Within the framework of its Political Islam Week, TRENDS Research & Advisory organized yesterday, Tuesday, 10 August 2021, a virtual symposium entitled: “The International Organization of the Muslim Brotherhood: Role, Transformations and Future”.
It also announced the release of the fifth book of the Muslim Brotherhood Encyclopedia, titled The International Organization of the Muslim Brotherhood: Global Networks of Influence and Control.
A group of researchers and specialists on political Islam participated in the symposium. They discussed how the international organization of the Muslim Brotherhood exploited Islamophobia to serve its ideology and empowerment project by changing its discourse directed at European societies to falsely express a sense of victimization. They expected the international organization to decline due to the spread of internal divisions and differences.
On behalf of Dr. Mohammed Abdullah Al-Ali, CEO of TRENDS Research & Advisory, Mohammad Al-Salimi, senior fellow at TRENDS, started the symposium. He welcomed the participants and said that this important symposium is part of TRENDS Political Islam Week.
Al-Salimi explained that the key event of the Political Islam Week is the release of the book The International Organization of the Muslim Brotherhood: Global Networks of Influence and Control. This is the fifth book of the TRENDS Muslim Brotherhood Encyclopedia, which consists of 35 books. Al-Salimi pointed out that late Dr. Ashraf Saad El-Eissawy, who has recently passed away, had played the largest role in preparing this book and made great efforts to finalize it.
Al-Salimi noted that the symposium covers four topics: presenting the summary of the book The International Organization of the Muslim Brotherhood: Global Networks of Influence and Control; the presence, influence and transformations of the International Organization of the Muslim Brotherhood in Europe; the impact of developments in Tunisia on the International Organization of the Muslim Brotherhood; and the future of the international organization of the Muslim Brotherhood.
The release of the book The International Organization of the Muslim Brotherhood: Global Networks of Influence and Control.
At the beginning of the symposium, which was moderated by Khalid Abd Al-Hamid, Director of Political Islam Program at TRENDS, Dr. Wael Saleh, senior fellow in the Political Islam Program, announced the release of the fifth book of the Muslim Brotherhood Encyclopedia, titled International Organization of the Muslim Brotherhood: Global Networks of Influence and Control. He praised late Dr. Ashraf El-Eissawy, TRENDS media advisor, who was a distinguished researcher and the man behind the publication of this book.
Dr. Wael Saleh pointed out that the book reveals the main goal of the Muslim Brotherhood, which is “mastery of the world”. It seeks to achieve this through expansion in Arab and Muslim countries and infiltration into Western societies with the aim of Islamizing them. He stated that the book clarifies the various cultural, media, political and economic tools employed by the international organization to achieve its goals. The book also explores on the intellectual and ideological foundations of the organization and highlights the predicament facing it after the exposure of its cross-border ideology that does not recognize national governments.
Dr. Wael Saleh said that the book consists of nine chapters: theoretical and methodological framework; the emergence and development of the international organization; pillars and goals of the international organization of the Muslim Brotherhood; the institutional structure of the international organization of the Muslim Brotherhood; the relationship between the international organization of the Muslim Brotherhood and its branches in the Arab Gulf states; the relationship between the international organization of the Muslim Brotherhood and its branches in other Arab countries; the relationship between the international organization of the Muslim Brotherhood and its branches in Europe and North America; and the future of the international organization of the Muslim Brotherhood.
On the significance of the new book, Dr. Saleh stated that the book presents a comprehensive view, takes into account national, regional and international contexts, and follows developments of the international organization of the Muslim Brotherhood, especially during the period that followed the so-called “Arab Spring”, up to 2021. The book applies new analytical approaches to understand the special nature of the international organization, such as the non-state actors approach and the religion market approach. It also provides an overall view of the international organization’s global networks of influence and control.
“We at TRENDS believe that Islamism is approaching its end, and its demise is inevitable. After the Arab Spring, Islamism lost its incubators at the national, regional and global levels.” Dr. Wael Saleh said. He explained that the Muslim Brotherhood's reaction to this loss took two forms: 1) a complete return to its founding discourse, including labelling the other as disbeliever, theorizing and preaching on the caliphate, Sharia and religious legitimacy of political rule and claiming to be the only representative of Islam; 2) completely abandoning all founding principles of Islamism, as in the case of Tunisia, which strips Islamism of everything that distinguished it from other secular currents.
