Skip to content


Brief prepared for the Joint Services Detachment
By Lt. Col. Wm. Thomas Smith, Jr.
June 14, 2011

Any attempt to truly get one’s head around the Muslim Brotherhood – what it is, what its goals and objectives are, who it supports, and what are its current operational initiatives worldwide – might be an undertaking requiring far more time to adequately explain than we have for a single brief.

Nevertheless, we will examine here the Muslim Brotherhood in simple terms, with basic information from open sources, and with comments from experts who regularly brief the White House, the U.S. State Dept., the U.S. Defense Dept., and various other members of the U.S. Intelligence Community, as well as published statements from leaders within the Muslim Brotherhood itself.

Because we are presenting so much information here (with fairly lengthy attributions, which will explain why those quoted are considered authorities on the subject), this brief is written not as an essay, but in a conversational tone with much of it in first person for the sake of clarity and readability.

So what is the Muslim Brotherhood?

Essentially, the Brotherhood is a Sunni Islamist fraternity founded in Egypt in 1928, which seeks to establish an Islamic caliphate, worldwide. The organization, which operates in more than 70 countries around the world, has committed and supported terrorism and other acts of violence to achieve its goals over the years. But its political leverage has expanded to the point that it is today able to publicly (and deceptively) condemn violence as a tool. And through this deception – as we will explain here – the Brotherhood is attempting to position itself as a benevolent organization, thus increasing both its cross-cultural acceptance and its power. 

Prof. Tarek Heggy – an international petroleum strategist and one of the world’s leading experts on the Middle East – describes the Brotherhood as “a global religious government aimed at fighting the ‘non-believers’ – specifically, Christians, Hindus, and Jews – and at spreading Islam. … The Brotherhood remains extremely opposed to Western civilization and to a political peaceful settlement to the Arab-Israeli conflict.”

Prof. Heggy – who has briefed everyone from the Hudson Institute and the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, to the American Enterprise Institute, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, and the Council on Foreign Relations – adds that the terrorist organization, Hamas, “is a Palestinian offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood.”

Now, we may ask how can this be – and why – when the Brotherhood has publicly denied official links to terrorist groups like Hamas? And how – and why – when some political analysts and writers are defending the Brotherhood as having become an organization of moderates?


The “how” is easy. After all, the Brotherhood – like almost all other jihadist groups – holds its proverbial cards close to its chest by operating under the Islamist principle of al-taqiyya, which is simply the jihadists’ justification for lying or deceiving one’s enemies.

After all, as Raymond Ibrahim – editor of The Al Qaeda Reader, who has worked as an Arab-language specialist for the Near East section of the Library of Congress – has said, Muhammad himself described war as “deceit.”

And like the prophet, Islam’s leaders have frequently used al-taqiyya as a form of outwitting the infidel for nearly 14 centuries.

This is often a difficult concept for Westerners – primarily Christians and Jews – to grasp, because even though Westerners may lie, Western culture does in fact brand lying as a sin, and Western societies view a man or a woman as being only as good as his or her word.

Consequently, the concept of al-taqiyya gives Islamists an edge over Westerners, who may be unconsciously more inclined to put at least a minimum level of trust into a promise, a warm smile, a handshake, and most certainly a signed or published document.


The “why” is in order for the Brotherhood to exist and thrive as a seemingly harmless theocratic organization peacefully supporting various innocuous Islamic causes around the world.

Yet nothing could be further from the truth.

For instance, last week, Muslim Brotherhood supreme guide Mohamed Badie eulogized little-known Hamas founder Mohamed Hassan Shamaa who reportedly died of a stroke after decades as a senior leader of the terrorist group. After his death, Hamas publicly admitted Shamaa was the leader of the group’s governing Shura Council.

“The identities of the Council’s other leaders is a closely guarded secret, and Shamaa’s name had never been previously disclosed,” said Steven Emerson, an internationally recognized expert on terrorism and national security.

“Of [Hamas founder] Shamaa, [Muslim Brotherhood leader] Badie gave high praise and ‘offered condolences to the Muslim world in general and the Palestinians in particular,’” said Emerson, who has consulted the White House, the National Security Council, the FBI, and other agencies within the Justice Dept. “In the eulogy, Shamaa is described as an ‘influential’ public figure with an ‘exceptional ability to listen and dispense sound wisdom.’”

The eulogy delivered by Badie was but one example in which the truth of the Brotherhood’s raison d’être has been revealed, if only for a moment.


Though the Brotherhood likes to officially deny its links to jihadist terrorists and terrorist organizations, Emerson says, “Public statements and actions by its senior leaders have often gone a long way to undercut the credibility of such denials.”

