It is a fact — not an opinion — that al-Qaeda and similar groups are waging what they call a jihad against America, Israel, and the West. Also beyond dispute: These groups are not equal-opportunity employers. They target Muslims for incitement and recruitment — not least American Muslims. So it is very odd that the congressional hearings on this critical issue, which begin today, are causing so much controversy, including demonstrations on the streets of New York and charges that the hearings are a “show trial” and a “McCarthyite witch hunt.”
Rep. Peter King (R., N.Y.), chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, did not call these hearings because he thinks most Muslims are terrorists. He called these hearings because he would not be doing his job if he failed to investigate the means by which some Muslims — and some mosques — are being radicalized. “I strongly believe that there is a concerted effort by al-Qaeda and al-Qaeda affiliates to recruit young Muslims living legally in this country,” King told National Review Online.
What King has not said but, I hope, knows: It is not only al-Qaeda and its affiliates that promote jihad. The Muslim Brotherhood does, too. That, also, is a fact, not an opinion. Thomas Joscelyn, senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (the policy institute I head), has been doing research on the Brotherhood and notes that its creed, nearly a century old, states this plainly:
Allah is our goal. The Prophet is our leader. The Quran is our constitution. Jihad is our way. Death in the service of Allah is the loftiest of our wishes. Allah is great, Allah is great.
Despite that, James Clapper the director of national intelligence, last month told Congress that the Muslim Brotherhood is “a very heterogeneous group, largely secular, which has eschewed violence, and has decried al-Qaeda as a perversion of Islam.”
Soon after, Jamie Smith, a spokesman for the director, issued a “clarification.” Clapper, he said, “is well aware that the Muslim Brotherhood is not a secular organization.” The implication, of course, was that his other characterizations of the Brotherhood are correct.
Eight days later, Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, the Muslim Brotherhood’s spiritual guide, left Qatar, where he had lived since 1961, in recent years preaching Islamic fire and brimstone to some 60 million al-Jazeera viewers around the world. Arriving in his native Egypt, the 84-year-old cleric went directly to Tahrir Square, where hundreds of thousands turned out to hear and cheer him.
The New York Times reported that Qaradawi told his listeners: “Don’t fight history . . . The Arab world has changed.” The Times added that he “struck themes of democracy and pluralism, long hallmarks of his writing and preaching. . . . Scholars who have studied his work say Sheikh Qaradawi has long argued that Islamic law supports the idea of a pluralistic, multiparty, civil democracy.”
Among those scholars is John Esposito, university professor and professor of religion and international affairs at Georgetown University, who has called Qaradawi a “reformist.” Imam Feisal Rauf, the well-known proponent of the Ground Zero mosque project, concurs, adding that Qaradawi is “the most well-known legal authority in the whole Muslim world today.”
Among the facts that the Times, Esposito, and Rauf gloss over: Qaradawi has said he favors the “spread of Islam until it conquers the entire world and includes both the East and West [marking] the beginning of the return of the Islamic Caliphate.” He has issued a fatwa saying that the “abduction and killing of Americans in Iraq is a [religious] obligation.” He has praised Imad Mugniyah, the terrorist mastermind behind the 1983 suicide bombings in Beirut, in which 241 U.S. Marines were killed — more than on any other single day since the Battle of Iwo Jima. He has justified “martyrdom operations,” saying it is incorrect to view them as a form of suicide prohibited by Islamic law. He has extolled Hitler, saying the Führer “managed to put [Jews] in their place. This was divine punishment for them. Allah willing, the next time will be at the hands of the believers [Muslims].”
Are these really the views of a moderate — the spiritual guide and “legal authority” of an organization that “eschews violence”?
To be fair, the Muslim Brotherhood’s Egyptian branch did renounce violence in Egypt. But, as Joscelyn points out, that decision was clearly a “survival tactic” at a time when Egyptian authorities were responding to violence by imprisoning and/or executing the Brotherhood’s leaders.
What about Clapper’s contention that the Brotherhood “has decried al-Qaeda as a perversion of Islam”? Joscelyn found no evidence to support that contention. Members of the Brotherhood have criticized al-Qaeda for killing innocent civilians. But they include only Muslims in that category. Neither an American setting up a health clinic in Afghanistan nor an Israeli child in a playground would be viewed as an “innocent civilian.”
What’s more, in 2008, Muhammad Mahdi Akef, then the “supreme guide” of the Brotherhood, stated in an interview that he considered Osama bin Laden “a jihad fighter.” He meant it as a compliment.
Joscelyn also found “little to no daylight between what the MB and al-Qaeda want in the long-term: to resurrect an Islamic caliphate ruled by Sharia law.” No doubt there are differences of opinion within the organization about the best means toward these ends. But does that really qualify the organization as “heterogeneous”?
By now you may be wondering: How does America’s top intelligence official get so much so wrong? Another of my FDD colleagues, Reuel Marc Gerecht, a former CIA operative, recently remarked that “group think” is an “unavoidable, and usually undetectable, affliction for intelligence analysts who want to prosper professionally.”
And it is an affliction generally acquired early. Most intelligence analysts are recruited from American universities, more than a few of which have accepted large donations from Middle Eastern oil billionaires. For example, Georgetown, whose leading authority on Islam I cited above, has accepted $20 million. Harvard also has raked in tens of millions to establish programs of “Islamic studies.” Harvard now boasts the Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Professor in Contemporary Islamic Thought and Life, the King Fahd Chair for Islamic Shariah Studies, the H.E. Sheikh Ahmed Zaki Yamani Islamic Legal Studies Fund, and the Bakr M. Binladin Visiting Scholars Fund (set up in 1994 by Osama bin Laden’s brother).
Is it possible that the dollars contributed are intended less as gifts than as investments — investments that are paying off by saddling America with too many academics and intelligence analysts who are both misinformed and misleading? Imagine if Representative King were to hold a hearing at which such questions were asked. The cries of “McCarthyite witch hunts” would reverberate for days through the concrete canyons of Manhattan.
— Clifford D. May, a former New York Times foreign correspondent, is president of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a policy institute focusing on terrorism and Islamism.