- - Wednesday, July 31, 2013

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

THE BROTHERHOOD: AMERICA’S NEXT GREAT ENEMY

By Erick Stakelbeck

Regnery Publishing, $27.95, 256 pages

With the recent ouster of the Muslim Brotherhood government in Egypt, the Islamist movement is facing the most serious political crisis in its 85-year history. After promising an “inclusive” government, former President Mohammed Morsi began pushing hard to advance his movement’s Islamist agenda for a state ruled by strict Shariah (Islamic law). That alienated the groups that had hoped the 2011 Egyptian revolution would lead to a more pluralistic and open society than the previous Hosni Mubarak regime.

The Muslim Brotherhood has been expelled from government, but the Islamist movement is revealing its nature by spreading paranoid conspiracy theories and inciting its supporters to engage in massive and violent street demonstrations against the military-led transitional government in Egypt. The Brotherhood is fully captured in Erick Stakelbeck’s “The Brotherhood: America’s Next Great Enemy” — a well-informed account that was written prior to the collapse of the Morsi regime.

Mr. Stakelbeck knows the Muslim Brotherhood well, having reported at close range on the movement’s worldwide operations over the past decade as a correspondent and terrorism analyst for CBN News, as well as for other investigatory organizations.

Mr. Stakelbeck’s objective is to demonstrate “how the Muslim Brotherhood and their Sunni Islamist allies (working, when their interests intersect, with Shia jihadists), are rapidly positioning themselves as America’s greatest scourge — and what we need to do about it.”

How does the Muslim Brotherhood operate to advance its extremist theocratic agenda? Mr. Stakelbeck explains: “Whereas al Qaeda seeks to bring about Shariah states rapidly through violence, the Muslim Brothers favor a gradual, termite-like approach, burrowing deeply into a host society and eating away at it slowly from within. They’ll acquire positions of influence, often behind the scenes, in government, academia and the media. They’ll start Islamic organizations at the grass-roots level and build (or slowly absorb) mosques and Islamic schools. They’ll even hold their nose and work with ideologically divergent factions, namely the left, to advance their ultimate goals. Then, when they have the numbers and the influence, and the situation is deemed ideal, the final phase can begin.”

For the Muslim Brotherhood, the final phase, as explained by Mr. Stakelbeck, can take several forms. The first is by peacefully seizing power by contesting and winning elections, as its parties accomplished in Egypt and Tunisia, or becoming the primary opposition bloc in countries such as Jordan, Libya and Morocco. (Although not discussed in Mr. Stakelbeck’s book, Hamas, its Palestinian offshoot, won the Palestinian Authority’s 2006 legislative elections, but in a violent coup in June 2007 ousted its more “mainstream” rival Fatah from leadership positions in the Gaza Strip, where it has monopolized power since then.)

A second form of takeover, according to Mr. Stakelbeck, focuses on Western countries, and, as outlined in a Muslim Brotherhood manifesto, known as “The Project,” aims to “conquer” Europe and America “not by the sword but by our Dawa [proselytizing].” In countries such as the United States, for example, the Muslim Brotherhood has established like-minded organizations such as the Islamic Society of North America, the Muslim Students Association, the International Institute for Islamic Thought, and the Council on American-Islamic Relations — all of which, the author writes, act to advance its overall extremist Islamist agenda within the American Muslim community — although peacefully and within America’s democratic system that safeguards the right to freedom of speech.

Of particular interest is Mr. Stakelbeck’s discussion of local controversies involving Muslim Brotherhood affiliates in America, such as the proposed building of a mega-mosque at ground zero in New York — the “sight of the most lethal jihadist attack in U.S. history,” which he compares to “the Islamic version of the Roman victory arch.”

In other endeavors, however, the Muslim Brotherhood and its worldwide branches have been less effective. Both Iran and Turkey have developed their own versions of messianic Islamist movements that seek to establish their own worldwide caliphates, which compete against the Muslim Brotherhood for power and influence. Mr. Stakelbeck’s chapter on the limitations of the Turkish model is especially insightful, as he writes, “The problem for [Turkish President Recep Tayyip] Erdogan is that the Islamist regimes in Riyadh, Tehran and Cairo also aspire to lead a renewed caliphate. Additionally, Turks are not Arabs, and Arab Islamists are fiercely supremacist and loathe ceding authority to non-Arabs like Erdogan. Iran faces the same ethnic-based problem, as would Pakistan.”

Following a period of euphoria when the Muslim Brotherhood gained power in Egypt, now that it has been overthrown as a result of the strong backlash against it by large segments of Egyptian society, and its resort to violent tactics against the Egyptian interim government, it would be instructive to observe the impact this is having on its Western supporters, who are experienced at operating in democratic and pluralistic environments. For instance, are they counseling their Egyptian counterparts to exercise greater restraint or full-out war against the new Cairo government? This would constitute an important new chapter once Mr. Stakelbeck’s interesting and important book is issued in paperback.

Joshua Sinai, a Washington-based consultant on counterterrorism studies, is the author of “Active Shooter: A Handbook on Prevention” (ASIS International, 2013).

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