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Who are the Muslim Brotherhood?

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Who are the Muslim Brotherhood?





Egyptian Protestor calls for the removal of Mohammad Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood régime.



SWP founder, Tony Cliff, famously described the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) as a Fascist organisation, under the control of MI6, and, in many ways, the development of the MB does parallel the development of the National Socialist Party in Germany. The MB was set up in Egypt, in 1928, as a petty bourgeois response to the perceived threats of Communism from the East and nihilistic Capitalism from the West. As the Nazis found an escape from these challenges in the mists of Teutonic myth, the MB sought to “return” to a mythological Islamic caliphate, under the slogan ‘The Koran is our constitution.’ The key principals of the MB are the protection of private property, and the rejection of all systems of state social security. The poor must be looked after by means of private charity. These principals mean that while there has been a great deal of tension between the MB and Western imperialism, there has always been a great area of common interest. As we see in Egypt today, the West is more than happy to allow the imposition of Sharia law and the suppression of women’s rights – as long as private property is respected and the free market \ privatisation agenda promoted. Egyptian president, Mohamed Morsi, is a perfect example of this hybrid of Islamic conservatism and Western economic liberalism. He studied for his Phd in the USA during the late 1970s and early 1980s, and taught at California State University. His MB government is primarily Western in management style and economic outlook, but imposes a medieval moral regime on a highly reluctant industrial working class.


From the very start, the Brotherhood’s founder, Hassan al-Banna, attracted the patronage of wealthy Egyptian merchants and landowners, who feared the growing Communist movement in the Middle East – particularly in Egypt, which, already in the 1920s, had the largest industrial working class in the Arab world. The Nationalist movement was almost equally feared, due to its demands for the nationalisation of key economic assets. During the 1930s, the MB began to work directly with British intelligence – even as it carried out a small scale assassination campaign against British soldiers in Egypt and publicly called for British withdrawal. MB members were used to infiltrate the Communist and Nationalist organizations, and to pass information to their British handlers.However, it was not until the Arab-Zionist war, beginning in 1947, that the MB really took off. The war gave the Brotherhood cover to set up large scale paramilitary units, supposedly for use against the Zionists, but never actually used against them. It also gave the whole idea of Islamism a new found legitimacy among ordinary people, as both the Arab monarchies and nationalist states were seen to have failed miserably in the face of much smaller Zionist forces. The war also began collaboration between the MB and the highly influential Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al-Husseini. Al-Husseini was a creation of British intelligence in Palestine. He had failed to finish his studies at the Al Azhar Islamic University, but was still appointed to one of the most important religious positions in all of Islam, i.e. the Mufti of Jerusalem, by the British governor of Jerusalem, Sir Ronald Storrs, in 1921. The Mufti, however, was far from being an easy man for the British to control. He made no secret of his Nazi sympathies, and, in 1937, he moved to Berlin to oversee Nazi propaganda broadcasts into the Middle East. He also set up all-Muslim units of the SS. However, the British did not take his betrayal too seriously, and after WW2, MI6 employed him as a propagandist for their newly established Arab News Agency and the Near Eastern Broadcasting Station.


Al-Banna and the MB had also openly supported the Nazis, but, after the war quickly returned to the full protection of MI6 – though British records from 1942 show that the Brotherhood was still receiving British funding in that year. By 1945, it was clear to the British that the Nationalists were the main threat to their rule in Egypt, and they decided to build up the MB as a bulwark against this threat. However, Al-Banna’s leadership of the MB came to a sudden end, in January 1948, when he was shot dead by Egyptian security forces. This event saw a crisis within the Brotherhood, as various factions vied for leadership positions, and could well have seen the organization split. It was the influence of the Mufti of Jerusalem that pulled the various factions together, and focused the attention of ordinary members on the situation in Palestine. In 1946, the Mufti, together with the Brotherhood, had set up a paramilitary group in Palestine called The Rescuers, numbering up to 10,000 fighters. The Rescuers were tolerated by the British, and never actually challenged British rule, but, the very existence of this group gave the Brotherhood enormous credibility throughout the Arab world.


