Middle East politics / Arabic / Counter-terrorism

Translation: Gulf views on the Muslim Brotherhood (Nazism/Leninism in a Muslim facade?)

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Given the Trump administration focus on rebuilding damaged alliances with traditional Middle Eastern allies that were neglected by President Obama, Emirati, Saudi and Egyptian views on issues such as terrorism and whatever relationship the Muslim Brotherhood has to that, will have more influence in the US in the coming years than say, the Qatari narrative that had much weight during the Obama years.

On that note, this is a fascinating article that was published in Al-Hayat, a major regional newspaper, by a distinguished Saudi anthropologist. It sheds some interesting light on those perspectives mentioned above, so I decided to translate it.

There’s alot in here – but I mark in blue what I think are the more noteworthy points, with my commentary at the end on what this may mean from a Trump administration Counter-Terrorism perspective.

The Soft Terrorism of the “Brotherhood” is the Foundation of violent religious movements

Al-Hayat Newspaper. 17 January 2015. Abdullah Hamidaddin

The phrase “soft terrorism” entails a totalitarian vision of the world, the self, the “other,” and history. This causes the individual to be in a state of continuoius existential struggle with himself and his society, if not the entire world. By contrast, “hard terrorism” takes the form of traditional violence.

While it may be true that “Soft terrorism” isn’t violent per se it does create a climate that is conducive to people committing various acts of social and political violence, given that the rejection of the “Other” may lead all the way to that person committing actual violence.

Soft terrorism includes two components. The first is the formulation of this totalitarian vision. The second is its spread.

These two factors first began to take shape in the late 19th century as a reaction to Western imperialism, and the fragmenting of the Ottoman Empire.  However, it was only with the emergence of the Muslim Brotherhood [late 1920s] that they developed into a comprehensive ideology propagated by political and cultural activists. The “Brothers” were inspired from their beginning by the ideas of National Socialism in its Nazi formula and the Leninist version of the Marxist vision.

This process reached its climax with Sayyid Qutb.  Readers of his famous books “Signposts in the Road” or “In the Shade of the Quran” got the feeling they were actually reading  “What Is to Be Done” by Lenin or “Mein Kampf” by Hitler.

In fact,  the most dangerous thing the “Muslim Brotherhood” did – whether intentionally or not – is their fusion of the Leninist/Nazi vision of the world with  [the Muslim] religion. This meant that the sanctity of Islam was lent to a violent, exclusionary ideology. As a result, what is now known as Political Islam is little more than Nazi/Leninst ideology with an Islamic facade  but with no relationship to Islam itself.

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Picture on side of article

The study of the relationship between the ideas of the “Muslim Brotherhood” and the ideas of Nazism/Leninism is not something new. Unfortunately, however, it has not gotten  quite the attention it deserves because most analysts uncritically accept that Islam is the inspiration of Political Islam.

For example, when Sayyid Qutb put forth his ideas using references from the Koran and the Hadith, too many people just assumed that Islam is in fact the inspiration for his ideas. They don’t imagine that Qutb would have taken the ideas he already had in his head before writing his books and attributed them to Islam. As if Qutb himself even thought that’s what he was doing! 
Continue reading “Translation: Gulf views on the Muslim Brotherhood (Nazism/Leninism in a Muslim facade?)”

Beating ISIS the “State” was the easy part – the ideology is the real challenge

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Over the weekend I read an article by former Obama administration official Andrew Exum stating that “President Trump will defeat ISIS” but that “it will mostly be due to the work of his predecessor.”

The article mostly dwells on the question of which administration should get the most credit. But its main flaw is that it implicitly assumes that the geographic entity in Syria and Iraq is the end all and be all of the problem. But as I noted in an article I wrote for in Fall 2015:

Defeating ISIS the geographic entity is the easy part:

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As a historical analogy, ISIS in Syria faces the same predicament as the Germans in the Second World War. Sure, they won some major early strategic victories against individual countries because of the Blitzkrieg tactics  which nobody was used to.  Once the coalition against them was put in place, however, it turned into a war of attrition with an inevitable outcome.

In a similar fashion, ISIS can not win a war of attrition, with literally the entire world blasting away at them, every day, over and over.

Reflecting standard conventional wisdom, The Atlantic article  overlooks that the primary objective is stoping the terrorism problem. Whether it emanates from some master genuine terrorist operating out of the central ISIS headquarters in Raqqa or from some guy in Florida watching Youtube videos of Anwar Awlaki that inspired him to go and shoot up a night club, it’s all the same.

The Greater Problem: anti-establishment Jihadist ideology

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Continue reading “Beating ISIS the “State” was the easy part – the ideology is the real challenge”

Egypt’s Intensifying Struggle: Establishment Islam (Azhar) vs Anti-Establishment Islamism (Daesh, MB)

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Below I have translated a February 13th article in Alaph newspaper titled “Daesh and the Muslim Brotherhood Call Upon Their Followers to Kill the Sheikh of Al-Azhar.”

It highlights the extent to which the political violence associated with Jihadist movements everywhere in the Muslim World is best understood using this paradigm:

Establishment versus Anti-Establishment 

The basic divides as relates to  Egypt in particular:

(Group A) Establishment Islam:

Al-Azhar University is the epitome of the Muslim Establishment in Egypt.  It is the training institute for the vast majority of the clerics who end up preaching at mosques throughout the country. And the second position mentioned throughout the article, the “Mufti of the Republic” is considered the highest-ranking cleric.

