Washington, D.C., Asharq Al-Awsat- Reports on the international Muslim Brotherhood movement are few and far between and information on the movement is even scarcer. A number of leading figures within the movement in the region, who spoke to Asharq Al Awsat, asserted that they know little about the Muslim Brotherhood as an international movement.There are various reasons behind the lack of knowledge on the organization, including the absence of updated and accurate information as well as the existence of fundamental political differences between various affiliated organizations of the MB, such as the Kuwaiti Constitutional Front and the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, which hampers communication at the regional level and accordingly weakens the knowledge of international relations between affiliated organizations of MB. Furthermore, there are some associated organizations of the MB that do not consider themselves "part" of "an integral whole" but rather regard themselves as "independent Islamic" organizations which evolved in their political practices more than the Muslim Brotherhood movement in Egypt for example. However, they do not deny that they emerged from the same body as the ideological and Daawa movement of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt in the 1920s, ‘30s, ‘40s and ‘50s.
Nevertheless, there is another reason behind the vagueness or "deliberate vagueness" surrounding the international movement, which appeared in the 1980s at the hands of the late supreme guide of the Muslim Brotherhood, Mustafa Mashhur. In light of the background of prosecutions practiced against Muslim Brotherhood members in Egypt, many of them had fled to the Gulf region and Europe. Consequently, a need for creating a conceptual and regulatory framework had emerged so as to preserve relationships between Muslim Brotherhood members inside and outside of the country. Another reason for such ambiguity is that the Muslim Brotherhood members are not comfortable discussing their external relationships outside of the national framework as this causes the Brotherhood to be perceived as an "international" threat. Concerning the security level and along this line, a campaign of arrests had taken place in Egypt recently against leaders of the movement and resulted in the arrest of around 140 members, most notably chairmen of boards of financial and business companies that are affiliated to the movement. A warrant was issued to arrest two leading members of the MB; Youssef Nada (Egyptian) and Syrian member of the Brotherhood, Ghalib Hamat, directors of the Al Taqwa Bank. The two were accused of managing the financial activities of the MB and funding the Egyptian member organization. At the political level, the warning issued by Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, in which he stated that the Muslim Brotherhood endangers the national security of Egypt, had intentionally or even inadvertently drawn attention to the international nature of the MB. The Egyptian President stated “If we assume that there is a rise in this trend we will see a repeat in Egypt of other experiences … of regimes representing political Islam,” and that Egypt would suffer from isolation as a result. With that, he referred to Hamas in Palestine based on the fact that affiliated organizations to the Muslim Brotherhood are "part of an integral whole," and that they all enjoy the same political and ideological background as well as regulatory relationships.
From the US perspective, the differences between viewpoints of American officials were apparent regarding the affiliated organizations of the Muslim Brotherhood as independent entities. A number of American officials whom Asharq Al Awsat spoke to said that the US administration tackles the Muslim Brotherhood movement on a "country-based," individual and independent basis. Nevertheless, the US administration does not overlook the fact that these affiliate organizations are gathered under the umbrella of the international organization and that there are financial, regulatory and political links that bind them together even if the link is not apparent to the public. However, other American officials said that the United States tackles "states", not "international organizations", and that there is no "unanimous comprehensive policy" that asserts that the Muslim Brotherhood movement is a "global organization".
So how exactly does the United States regard Muslim Brotherhood organizations in the region? Does it consider these organizations separate regional entities or does it consider them organizations which gather under "a single framework"? One of the criteria that determine the extent of the comprehension of the nature of the international organization by US administration is the "abundance of information". In this regard, we must clarify that there are a number of ambiguous aspects surrounding the activities of the organization and that there is no sufficient information to cover this topic, especially concerning the financial side, the organization's meetings and regulatory relationships.
