Monday, December 12, 2005
Daveed Gartenstein-Ross has an important piece in yesterday's Dallas Morning News concerning the Muslim American Society and its ties to the Muslim Brotherhood, as well as details of its illuminating "suggested reading list." Sorting out the extremists with friendly faces is never easy or obvious.
However, the available evidence suggests that MAS has not moved away from the Brotherhood's extremist principles. MAS has an internal educational curriculum consisting of literature that Muslims must read in order to advance to a higher membership class – a syllabus that gives the group's game away...
This also looks like another good opportunity to link Scott Burgess's translation of The Project -- purportedly a secret Muslim Brotherhood document -- he has a central post where all the parts of his expose are collected, here.
For various reasons (including site registration that tries -- but fails -- to prevent BugMeNot from working), I'm going to risk pasting the entire Gartenstein-Ross piece into the extended entry.
Yes: Behind its moderate face, the Muslim American Society has deep ties to radical Islam
06:18 AM CST on Sunday, December 11, 2005
Each Islamic terror attack inevitably prompts calls for Muslim groups to speak out against the killers. And many do, to the relief of non-Muslims of good will eager to be reassured that mainstream Muslims reject violence in the name of their religion. However, a recent case shows that you can't always take the word of these organizations at face value.
This past summer, the Muslim American Society (MAS) announced that, prompted by the second wave of bombings to rock London in two weeks, it would launch a campaign to combat terrorism. The group issued a news release explaining that it planned to build youth centers to keep young Muslims "away from the voices of extremism" and to work with imams and Islamic centers to promote a moderate interpretation of the faith.
In October, MAS petitioned the Richardson City Council for a special permit to build one of these youth centers, which it likened to a YMCA, in an area zoned for industrial use. After the council said it would need to learn more about the organization first, MAS withdrew the petition.
Islamic YMCAs to steer young Muslims away from extremism sound great, right? This past July, Mahdi Bray, the executive director of MAS' Freedom Foundation, appeared on Fox News and stated that MAS wanted to "inoculate our young people by making sure they're actively and constructively engaged in positive activities that reflect the main views of their faith tradition, as opposed to someone who would want to influence them into extremist points." Given the radical indoctrination that occurs even in the United States, this kind of work is necessary – and one would naturally like to believe that MAS can play a constructive role.
Unfortunately, a look beneath MAS' current rhetoric into the organization's connections, teachings and prior public statements reveals that extremists founded MAS and that, despite efforts to clean up its public image, the core of its teachings remains unchanged.
A 2004 Chicago Tribune investigation revealed that, after a contentious debate, U.S. leaders of the fundamentalist Muslim Brotherhood decided in 1993 to begin calling themselves the Muslim American Society. The Muslim Brotherhood is an international Islamist group that largely operates underground. The Brotherhood's goal is to spread the rule of Islamic law throughout the world. Key Muslim Brotherhood ideologues, including founder Hassan al-Banna, have endorsed violence as a means of doing so.
Today, MAS' leaders admit that the group was founded by the Muslim Brotherhood, but claim that MAS has evolved since then. For example, former MAS Secretary General Shaker Elsayed told the Tribune, "Ikhwan [Brotherhood] members founded MAS, but MAS went way beyond that point of conception." If true, perhaps MAS could help counter extremism, despite its radical origins.
However, the available evidence suggests that MAS has not moved away from the Brotherhood's extremist principles. MAS has an internal educational curriculum consisting of literature that Muslims must read in order to advance to a higher membership class – a syllabus that gives the group's game away.
MAS' national Web site does not outline this curriculum, but it was posted on the Minnesota chapter's Web site until an article I wrote for the Weekly Standard exposed it. According to the Web site, goals for "active" members include "building the correct unified comprehension of Islam as outlined in Message of the Teachings by Imam al-Banna."
Message of the Teachings is a theological tome written by Brotherhood founder Hassan al-Banna. While MAS claims in its current anti-terror campaign to eschew "the dualistic concept of 'us' and 'them,' " this duality lies at the heart of the late Mr. al-Banna's teachings. Not only does he think that all governments must become Islamic, but he also implores his followers to "completely boycott non-Islamic courts and judicial systems" and to "dissociate yourself from organizations, newspapers, committees, schools and institutions which oppose your Islamic ideology."
Message of the Teachings also endorses violence as a means of spreading Islamic rule. In the book, Mr. al-Banna encourages his readers to "always intend to go for jihad and desire martyrdom. Prepare for it as much as you can."
