The Muslim Brotherhood and the Mobilizational Power of Ideology
(Dr. J. Michael Waller, September 6, 2013)
Transcript available below
About the speaker
Professor J. Michael Waller has been a scholar-practitioner in public diplomacy, political warfare, psychological operations and information operations in support of US foreign and military policy for more than 25 years. He was a member of the staff of the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate, served on the White House Task Force on Central America, was an operative for members of the White House Active Measures Working Group, and has been a consultant to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the U.S. Information Agency, the U.S. Agency for International Development, the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the U.S. Army, and the U.S. Special Operations Command.
J. Michael Waller:
The mobilizational power of ideology is something that our government is not equipped to understand regardless of who is in political power, who is in political office. We don’t have a way of coping with it which is odd because everyone elected to a position of power in our country understands the mobilizational power of ideology in getting themselves into office in the first place, so if you look at our foreign and domestic enemies, kind of the way you’d look at politics.
You know there are certain factors where, beyond which a certain individual cannot be flexible in a certain space, but if you understand the ideology if not of the individual at least the movement that supports that individual. You’ll find there are places where certain politicians cannot go, certain hot button issues we have in American politics.
So you have also in with our enemies such as the Muslim Brotherhood, which is an enemy of the United States. You think, for example, when people take the oath of say, their commission, as an officer the oath of enlistment or the oath of office as an elected official. They swear to do what? To uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies foreign and domestic.
How is enemy defined? Look in the DOD Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms. It’s this thick. The word enemy is not defined. They have enemy combatant. They don’t have a modifier. So how can a person in uniform, to say nothing of a person with a badge or someone who works in this complex here, how can they really know what an enemy is if we don’t define it? And more when those who do define the enemy are so marginalized that they either feel intimidated against saying something or are intimidated by others and banned effectively as we’re seeing and have been seeing.
So I’d like to just go into this as one case study, which is the Muslim Brotherhood and its mobilizational power of ideology. It acts as a mobilizer to create that will as we just heard to move, to do something. So I think to believe in something you’re not going to get up out of your chair to do anything about it. So yeah you might believe it. You might talk a big game but are you really going to be motivated to mobilize? No. Generally not unless there’s another factor there. There can be a belief factor, a theological factor, a supernatural/cosmic… however you want to explain it, a political factor, a material factor, a social factor, sometimes it’s a feeling of inadequacy that motivates you to want to matter in your life, want to make a difference in your life.
So ideology is really important for any political movement and looking at the Muslim Brotherhood as a case study once you understand the political movement, it’s like taking an anatomy class. We study anatomy say in the military, why? To be a medic. To heal, right? But also to know where to shoot the guy. To know where the vulnerable points are. We do this with geography. We do this with architecture. How do you take down that building with these precision weapons? What do you take it down here, here and here? You find those vulnerable nodes so once you understand the anatomy, the physical anatomy of something, you can take it down. Arnold Schwarzenegger said, “If it bleeds, we can kill it.” Think of that invisible enemy they couldn’t see and all of a sudden they saw that blood, ‘Oh, we can get this thing now. We know how it works. It’s a biological being. Now we know what to do.’
So getting to the Muslim Brotherhood. I understand how it works, what the ideology is, you can pretty much figure… It’s not so hard to take down. We just have to devote the resources to doing it. So this is sort of a Rosetta Stone to give an old pre-Islamic Egyptian based example. To understand the intentions. To understand what it is that makes it an enemy. Is this different from us? Is it something over there? And if you look at the Muslim Brotherhood, what’s its end game?
J. Michael Waller:
Submission of what? Egyptians?
J. Michael Waller:
Muslims? Everybody. Us, right? Meaning ultimately replace the Constitution of the United States with their own weird political control, which means it’s by definition that it is an enemy of the United States because its people are sent here to subvert and or overthrow the Constitution of the United States. So it is a foreign enemy and it is a domestic enemy. Well, you can’t learn that if you’re going to the FBI Academy because some people with the Brotherhood there have been hired as subject matter experts to teach us how to look at Muslims. It’s the same with Department of Defense. Those guys are based in Plainfield, Indiana at ISNA but… but they’re training our intelligence officers, our law enforcement officers, our counterintelligence officers because ‘oh, we’re not violent’. We look American. We talk American. We don’t wear stuff on our head. We don’t. We’re just like you. We just have a different religion.