A prominent American official in the US State Department explained that the US administration deals with Muslim Brotherhood organizations on an individual level. He does not believe that the American administration has sufficient knowledge on the links that bind the Muslim Brotherhood organizations in the region, or their funding. He stated that undoubtedly, after the 9/11 attacks, there is an increasing state of sensitivity in tackling the issue; this is not to accuse the Muslim Brotherhood movement of involvement in the 9/11 attacks but rather all issues are now linked to funding. He continued to say that there is considerable American concern regarding the funding of terrorism more than ever before, however, that the Islamic ascent in the region is not considered a global conspiracy. The American official added that the related concerns are both local and individual concerns. With regard to Hamas for instance, he explains that the associating question is whether Hamas is a purely Palestinian organization or has it become a tool for Iranian foreign policy and the Syrian regime. The debate in Washington revolves around similar issues. The official states that he does not believe that there is a “Pope for Islamists” somewhere and that there is a state of coordination between them owing to their similar ideologies, challenges and clashes with their countries' regimes.
Another official in the US State Department attributed the individual manner in which the American administration deals with Islamic organizations in the region to the absence of a specific political or geographical entity for the international movement of the Muslim Brotherhood.
Former American Ambassador to Egypt, Daniel Kurtzer, agreed with the aforementioned view and told Asharq Al Awsat that the US had been studying the evolution of the Muslim Brotherhood movement since its onset in the 1920s. The US is aware that it is an Egyptian movement; however its leaders and ideologists have influence upon others who sought to imitate the same ideologies and follow the path of the Muslim Brotherhood in other countries.
On the other hand, there are those who do not place the blame on the lack or absence of updated and accurate information on the ties between the affiliated organizations of the Muslim Brotherhood. There are those who believe that the problem has historical roots, since the United States had not set a clear foreign policy towards global relations between Muslim Brotherhood member organizations. Included in this group is Marina Ottoway, director of the Middle East program at the Washington-based Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, who explained that she was not sure whether the United States has a specific policy towards the international organization of the Muslim Brotherhood movement. She also stated that she did not think that anybody had a clear idea about the MB and the nature of relationships and ties with different member organizations. Ottoway stated that the need to conduct research on this topic was discussed at the Carnegie Endowment as “the issue is not fully understood.”
Ottoway told Asharq Al Awsat that she was aware of ties between different organizations of the Muslim Brotherhood movement and that some of these links were strong and that nobody could fully understand these links. She explained that a colleague of hers had undergone research in Kuwait, where the Muslim Brotherhood was no longer as close as it used to be to the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and that the relationship was quite complicated.
However, other former officials of the American administration were more certain about the international organization and its role. These included Dennis Ross, the Middle East peace envoy of the former US administration of President Bill Clinton, who told Asharq Al Awsat that he considered the Muslim Brotherhood movement an international organization. With regards to the issue of dialogue with Hamas, Ross stated that he was against this as the movement refuses the two-state solution and rejects the cessation of violence. However, Ross is fully aware of who makes up the movement and that the Muslim Brotherhood movement is a global, not a local movement. Ross also claims to know about the decision-making process and the role of Shura (Consultative) Council within this international organization. He added that he would not talk to the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and that despite its assertion that it wants to engage in the political process in Egypt, the movement supports the use of violence in other areas and this is the main problem. He firmly stated that as long as the movement supported violence as a means to achieve political objectives, then dialogue could not be established with such an organization.
Others believe that the American administration combines two features. The first of these is distinguishing between different member organizations of the MB in the region and the other aspect is the fact that the US administration realizes that there is an international organization of the Muslim Brotherhood movement that acts as an umbrella for various organizations. Among those who adopt this view is Danielle Pletka, a researcher at American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research. In this regard, she told Asharq Al Awsat that the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt is not the same as the Muslim Brotherhood in Syria or in Jordan. And that American administration distinguishes between different member organizations of the MB. She explains that the US administration also differentiates between the international organization of the Muslim Brotherhood and affiliated local organizations in different countries. Pletka believes that there are some people within the US administration who know the difference between these organizations as well as the financial and political relationships between them. It is for this reason that the American administration had stopped all transactions with the Iranian Bank Saderat owing to its links to Islamist organizations. However, she added, this does not mean that the administration is fully aware of everything.
