-based group led by Abd Al-Rahman al-Nuaimi that was included on the US list of terrorist organizations. Abdul Ghaffar currently lives in Turkey and works as Director of the London-based Human Rights Watch Monitor.
- The Freedom Initiative: the Muslim Brotherhood Member Mohamed Sultan, the son of Salah Sultan, a Brotherhood leader, founded this group in the US. He is a US citizen who was convicted in the “Rabaa Operations Room”. Egyptian authorities subsequently released Sultan after he renounced his Egyptian nationality. Through this Washington-based initiative, Sultan and his associates were active in Congress and the US Department of State in promoted biased reports designed to pressurize Egypt.
The European parliament resolution on human rights in the UAE
On September 16, 2021, the European Parliament issued a resolution that condemned human rights conditions in the UAE, and called for a boycott of Expo 2020 that was set to be opened in Dubai only a few days after the resolution. This posed many questions related to the timing of this resolution, its supporters, and its potential beneficiaries.
The parliament adopted this resolution by a small majority of 383 against 47 votes opposed and 259 abstentions. Many of those in favor were members of democratic parties with leftist tendencies regarded as supportive or at least tolerant of the Muslim Brotherhood in Europe. The current President of the Parliament, David Sassoli of the Italian Democratic Party (PD), is regarded as having a close relationship with the Muslim Brotherhood in Italy.
The passing of the resolution was applauded by a number of human rights organizations that supported the International Muslim Brotherhood Organization including DAWN, whose Executive Director, Sarah Whitson, commended the resolution and called for more pressure against the UAE’s alleged human rights abuses. In addition, the Freedom Forward Organization, which identifies itself as a pressure group led by Executive Director Sunjeev Bery that focuses on issues related to the UAE and Saudi Arabia. Another group that supported the resolution was the Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain Organization (ADHRB), which claims to be part of an alliance of human rights organizations including HRW, the Project on Middle East Democracy (POMED), and Amnesty International. We have already examined the role of the Qatari finance and extent of influence of the International Muslim Brotherhood Organization on these organizations. All of this explains the European Parliament’s resolution, its timing, and the beneficiaries.
For many decades, the Muslim Brotherhood succeeded in manipulating the most important western values, which are democracy and human rights. One of the prominent characteristics of this manipulation was the reliance of the Western World on the Muslim Brotherhood to spread democracy and human rights in the Arab World as a means of recruiting them in the war against terrorism after the September 11 attacks. This policy suggests that the West either did not recognize or ignored the role played by the Brotherhood in promoting extremist ideas based on the thoughts of Sayyed Qutb and helping to incubate terrorist organizations such as al-Qaeda; most al-Qaeda leaders were in fact members of the Brotherhood or its factions.
Flaws in human rights reports based on inadequate or misinterpreted sources indicates the extent of success of the Muslim Brotherhood in penetrating human rights institutions and enhancing their influence on policy makers. The Brotherhood has succeeded in building networks of organizations and institutions in the field of human rights that perform many complicated operations whose sources cannot be traced whose distortions of reality are not easy to detect. Therefore, Western institutions have depended on these reports and accepted their findings without being able to trace the source and reality of the information. The Muslim Brotherhood could not do this without exploiting gaps in North American and European legal and legislative structures that allow the misuse of laws, freedom, and democracy.
Human rights-based decisions in some Western institutions that include threats to cut military aid or boycott regional countries bring to mind the image of Western colonization. That harms the image of those countries as they have sought to improve their relations with the Islamic world since September 11. For example, in the case of Egypt, it is not reasonable to focus on negativities in the human rights field and neglect the challenges and risks faced by the Cairo government or to commend the positive steps implemented by the State to enhance these rights. Recently, Egypt launched a national strategy for human rights as a step aiming at their comprehensive enhancement in the country. This followed the acquittal of some civil society organizations under investigation in a number of legal cases. The most prominent event, after the launch of the national strategy, was a declaration ending the state of emergency on 25 October 2021, a measure intended to pave the way for many reforms.