The presence, influence and transformations of the International Organization of the Muslim Brotherhood in Europe
Dr. Mouhanad Khorchide, former Advisor to the Austrian government, professor of Islamic Theology at the University of Münster in Germany, and Director of the Documentation Center for Political Islam in Austria, discussed the effects of the presence and transformations of the International Organization of the Muslim Brotherhood in Europe. He stated that the Muslim Brotherhood in Europe wants to reach power and have active participation in politics to achieve its political agenda. This prompted several European countries to enact laws and take measures that target political Islam currents and cut their sources of funding. He pointed out that the group exploits Islamophobia to serve its ideology, and that its members move in European countries using secret and disguised methods to spread their ideas.
Dr. Khorchide revealed that Islamophobia reports issued in Europe are supported by the SETA, a Turkish foundation funded by the Turkish government. He stated that these reports define Islamophobia as an unjustified hatred of, and hostility to, Islam and Muslims. However, they effectively label any criticism of political Islam as hostility to Islam and Muslims to get European societies to confuse criticism of political Islam as criticism of Islam and Muslims.
The director of the Documentation Center for Political Islam in Austria noted that the international organization of the Muslim Brotherhood is working hard to change its discourse from a religious totalitarian discourse to a humanitarian one to gain the sympathy of the European left and factions opposed to the ruling political regimes in European countries. Khorchide stressed the need to educate Muslims in Arab and Muslim countries as well as Europeans on the danger of the international organization of the Muslim Brotherhood, and to reveal the nature of political Islam currents and ideologies, and the ways they manipulate terms and discourses to gain European societal sympathy.
The impact of developments in Tunisia on the International Organization of the Muslim Brotherhood
Under the title “the impact of developments in Tunisia on the International Organization of the Muslim Brotherhood”, Dr. Zainab Toujani, a researcher on Islamism and religious discourse analysis at the University of Manouba in Tunis, said that 25 July 2021 is very significant in the course of the political and social developments in Tunisia. It represented an explicit and clear declaration by the majority of the people of their rejection of the Muslim Brotherhood's rule and the failure of the Ennahda Party to rule. The ensuing public outcry allowed Tunisian President Kais Saied to take decisions that were met with popular support.
Dr. Toujani pointed out that this significant event represents a turning point in the history of the Muslim Brotherhood’s empowerment in Tunisia. It has important repercussions on the international organization; with the fall of Rached Ghannouchi, the head of the Ennahda movement, from his position as speaker of the Tunisian parliament and his weakening inside and outside his movement, the international organization lost an important and strategic ally in relation to international and regional projects and interests.
Dr. Toujani talked about some possible repercussions in terms of destabilizing the Muslim Brotherhood and removing it from the Tunisian parliament and government. But she warned that this organization has deep roots in the Tunisian social fabric, noting that despite the fall of Rached Ghannouchi, the Muslim Brotherhood still has financial interests, donors and a network of large interest groups supporting it in Tunisia. She stressed the importance of raising awareness of the danger of this group, as well as expediting the closure of associations and organizations that finance it in Tunisia.
The future of the international organization of the Muslim Brotherhood
Dr. Ramadan Abu Jazar, director of the Brussels International Center for Research in Belgium, said that the Muslim Brotherhood is an Islamist movement that embodies radical Islam. He stressed the need to differentiate between adhering to Islam as a religion and politicizing Islam in order to gain power and control the world. He noted that the Muslim Brotherhood is striving to establish a global caliphate, using Sharia as a law and its ideology as political and religious guidelines.
Dr. Abu Jazar revealed that the Brotherhood is active in more than 70 countries. There is an umbrella organization that represents the Muslim Brotherhood in Europe, namely the Federation of Islamic Organizations in Europe, which includes 30 main Muslim Brotherhood organizations, and about a thousand non-profit organizations.
