The federal government has no strategy to counter the Muslim Brotherhood at home or abroad, according to the chairwoman of the House panel that oversees counterintelligence and terrorism.
“The federal government does not have a comprehensive or consistent strategy for dealing with the Muslim Brotherhood and its affiliated groups in America,” Rep. Sue Wilkins Myrick said during a hearing Wednesday. “Nor does it have a strategy for dealing with the Brotherhood in Egypt or the greater Middle East.”
The North Carolina Republican is chairwoman of the House Intelligence subcommittee on terrorism, human intelligence, analysis and counterintelligence. Mrs. Myrick said at the hearing that she planned on scheduling closed classified hearings on the Muslim Brotherhood this session with government officials.
Established in 1928 in Cairo, the Muslim Brotherhood is widely considered the first organization to push for political Islam or Islamism, a movement that seeks to replace civil law with Islamic or Shariah law.
Islamists were repressed for decades by the governments in countries such as Egypt and Tunisia. But with the wave of uprisings that have toppled those governments, political parties and social movements inspired by the Muslim Brotherhood may be poised to try to assume political power in those countries for the first time.
At the hearing, during which nongovernment experts gave testimony, opinions on this point differed.
Robert Satloff, executive director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, said “deep concern” about the role the Muslim Brotherhood will play in Egypt is “warranted.”
“The Brotherhood is not, as some suggest, simply an Egyptian version of the March of Dimes - that is, a social welfare organization whose goals are fundamentally humanitarian,” he said. “On the contrary, the Brotherhood is a profoundly political organization that seeks to reorder Egyptian and broader Muslim society in an Islamist fashion.”
Nathan Brown, a professor at George Washington University and expert on the Muslim Brotherhood, disagreed.
He said the Brotherhood was not able to get more than 3 million votes in Egypt’s parliamentary election of 2005, despite winning 20 percent of the seats. He also noted that the supreme guide of the Brotherhood has said the group will contest only 30 percent of the seats in the parliament for now.
Mrs. Myrick was particularly concerned about the role the Muslim Brotherhood plays in the United States.
Documents that emerged from the FBI investigation and U.S. prosecution of a charity known as the Holy Land Foundation suggest that some U.S.-based Muslim groups sought to advance the goals of the Muslim Brotherhood in the United States.
“There are no buildings on K Street with ‘Muslim Brotherhood’ in the lobby directory. Instead, the group spreads its influence through a large number of affiliated organizations throughout the country,” Mrs. Myrick said.
“This allows the Muslim Brotherhood to muddy the water when it comes to foreign funding and influence and to hide behind groups that have plausible deniability of their involvement with the Brotherhood when necessary,” she added.
Lorenzo Vidino, a visiting fellow at the Rand Corp. who wrote “The New Muslim Brotherhood in the West,” said the group has affiliates in more than 80 countries.
But Mr. Vidino warned that there is no monolithic international Muslim Brotherhood that controls each affiliate. He said that Brotherhood affiliates in the West have not sought to turn their host countries into Islamic republics, for now.
Instead, the goal of Western groups is “preserving Islamic identity among Western Muslims,” he said.