Now that George Bush has backed away from any Wilsonian pretensions in Iraq, the question arises: if democracy fails there, will the American intervention have been proven to be a failure? Not necessarily. The war in Iraq has clearly dealt a severe blow to a terror network that was much larger than Saddam Hussein or Al-Qaeda — one that is over 75 years old. Because of the politically correct blackout in the mainstream media on serious inquiry into the roots of Islamic radicalism, many Americans still believe that the terrorist threat will end once Al-Qaeda is neutralized. But in reality, the roots of today’s war on terror lie in the creation not of Al-Qaeda, but of the Muslim Brotherhood.
The Muslim Brotherhood was founded in Egypt by Hassan Al-Banna in 1928. Al-Banna and the Brotherhood considered Islam to have an essential political and social character that needed to be reasserted in the face of the societal ills that had come to the Islamic world with secularism. Al-Banna’s vision was in perfect accord with that of classical Muslim scholars such as Ibn Khaldun, who taught in the fourteenth century that “in the Muslim community, the holy war is a religious duty, because of the universalism of the Muslim mission and (the obligation to) convert everybody to Islam either by persuasion or by force.” According to historian Brynjar Lia, “Quoting the Qur’anic verse ‘And fight them till sedition is no more, and the faith is God’s’ [Sura 2:193], the Muslim Brothers urged their fellow Muslims to restore the bygone greatness of Islam and to re-establish an Islamic empire. Sometimes they even called for the restoration of ‘former Islamic colonies’ in Andalus (Spain), southern Italy, Sicily, the Balkans and the Mediterranean islands.”
Such talk may have seemed laughable then, but it isn’t so much now in these days of increasing jihadist activity in Spain, the Balkans, and elsewhere in Europe. For the Brotherhood was no gang of marginalized kooks. By 1944 its membership was estimated as between 100,000 and 500,000. It expanded beyond Egypt, setting up “several branches in Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Palestine, Syria, Lebanon, and Morocco, and one in each of Bahrain, Hadramawt, Hyderabad, Djibouti and,” Lia adds matter-of-factly, “Paris.” These many thousands, dispersed around the world, heard al-Banna’s call to “prepare for jihad and be lovers of death.”
One of the Muslim Brotherhood’s principal children is the terrorist group Hamas, which identifies itself in its Charter as “one of the wings of the Muslim Brothers in Palestine. The Muslim Brotherhood Movement is a world organization, the largest Islamic Movement in the modern era. It is characterized by a profound understanding, by precise notions and by a complete comprehensiveness of all concepts of Islam in all domains of life: views and beliefs, politics and economics, education and society, jurisprudence and rule, indoctrination and teaching, the arts and publications, the hidden and the evident, and all the other domains of life.”
The fact that Al-Banna was no eccentric in thinking all this was underscored by the success of the Islamic revolution in Iran in 1979. Of course, Jimmy Carter’s feckless policies made the Ayatollah Khomeini’s triumph possible, but Khomeini himself, a Shi’ite who had no involvement in the Sunni Muslim Brotherhood, was absolutely clear: “Islam,” he declared, “makes it incumbent on all adult males . . . to prepare themselves for the conquest of [other] countries so that the writ of Islam is obeyed in every country in the world.”
Khomeini’s words are echoed today by Islamic groups around the world. Some are even rivals of Al-Qaeda. In fact, Abu Musab al Zarqawi, the terrorist mastermind in Iraq whom the CIA says murdered Nicholas Berg, is not an Al-Qaeda operative. His Tawhid group, according to Robert S. Leiken and Steven Brooke of the Nixon Center, “was ‘especially for Jordanians who did not want to join al Qaeda.'”
There is even a continuing threat from an old source: the Muslim Brotherhood. Just last Sunday Egyptian police arrested 54 members of the group on suspicion of involvement in terrorist activities. Although its younger, flashier children grab more of the headlines, the Brotherhood’s ongoing involvement in violence (combined with American unwillingness to acknowledge how compelling the radical vision of Islam is to Muslims) is just more evidence that today’s fixation with Al-Qaeda could be dangerously misleading. It also shows that despite Abu Ghraib and Al-Sadr, the Iraq war, in light of the damage it has done to this global Islamic terror network, has nonetheless been a success.