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Terror Tracker

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February 16, 2011 - 6:32 am

There is a lot of talk about moderation in the Muslim Brotherhood, especially since Clapper’s recent flap calling them a “largely secular” organization that “has eschewed violence.” The key elements that prove the absolute falseness of this idea are the MB’s membership rules and education structures.

A “Muslim Brother” becomes a true member of the organization by passing through a “Tarbeyah” [education] system and taking an oath of membership to the group’s goals. These education systems, as seen in MB and Jamaat-e-Islami (the South Asian version of the MB) branches all over the world, including the United States, focus on churning out “Movement-oriented” individuals who agree to a number of basic ideological principles. These include the idea of Iqamat-ud-Deen, or “Establishing the religion,” which includes helping the growth of an Islamic state wherever it may arise, jihad to protect other Muslims, etc.

An example of this can be seen in the relationship in Jordan’s Muslim Brotherhood groups, the IAF and the MBM. Jordan’s Islamic Action Front (IAF) is the political branch of the Jordanian Muslim Brotherhood Movement (MBM). The MBM is the hardcore organization of inducted Muslim Brotherhood members, while the closely-linked IAF follows the general ideology but lacks the structured education and supervision of the MBM. Dr. Raheel Gharibeh, a leading figure of the IAF and the former head its political department, explained this in an interview:

Membership in the Movement is far more restricted than in the party. To be a

member in the Movement, your religious duties are watched and monitored,

including your fasting, prayers, behaviors, speeches and almost all other activities.

The party is less strict, and does not focus on what individuals do and do not do

on daily basis. It is also open to all Jordanians regardless of their political,

religious or ideological orientations, unlike the Movement. In fact, we have a

Christian in the party, but this would not be possible in the Movement.

A clearer example of Muslim Brotherhood education came be seen in the US branches of the MB. The primary MB branch in the United States, the Muslim American Society, and Jamaat-e-Islami in America, the Islamic Circle of North America, developed a joint curriculum in 2001 to educate members. The action was part of a process that brought MAS and ICNA together ideologically, as outlined in court documents from the HLF trial and actualized in 2001, with a merger of the ideology and education wings of the two groups.

In ICNA, inductees pass through one level of education and an extensive monitoring process of their actions, reported back to the central leadership through a buddy system, After the course, which takes a couple of years, they take an oath to ICNA’s goals and are offered basic membership. They then pass through a second level of education and further monitoring to become MGAs, Members of the General Assembly, who then have a right to vote in the group’s elections, outline the induction and education process for other newbies, etc. MAS works similarly, with members passing through various levels of education before becoming a part of the leadership.

The membership of MAS and ICNA are much more indoctrinated than the average Muslim, who may pray at their mosques or participate in their programs, but who never went through the indoctrination process.

Seeing how the MB works on the inside, in America and Egypt, is a microcosm of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, the most extensive and founding branch of the movement. The intensive monitoring, loyalty oaths, and education that MB brothers experience creates a dedicated ideological core that changes very little. Even if the political branches of these groups give a moderate message, years of intensive education and ideological strengthening mean that the group’s real members stay just as radical.

Terror Tracker is a senior researcher on Islamism and radicalization at an intelligence think tank in Washington DC.
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