So they are taking the religion and using it as a political ideology which is consistent with the founding of the Brotherhood after the fall of the caliphate after World War I. The Muslim Brotherhood is founded to reestablish the caliphate and they stated specifically back in the 1930s it is a political movement. But if you’re ever asked to Dubai, where does the political part break off from the Islam? They say there is no difference at all.
So they take theology, use it as a political ideology for political control so you define political control as human control over populations and over real estate for territory. That’s political control as opposed to something more spiritual. The Brotherhood… The Brotherhood… hardened itself through clandestine [activities]. It’s had decades to build discipline, generations of disciplined cadre who communicate with each other in the open but through what criminologists used to call esoteric communication, meaning an open form of communication that everyone in the know understood. You need an ideology to guide you that way and to communicate that way. And this is how they’re able to take whatever language they happen to be speaking, they can communicate to one another in one way that’s interpreted the way that the speaker intends but for outsiders to misinterpret.
Now, ideology and ideals are a motivator. [The] first one is a negative motivator: to be against something. They’re against the established Egyptian government… or they were… I guess they are again now, right? But back in the 20s, 30s, 40s they were against the British Empire. They were against any other form of Islam. They themselves were purporting, if they were to be the heirs of the Caliphate, to be the arbitrators of what was and was not Islamic. So they’re taking their political ideology and actually placing the theology in submission of the political ideology to make all other Muslims submissive, subservient to the Brotherhood and its agenda.
But you notice, the Brotherhood doesn’t have a whole lot of positive things to say about Sufis or Shia or anybody else. They view themselves as a vanguard party, vanguard party being a minority party led by those who have had some kind of political revelation. [They have] self-appointed leaders, who they themselves determine what the party line is, what the strategic end-game is, and who constitutes a good follower. So wherever they go, they purport to represent all Muslims everywhere. They do this through their formal, overt structures, they do it through clandestine structures, and they do it through their front organizations. And in doing so they call out to other Muslims in order to either support them or be silent about them. Either one is fine. The thing you cannot do is oppose them. You will be, to use a good Eastern Orthodox word, anathematized. And we’ll take a look at this in a couple of minutes.
What they’re for and what they’re against are both very important motivators. Who is the friend? Who is the enemy? Their ideology defines it. Who is loyal and who is disloyal? Their ideology defines it. This is important for us to understand because they can speak to us in very friendly terms. We’re cooperating with the FBI to fight terrorism. ‘Oh, wow, great. We’ll make you a lawyer to draw the regulations for the brand new transportation security authority and we’ll make you the head of Intelligence Analysis at Department of Homeland Security and we’ll put you over at the FBI Academy to teach our agents how to think. To bring all our agents to [unintelligible] basically to give them their training.
But for their own combatants, their own cadre, they need to inspire. You can’t just have… a negative motivation will only get so far. A negative motivation to hate will only get you so far because you end up devouring yourselves. You have to have a higher ideal. So that’s the whole idea of having a Caliphate and living this allegedly pious life although all the neat battlefield intelligence we have and other information we can pick up about the Brotherhood shows most of these guys live such hypocritical lifestyles that if we simply publicize… You know the porn they make about themselves and put on their thumb drives, it would be an amazing way to just bring these guys down because they… Imagine being a 22-year old forced to live this austere lifestyle only to find your commanders are a bunch of porn fanatics who drink booze and do all the things you want to do but can’t because of the discipline they impose upon you. There’s great ways to bring these guys down. It’s not really theologically based but it’s still useful.
