Published:  12:00 AM, 13 March 2017

Ikhwan is the root of terror

Ikhwan is the root of terror

When the military in Egypt ousted the Muslim Brotherhood and the then president Mohammad Mursi in 2013, some of the group figures threatened that if 'their' president is returned, violence in Sinai will stop immediately. Some of those figures were 'Emirs of the Islamic Group, Gama'at Islamiya, in late 1970s and early 1980s of the last century.

 I didn't need to go back to documents or hundreds of academic studies to get this fact, as I experienced it first-hand during my university years. The Gama'at started in Egyptian universities as a youth arm for Ikhwan, and from this youth arm terrorist groups emerged and violent struggles between those militants and security forces peaked in the 1990s.

Based on my personal experience, I can confidently say that Ikhwan is the root ideology for all militant and terrorist groups - Gama'at Islamiya, Al Qaida, Daesh (the self-proclaimed Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) and similar factions. First exposed to Muslim Brotherhood in my early high school in Egyptian countryside, it was my English teacher who marked me for recruitment.

After school, moving to university in the capital, it was the time of Gama'at rising in Egypt. The recommendation was from Ikhwan to their 'youth offshoot', but I didn't fit in that whole ideology as I was 'questioning and arguing' about theoretical teachings inspired by Pakistani radical ideologues like Mawdoodi or others like Al Nadawi. I don't claim to be a quitter or even an 'activist', as many 'youth' who were potential recruits and slipped in the course of indoctrination for different reasons. It was my early 'formation' years and it seems I was not fit for rigid ideological activism - whether Ikhwan or Communist Left that was still evident in Egyptian universities at the time.

From those years, the Emirs (leaders of Islamic Groups at the time) are now leading figures of Ikhwan, or militant lieutenants in different terrorist groups. Leading figures of terror groups are actually Ikhwan in origin. Just one example is Al Qaida leader Osama Bin Laden's deputy and current leader of Al Qaida, Dr Ayman Al Zawahri, whose uncle is the Ikhwan leading figure Mahfuz Azzam. Ikhwan as a group is like a cult. They marry and do business among group members and their vetting process for those who form the core of the cult is very strict.

 This is not a hindsight, or just a viewpoint, but rather a fact supported by evidence that I experienced first-hand. Years later, in the 1980s, Ikhwan and its youth branch were recruiting in Cairo for terrorism in Afghanistan against Soviet occupation. CIA-sponsored and Ikhwan-drafted recruits were the nucleus of international terrorism that morphed into Al Qaida, Daesh and the likes. Some of those who started as Ikhwan youth in Egypt and other countries are now field-commanders of terrorist outfits in Iraq, Syria and probably Libya and other countries.

The banner of the group has one word under two swords: 'Mobilize'. Not to mention the secret arm of Ikhwan that was responsible for political assassinations and violence during the 1950s, listen to interviews with Daesh loyalists in Libya nowadays detailing the direction and financial assistance they got from Muslim Brotherhood there. Leaders of the group, and the youth arm of it, were - and still are - the preachers or recruiters of terrorists.

It was shocking to read a recent Op-Ed in the New York Times for an 'Islamist' figure indicted and imprisoned in his country defending Muslim Brotherhood as a "non-violent political movement". Of course I understand the notion of 'allowing opinion-prisoners to express their views' as a justification to give a media platform to an indicted person, avoiding jeopardising the ethical principle of journalism not to interview or quote defendants outside court proceedings.

The main, and probably only message, of that article was to dismiss the fact that all terrorist groups and militias "came out from under Ikhwan umbrella". With no real challenge to the work of academics and researchers who spent years on field studies to prove these obvious links, the contributor talked about his life experience as a member of Muslim Brotherhood actively reforming society peacefully.

Half-truth is more dangerous than an outright lie and attacks on the media recently from senior politicians, accusing it of propagating fake news, can find more ammunition in giving a propaganda platform to activists selling "alternative facts", or those using media to advance a cause that may be more harmful to the right of "free speech".

Yet, it may be true that the writer didn't carry arms or commit a direct 'terrorist act' killing innocents with his hands - but his words and ideology, along with all other Muslim Brotherhood figures, did. A terrorist is not only one who carries a gun, but also one who perpetrates evil through his or her teachings, preachings and is more dangerous to humanity than a suicide bomber.

It's hard to understand how a respected media outlet could allow a platform to such figures to enhance their image and convince the public of the opposite nature of their ideas and deeds.

Even if one can swallow the infringement of giving an indicted defendant a platform to express his views, it's hard to ignore overlooking simple rules of impartiality, objectivity and neutrality claimed by big mainstream media outlets. That's because Ikhwan views went unchallenged - regardless of the cliched disclaimer: "Views expressed are not of the outlet and solely represent the writer".

The writer is a journalist based in Abu Dhabi

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