In addition to Mr. al-Banna, all MAS members – even adjunct members, the lowest membership class – are required to read prominent Muslim Brotherhood theoretician Sayyid Qutb's book Milestones. Mr. Qutb is discussed at length in the 9-11 Commission Report because he is one of Osama bin Laden's theological inspirations. Fully embracing the "us vs. them" duality, Mr. Qutb, who was hanged as a revolutionary by the Egyptian government in 1966, argued that Islam and disbelief were locked in a mortal struggle, that all people must choose between the two and that Muslims must take up arms to fight this battle.
In Milestones, Mr. Qutb writes that jihad is not purely defensive, as some Muslim scholars have argued, but instead that a legitimate goal of the jihad is "to establish God's authority on earth" or to "arrange human affairs according to the true guidance provided by God." In other words, violence is an acceptable means of spreading Islam.
Mr. Qutb is also praised in MAS' magazine, The American Muslim, in which an article described him as a "martyr" and expressed its hope that he will "live in eternal happiness in the heaven he deserves."
Indeed, The American Muslim provides a snapshot of where MAS really stands on terrorism. The March 2002 issue includes a fatwa endorsing suicide bombings against Israelis, which states that "martyr operations are not suicide and should not be deemed as unjustifiable means of endangering one's life." The fatwa goes on to say that in suicide bombings, "the Muslim sacrifices his own life for the sake of performing a religious duty, which is jihad against the enemy."
MAS' founding, teachings and public statements about terrorism stand in marked contrast to its conciliatory statements about its new anti-terrorism mission. In the end, MAS is right that extremist ideology matters and that young Muslims should be shielded from radicals who wish to turn their faith into an instrument of hate. Unfortunately, MAS has a track record of trying to clean up its image without cleaning up its act – particularly when it believes that non-Muslims aren't looking.
For years, groups like MAS have felt confident that the American public wouldn't look beyond their moderate face to see what they actually represent. MAS' anti-terrorism plan is to serve as the watchman of Islamic ideology. But MAS' own words and teachings show that this watchman must be watched.
Daveed Gartenstein-Ross is a Washington, D.C., counterterrorism consultant and attorney. You may e-mail him at email@example.com.
WHAT EXTREMISTS LIKE TO READ
The April 2001 issue of The American Muslim, the Muslim American Society's magazine, provides a list of "essential books" that the organization believes all Muslims should have in their home libraries to "help in the understanding of Islam in a comprehensive way." These recommendations tell an interesting story.
MAS recommends four books by Sayyid Qutb, a radical Muslim theoretician who is discussed at length in the 9-11 Commission Report. Among MAS' recommended books is Milestones, which violently rejects the notion of jihad as a "defensive war" and claims that it is the "duty of Islam" to "annihilate" alternative models of social organization.
A number of books by leading Islamist A.A. Maududi are recommended. Mr. Maududi was a reactionary who argued for purging Islam of "foreign influences" in preparation for a jihad that would subject the world to a caliphate. By Mr. Maududi's own admission, this caliphate would "bear a kind of resemblance to the fascist and communist states."
Several works by Hassan al-Banna grace MAS' list. Mr. al-Banna, who founded the Muslim Brotherhood, reduced Western civilization to "apostasy, lust, indulgence, unrestricted freedom, usury and greed," while imploring God to grant him and his followers "the death of martyrs and those who have striven in jihad."
MAS recommends books by Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, who once said of the Jews that "there is no dialogue between us except by the sword and the rifle." Sheikh Qaradawi has called for the killing of homosexuals and those who convert from Islam to another religion, and he wrote in favor of wife-beating in a 1984 book.
MAS recommends Shamim Siddiqui's Methodology of Da'wah , which argues for an Islamic takeover of America because Washington's "treacherous hands" allegedly intervene whenever Muslims are on the verge of establishing an Islamic state. Mr. Siddiqui states that society will polarize between Muslims and non-Muslims "in every walk of life" as Muslims gain power, but that if Muslims are careful, there will be a general "Rush-to-Islam" that can make the faith dominant in the U.S.
Points extended to Mahdi Bray, president of the Muslim American Society, an opportunity to respond in this issue to Daveed Gartenstein-Ross' essay. He did not respond.
Listed below are links to blogs that reference this entry: What the Muslim American Society Reads.
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