And then you use fear and intimidation again against Muslims. It’s a vanguard party. But against all others… to demand inclusion. Those who demand tolerance no sooner do you become tolerant of them then they demand acceptance and then once you unwillingly or grudgingly accept them, they demand you become subservient to them and their will. You find this through various social and political causes and ideologies. The Brotherhood works the same way. And if you don’t like them or if you don’t agree with them, you’re a bigot. You’re an Islamophobe. You’re a hater. Hate’s a crime. Anyway they twist the word hatred so you just heard one definition of getting someone to hate to get you to motivate someone to kill. That’s real hatred. But the way the Americanized version of hatred is we just disagree with you and you’re not politically correct so you’re a hater. And it takes away the whole meaning of it so we don’t appreciate the term anymore. So it’s bringing us all to this journey to bring us down to change the very way we think. So once we go that route, the ideology of the Brotherhood itself comes back to the theology of submission. But this time you have to be submissive to the Brotherhood, most of them are non-Muslim and you can see how that’s happening in countries around the world and to the point where they try to enforce that submission in Egypt and there was quite a big rebellion against them and all of a sudden you see the United States is on the side of those demanding submission.
So back to the Brotherhood being a vanguard party. It claims to represent everybody and marginalizes those who don’t support it. It has an exclusivity to it. It’s a special cadre. Think of it kind of as a Communist Party. Now, it’s not Communist per se. Look at the structure. Look at the anatomy. It’s a product of the late 1920s and early 1930s, the same time as the Soviet COMINTERN was being developed. Any observer- there was a lot of internationalist movements happening in this period. The Brotherhood began in Egypt but as it spread and as it grew, it was able to learn from these other internationalist movements, some of which it was fighting, or some of which actually the COMINTERN was trying at points to do- make use of the Muslim Brotherhood and the Soviets indeed did so but they learned how to set up international crime organizations.
They learned how instead of being appear to be on the offensive, at certain times to appear on the defensive and take a victim status and especially Western and particularly American societies we feel sorry for the victims and the person victimized because of that. And imagine being a straight, white, Christian guy in America in the 21st century. You’re a hater no matter what. You’re a straight, white, Christian guy. So they exploit that. But they do this by – in the context of maintaining a hardcore ideology to be the arbiters of what is truthful and what’s not truthful, and in controlling the ideology, they control…
Well, they become a standard, a sort of gold standard. Who’s going to invest? Well, say you’re a person of great wealth, you’re a believing Muslim or you just hate Americans or hate whoever else you might happen to hate and who’re you going to fund? You’re going to fund the guy who’s best organized, who’s the most successful, who has chapters everywhere, who organized everywhere, taking over businesses and labor unions and political offices, and infiltrating armies and everything else around the world. I’m going to fund those guys. They’re the winners.
Any reason why Qatar is funding the Muslim Brotherhood the way they it is? Because they’re hoping they’ll be eaten last. So any investor is going to fund in something that’s winning even if they don’t particularly like it. For their own self-preservation purposes they’re going to fund it. So through that the Brotherhood comes out on top. Through this type of means the Brotherhood has been able to, in this country, takeover the majority of mosques if not purchasing them or building them outright, at least chipping in to pay for the leases. And these are small storefront operations as well as a lot of the big ones. They’re not forcing the imams or the believers to adhere to their ideology, but, ‘We own your house of worship. You’re not going to do anything to offend us. Get rid of all that silly literature you have.’
Look at the prison ministries, for example, ‘Enough of this stuff about making yourself a better person, and use prison as an experience to get closer to god, and to serve mankind better once you get out, and save your soul if you’re never going to get out of prison.’ No, no, no not that. Those guys put you in jail. You’re going to get that system when you’re out and this is how our prison radicalization comes out because as anybody who dealt with prison, you know the wardens don’t run the prisons.
The wardens keep order in the prisons by keeping certain militant prisoners happy and organized and this is precisely what happened when the Sufi literature was thrown out in many if not most of American prison systems and the Muslim Brotherhood-Wahhabi-Salafi-Deobandi type literature was brought in to radicalize prison populations. Most of the revolutionaries in history have been in prison at one point or another, so prison is a very defining experience for a lot of people.
