The Muslim Brotherhood seems to be trying to preserve its recently burnished
image as a moderate party dedicated to maintaining a modern, secular and just
In keeping with this apparent internal strategy, the Brotherhood
has removed its explicitly worded bylaws from its English-language
website. The bylaws are still available via an archived version of the
Web page. The bylaws have long been a source of discussion and debate on the
Internet because of the group’s stated intention to create an Islamic state,
uniting Muslims around the world, while “building a new basis of human
The Region: Egypt gets its Khomeini A portrait of Muslim Brotherhood's supreme authority
Selected sections read as follows: “E – The need to work
on establishing the Islamic State, which seeks to effectively implement the
provisions of Islam and its teachings.
“Defend the nation against the
internal enemies, try to present the true teachings of Islam and communicate its
ideas to the world.
“G – The sincere support for a global cooperation in
accordance with the provisions of the Islamic Sharia, which would safeguard the
personal rights, freedom of speech for active and constructive participation
towards building a new basis of human civilization as is ensured by the overall
teachings of Islam.”
The group’s bold and unambiguous calls for
re-establishing the Islamic Khalifa have startled many, and have fueled distrust
as to its true intentions, despite its current public face.
clear why the bylaws disappeared, but the timing is highly suspicious. In
January 2010, it was reported that the Brotherhood was considering amending
them. No change appears to have been made in the last year. But now, with a
genuine opportunity to appear on an Egyptian ballot, they vanished from public
view within days of president Hosni Mubarak’s ouster.
On the group’s
Arabic-language site, however, the bylaws remain posted. Press reports of
the Brotherhood’s role during the uprising depict a group committed to
presenting its most appealing side for the world to see. While the
organization is not a monolith, its old guard remains entrenched in
power. And those voices still advocate the Islamification of
For example, in a sermon last September, General Guide Mohamed
Badie said Muslims are duty-bound to make the Koran the law of
Likewise, another senior member, Kamal Helbawy, told an Iranian
news agency on Sunday that the Islamic Republic deserved credit for fostering
Islamic unity. Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is a role model for Muslims, he said,
“the bravest man in the Muslim world.”
In an episode of PBS’s Frontline
series this week, a young Brotherhood leader is seen advising an enthusiastic
fellow Brother participating in the protests to put away the Koran he was
holding up, and to tone down his religious rhetoric: “Don’t hold up the Koran,”
the Brotherhood leader said. “We should be holding up Egyptian flags.
Open it…but not for the media.”
This theme was echoed in a January 31
story appearing in the Los Angeles Times
, where two Brotherhood members had the
following exchange: “‘The fear is broken,’ yelled Bahaa Mohammed. ‘We want
‘And Islam,’ said his friend. ‘We need Islam.’
Mohammed, hushing the young man. ‘But first freedom and the will of the
It’s not the first time Brotherhood members acknowledged the need to
conceal the group’s overall agenda with a more benign face. Speaking privately,
but under FBI surveillance, activists in the American branch of the Muslim
Brotherhood discussed the need to invoke deception in the wake of US-brokered
peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians in 1993.
The problem with
the Oslo Accords was not in its details, members of the Brotherhood’s Palestine
Committee agreed during a weekend-long gathering in Philadelphia. Rather,
the deal empowered the secular Fatah movement at the expense of the Islamist
Hamas, a Brotherhood offshoot. And the deal led to the acceptance of
Israel, which the group opposed.
The problem, they agreed, was that they
couldn’t just come out and say so.
Then-Holy Land Foundation President
Shukri Abu Baker tells Council on American- Islamic Relations cofounder Omar
Ahmad: “War is deception. We are fighting our enemy with a kind heart and we
never thought of deceiving it. War is deception. Deceive, camouflage,
pretend that you’re leaving while you’re walking that way… Deceive your
Ahmad, in response to another speaker’s question, says, “We’ve
always demanded the 1948 territories” before there was an Israel.
the speaker replies. “But we don’t say that publicly. You cannot
say that publicly, in front of the Americans.”
“No,” says Ahmad, “We
didn’t say that to the Americans.”The writer is executive director of
the Investigative Project on Terrorism News.
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