In his book, “Jihad is the Way,” author Mustafa Mashhur, the reported leader of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt from 1996 until 2002, reveals the Brotherhood’s true colors.

“The problems of the Islamic world – such as in Palestine, Afghanistan, Syria, Eritrea or the Philippines – are not issues of territories and nations, but of faith and religion,” Mashhur writes. “They are the problems of Islam and all Muslims, and their resolution cannot be negotiated and bargained by recognizing the enemy’s right to the Islamic land he stole, and therefore there is no other option but jihad for Allah, and this is why jihad is the way.”


Regarding the strategy to infuse themselves into the politics of the recent Arab uprisings in the Middle East, Dr. Walid Phares [a personal friend of mine for several years] – a leading international expert on Iran, Syria, and Lebanon’s Hizballah, and an international terrorism advisor to both the U.S. Congress and the U.S. Intelligence Community – says there are three tactics being employed by the Brotherhood.

“The first of three tactics the Islamists have pursued in their protest-infiltration strategy was avoidance of any statement or action that might associate the demonstrations with long-term Muslim Brotherhood goals,” said Phares. “Members [of the Brotherhood] were put on notice — no mention of Shariah or the caliphate.”

He added, “The second was to focus on the affected regimes, not on the West. U.S., European and even Israeli flag burning were forbidden. The third tactic involved invoking Shabab al Thawra (English: ‘youth of revolution’), a rubric the Islamists used repeatedly to camouflage their predatory intentions with the uprisings’ secular, liberal democratic lexical accouterments.”


You will all recall a video clip BG Lanneau Siegling sent us earlier this month wherein James Phillips, a Senior Research Fellow for Middle Eastern Affairs at the Heritage Foundation, said, “The Brotherhood has very radical goals.”

Indeed they have.

Before and during World War II, the Brotherhood – remember it was just formed in 1928 – republished Hitler’s ‘Mein Kampf” in an Arab translation, widely disseminating the Arab-language edition among the so-called faithful, hoping to “deepen and extend already existing hostile views about Jews.” Moreover, the Brotherhood learned lessons from the Nazis about the importance of media and propaganda.

The Brotherhood’s goals have been enhanced over the years, but essentially remain the same.

According to the Brotherhood’s charter, “The Islamic nation must be fully prepared to fight the tyrants and the enemies of Allah as a prelude to establishing an Islamic state.”

A portion of the Brotherhood’s credo states, “Jihad is our way; and death for the sake of Allah is the highest of our aspirations.”

The late Sayyid Qutb, one of the Brotherhood’s leading theologians, believed that all Muslims must fight. “Any Muslim who rejects his [Qutb’s] ideas is just one more nonbeliever worthy of destruction,” according to the 911 Commission Report.

Killing has historically been part of the Brotherhood’s program.

According to Prof. Heggy, “The Brotherhood killed Egypt’s Prime Minister Mahmud Fahmi Nuqrashi in 1948 and plotted to kill President Gamal Abdel Nasser in the early 1950s. An offshoot group, Islamic Jihad, led by Ayman al-Zawahiri, later Osama bin Laden’s number-two man, assassinated Egyptian President Anwar Al-Sadat in 1981 and tried to kill President Hosni Mubarak in 1995.”

Juan Carlos Zarate, current deputy assistant to the White House and deputy National Security Advisor for Combating Terrorism, has said, “The Muslim Brotherhood is a group that worries us not because it deals with philosophical or ideological ideas but because it defends the use of violence against civilians.”


During the 2007-2008 Holy Land Foundation case (here in the U.S.), in which foundation members were found guilty of “providing material support to a foreign terrorist,” among other charges; one of the most disturbing documents to surface was a 16-page Muslim Brotherhood document, entitled “An Explanatory Memorandum on the General Strategic Goal of the Group.”

According to the document, the Brotherhood seeks to establish “a stable Islamic movement led by the Muslim Brotherhood.”

But it gets worse.

The document states that the mission of the Brotherhood in North America is “a kind of grand jihad” aimed at “eliminating and destroying the Western civilization from within and sabotaging its miserable house by their hands and the hands of the believers, so that it is eliminated, and Allah’s religion [Islam] is made victorious over all other religions.”

Hardly a moderate or benevolent organization.


Lt. Col. Jonathan D. Halevi (Israel Defense Force) – a former advisor to the Policy Planning Division of Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs – says the Muslim Brotherhood and Al-Qaeda share a common strategy.

“Al-Qaeda favors an implacable jihad to destroy the economies of the Western countries,” Halevi writes in an article for the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. “The Muslim Brotherhood supports terrorism and jihad against foreign presence in the Islamic world, but its top priority is constructing a Muslim infrastructure in the West which will slowly but surely enable it to rule during the 21st century. As far as the final goal is concerned, there are no policy differences between al-Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood. The two organizations have the same objective: to place the entire world under an Islamic caliphate.”