1952 saw a catastrophe for the Brotherhood. Army officers seized power in Egypt. At first, the MB was not entirely hostile to the coup. Anwar Sadat had acted as a conduit between the Brotherhood and the Free Officers, and the Officers did not seem entirely hostile to Brotherhood demands. However, when Colonel Gamal Abdal Nasser took power, in 1954, and began a program of land reform and social justice, the Brotherhood joined forces with the British to depose him. Following riots orchestrated by the Brotherhood, Nasser banned the organization. In October of that year, the MB tried to assassinate Nasser, as he gave a speech in Alexandria. The reaction of the state was swift and decisive. Most of the leadership were arrested and sentenced to long prison terms, and six of them were hanged. The MB was no longer a major political force, but it continued to function underground. Indeed, it continued to work with the British on several more assassination attempts on Nasser. It was during this period that the Brotherhood had its first contact with the CIA, when the CIA approved Saudi Arabia’s funding of the Brotherhood against Nasser.


In 1956, the British, in alliance with France and Israel, launched an invasion of Egypt. The British hope was that the MB would provide a post-Nasser government, that would be sympathetic to Western interests. The failure of this invasion, and Egypt’s victory over imperialism, made Nasser a worldwide hero. His popularity at home was assured. The Brotherhood faded from the popular consciousness. However, it was not deserted by its MI6 and CIA allies, who saw in it an asset for the future.


Following the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, in 1979, the CIA realised the full potential of exploiting Islamic fundamentalism in its war against secular socialist states in the Middle East. In the same year, the entire Muslim world saw the Iranian Islamic Revolution as proof positive that Islamic resistance to Western imperialism could work, where secular socialist resistance was failing. The Muslim Brotherhood was about to come back onto the world stage. However, they were not needed in Egypt, where a pro-US regime was already in place. In Libya they had no presence, but that was not the case in Syria and Palestine. Since the 1960s, the MB had been orchestrating riots and other disturbances in Syria, but in 1979, with CIA support, they launched a major armed insurrection against the Ba’ath government, led by Hafez al-Assad. In Syria, the Brotherhood had an extra source of power that it did not have in Egypt – sectarianism. The MB in Syria has presented itself as a violently anti-Shia group, but also whips up Sunni feeling against all non-Sunni groups. In Syria, the Sunni denomination had historically been associated with the landed interest. Many Sunni landowners, who felt threatened by socialist policy, had given money and other forms of support to the Brotherhood. The Alawites, Druze and Christians have been traditionally from the poorer classes. By 1982, the Syrian MB insurrection had been crushed, but the MB and their CIA allies did not give up – they waited until the so called “Arab Spring” of 2011. In Palestine, the CIA and the Israelis realized that the best way to defeat the PLO was by using the Brotherhood. In 1987, out of the ranks of the MB, was formed Hamas – with Israeli and CIA backing. Hamas did indeed destroy the strength of the PLO (though the PLO played a large part in this process itself), but, sometimes, its likely that Hamas left the Israelis wondering if they had not created a monster they could not control. However, in recent times, Hamas has fully returned to the Muslim Brotherhood fold. It now accepts the partition of Palestine and the two state solution favoured by Israel, it has cut itself off from Iran and Syria, and has accepted Qatari funding and influence instead.


In conclusion, the “Arab Spring” has proven to be more of a winter for the Arab people. The Muslim Brotherhood acts as a highly funded weapon of the Gulf monarchies – particularly Qatar – against secular socialist states. Through its opportunistic sectarianism, it also plays a major role in US \ Israeli ambitions to replace the Arab \ Israeli conflict with a Sunni \ Shia conflict. It presents itself under different names in different countries – using armed force or the ballot box, depending on which is likely to be of most use to it. Turkey has had a MB government for some time now, and they have come to power in Egypt and Tunisia, and have considerable influence in Iraq. In none of these states has the MB acted to improve the lives of working class people – quite the opposite. In Syria, the Brotherhood are the main players in the Western backed “Syrian Opposition Coalition,” and are the main organizers of the so called “Free Syrian Army.” This latest MB insurrection has now cost up to 40,000 lives, and the destruction of several Syrian cities – along with the destruction of Syria’s ability to be a serious military threat to Israel.

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