The Muslim Brotherhood’s Ties to Extremists

The Muslim Brotherhood is a transnational Sunni Islamist movement that seeks to implement sharia (Islamic law) under a global caliphate. Founded in Egypt in 1928, the Brotherhood is that country’s oldest Islamist organization and has branches throughout the world. A 2015 U.K. government investigation concluded that the Brotherhood has “promoted a radical, transformative politics, at odds with a millennium of Islamic jurisprudence and statecraft….”* In line with the British assessment, and despite the Brotherhood’s official commitment to non-violence, CEP has documented ideological and operational links between the Brotherhood’s ideology and violent terrorist groups like al-Qaeda and ISIS.

Brotherhood ideology has directly influenced several notable terrorist leaders. Al-Qaeda’s founders were students of early Brotherhood ideologues such as theoretician Sayyid Qutb, whose works informed the Islamist Qutbism ideology advocating violent jihad to establish governance according to sharia.* Proclaimed 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed read Qutb’s writings while attending Brotherhood camps as a teenager in Kuwait.* Al-Qaeda leaders Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri and ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi all belonged to the Brotherhood before assuming roles in their respective terror networks. As a result of these foundations, violent extremist groups such as ISIS serve as an extension of core Brotherhood ideology.*

The Brotherhood officially maintains a platform of non-violence but has nevertheless supported violent terrorism across the Middle East. Egyptian authorities have directly connected the Brotherhood to violence in Egypt since the 2013 fall of the Brotherhood-led government there. Egypt labeled the Brotherhood a terrorist organization in December 2013 after authorities linked the organization to a car bombing that killed 14 people.* Further, the Brotherhood has supported the violent policies of its Palestinian offshoot, the internationally designated terror group Hamas. Hamas’s 1988 charter describes it specifically as “one of the wings of the Moslem Brotherhood in Palestine,”* and the group enjoyed close relations with Egypt’s Brotherhood-led government in 2012.* Egyptian authorities accused Hamas and the Brotherhood of collaborating in the June 29, 2015, assassination of Egyptian Public Prosecutor Hisham Barakat.* Hamas leaders have since disavowed any ties to the Brotherhood, but have at the same time insisted that the original charter—and its language in support of the Brotherhood—remains in effect.*

CEP has also recorded links between specific Brotherhood members and terror financing and recruitment. Violent extremists have used Brotherhood ideological materials as a gateway to more violent philosophies. For example, ISIS recruiter Ibrahim Osama introduced Turkish foreign fighter Huseyin Mustafa Peri to the concept of jihad through Brotherhood literature before recruiting him to fight for ISIS in Syria.* Senior Brotherhood member Mohammad Jamal Khalifa was arrested in 1994 in connection with the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. Prior to his death in 2007, authorities linked Khalifa to the financing of al-Qaeda, his brother-in-law Osama bin Laden, and the Philippines-based Abu Sayyaf Group.*

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Key Facts

CEP has recorded 48 individuals and groups tied to the Muslim Brotherhood, including terrorist groups, foreign fighters, extremist propagandists, and political leaders.

The writings of Muslim Brotherhood founder Hassan al-Banna and early Brotherhood ideologue Sayyid Qutb have helped mold the ideologies of violent terror groups like al-Qaeda, ISIS, and Hamas.

Al-Qaeda co-founders Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri, proclaimed 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, and ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi all belonged to the Muslim Brotherhood before assuming roles in their respective terror networks.

The Brotherhood politically supported the goals of the Iranian Revolution early on. Qutb was an influence on Iranian extremist Navvab Safavi, who in turn influenced current Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei to enter politics and introduced Ruhollah Khomeini to the Brotherhood.

Internationally designated terror group Hamas is a direct offshoot of the Brotherhood, created as the organization's Palestinian wing.

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Extremists: Their Words. Their Actions.

In Their Own Words:

We reiterate once again that the brigades will directly target US bases across the region in case the US enemy commits a folly and decides to strike our resistance fighters and their camps [in Iraq].

Abu Ali al-Askari, Kata’ib Hezbollah (KH) Security Official Mar. 2023
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