The Muslim Brotherhood on U.S. Campuses
Founded in Egypt in 1928, the Muslim Brotherhood is that country’s oldest Islamist organization and one of the world’s most powerful, with branches throughout the world.Brian R. Farmer, Understanding Radical Islam: Medieval Ideology in the Twenty-First Century (New York: Peter Lang, 2007), 83; “Profile: Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood,” Al Jazeera, February 6, 2011, http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/2011/02/201126101349142168.html; Jay Winter, “The birth of the Muslim Brotherhood,” Los Angeles Times, March 14, 2011, http://articles.latimes.com/2011/mar/14/opinion/la-oe-winter-muslim-brotherhood-20110314; Tareq Abu al-Ainain, “Egypt’s Brotherhood Strives for ‘Caliphate’ at Expense of Security,” Al-Monitor, June 2, 2013, http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/security/2013/06/egypt-muslim-brotherhood-caliphate-national-security.html#. The Brotherhood’s ultimate goal is to implement sharia (Islamic law) under a global caliphate. Unlike ISIS and al-Qaeda, the Brotherhood has officially disavowed violence. Rather, it purports to achieve this societal transformation by taking advantage of existing democratic institutions, such as when the party captured Egypt’s presidency in 2012.David D. Kirkpatrick, “Named Egypt’s Winner, Islamist Makes History,” New York Times, June 24, 2012, http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/25/world/middleeast/mohamed-morsi-of-muslim-brotherhood-declared-as-egypts-president.html?pagewanted=all.
The Brotherhood seeks to win the hearts and minds of Muslims around the world, enabling bloodless coups. Brotherhood founder Hassan al-Banna wroteHazem Kandil, Inside The Brotherhood (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2015), 10.:
“Our Primary concern is to arouse the spirit, the life of the heart, to awaken the imagination and sentiments. We place less emphasis on concrete ideas … than on touching the souls of those we encounter.”
U.S. President Donald Trump in 2019 reportedly began considering the designation of the Brotherhood as a foreign terrorist organization.David Noriega, “How One Policy Change Could Wipe Out Muslim Civil Liberties,” BuzzFeed News, November 16, 2016, https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/davidnoriega/the-muslim-brotherhood-and-muslim-civil-rights-groups#.pwx1vxrYn; Charlie Savage, Eric Schmitt, and Maggie Haberman, “Trump Pushes to Designate Muslim Brotherhood a Terrorist Group,” New York Times, April 30, 2019, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/30/us/politics/trump-muslim-brotherhood.html. In 2016, terrorism analyst J.M. Berger said that no major American Muslim organization was affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood.David Noriega, “How One Policy Change Could Wipe Out Muslim Civil Liberties,” BuzzFeed News, November 16, 2016, https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/davidnoriega/the-muslim-brotherhood-and-muslim-civil-rights-groups#.pwx1vxrYn. That was not always the case, however. While the Internet is filled with false accusations and conspiracy theories regarding Brotherhood infiltration at the highest levels of the U.S. government, particularly under the Obama administration, it is nonetheless accurate to note the Brotherhood’s involvement in Muslim-Americans’ university life dates back to the 1960s. Specifically, members of the Muslim Brotherhood were involved in the creation of the following organizations:
- Muslim American Society (MAS)Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, “Muslim Networks and Movements in Western Europe,” Pew Research Center, September 15, 2010, 57, https://www.pewresearch.org/wp-content/uploads/sites/7/2010/09/Muslim-networks-full-report.pdf.
- Muslim Students Association (MSA)“About,” MSA National, accessed February 6, 2020, https://msanational.squarespace.com/about; Christopher Holton, “The Muslim Brotherhood’s Muslim Students’ Association: What Americans Need to Know,” Center for Security Policy, April 29, 2018, https://www.centerforsecuritypolicy.org/2018/04/29/the-muslim-brotherhoods-muslim-students-association-what-americans-need-to-know/.
- Muslim World League (MWL)Curriculum Vitae of Dr. Kamal el-Helbawy, Internet Archive, accessed March 3, 2020, http://web.archive.org/web/20080530133410/http://www.khelbawy.com/about.html.
- World Assembly of Muslim Youth (WAMY)Curriculum Vitae of Dr. Kamal el-Helbawy, Internet Archive, accessed March 3, 2020, http://web.archive.org/web/20080530133410/http://www.khelbawy.com/about.html.
- Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR)Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, “Muslim Networks and Movements in Western Europe,” Pew Research Center, September 15, 2010, 57, https://www.pewresearch.org/wp-content/uploads/sites/7/2010/09/Muslim-networks-full-report.pdf.
While there are no major American-Muslim organizations directly affiliated with the Brotherhood today and the above named groups insist they operate independently, the Brotherhood’s involvement in their creation cannot be ignored, particularly given the extent of their ongoing outreach efforts to American youth. Further, the Brotherhood’s influence on the direction of these organizations, in the type of events and speakers they recruit, as well as their support networks, remains palpable.
This report examines the Brotherhood’s impact on the development of these five organizations and how its influence continues to manifest today.