January 26, 2007 Special Dispatch No. 1440

Scholar and Columnist Dr. Mamoun Fandy: ‘If the Muslim Brotherhood, i.e., Hamas Wins in Palestine They Will Set the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt at the Top of Egypt's Political Pyramid’

January 26, 2007
Palestine, Egypt | Special Dispatch No. 1440

In an article in Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, titled "What will Happen if the Muslim Brotherhood Takes Control of Palestine?", Egyptian-born scholar and columnist Dr. Mamoun Fandy [1]

writes about the possibility of a Muslim Brotherhood takeover in Egypt and Syria. [2]

According to Dr. Fandy, the rise to power of Hamas, which is the Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, will strengthen the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt.

The following are excerpts from the article:

"Palestine, as a Symbol, Remained the Monopoly of Arab Nationalism - Until Hamas Came to Power"

"Israel occupied and is still occupying the land of Palestine. Nevertheless, Palestine, in the symbolic sense, remained the monopoly of Arab nationalism - until the Hamas movement came to power. After the rise of Hamas - which, it must not be forgotten, is the Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood organization - the terms of the discussion on the [Palestinian] problem changed from pan-Arab nationalist terms to religious terms, in the Muslim Brotherhood version [of the religion].

"The struggle today has become a struggle over who will capture Palestine as a symbol: the Muslim Brotherhood, as represented by Hamas, or the nationalists, as represented by Fatah. The struggle for the liberation of Palestine as a territory has dropped to second place - [it has become less important than] the struggle to liberate the symbolic Palestine from the [control of the] pan-Arab nationalists and transfer it - this holy of holies of Arab politics - to the Muslim Brotherhood.

"What, in effect, is the significance of the Muslim Brotherhood's conquest of Palestine as a symbol?

"For 50 years, the Arab people gathered behind the nationalist [pan-Arab] slogan 'No voice is louder than the voice of war' - [which reflects] the use of external [issues, such as the struggle against external enemies] - for defending domestic causes [that is, for the defense of the regime at home]. In addition, [during] these 50 years, the Arab governments were extorted by some Palestinian leaders, who exported the Palestinian tragedy [to other Arab countries] in order to incite the people [in those countries]."

"Giving a Religious Character to the Palestinian Problem Will Transform It from a Resolvable Territorial Struggle to a Religious Struggle That Cannot Be Resolved"

"At the time, the incitement was nationalist [in character], while today - after the Muslim Brotherhood has conquered a significant part of the symbolic Palestine - the incitement has become Islamist, and the domestic has become commingled with the external. This is because the structure of the Muslim Brotherhood's ideological discourse is not based on the separation of the domestic and the external, and because their ideology transcends the borders of [particular Arab] states. Hasn't the leader of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt said that he had no objection to having [even] a Malaysian Muslim rule Egypt, as long as it was not ruled by a Coptic Egyptian? Likewise, the Muslim Brotherhood conquest of the symbolic Palestine means giving the [Palestinian] problem a religious character - and herein lies the danger.

"First of all, giving the Palestinian problem a religious character will lead to a Malaysian Muslim having more rights in Palestine than a Christian Palestinian. Likewise, it will transform [the Palestinian problem] from a resolvable territorial struggle into a religious struggle that cannot be resolved..."

"Whoever Reads the Egyptian Press Today Cannot but Notice that Egypt is Living in the Muslim Brotherhood Era"

With regard to the regional level, I would like to explain why giving the Palestinian problem a religious character is dangerous for two important countries in the Arab world, [namely] Egypt and Syria.

"The success of the Muslim Brotherhood in Palestine means turmoil in Egypt. Today, this country is witnessing a fierce battle pitched between the ruling National [Democratic] Party and the banned Muslim Brotherhood party, and it appears that the battle is going to the Muslim Brotherhood. In light of the storm of responses to Egyptian Culture Minister Farouq Hosni's statements about the hijab, [3] it became clear that [the number of] Muslim Brotherhood [supporters] inside the National Party might be greater than [the number of] members in the banned [Muslim Brotherhood] organization [itself], and that the Muslim Brotherhood has infiltrated into all Egypt's state apparatuses.

