By Andrew C. McCarthy — November 7, 2015
Members of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt.
"The Muslim Brotherhood youth in Egypt reject any form of violence.” So said Rachid Ghannouchi, who — you’ll no doubt be stunned to hear — heads up the Muslim Brotherhood’s Tunisian branch, Ennahda.
Naturally, Ghannouchi gave his Egyptian confederates a clean bill of health while speaking as an invited guest of the U.S. Institute for Peace in Washington. He is a master of the Brotherhood game, consulted by the State Department and a bipartisan Beltway clerisy ever on the hunt for that elusive “moderate Islamist.” He is an Islamic supremacist who knows he can worm his way into Washington’s heart by whispering sweet nothings about “democracy,” “pluralism,” and their seamless compatibility with sharia — Islam’s authoritarian, discriminatory, and brutally punitive legal code and societal framework.
It is nonsense, but Ghannouchi knows it is precisely the nonsense our government wants to hear. We don’t want to know about the Brotherhood, but man oh man do the Brothers ever go to school on us. Ghannouchi understands that if he chants “democracy” and “non-violence” enough times, there will be no inconvenient mention of his support of Hamas — the terrorist organization that is the Brotherhood’s Palestinian branch. No one will bring up his 2009 call for the opening of a “third jihadist front” against Israel. No one will quote his proclamations such as “I bring glad tidings that the Arab region will get rid of the germ of Israel” or “There are no civilians in Israel. Men, women and children, they are all reserves soldiers and can therefore be killed” — or that the United States government is “the great Satan.” Not a word will be uttered about his close alliance with Brotherhood eminence Yousef al-Qaradawi, the influential sharia jurist who calls for suicide bombings against the Jewish state and terrorist attacks against American soldiers in Iraq.
This week, finally, Ted Cruz decided enough is enough. The Texas senator and Republican presidential hopeful has proposed a bill to force the designation of the Muslim Brotherhood as what it actually is: a terrorist organization.
The legislation, Senator Cruz tells me, “is part of a larger effort to expose the various radical elements that are trying, both at home and abroad, to undermine our very way of life.”
A parallel focus of this effort is Iranian aggression — manifested again this week with the regime’s taking of yet another American hostage. Cruz has been a vigorous critic of the deal, negotiated by President Obama, that will make the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism a threshold nuclear power while materially supporting its terror promotion with over $100 billion in funding. The senator has also joined with colleagues in the House on a bill to apply the terrorist designation to the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps — the elite regime force that orchestrated much of the terrorist insurgencies against American troops in Afghanistan and Iraq, to say nothing of the 1995 bombing that killed 19 American airmen at the Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia.
The menace that is Iran is clear to most Americans outside the Obama administration. The Brotherhood, though, is a “complicated case,” Cruz acknowledges. They’ve managed to “convince the Obama administration they are a secular, political entity” that can be America’s “moderate partner and assist in outreach to the Muslim world.”
The proposed legislation corrects this dangerous misimpression by sketching the Brotherhood’s history and the centrality of violent jihad to it. It details, for example, the instruction of Brotherhood founder Hassan al-Banna that “jihad is an obligation from Allah on every Muslim and cannot be ignored or evaded.”
From its origins in the 1920s, Brotherhood doctrine has taught that jihad means “fighting the unbelievers,” “including beating them, plundering their wealth, destroying their places of worship and smashing their idols.” It has called for willing “martyrs” who understand the necessity of terrorism as “the art of death” — the route to ensuring Islam’s global dominance by convincing enemies that Islamic forces “loved death more than life” and were willing to perform any atrocities necessary to prevail.
While Ghannouchi would have us believe he has no information connecting the Egyptian Brotherhood with violence, Cruz’s bill recounts that, from its earliest days, the Egypt-based movement “established a terrorist wing, referred to as the ‘secret apparatus’, which conducted bombings and assassinations.” The savage use of force continues to this day, spearheaded by Hamas (designated as a terrorist organization since the mid-1990s), the Kuwaiti Muslim Brotherhood (Lajnat al-Dawa al-Islamia — designated as a terrorist organization in 2001), and Brotherhood factions in Egypt that oppose the current government and torment Coptic Christians, torching scores of churches, businesses, and homes.
Indeed, in 2010, the bill relates, the Brotherhood’s “supreme guide,” Mohamed Badie, “called on Arab and Muslim regimes to confront not just Israel but also the United States,” declaring that “resistance is the only solution against the Zio-American arrogance and tyranny.” The call to jihad followed the 2008 convictions of Hamas operatives in the Holy Land Foundation case. There, the Justice Department proved that the Brotherhood was the core of an elaborate conspiracy to support and finance Hamas — a conspiracy in which leading American Islamist organizations were complicit.
Cruz could not be more right in describing the Brotherhood as “the key foundation stone for radical Sunni terrorism that has spawned both al-Qaeda and ISIS.” In fact, as the bill describes, there is a significant history of Brotherhood underwriting of terrorism. In addition, key al-Qaeda figures have been launched by immersion in Brotherhood ideology.
It should come as no surprise, then, that where the Brotherhood is active, ISIS and al-Qaeda thrive.
This is notoriously the case in Syria, headquarters of the ISIS “caliphate,” where opponents of the Iran-backed regime are labeled “moderates” and “rebels” — a clear case of Washington straining to obscure the opposition’s significant Brotherhood and jihadist elements. Top Cruz adviser Victoria Coates points out that several years and millions of dollars have been squandered because the Obama administration “refuses to see that the Brotherhood is every bit as hostile to America as Assad is.”
Meanwhile, the Brotherhood is a prominent agitator in Libya, where al-Qaeda affiliates helped massacre Americans in Benghazi and where ISIS has established a beachhead. As Cruz’s legislation relates, Brotherhood factions are now colluding with jihadist groups fighting with great success against the failed government.
The United States will not have success in this volatile region until we have a strategy based on reality. Cruz persuasively contends that reality begins with no longer allowing the Brotherhood “to perpetuate the fiction that they are somehow reasonable and should be advising the highest levels of our government.”
To disastrous effect, the Obama administration has indulged the fantasy that American interests are served by making common cause with virulently anti-American Islamists who want Israel wiped from the map. Hillary Clinton, the Democratic nominee, has been an enthusiastic partner in the project to cultivate the Brotherhood. And too many Republicans have fallen prey to the illusion of a Middle East tamed by “sharia democracy” — an illusion that portrays enemies as friends and is continually surprised by the rising tide of jihadism.
Ted Cruz understands the threat and is distinguishing himself by charting a very different policy direction. It will serve him well. And it would serve the country well.
— Andrew C. McCarthy is a policy fellow at the National Review Institute. His latest book is Faithless Execution: Building the Political Case for Obama’s Impeachment.