22 March 2021

TRENDS Research and Advisory organized a panel discussion on the book “The Closed Circle: Joining and Leaving the Muslim Brotherhood in the West”, with the participation of Dr. Mohammed Abdullah Al-Ali, CEO of TRENDS; Mr. Ahmed Mohamed Al-Astad, Director General of TRENDS Research and Advisory; Mohammed Khalfan Al-Sawafi, Emirati writer & Director of the Parliamentary Media Department in the Federal National Council; and a group of TRENDS experts in political Islam.

The book, which was translated into Arabic and published by TRENDS in January 2021, was written by Lorenzo Vidino, Director of the Program on Extremism at George Washington University. Vidino is an Italian academic and security expert specializing in Islamism and political violence. The English version of the book was published by Columbia University Press in March 2020.

The discussion began with remarks by Dr. Mohammed Abdullah Al-Ali, in which he highlighted the importance of the book in that it provides a realistic reading of the Muslim Brotherhood from the inside, through a series of interviews with former prominent members of the group in Europe, the United Kingdom and North America. He said that the author sheds light on the motives of those who joined Muslim Brotherhood organizations in the West and the reasons that led them to break away from these institutions. Dr. Al-Ali explained that TRENDS was keen to translate this book because it fills a fundamental gap in the literature dealing with the mechanisms of joining the Brotherhood in the West and the tools relied on by the group to enhance its penetration into Western societies. The book also explains the reasons for the growing concern in Western countries about the activities and practices of the Muslim Brotherhood on their territories in recent times.

Mr. Ahmed Mohamed Al-Astad stated that the book reveals the dimensions of the strategy adopted by the Muslim Brotherhood to penetrate Western societies and the various tools - media, cultural, charitable, economic and political – it employs through the centers, institutions, associations and public relations companies that the group has established in many Western countries since the beginning of its migration from Egypt in the 1950s.

Mr. Mohammed Khalfan Al-Sawafi stressed that the importance of the book lies in the fact that it reveals the methods used by the Muslim Brotherhood to persuade citizens of Western countries to join the group. The book then addresses the factors that led to their split from the organization, and even total rejection of it, based on an analysis of the personal experiences of members of the group in Europe and North America who later defected from the Brotherhood, such as Kamal Al-Helbawi (82), who is considered one of the oldest leaders of the group. Al-Sawafi drew attention to the fact that one of the elements that distinguishes this book is that it presents a future view of the Muslim Brotherhood in the West based on those narratives and confessions. Al-Sawafi explained that the book reveals the multiplicity of funding sources for the group through donations and business networks established by the group in the West, an example of this being the financing of the Milan Mosque by networks affiliated with the group in the Middle East.  The book also talks about the Brotherhood’s relations with elites in Western societies and in various countries of the world. These elites are known for their shrewdness and have a played crucial role in establishing branches of the Muslim Brotherhood network in both Europe and North America. The most prominent of these elites are Youssef Nada, Ahmed Nasr El-Din, and Ghaleb Hemmat.

The participants in the panel discussion concluded that the book provides a wealth of information with testimonies of group leaders who defected from the Muslim Brotherhood, which serve as both a valuable source of knowledge and a warning for anyone who believes that the group is moderate and truly committed to the principle of pluralism and democracy. The interviews conducted by the author of the book with many dissident Brotherhood leaders indicate the danger of the Muslim Brotherhood organization, which markets itself as a moderate organization, even though it sometimes acts like a religious sect that is totally extremist and utilitarian. This group does not believe in the nation state and is hostile to the values ​​of tolerance, coexistence and acceptance of the other, hence the growing concern about the group’s practices in Western countries in recent times.