On Calling the Muslim Brotherhood 'Terrorists'
by N. M. GUARIGLIA
February 15, 2017
If you can't solve a problem, enlarge it.
If President Trump should decide to issue an Executive Order labeling the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization, all hell will break loose. It will make the reaction to the nominal "Muslim ban" pale in comparison. And that is going to the U.S. Supreme Court.
With that in mind, the administration should go forward with this order anyway. It is long overdue, believe me. That I can tell you.
The why is obvious to anyone who studies this topic. The Muslim Brothers are in fact fathers to the modern global jihadist movement. Both Hamas and al-Qaeda (and by extension ISIS) have their origins in the Brotherhood dating back to the Egyptian puritan Sayyid Qutb. Qutb came to America in 1949 and did not like what he saw. Material abundance. Individual autonomy. Secular reason. An interest in sports. "Animal-like" mixing of men and women.
Qutb promptly returned to Egypt and joined the Muslim Brotherhood; an oppression-conglomerate that is today considered a terrorist organization by countries such as Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Russia (but at the moment, not America).
In 2011-12, after more than 80 years of terror, the Brotherhood finally seized control over the nation of Egypt. But one year later, they lost it. Upon coming to power, President Mohamed Morsi aimed to install a Brotherhood-led Islamist theocratic dictatorship. The Egyptian people, who wanted change in 2011 but not of the Islamist variety, felt hoodwinked and rebelled for the second time in two years. Morsi was quickly deposed by General Abdel Sisi, a secular and clearly preferable alternative.
So there should be little doubt that America has sufficient technical justification for declaring the Brotherhood a terror group. The lawyers can get into the weeds on that one.
But how we go about it will make all the difference. This one cannot be argued over Twitter. As it stands, there are several prominent Muslim-Americans, whose names and backgrounds can be researched online, that have, shall we say, more-than-murky relationships with the Brotherhood. Though many of these men and their domestic organizations were listed by the FBI as unindicted co-conspirators in the Holy Land Foundation, the largest terror-financing bust in American history, they still nevertheless retain a surprising level of political influence throughout the capital and among the commentariat.
To declare these men terrorists or terrorist-supporters will provoke a dog fight with the Left. In fact, such a declaration would strike at the heart of how the Left has tried to frame the conversation on Radical Islam since 2001. The playbook should by now be predictable. Trump will be accused of "Islamophobia." The New York Times will demagogue about "McCarthyism" and "racism." The dying legacy media will strawman on "nativism" and "xenophobia." The bureaucracies will warn that it "may fuel extremism" and "cause blowback." And so on and so forth.
It would therefore be wise of the administration to remember the following precept: slow is smooth and smooth is fast. For the first time in more than 30 years, the Left is no longer employing the tactics of identity-politics with any great effect. That cynical well has all but dried up. Emboldened by the Trump Revolution, the American counterculture has decided to begin laughing that nonsense off; even relishing it. This is why college campuses are burning and the Left is hysterical; not merely because Trump won in November, but because the country decided to no longer accept their primary method of argumentation, i.e. the race-baiting ad hominem.
The guilt-trip is over. The middle class in Middle America unexpectedly finds itself controlling the parameters of the national conversation for the first time in many years. To his credit, Trump does not underestimate the significance of this. He ought to consequently restrain his inner Wild Bill on this topic (though that can be fun, too) and instead offer the country a sustained and substantive dialogue on how America should view Radical Islam itself as an ideological adversary.
A good place to start would be defining the enemy; a strategic requirement America has ignored for decades. Perhaps Jim Mattis, who knows a thing or two about the enemy, should lead the discussion. Perhaps President Trump should meet with Muslim reformers the way he does with leaders of the black community. For the administration to embrace and promote the likes of Maajid Nawaz and Ayaan Hirsi Ali, with the same moral clarity that Reagan supported anti-Soviet dissidents, would force the Left into a moral quandary: either continue slandering these Muslim allies as Uncle Toms... or come up with a better explanation for what is good and what is evil. Given the low regard with which the Left holds Trump, this should not be an intimidating intellectual challenge for our progressive friends.
In my view, there is a distinction to be made between Islamic "terrorists" and "Islamists." While the terrorists and Islamists may share the same barbaric Qutbist ideology, and want the same vision of the world imposed on its inhabitants, they differ on tactical matters. The terrorists target unsuspecting civilians with indiscriminate mass violence, whereas the Islamists use political intimidation to overthrow governments and seize control of nation-states. Sometimes the only practical difference between the two is age, with the Islamists as former terrorists in retirement.
In conjunction with labeling the Brotherhood a terrorist group, the administration should also begin asking uncomfortable but necessary questions about sharia law, the Islamic legal system supported by Muslim masses across the world. Such questions could even be adjoined with the travel ban debate for good measure. For instance, the First Amendment to the U.S. Bill of Rights declares a right to freedom of belief and freedom of expression, but the penalty under sharia law for both ("apostasy" and "blasphemy") is death! The penalty for homosexuality is death, as well. How tolerable of those views should the Free World be? Perhaps some Americans should travel to Malmo, Sweden, now the "rape capital of the world," or Cologne, Germany and observe the consequences of their recommendations.
Of course, with Radical Islam, it always comes back to women. Last week marked the annual International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). The occasion was met with near-total silence from the Left, most bewilderingly liberal women, who seem particularly spirited and activist these days (so long as it relates to Trump). But FGM Day came and went without a march, protest, or riot, as far as I can tell. The only major news, largely ignored by the mainstream media, came from the British National Health Service, which released a report detailing how its hospitals identify a case of FGM once every hour. "Between April 2015 and March 2016," the report states, "there were 8,656 times when women or girls attended doctors' surgeries or hospitals and the problem was assessed." And this is in "Magna Carta" England where the practice of FGM is obviously illegal. Is this something the Free World should be importing?
These are the consequences to which I refer. One can go on for hours... which is the point, is it not? We should be going on for hours. This is a long discussion that must be had. President Trump has assembled a cabinet full of people who share his New York moxie. If he wants to win the legal argument against the Muslim Brotherhood, he should be prepared to have his administration win the ideological argument on Radical Islam in its totality.
Contributing Editor N.M. Guariglia is an essayist who writes on Islam and Middle Eastern geopolitics.