Brotherhood changes English website to appear moderate

It’s not clear why the bylaws disappeared, but the timing is highly suspicious, they vanished within days of Mubarak's ouster.

By STEVEN EMERSON
March 2, 2011 05:16
4 minute read.
Muslim Brotherhood protests

Muslim Brotherhood protests (R) 311. (photo credit: Reuters)

 
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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 Egypt.

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 The bylaws are still available via an archived version of the Web page.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 civilization.”

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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.

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It’s not 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 society.

For example, in a sermon last September, General Guide Mohamed Badie said Muslims are duty-bound to make the Koran the law of Egypt.

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 freedom.’

‘And Islam,’ said his friend. ‘We need Islam.’

‘Yes,’ said Mohammed, hushing the young man. ‘But first freedom and the will of the people.’”

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 enemy.”

Ahmad, in response to another speaker’s question, says, “We’ve always demanded the 1948 territories” before there was an Israel.

“Yes,” 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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