One could say that the approach of American foreign policy defines the way in which American officials understand and recognize the issue of the international Muslim Brotherhood movement. Staff members of US State Department are responsible for country-based issues. An official in the US State Department told Asharq Al Awsat, "We work on a local level, that is, on the case of a certain country or state. In the state department we work also on a regional level, where we study cases for example in Lebanon or in the Maghreb region. We all work in the same bureau but there is no solid coordination between the different cases. There are members who study religious parties in the Maghreb region and who specialize in this field. However, they do not coordinate with members who are specialized in tackling the issue of the Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan for example. Despite that, they all work within the same realm of the Middle East, but we generally work on the level of a certain country in the US State Department."
The General Statute of the International Organization of Muslim Brotherhood Movement
* The General Statute of the international organization of the Muslim Brotherhood, which was ratified on July 29 1982, emphasized that security, political and financial constriction upon country-based organizations affiliated to the MB is an incentive for the organization to endorse international cooperation. Despite the fact that it is difficult to obtain information about MB meetings and its role in coordinating between affiliated organizations, it is possible to assume that there is a direct relation between the frequency of the meetings and coordination of efforts of the international organization on one hand and the security, political and financial constriction upon country-based organizations on the other hand. The general statute that was ratified during Mustafa Mashhur’s term as Supreme Guide stated that "In the light of the expansion of the activities of the movement, as well as the experiences that the movement has encountered, and taking into account all the circumstances that affect the movement and the requirements of the current period, the Shura Council, which was established according to the provisional regulation, decided to accredit the general statute of the movement." This asserted upon the international nature of the movement. Some of the most important items of the general statute follow:
- Definitions of the main administrative bodies of the MB: the Supreme Guide, the General Guidance Bureau and the General Shura Council.
The Supreme Guide - The Supreme Guide of the Muslim Brotherhood is the official in charge of the movement who heads the General Guidance Bureau and the General Shura Council and undertakes the following tasks:
A) To supervise all departments of the movement as well as directing and monitoring officials in charge and holding them accountable for negligence, according to the statute of the movement.
B) To represent the movement and its affairs and to speak on its behalf.
C) To assign members of the movement to carry out tasks within its scope.
D) To summon general supervisors representative of different countries for meetings when necessary.
The Supreme Guide is selected by virtue of the following steps:
- After consulting with executive offices in different countries, the General Guidance Bureau nominates the two most popular candidates from these offices if there is no agreement on a single individual who fits the criteria.
- According to the previous step, after a decision by the Guidance Bureau, the Deputy Supreme Guide summons the Shura Council for a meeting to be held that may take up to a week, in order to elect the new supreme guide. The invitation for the meeting should include the time, place, topic and the quorom and should be addressed at least one month earlier than the set date of the meeting.
- The Shura Council, headed by the Deputy Supreme Guide, convenes. If the Deputy Supreme Guide is one of the nominated candidates then the council is to be headed by the eldest member and in the presence of at least four-fifths of the members of the Shura Council. If the quorum was not met throughout the week, the meeting is to be postponed for another date that should be held no earlier than one month and no later than two months after the date of the first meeting. If the three-quarters majority of the Council members did not attend this meeting then the meeting is to be postponed once again. In this case, the council should set a date for the new meeting within the previously mentioned time-span. It should announce the objective of the meeting and the fact that the meeting will only be valid in case of an absolute majority.
