On January 10, 2017, the office of US Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) announced that he and Congressman Michael McCaul (R-Texas) and Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Florida) reintroduced a bill to have the State Department designate the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) a terror organization. The purpose of the statute is “to protect Americans from the threat of radical Islamic terror,” because the MB “espouse[s] a violent Islamist ideology with a mission of destroying the West.” Once the MB is designated a Foreign Terrorist Organization, the US can prohibit them from receiving funds to sponsor their terrorist activities.
Supporters of American Muslims immediately opposed the bill, according to The Huffington Post. The legislation is viewed as a sinister attempt to slander Muslims and could be used to justify prosecuting American Muslim advocacy groups, thus endangering the civil rights of Muslims in the US.
Unless American Muslims share MB beliefs and are involved in funding the organization, there should be little concern. Perhaps if more American Muslims openly espoused the views of Dr. Zuhdi Jasser’s American Islamic Forum for Democracy (AIFD), they would be viewed more positively and less as a potential fifth column.
The AIFD unabashedly confronts the ideology of political Islam and counters the conventional “belief that the Muslim faith is inextricably rooted to the concept of the Islamic State (Islamism).” They advocate “for universal human rights—including gender equality, freedom of conscience and freedom of speech and expression.”
What Is the Connection Between Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood?
Hamas, al-Muqāwamah al-ʾIslāmiyyah (Islamic Resistance Movement), is the Sunni Muslim Palestinian movement that has ruled the Gaza Strip since gaining power from Fatah in January 2006. The organization is the creation of the Palestinian branch of the extremist Muslim Brothers’ Society (al-Ikhwan al-Muslimin), or the Muslim Brotherhood, according to Middle East expert Yehudit Barsky.
Established in Ismailia, Egypt in 1928 by Hasan al-Banna, the Muslim Brotherhood reflects the revival of Islam as the primary basis of individual and collective identity in the Middle East. The importance of the Brotherhood “to Islamism is comparable to that of the Bolshevik Party to communism: It was and remains to this day the ideological reference point and organizational core for all later Islamist groups, including al-Qaeda and Hamas,” explains political scientist Matthias Küntzel.
Jihad and Martyrdom
Significantly, the Muslim Brotherhood transformed the concept of jihad and martyrdom, which had practically been absent from Islamic teachings, and had essentially been ignored or regarded as irrelevant to the beliefs of Imams and preachers, into a fundamental religious principle.
Al-Banna made this radical change by infusing death with a more common and acceptable significance, and by relating the idea of jihad with the chance of death occurring at any point and at any place, writes Abd Al-Fattah Muhammad El-Awaisi, a professor of international relations. In 1937, Al-Banna wrote an article about jihad called “The Industry of Death.” In 1946, the article was reprinted and entitled “The Art of Death.” He concluded that, “To a nation that perfects the industry of death and which knows how to die nobly, God gives proud life in this world and eternal grace in the life to come… So prepare yourself to do a great deed.”
Arab journalist Zaki Chehab claims Al Banna’s success can be seen in the recorded video messages by Hamas suicide bombers. Reem Rayashi, the first female Hamas suicide bomber, left a 3-year-old son and an 18-month-old baby girl behind. The 22-year-old university student from an affluent Gaza family detonated a two-kilogram bomb at the Erez border crossing between the Gaza Strip and Israel, killing two soldiers, a border policeman and a civilian security guard. Dressed in combat fatigues with the green Hamas bandana around her head and holding an automatic weapon, she declared that since she was in the eighth grade she “hoped that the shredded limbs of my body would be shrapnel, tearing the Zionists to pieces, knocking on heaven’s door with the skulls of the Zionists.”
Palestinian Media Watch reported that Tomorrow’s Pioneers, a Hamas TV children’s program, produced a broadcast in which her two young children were invited to the TV studio to watch a video re-enactment of their mother’s suicide bombing.
After Reem was chosen for the assignment, Chehab noted, hundreds of young girls complained to Miriam Farhat that Reem had been selected ahead of them. They were envious of Reem and pleaded to be the first to follow her. Miriam understood their impatience. On March 7, 2002, Farhat’s 19-year-old son Mohammad killed five 18-year-old boys and wounded 23 others in the beis medrash (study hall) in the Gush Katif settlement of Azmona. She remarked how she “was his partner in jihad. It is a normal thing. It is not as remarkable as people think.”
