The British Vision of the Brotherhood

It's apparent that the Muslim Brotherhood has been effective at thwarting our counterterrorism efforts against it by projecting a false image of moderation and political accommodation.  And whether out of sheer ignorance, debilitating naivete, or merciless corruption government bureaucrats won't designate the group as a terrorist organization.  MB leaders should be commended for being effective deceivers and tenacious, long-range thinkers.  They play government officials like ouds.

I've been on a quest to uncover as much about the early years of the Muslim Brotherhood as can be found in English.  Perhaps a little more straight history, and a little less political theory is what's required to jog our memories and clear our eyes of the smoke of wishful thinking surrounding this the first radical Islamist organization.

The Brotherhood Project has links to a several New York Times' pieces in the archive, today it's the London Times.  The British occupied the Suez Canal region for decades, and by the 1930s the Egyptians were increasingly annoyed by them.  The Muslim Brotherhood emerges in the British press at this time.  The first record of the group I can find comes from the mid-1940s when Brotherhood leader Hassan al-Banna turned his aspirations for nationwide governance into action.  He was inspired in part by several different events:  World War II, British support for Jewish settlers in Palestine, and the corrupt Egyptian government's secularization campaign.  By the mid-1940s, al-Banna was calling for more forceful measures against the British the Egyptian government.

London Times, November 28, 1946 (Download MB-11-26-46.pdf):

The Muslim Brotherhood, however, claim to be in a quite different category.  Sheik Hassan al-Banna, their founder and head, recently described them as "neither politicians nor a political party but simply nationalists working for the welfare of Egypt and the restoration of usurped Egyptian rights."  That is, however, by no means a complete description of an organization whose development  and influence in Egyptian public life merit examination....

The broad aim is to encourage a revival of Islam, from which the whole life of Egyptian national will benefit.  To achieve this it is necessary to form a new generation who will understand Islam and follow Islamic teaching.  Modern western civilization, the Brotherhood profess to believe, is purely materialistic, and its imitation by the east is largely responsible for an abasement of conduct and character and for the widespread poverty and misery in Egypt.  This can be cured only by applying Koranic principles in government and in national institutions.  It is the duty of the Brotherhood to rid Egypt of pernicious foreign political and economic influence.  To do this the beauty of Islam and reverence for its law must be inculcated, a powerful Muslim public opinion, firmly believing in the ideals of the Brotherhood, must be created, and the authorities must be persuaded that these ideals are possible of attainment...Al Banna said last year that he spoke for 500, 000 Brothers, who in turn represented the ideals and hopes of 70,000,000 Arabs  and 300,000,000 Muslims.

The Brotherhood's mission (he added) was not political in the usual sense.  They stood for social reform, and that was where they perhaps bordered on the realm of politics....

The Brotherhood first entered the purely political arena in 1936, and during the Arab rebellion in Palestine they were prominent in anti-British activity in Egypt.  They were, and still are, ardent supporters of the Mufti of Jerusalem.  Soon are the beginning of the war their activity redoubles, and by 1941 there was reason to believe that their members were planning sabotage, collection information about the allied forces, carrying on anti-allied propaganda, and generally trying to frustrate the allied war effort in Egypt.

Here's a report of MB's anti-British activity in Egypt, highlighting one of MB's best weapons, the spread of outrageous lies to inspire violent reactions in surrounding Muslim populations (a psy-ops technique that is all too common and surprisingly effective now more than ever), from  September 26, 1947 (Download MB-09-26-47.pdf):

The Muslim Brotherhood are reported to have a simple solution for the Anglo-Egyptian dispute..."Liberation battalions" will have the task of freeing Egypt from the Britons.  These battalions will be capable of "resisting any force" and 80,000 recruits are now ready to die in their ranks if necessary.  It is understood that the activities of the Muslim Brotherhood and of Saleh Harb Pasha, who is actively engaged in the organization of para-military formations, are causing some concern to the authorities.  The Muslim Brotherhood have also quite untruthfully declared that the few cases of suspected cholera near Cairo originated in the British camps in the Canal Zone, where, in fact, there has been no case.

The Muslim Brotherhood has been a player in modern urban warfare since the 1940s.  British rulers of the region dealt with many of the low-grade insurgency challenges facing Israeli and American forces now.  Examples of tactical weapons storage and bomb manufacturing, strategic assassinations, and low-level insurgent attacks on foreign forces have been in the Brotherhood repertoire since the 1940s. This report of riots targeting foreigners in Egypt comes from August 17, 1948 (Download MB-08-17-48.pdf):

Two Frenchmen have been killed, 30 have been molested or injured, and 18 have been held in a concentration camp in Cairo as the result of a wave of xenophobia in Egypt which is severely straining Franco-Egyptian relations...Meanwhile agitation developed in the streets, and according to French sources, the police were "strangely passive."  The Muslim Brotherhood, it is asserted here, through its organ Ikhwan el Muslimi, began a violent campaign against foreigners,, inviting the populace "to murder wearers f hats," that is, non-Muslims.

And then there's this brief report noting MB branch activities throughout the Levant, from October 21 1946 (Download MB-10-21-46.pdf):

Several hundred delegates of the Muslim Brotherhood from Egypt, Palestine, Transjordan, Syria and Lebanon met here on Friday for discussion, which lasted all day, on the political situation...It was decided to establish branches of the Muslim Brotherhood in all towns of Palestine, to ask the Government for separate department of education in the hands of the Arabs; and to request the Arab Executive to place the Palestine Arab case before the United Nations security Council.

Here is the ideological foundations for Hamas, drawn from the Brotherhood's decades-long presence in the region.  I also find it sad that the UN was probably as effective back then as it is now, an entirely useless organization from the beginning.



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