Last Friday, Yusuf al-Qaradawi — the most influential Muslim Brotherhood cleric in the world — returned triumphantly to Cairo from his exile in Qatar as the man chosen to lead Friday prayers at Tahrir Square. Given that the Muslim Brotherhood has been banned as an illegal organization in Egypt for decades and al-Qaradawi was banned from entering Egypt because of his support for jihad and his anti-Egyptian pronouncements, this is huge in its implications. Out of all the people in the world, secular or religious, that could have been invited to lead prayers at the epicenter of the Egyptian revolution, the man selected and embraced was the banned jihad-mongering leader of the illegal Salafi-Jihadi Muslim Brotherhood.
If that isn’t bad enough, it just so happens that Yusuf al-Qaradawi — banned from entering the United States in 1999 because of his support for suicide bombings — is the esteemed chairman-in-absentia of the Muslim American Society’s Islamic American University.
To anyone who has cared to know, this should not come as a surprise because the established links between the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and the United States are substantial.
The Muslim American Society, considered to be the key Muslim Brotherhood policy organization in the United States, was founded in 1992 by two clandestine operatives of the Muslim Brotherhood: Ahmed Elkadi and Mohammed Mahdi Akef. At the time of its creation, Ahmed Elkadi was the head of the clandestine Muslim Brotherhood in the U.S., and Mohammed Mahdi Akef was the head of the Brotherhood’s international wing. Most recently, Akef served as the top leader, the supreme guide, of the Brotherhood from 2004-2010.
This secret genesis of the organization explains why in 2005, when asked by reporters if the Muslim American Society was a Muslim Brotherhood organization, then MAS General Secretary Shaker El Sayed stated that about 45 percent of MAS’ 1500 active members, which amounts to 675 individuals, actually belonged to the Brotherhood, and it explains why in 2008 Director of MAS Freedom Mahdi Bray traveled at least twice to Egypt in order to protest the treatment of Muslim Brotherhood members detained by the government.
Also in 2008, during an interview in his Cairo office, then Deputy Supreme Leader of the Brotherhood Mohammad Habib revealed that the Council on American Islamic Relations — the Hamas/Brotherhood front organization and un-indicted coconspirator in the Holy Land Foundation trial — has a relationship with the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt.
Few are aware that Souheil Ghannouchi., the current executive director of the Muslim American Society, is the nephew of renowned Muslim Brotherhood revolutionary leader Rachid Ghannouchi. He just returned to Tunisia as a hero after 23 years of exile, having been sentenced in absentia to three life sentences for trying to overthrow the Tunisian government. Rachid Ghannouchi and his al-Nahda organization are expected to be intimately involved in forming the new government in Tunisia.
The role that the Brotherhood is playing in forming the governments in Egypt and Tunisia, and in supporting uprisings in key countries such as Jordan and Yemen ushers in a new era of power and influence for the Brotherhood.
The American Muslim Brotherhood, with its close links to the revolutionary international movement, will also be born aloft by these developments and gain a new sense of strength and purpose. At a minimum its organizational, ideological, and revolutionary links to Cairo and Tunis will grow stronger and stronger, and its membership will be reinvigorated.
These developments are especially ill-timed because, as the recent Congressional report on the Ft. Hood massacre has so clearly revealed, our military and counterterrorism forces still do not understand, nor have they identified, violent Islamist extremism as the enemy.