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The Sheikh (President) of Al-Azhar and the Mufti are not “tools” of the Government as some of their critics – both Jihadists and hard-core Leftists often allege. They have massive prestige in the eyes of the overwhelming majority of Egyptians. However, it is true that nobody gets appointed to these very high-level religious posts unless they are seen as  “Company Men” by the Government.

Most importantly, those Egyptians who are most content with the social-cultural-economic status quo will tend to be most supportive of this  “Establishment Islam.”

(Group B) Extreme Anti-Establishment Islamism:

It goes without saying that Daesh, ISIS,  and other Jihadist groups etc are the epitome of the extreme Anti-Establishment.

It’s  not just card carrying members though who fall within this group. There are also several million passive sympathizers with Daesh or with Jihadist groups in Egypt. They are unlikely to act on those sympathies because the social consequences would be too high for them or their families, but they are there, in the shadows.  And nobody has any idea who they are. Will they ever act on their sympathies in the future if an opportune moment arises? Nobody knows.

(Group C) Some Vague  and Hard to Clarify Point in the Middle:

The Muslim Brotherhood is a direct competitor to the Al-Azhar establishment and falls in the Anti-Establishment category to a large extent. Although to be fair to the Muslim Brotherhood, as a caveat, I should mention that the Alaph article is written from an inherently anti-Ikhwan perspective and the evidence cited against them in the article below should be treated with a strong degree of healthy skepticism.

That being said, without question, individual members of the Ikhwan have shifted over to the Jihadi world-view in recent years. So if officially as a group the MB structure would be closer to the Establishment (their goal is in fact to be the Establishment), some ex-Ikhwanis have become Jihadis, and many who remain officially as Brotherhood members are in fact Jihadist sympathizers.

It is not a neat “either/or” situation as is sometimes portrayed by academics.  An individual can have a foot in/sympathies with both camps, and can easily switch back and forth depending upon whatever circumstance may arise.

To the article…

My translation with some commentary at the end.


Daesh and the Muslim Brotherhood Call Upon Their Members to Kill the Sheikh of Al-Azhar

Cairo – Consistent with the typical strategy of terrorist organizations to kill and liquidate their opposition, the “Daesh” terrorist organization released a video recording, imploring its followers to carry out assassinations against several members of the Muslim Ulema, in particular, Dr. Ahmed Tayyeb, the head of  Al-Azhar.

The tape was released by the Daesh-affiliated media office of the “Ninevah Province” and shared on social media. It listed the names of several of the Ulema from Egypt and the Gulf, accusing them of apostasy. The tape, which took the name “Spies not Ulema,” featured recordings of previous statements by these clerics against Daesh, calling them [Daesh] “the Evil Ulema.”

The recordings made the accusation that the Fatwas of these [establishment] clerics were the cause of the war against the [Daesh] Organization, and described the killings of the [establishment] Ulema as a “great good and benefit to all.” It called upon its members to carry out assasinations against them when the opportunity arises, whether by way of shooting with a gun, or by slitting their throats. Among the names listed in the recording were Dr. Ali Guma’a, former Mufti of the Republic, Sheikh Mohammed Hassan, in addition to other clerics and preachers.

However, the Daesh organization is not the only one in Egypt making such threats against Egyptian religious figures. The Brotherhood terrorist organization called upon its members to target and seek retribution against the Ulema claiming that they are misleading the people with their Fatwas. A page was published on a social media site called “Association of Muslim Ulama Against the Coup (Europe) ” with information about Dr. Ahmed Tayyeb, the head of Al-Azhar, and Dr. Ali-Gum’aa, former Mufti of the Republic, and Dr. Osama al-Azhari, advisor to the President of the Republic. The site included their home addresses, their places of birth, and several fatwas they issued, plus their political views. Also published was their phone numbers and followers were called upon to get in touch and harrass them.

Previous Crimes Continue reading “Egypt’s Intensifying Struggle: Establishment Islam (Azhar) vs Anti-Establishment Islamism (Daesh, MB)”

A 1977 documentary with critical insights for countering 2017 Jihadist propaganda

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This is an important 1977 documentary – currently available on Netflix – and should be required viewing for anyone tasked with crafting effective messaging to undermine the recruiting appeal of Islamist extremist groups like ISIS and Al-Qaeda.

For three reasons:  Continue reading “A 1977 documentary with critical insights for countering 2017 Jihadist propaganda”

My review of “Defeating Jihad” by senior Trump CT Advisor Sebastian Gorka

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It is often said that “personnel is policy.”

Today, Dr. Sebastian Gorka – recently appointed to a high-level Counter-Terrorism position in the Trump administration – was the subject of an  in-depth Politico profile.

Over the weekend I read Dr. Gorka’s 2016 book and will review in this post.
Continue reading “My review of “Defeating Jihad” by senior Trump CT Advisor Sebastian Gorka”

What an “America First” policy actually means in the Middle East

I have a new article out for a political website based in California on why the concept of “America First” as applied to say, the Middle East, merely means smarter US policy with better results, NOT isolationism.

Continue reading “What an “America First” policy actually means in the Middle East”

Analyzing (mostly) mediocre US anti-Jihadism messaging – p1


This is the first in a series of posts analyzing US government efforts to undermine the recruiting appeal of ISIS and other Jihadist groups. As noted in a post last week, these efforts have been ineffective at very best. Continue reading “Analyzing (mostly) mediocre US anti-Jihadism messaging – p1”

What explains the inability to implement the “Daesh” theory in Egypt’s Sinai

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My translation of some solid analysis on a major CT issue by one of the Middle East’s top experts Egypt’s top experts:

Continue reading “What explains the inability to implement the “Daesh” theory in Egypt’s Sinai”

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