So you have the organization. You have the funding, you set up the front groups. You have one front group that owns, operates, leases mosques. One front group that gives the seal of good housekeeping seal of approval to literature, to doctrine that they send out, to translations. One front group for medical doctors, one front group for students, one front, and so on, so you have all these various front groups, many different organizations with one voice, all purporting to represent all Muslims, creating an echo effect and also creating an intimidation effect.
Those – if you’re familiar with those old communist front groups, they worked exactly the same way. And in fact, if you can arbitrate the ideology, you can also arbitrate who your tactical allies are. You’re going to take allies wherever you can take them in politics. Sometimes you get little weird alliances in politics.
But when I was going to college in the 1980s, the Muslim Brotherhood funded Muslim student associations at George Washington, had regular coalitions with all the communist groups, the Trotskyites, and the militant game. Sounds kind of unorthodox Islamic, but that was the tactical alliance they made at the time. They’ve done it with Catholics, you know, they’ve got a wonderful operation with the Jesuits over at Georgetown University.
And they do it wherever they can. It doesn’t mean they’re being inclusive, it just means they’re making allies with whoever they can make their ally with and in American society that means looking as progressive as you possibly can because you’re going to get a lot of defenders that way, defenders who will never believe in your doctrine, defenders who you will be sure to stomp out as soon as you take power – or when you do – but you need them right now and this is common of any revolutionary movement.
It’s also grievance based. You have to coordinate your themes. You can’t be an aggressor in American politics and expect to have a popular base and to get people who don’t adhere to your ideology to be more strident than you are, so what better way than to be a victim? ‘Oh, the poor folks at the Council on American Islamic Relations. They’re not being picked on because their leaders support Hamas and Hezbollah. They’re being picked on because they’re religious people who just want to be included in American society. They’re immigrants and they’re being beaten up by these bigots and racists.’
Another important factor for ideology is individual empowerment. How many of us have joined a cause, a movement, whether it’s scouting or some sports activity or the military or some political group or religious cause. We want to be part of something bigger than us. We want to elevate ourselves. We want to elevate others around us. The Brotherhood is great at that. It’s the Society of the Muslim Brotherhood. And so this individual empowerment is vital for cadre selection, for promotion of people not just through the formal Brotherhood structures but to say who should be placed [where].
Think of being placed on a political transition team between administrations, who’s going to be in what particular office. You need somebody at the top to be choosing this stuff, and this is where the Brotherhood comes in handy in countries around the world, organizationally, socially, professionally, and they maintain that cadre discipline despite conflicting messages.
I’ll give you a really good example of cadre discipline in the minute and a half left. That is the case of Sheikh Mohammed Hisham Gobani, who of course, you see everyday on Fox News and CNN and MSNBC as a Muslim leader, right, with his turban and his beard and his robes. We all, right? No. Not at all. Well, he is that. Well, first he is a theologian not a politician, and he does things in a very elliptical way and don’t make good sound bites, but more importantly, in 1999, he was at the State Department at a big meeting they had in the Loy Henderson auditorium about Muslim extremism, and he warned right there about the Muslim Brotherhood coming in and exactly what it was going to do. He was proven 100% right.
He can trace the founding of his school right back to Muhammad and his wife claims lineal descent from Muhammad, but the Brotherhood got the other groups together and said this is not a real Muslim, this is a Sufi, he’s an Israeli tool. He says, “Mr. Gobani,” they didn’t even say he was Sheikh Gobani. “Mr. Gobani has put the entire American Muslim community unjustified suspicion,” because he said hey, you’re going to have terrorism problems in this country. This is 1999. “In effect, Mr. Gobani is telling government officials that the majority of American Muslims pose a danger to our society,” majority meaning the vanguard that he was talking about. Additionally, “Islamophobic individuals groups may use these statements as an excuse to commit hate crimes against Muslims.”
It was a Muslim Sheikh, scholar, theologian who was taken down and marginalized and anathematized and rendered into irrelevance in American larger society by the Muslim Brotherhood and their fronts. And this was sort of a case study of a much larger problem of the mobilization of ideology but, again, remember, once you know the exact ideology and political structures that support and promote it, it’s very easy thing to be taken down.