- If there is only one nominee then he should receive at least three-quarters of the votes of attendees where the vote can be recast only once. If the candidate does not receive the required majority, the council is summoned for another meeting during the week, wherein the Guidance Bureau nominates another member. The second nominee can also run in a re-vote once only and if he fails to meet the required majority then the council is to be held again during the week. The Guidance Bureau is to nominate another member and a re-vote could be held once. If the nominee fails to achieve the required majority, the voting process is to be repeated among candidates according to the next step…
- If there are two nominees, then the voters would consider the one who receives the majority of votes of at least half the members of the Shura Council.
- The Guidance Bureau
The Guidance Bureau is the supreme executive office of the Muslim Brotherhood and the authority that supervises the conduct of Daawa and that controls its policies and administration.
The Guidance Bureau is composed of thirteen members, as well as the Supreme Guide, who are selected according to the following criteria:
- Eight members are elected from among the members of the Shura council from the region in which the Supreme Guide resides.
- Five members are elected from among the members of the Shura Council in accordance with regional representation.
- The Supreme Guide selects a treasurer from among the members of the Guidance Bureau.
- The General Shura Council
The General Shura Council is the legislative authority of the Muslim Brotherhood. Its rules are binding and its term in office is four years according to the Hijri calendar.
- The Shura Council is composed of at least 30 members who represent accredited Muslim Brotherhood organizations in various countries. They are selected by Shura councils in different countries or their alternative representatives. The number of representatives of each country is determined by the Shura Council.
- The Shura Council is entitled to include three specialized and experienced members who are to be nominated by the Guidance Bureau.
- Any new Muslim Brotherhood entity could be represented if the Guidance Bureau accredits it.
The relationship between the Muslim Brotherhood movement and country-based organizations is determined according to the following domains:
The First Domain: Leaders of country-based organizations commit to the decisions of the general leadership represented by the Supreme Guide, the Guidance Bureau and the General Shura Council. It includes the following:
- Commitment to the principles mentioned in the statute, when the country-based organization drafts its own statute, regarding membership, its conditions and ranks as well as the need for the existence of the Shura Council alongside the executive office. This is in addition to the necessity of committing to consultations and the results of these consultations by all bodies affiliated to Muslim Brotherhood etc.
- Commitment to the Muslim Brotherhood's understanding of Islam that is derived from the Quran and the Sunnah (Prophetic traditions) and which is emphasized by the twenty principles [of Imam Hassan al Banna] and commitment to the educational approach which is ratified by the General Shura Council.
- Adherence to the policies and positions of the Muslim Brotherhood towards public issues as determined by the General Guidance Bureau and the General Shura Council.
- Commitment to obtaining the approval of the Guidance Bureau before making any important political decisions.
The Second Domain: Leaders of country-based organizations should consult and receive the approval of the Supreme Guide or the Guidance Bureau before the adoption of resolutions. This domain also includes all important local issues that could affect the organization in any other country.
The Third Domain: This domain deals conclusively with the freedom of leaders of member organizations. They are expected to inform the Guidance Bureau of their activities as soon as possible or through the annual report that is submitted by the general supervisor. This domain includes the following:
- All that is related to the plan of the member organization in the country, the activities of its divisions and the growth of its organization.
- The political stances towards all local issues, which do not affect Muslim Brotherhood organizations in other countries, provided that general positions of the movement are adhered to.
- The legitimate means adopted by the member organization which aims at achieving the objectives of the Muslim Brotherhood in light of its conditions and circumstances.
- Each country is to set its own statute for organizing its activities, which should be set according to its own circumstances and that should be approved by the General Guidance Bureau before being put into effect.
- Each general supervisor is to submit an annual report on the progress of Daawa, the organizations activities and proposals that they deem capable of realizing the interests of the organization in its region, to the Guidance Bureau before holding the meeting with the General Shura Council.
- To contribute to Daawa, each member organization should pay an annual subscription. The value of this subscription is to be determined in agreement with the General Guidance Bureau.
- Muslim Brotherhood members who do not live in their native countries should comply with the leadership of the movement in the country in which they reside.