So the Brotherhood officially says it is does not sanction violence, yet - 

  • The Brotherhood has committed violence.
  • The Brotherhood has supported violence by other jihadist terrorist organizations.
  • The Brotherhood provides direct support to groups which also support terrorist organizations.
  • The Brotherhood does not shy away from statements praising the virtue of violence in their official documents.

But some – particularly members of both Western and Arab media who have attempted to soft-soap the Brotherhood – claim the Brotherhood has renounced it violent past. The soft-soap crowd (as I call it) points to Ayman al-Zawahiri’s leaving the Brotherhood in the 1980s and eventually joining Osama bin Laden as an example, arguing that the Brotherhood was not violent enough for him [al-Zawahiri].

Rarely is there a mention that bin Laden’s teacher and mentor Abdullah Azzam was a member of the Jordanian Muslim Brotherhood. Nor that Khalid Sheikh Muhammad, the mastermind of the 9/11 attack, joined the Muslim Brotherhood in his youth.


International terrorism experts, however, argue that the Brotherhood’s new, perhaps less-violent public face is simply either a grand deception – remember, the Islamist principle of al-taqiyya – or a new tactic aimed at attracting a more intelligent, better educated candidate to Islam’s asymmetrical struggle against the West. Or it is a combination of both.

As my Lebanese friends like to say, “They [the jihadists] are trying to clean their faces” – to create a front – to gain an air of respect in the public eye, and thus increase their operators’ freedom of movement, and slowly-and- surely increase the group’s political leverage.

This is precisely what we have seen with Hizballah – the Lebanon-based Shia terrorist organization – in its quest to gain mainstream acceptance and political power.


Today, Hizballah – though it is Shia – has collaborated with the Sunni Muslim Brotherhood.

Hizballah has a massive social and political apparatus enabling it to recruit greater numbers of followers as well as higher caliber operators. Additionally, the terrorist organization now has tremendous political leverage in Lebanon, and has infused itself in all aspects of the Lebanese government from the army to the police to the parliament.

Yet Hizballah still maintains its own private armed force – a proxy arm of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps – in violation of UN Security Council Resolutions 1559 and 1701 (both of which call for the disarming of all militias in Lebanon). Hizballah has control over much of the media in Lebanon. They have paid Western journalists to write favorably about them. And the organization’s well-funded (with Iranian money) jihadi cells are operating throughout the world.

Let’s not forget, it was Hizballah – under the command of the late Imad Mughnieh – which carried out the 1983 bombing of the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut, among many other acts of terror worldwide. And the organization carries out terrorism and other acts of mass violence today.

So we know that jihadist organizations commit murder, but they also hold the strategic equivalent of bake-sales to make themselves appear clean.

Moreover, they will aggressively go after anyone or any institution or organization that attempts to expose their deceit. This is done not only by physical assassination, but by character assassination in the media, which is why clandestine infiltration into Western media companies is an important tactic employed by Jihadist organizations like the Brotherhood.


What about the Brotherhood’s various affiliates and subsidiaries operating here in the U.S.?

There are many, including the Washington, D.C.-based Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), an unindicted co-conspirator in the Holy Land Foundation case.

CAIR – which is frequently regarded in some political circles here in the U.S. as nothing more than a harmless human-rights group which seeks only to protect the rights of Muslims – is widely considered to be a front group here in the U.S. for the Muslim Brotherhood.

Fact is, the FBI has severed its relationship with CAIR because of the Islamist group’s links to terrorist organizations.

Other Muslim Brotherhood affiliates, include the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC), the Muslim Student Association (MSA), and the International Institute of Islamic Thought (IIIT).


If we take nothing else from this brief, I think it is important we understand the threat posed by the Muslim Brotherhood.

Lt. Col. Halevi says it is “a serious threat to the West.”

Halevi adds, “[The Brotherhood] hides behind ambiguous terminology, which makes the organization appear moderate and enables it to operate freely in its host countries, thereby establishing a convenient base from which to disseminate radical Islamic ideology among the growing Muslim communities.”

So we have a basic understanding of what the Muslim Brotherhood is, and it goes without saying that the organization is global, well-financed, increasing in terms of membership and political leverage, it has indeed capitalized on the 2011 Arab revolts throughout the Middle East, and it is operating via its subsidiaries here in the U.S.

Education and vigilance are vital.

Respectfully submitted,
Wm. Thomas Smith Jr.
Lt. Col.      JSD, SCMD