Cynthia Farahat, a Middle East Forum writing fellow, spoke to participants in a February 1 Middle East Forum webinar (video) about the Muslim Brotherhood's covert terror apparatus and the threat it poses to the West, the topic of her forthcoming book, The Secret Apparatus: The Muslim Brotherhood's Industry of Death.
Founded in Cairo in 1928 by Hassan al-Banna, the Muslim Brotherhood organization operated as a terrorist group from the start, according to Farahat, albeit a "much more sophisticated" one. Its political activities in Egypt and later other countries are designed to support its violent mission. Indeed she characterized the Brotherhood as "more of a secret military apparatus with a political façade ... than a political group with a terrorism apparatus."
Although violent arms of the Brotherhood are typically franchised under different names, the connection to the Brotherhood of many contemporary jihadist groups is not difficult to trace. Al-Qaeda was "founded by active members of the Muslim Brotherhood," said Farahat, adding that she has compiled evidence that Osama bin Laden "remained a member of the Muslim Brotherhood until the day he died." The late ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was well known to have been "a former member of the Muslim Brotherhood." Muslim Brotherhood operatives have also "governed several countries, such as Sudan."
Contrary to the claims of apologists, the Muslim Brotherhood's secret apparatus is "still operational" as an "intricate international criminal enterprise." Ostensibly nonviolent arms of the Brotherhood are designed to support this apparatus. Skilled at training the next generation, the Muslim Brotherhood enlists juveniles and teen members in "scout cells" where they receive physical preparation that equips them for "jihadist training." A Brotherhood-designated cyber committee that Farahat documents in her book trains acolytes under the age of 30 in the use of "social media to spread the ... narrative ... [and] recruit new members and terrorists."
Farahat's goal in writing her book is to provide irrefutable evidence of the Muslim Brotherhood's continuing terror ties and give the U.S. government and counterterrorism professionals "the ammunition to designate the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist group."
In addition, she hopes to enable the mainstream Western reader to "identify patterns of behavior that will help counter the Muslim Brotherhood threat" and decipher the Brotherhood's use of "code language" to disguise its subversive activities. Words and phrases used by the Muslim Brotherhood often "don't mean what you think they mean," said Farahat. Western audiences commonly mirror their own associations when hearing supposedly benign statements. "We can fall into this trap of associating our own definitions with these words, while they often mean the opposite." For example, the word "freedom," with all its liberal associations in the Western mind, "means the exact opposite ... when they use [it] ... it means subjugation under Sharia law."
Farahat believes it is imperative for the West to comprehend the "relationship Islamists have to history." Islamists seek to restore their past glory days and learn tactical lessons by studying the German Communist Party, the Nazi Party, and Stalin's playbook to wage "covert warfare" against the Western democracies. "While a Westerner would say, 'Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it,' an Islamist would say, 'Those who do not learn from history cannot accurately repeat it.'"
Marilyn Stern is communications coordinator at the Middle East Forum.