William McCants and Benjamin Wittes write: Is the Muslim Brotherhood (1) a foreign organization that (2) engages in terrorist activity or retains the capability and intent to do so and (3) whose terrorism threatens the United States or its people?
The short answer is that the Brotherhood is not in a meaningful sense a single organization at all; elements of it can be designated and have been designated, and other elements certainly cannot be. As a whole, it is simply too diffuse and diverse to characterize. And it certainly cannot be said as a whole to engage in terrorism that threatens the United States.
The Muslim Brotherhood was founded in Egypt in 1928. Today, the group has chapters in dozens of countries that are nominally coordinated by an international organization helmed by the Supreme Guide of Egypt’s Brotherhood. It is difficult to assess the strength of the ties between the international organization and the various Brotherhood chapters, because of the organization’s penchant for secrecy. The Brotherhood in Egyptian is especially secretive because it operated underground for many years as a result of government suppression, which produced a cult-like organization. Where Brotherhood chapters have been allowed to operate more openly, there is more transparency.
From the available evidence, it seems the international organization (al-tanzim al-`alami or al-tanzim al-dawli) is unable to coerce its members or even set their agendas. Although every Brotherhood chapter wants their local governments to implement Islamic law, they have very different policies as to how that should be accomplished and they frequently disagree with one another. Sometimes these disagreements lead Brotherhood chapters to leave the international organization, as Kuwait’s Brotherhood did after the body supported Saddam’s occupation of their country. As one of America’s foremost scholars of the Muslim Brotherhood has written, the group’s international organization “most closely resembles today’s Socialist International: a tame framework for a group of loosely linked, ideologically similar movements that recognize each other, swap stories and experiences in occasional meetings, and happily subscribe to a formally international ideology without giving it much priority.” [Continue reading…]