Among the Believers
Almost a decade after 9/11, we should better understand the varieties of Islamist experience.


Clifford D. May

Within the Muslim Brotherhood, the almanac sees a “growing schism” between “moderates and conservatives.” It adds, however, that “since the election of their new Supreme Guide, Muhammad Badi” last year, the Brotherhood “seems to have adopted a more radical discourse.” Badi has stated that “America and Israel are ‘the Muslims’ real enemies,’ and that ‘jihad against both is a commandment of God which cannot be disregarded.’”

In the United States, the almanac reports, “Muslim Brothers have been represented within multiple organizations such as the Muslim Students’ Association (MSA), the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA), the Muslim American Society (MAS) and a variety of other activist groups. On May 22, 1991, the Brotherhood issued a programmatic memorandum” stating that  all Muslims “had to ‘understand that their work in America [was] a grand jihad in eliminating and destroying Western civilization from within and sabotaging its miserable house by their hands so that God’s religion [Islam] is victorious over all religions.’”

The regime that rules Iran, the almanac observes, is “ideologically dedicated to exporting its religious revolution the world over . . .  In the early years of the Islamic Republic, Iran is known to have ordered, orchestrated or facilitated a series of terrorist attacks in the Middle East, among them the 1983 U.S. Embassy and Marine Barracks bombings in Beirut, Lebanon; as well as abortive coup attempts and bombings in Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait.”

The almanac reports on the United States, too. “The American public appears to remain largely unaware of and/or uninterested in Islamist groups in the U.S. unless they can somehow be linked to al-Qaeda and/or terrorist attacks in the West,” it concludes.Nor are civil society, media institutions, and the public at large generally informed about Islamist groups in the U.S. and Islamism generally, beyond the occasional terrorist plots that are routinely disrupted every year.”

As noted above, that’s also true at the highest levels of government, academia, and the media. John Brennan would be well-advised to spend a weekend with the World Almanac of Islamism. I think he’d find it a useful resource from which he might learn that al-Qaeda is only one of the groups that ought to concern him, his boss and the intelligence community.

— Clifford D. May is president of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a policy institute focusing on terrorism and political Islam.