The director of the Brussels International Center for Research in Belgium pointed out that the Muslim Brotherhood in Europe is spreading on a large scale and trying to exercise political influence. It is also indirectly linked to terrorist organizations. It follows tactics to create unrest and conflict by inciting certain groups or by escalating demonstrations. He pointed out that the Muslim Brotherhood publicly and officially condemns all forms of violence. However, it incites violence in its international communications to its members. He indicated that the group’s principle of empowerment aims to ideologize and Islamize society and to reach power.
Dr. Ramadan Abu Jazar stated that the international organization of the Muslim Brotherhood is trying to undermine democracy in Europe by organizing activities and lectures aimed at spreading the group's ideas and plans in twisted ways.
Before the end of the symposium, a group of researchers added few comments. First, Dr. Huda Al-Nuaimi, political Islam advisor at TRENDS, stated that since it was established in 1928, the Muslim Brotherhood has had the major goal of “mastery of the world”. Therefore, it has been keen on infiltrating Arab and Muslim countries to form its own network. It also sought to infiltrate Muslim communities in many Western countries, using several tools that combined da’wah, charitable and political work.
She said that the establishment of the international organization constituted an important stage in the group's infiltration efforts, especially in the United States and Europe. This international organization is one of the group’s main sources of funding. It also manages its financial and business networks. The organization has been building parallel societies in the United State and Europe, paving the way for acceptance of the group’s ideology and goals, which appear to be da’wah and charitable purposes, but in fact have political goals.
Dr. Al-Nuaimi pointed out that the international organization of the Muslim Brotherhood enabled the group to spread, paving the way for announcing the birth of the Muslim Brotherhood state; it is like a “caliphate state” that seeks to overthrow governments of Muslim countries which are not under the rule of the Muslim Brotherhood in the long run.
In his comment, Dr. Mohammad Abu Ghazleh, senior fellow in the Foreign Policy & International Relations Program at TRENDS, said that the Muslim Brotherhood is one of the oldest existing Islamist groups in the modern era; it is 93 years old. In those long decades, it faced many challenges, the most important of which was the blow it suffered during the reign of late Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser. Although that blow had a significant impact on the group's strength, the Muslim Brotherhood overcome it and expanded its role and influence. Most importantly, it started spreading into Europe.
Abu Ghazleh said that what happened in Egypt in 2013 represents the biggest blow ever suffered by the Muslim Brotherhood; the group lost its strength in many countries and lost its central leadership because of what it suffered in its stronghold in Egypt. In addition, the measures taken by many Arab and European countries contributed to the decline of the group and its influence in an unprecedented manner at the international level.
Still, Dr. Mohammad Abu Ghazleh pointed out that these measures do not mean the end of the organization internationally for several reasons, including most notably the group’s efforts to preserve itself by changing its approach. He expected that it will focus again on da’wah work, and stressed that the most serious threat to the Muslim Brotherhood is internal schism, especially under the leadership of the acting General Guide Ibrahim Mounir; some of his recent decisions triggered differences that weakened the group and threatened its existence.
Noura Al-Habsi, senior fellow at TRENDS, explained in her comment that this informing symposium comes at the right time, especially after the developments that weakened the Muslim Brotherhood’s organization in Tunisia, as well as the laws and measures restricting its movement and financing in Germany, Austria and France. Al-Habsi said that the significance of the book The International Organization of the Muslim Brotherhood: Global Networks of Influence and Control lies in the fact that it relies on new and important sources, such as documents and videos that have not been used or have not received enough attention, especially in Western literature on the subject of the Muslim Brotherhood.
At the end of the symposium, Dr. Mohammed Abdullah Al-Ali, CEO of TRENDS Research & Advisory, thanked the participants for their contributions to revealing the danger of the international organization of the Muslim Brotherhood and highlighting the need to confront destructive extremist ideas by maximizing the use of knowledge. Dr. Al-Ali stated that this symposium and other similar events reflect the belief by TRENDS Research & Advisory in the important role of think tanks in confronting extremist groups and political Islam currents and exposing their plans and ideologies.