As one of the leading countries in the human rights field, the UAE is notable for not only having a range of laws concerning the human rights in different fields that align with international conventions in this field, but also for applying these rights and in everyday life in a diverse and tolerant community made up of visitors, residents and nationals. The UAE example in the field of human rights and tolerance has given the country a leading regional and global position.
Despite the resolution of the European Parliament, the UAE was recently elected as a Member of the UN Human Rights Council for 2022-2024 with a substantial majority of 180 in favor out of 193 votes. This outcome calls into question why governments of the 27 European countries did not vote against membership of the UAE in the UN Human Rights Council regardless of the resolution of the European Parliament. This situation appears to reflect a status of uncertainty inside the institutions of the European Union, in addition to the extent of the International Muslim Brotherhood Organization’s influence on European parliament decisions that seek to exploit human rights and democracy to target the countries of moderation.
 Hassan al-Banna, Majmu’at rasil Hassan al-Banna: the Brotherhood and the Parties (online) 100. available in https://www.cia.gov/library/abbottabad-compound/BD/BD9016646485943DB0C28DD2846B548C%E2%8C%90%C2%BD%C6%92%E2%82%A7%CE%98%20%C6%92%CE%98%C2%A5%CE%A9%C6%92%CE%A9%20%C3%91%C2%BD%CE%B4%20%C6%92%CE%98%C3%A1%CE%B4%C6%92.pdf
 Ibid, 339.
 Hassan Al-Banna was the First to Run for Elections, addustour (Jordan), Oct. 18, 2012.
 Ramy Aziz, Islam and Political Islam: Relationship and Concepts “The Case of the Muslim Brotherhood in Europe”, Ph.D. thesis, University of Rome “La Sapienza”, unpublished, 2020, p. 80.
 Haider Ibrahim Ali, Democracy among Islamists between ideology and pragmatism, in Islamists and democracy, al-Mesbar Center, Dubai, 2015, p. 128.
 President Bush presses for Peace in the Middle East, May 9, 2003.
 The Greater Middle East –The Bush Administration’s Perspective, The Globalist, Feb.6, 2004.
 The Brotherhood Reform Initiative, 2004.
 Mona Yacoubian, Promoting Middle East Democracy II: Arab Initiatives, 2005, the United States Institute of Peace, May 10, 2005; p. 10.
 The Brotherhood Reform Initiative, 2004.
 Saad Eddin Ibrahim calls for support the American reform initiative, Aljazeera, March 15,2004.
 Mona Yacoubian, Promoting Middle East Democracy II: Arab Initiatives, pp. 6-7.
 Abdeslam M. Maghraoui, American Foreign Policy and Islamic Renewal, the United States Institute of Peace, June 1, 2006, p. 10.
 Mona Yacoubian, Promoting Middle East Democracy II: Arab Initiatives, p. 16.
 Mostafa Bakry, The fall of the Muslim Brotherhood, 1st Ed., (Cairo: Egyptian- Lebanese House, 2013), p. 22.
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 How does the “Brotherhood” Conflict Affect the Organization’s Branches Across the World?, Skynews Arabia, Oct. 15, 2021.
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Who is behind the Campaign against the UAE and Saudi Arabia in the European Parliament?, al-Ain, Sept. 25, 2021.
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 Sisi launches National Human Rights Strategy, Egypt independent, Sept. 11,2021.
 Egypt’s President Sisi ends state of emergency for the first time in years, Reuters, Oct. 26, 2021.
Khaled Abdel Hamid and Khaled Fayyad, Human rights in the UAE.. Notes on the European Parliament’s decision, TRENDS Research & Advisory, Sept. 20,2021. https://trendsresearch.org/ar/insight/%d8%ad%d9%82%d9%88%d9%82-%d8%a7%d9%84%d8%a5%d9%86%d8%b3%d8%a7%d9%86-%d9%81%d9%8a-%d8%a7%d9%84%d8%a5%d9%85%d8%a7%d8%b1%d8%a7%d8%aa-%d9%85%d9%84%d8%a7%d8%ad%d8%b8%d8%a7%d8%aa-%d8%b9%d9%84%d9%89-%d9%82/
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