The White House is preparing to designate the Muslim Brotherhood a foreign terrorist organization, a measure that would impose economic and travel sanctions against the group. “The president has consulted with his national security team and leaders in the region who share his concern, and this designation is working its way through the internal process,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in an emailed statement on April 30.
The move seems to be entirely logical and fair, since the Brotherhood is the religious foundation of Islamic terrorist groups, such as al-Qaeda, Islamic Jihad, Hamas, and ISIS. It not only serves as their ideological wellspring, but also cooperates with them on multiple levels, including financing and providing material support for their operations. It is a fact that before ascending to the highest positions of ISIS and al-Qaeda, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, Osama bin Laden, and Ayman al-Zawahiri belonged to a common ideological precursor: the Muslim Brotherhood. All these groups are bound by the common ideological belief in a global caliphate governed by Islamic law. The Brotherhood’s longstanding motto is “Allah is our objective. The Prophet is our leader. The Qur’an is our law. Jihad is our way. Dying in the way of Allah is our highest hope. [Allah is greater!]” The Brotherhood has provided the platform used to indoctrinate young men into Islamism and a bridge for recruits to graduate into the more violent Islamism. Factions within the groups have also supported each other based on shared goals, common enemies, and support for a united Islamist front.
Thus, if it walks, talks, and acts like a terrorist, it is probably a terrorist and deserves to be treated as such, right? “Wrong,” say the mainstream media. “Trump wants to hurt Muslim Brotherhood,” whines the Huffington Post, blaming it all on the administration’s “Islamophobia” and “conspiracy theories [promoted by the hate groups in the U.S., many of them with deep ties to Bolton and Pompeo] attempting to tie political opponents and prominent American Muslim organizations to the Muslim Brotherhood.” Are you not seeing an irony in that statement, HuffPo? You have just created a great conspiracy theory yourself!
CNN, The WSJ, and many others describe the group with respect and admiration and parrot the notion that the Brotherhood “denounced violence decades ago” and embraced democratic methods. It even formed political parties throughout the region! Labeling them terrorists, they say, would hurt American diplomacy and alliances, as well as the whole democratic process in the Middle East. Also, they argue, the George W. Bush and Obama administrations did not recognize the Brotherhood terrorists. They were so much smarter than Trump!
Or were they not?
Both Bush and Obama, as well as a shortsighted liberal European establishment, failed to admit an essential connection between the political and militant branches of jihadist Islamism. According to this point of view, the terrorists are “lone wolves” and “trigger-pullers,” whereas Islamic movements, even if they propagate a global jihad against non-believers, are legit political actors that may participate in a democratic process with other parties and movements as long as they formally remain peaceful. In other words, you may recruit someone, allure him into a violent ideology, provide him with a truck loaded with explosives, and point at an enemy — and you’re a “politician,” and only executors are terrorists.
In Europe, for example, this perverted belief is implemented in the legal distinctions between terrorists and their support networks. Thus, the E.U. has banned Hezb’allah’s militant branch while allowing its “political” division to function freely. Naturally, rather than moderating its positions, Hezb’allah is taking advantage of the liberal approach of its host and using its open operations to facilitate terrorism in Europe as well as weapons procurement while enlarging and strengthening a base of its supporters.
Trapped in this false perspective, the Bush and Obama administrations tried as stubbornly as fruitlessly to bring democracy to the authoritarian Arab world by supporting “political” Islamists, including the Muslim Brotherhood, despite its open condemnation of Western values and the Western way of life, rejection of the Western concept of human rights, and explicit calls to fight infidels. The naïve belief in the goodness of the “moderate” Islamists projected a perception of the weak and indecisive United States that gave the Islamists carte blanche to implement their violent policies, consolidate forces and resources, and promote an aggressive agenda. The secularism in the region has been weakened, while religious fanatics have strengthened their positions.
The Islamists’ victories in the post–Arab Spring elections constituted monumental developments. As Dr. Alexander Murinson notes, although wielding different amounts of power in different countries, Islamist forces have come to play a crucial, if not dominating, role in the political life of a geographical arch that, with the qualified exceptions of Algeria and Libya, extends from Rabat to Gaza. Moreover, Islamists seem poised to play a greater role in other Arab countries, whether that is participating in toppling a regime or by demanding concessions of current rulers.
As the result, Islamic extremism and terrorism have dynamically increased in the Middle East and worldwide.
In this instance, saying “political” Muslims have the right to promote an agenda of global jihad seems to be the same as endorsing a “democratic” National Socialist German Workers’ Party in 1938 or a “democratic” Communist Party of the Soviet Union. Should we tolerate an activity of the extremist parties just because they managed to establish Western-like decorative structures and state institutions? Should we ignore the fact that their ideological fundamentalism includes calls for dominance over others, excludes competition, neglects human rights, and endorses violence against “enemies”? That they support and inspire acts of killing?
The Trump administration’s reasonable approach to clearly identifying radical Islamic terrorism as America’s chief foreign enemy and define extremists for what they are has already proven its efficacy. Its implementation has stripped ISIS of nearly all of its territory in Syria and Iraq and severed it from its financial sources. Going after the ideological masterminds is only a logical step in a complex task of eliminating a terrorist threat once and for all.