Chehab said he wrote about Farhat because her statement “would seem incomprehensible to most parents but I think it is important to document it as it shows the extremes which make this conflict so difficult to understand.”
Strong communal encouragement is needed to nurture the environment to support this choice, asserts Ami Pedahzur, a professor of government. Hamas recruited prospective homicide bombers from members of its university chapters, schools, mosques and social clubs and from Israeli jails. “Comradeship” and social networks were one of the most powerful dynamics in generating radicalism and terrorism. Recruiters wanted individuals driven by ideology and not by the expectation of bettering their own financial position or that of their families.
For Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Israeli penitentiaries were “boot camps” where many of its members forged their ideology and commitment to the organizations during the years spent together with other inmates. Israeli authorities prevented these groups from establishing camps to indoctrinate and train its members in an isolated environment so prisons were used instead.
The Al-Aqsa intifada (Arab uprising April 1993-September 2000) changed this recruitment procedure, Pedahzur found. Along with other Palestinian Arab organizations, Hamas used homicide bombers as a primary strategy precipitating the need for an ever-increasing number of replacements. As competition between the groups intensified and Hamas and other Palestinian Arab leaders were injured and assassinated by the Israelis, the organization abandoned its lengthy selective and training process. In some cases, the entire procedure now took no more than a couple of hours. The ability to mobilize limitless numbers of recruits when required, testified to their success in instilling the “culture of death” in the society.
Primary Goals of Hamas
The primary goals of Hamas are to abolish the Jewish state through jihad, establish an Islamic state and transform society to follow Sharia law.
Article 15 of the Hamas Covenant of August 1988 explains why the destruction of Israel is not negotiable; it is a religious imperative: “The day that enemies usurp part of Moslem land, Jihad becomes the individual duty of every Moslem. In face of the Jews’ usurpation of Palestine, it is compulsory that the banner of Jihad be raised.”
Ismail Haniyeh, a senior political leader of Hamas and previously one of two contested Prime Ministers of the Palestinian National Authority, was equally clear. “Let the whole world hear us—we will not cede an inch of Palestine and we will never recognize Israel.”
Palestinian Arab Ma’an News Agency quoted Khalil Al-Hayya, a Palestinian Legislative Council member from Hamas, who was similarly adamant. “We have not authorized, nor shall we authorize, anyone to give up on a single particle of Palestinian soil. Israel is an aggressive state which we will not ever recognize, and Palestine is an Arab Islamic property which has no room for the Jews.”
El-Awaisi explains that a fundamental tenet of Hamas is that the land of Palestine “is an Islamic trust (waqf) upon all Muslim generations till the day of Judgement, [and that] giving up any part of Palestine is like giving up part of its religion.”
This belief is a “novel politically oriented myth, rooted neither in Islamic legal texts nor in historical practice,” asserts Yitzhak Reiter, an Israeli professor of Islamic and Middle Eastern studies. The objective of this fabricated political myth is to explain why Palestinian Arabs are not permitted to relinquish even an inch of land to Israel or to the Zionists. When the Oslo Accords collapsed during the second half of the 1990s, Yasser Arafat adopted the idea and often mentioned it in the Palestinian media.
In a speech at an international conference on education heard by representatives from Egypt, Tunisia and Qatar, Ismail Haniyeh was quoted as saying, “Israel is a cancerous tumor that must be removed and uprooted. The hand of the resistance and the jihad fighters has begun to uproot the tumor, and will work to end the occupation of Palestine as a whole. Allah willing, we will break the occupation.” He urged teachers in Gaza to “raise a generation that will fight and liberate the Palestinians from the occupation.”
A Final Note
Jonathan Schanzer, a former terrorism finance analyst at the US Department of the Treasury, points out that Saudi Arabia and Bahrain have already designated the MB as a terrorist organization. Since Qatar and Turkey are the organization’s primary financial and logistical sponsors, and serve as bankers and headquarters to Hamas, Schanzer urges the Trump administration ask Qatar and Turkey to terminate support for Hamas. They should also be warned about their backing of MB groups that seem to be involved in violent activity or disseminating extremist speech.
Perhaps we should be asking our representatives to support Senator Ted Cruz’s Muslim Brotherhood Terrorist Bill.
By Alex Grobman, PhD
Alex Grobman, a Hebrew University-trained historian, is a consultant to the America-Israel Friendship League, a member of the Council of Scholars for Scholars for Peace in the Middle East (SPME) and a member of the Advisory Board of The Endowment for Middle East Truth (EMET).