"The Egyptian press is perhaps the best reflection of this infiltration: The front and back pages of Egypt's government papers belong to the ruling party, while the 20 inside pages of every paper belong to the Muslim Brotherhood - and they do what they want with them, [via] their correspondents, theoreticians and propagandists. Whoever reads the Egyptian press today cannot but notice that Egypt is living in the Muslim Brotherhood era."

"The Muslim Brotherhood has Taken Over Egypt's Domestic Arena"

"As was clarified to me by a member of the National Party, 'there is [only] one party in Egypt, and that is the Muslim Brotherhood.' Over more than 30 years, the Muslim Brotherhood has been gaining control over Egypt's domestic arena - its streets, its institutions, and its press - and nothing stands between it and [full] control except for foreign issues, the first of which is the Palestinian problem.

"If the Muslim Brotherhood in Palestine [i.e. Hamas] wins, they will set the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt at the top of Egypt's political pyramid. When [Hamas leader, Palestinian Prime Minister] Isma'il Haniya comes to Egypt, he will go to the Cairo branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, instead of meeting with the senior officials of the Egyptian state. Likewise, we will hear Haniya defending from Gaza the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, bestowing upon them the legitimacy of the Palestinian problem - which in the Arab mentality is above all criticism."

"Syria is a Candidate for Takeover by the Muslim Brotherhood"

"Syria particularly is a candidate for takeover by the Muslim Brotherhood. The legitimacy of the ruling secular Ba'th party in Damascus is supported by two Islamic crutches, [one] Shi'ite and [the other] and Sunni. The first is embodied by Hizbullah. Syrians today wave the picture of Hassan Nasrallah along with that of their president, [which is] unprecedented in the history of Syria during the era of Assad Sr. and Assad Jr. The second crutch is the Hamas movement, represented by [its] leader Khaled Mash'al, who resides in Damascus.

"If the Palestinian problem is given a religious character, in accordance with the Muslim Brotherhood's ideas, Assad will lose both of these crutches. He may fall, and Syria will fall with him, into the hands of the Muslim Brotherhood, which went through blood-soaked periods during the era of Assad Sr., and which doubtlessly aspires [to capture power] in Damascus. Today, the Syrian regime may be gaining tactical advantages by means of Khaled Mash'al, but these [advantages] may, in the short or medium term, [end up being] a reason for its collapse."

"Al-Jazeera is the Channel of the Muslim Brotherhood"

"The Muslim Brotherhood has at its disposal media that transcends [state] borders, from newspapers to satellite channels, which have taken over the minds of millions - not only in Egypt and Syria, but throughout the entire Arab world. These are media that are tried and [ideologically] guided, and which level accusations of heresy and treason against those who disagree with them...

"'[Al-Jazeera] is the channel of the Muslim Brotherhood,' said Muhammad Dahlan, a sworn Fatah man, as he described Al-Jazeera TV, which is today incontestably the biggest Arab news channel. If the Muslim Brotherhood takes over the symbolic Palestine, the Muslim Brotherhood channel - formerly Al-Jazeera - will serve as a propaganda outlet for the new religious symbolism of the Palestinian problem.

"Al-Jazeera wastes no time, and it is already propagandizing for [Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood leader] Mahdi 'Akef and the [Muslim Brotherhood] organization, at the expense of the Egyptian state; for [Syrian Muslim Brotherhood leader Ali Sadr Al-Din] Al-Baynouni and his party, at the expense of the Syrian state; and for the Muslim Brotherhood in Algeria at the expense of the Algerian state. If you watch a debate program presented on [Al-Jazeera] by a [certain] non-Muslim host, you will be amazed at the supreme effort he makes to defend the Muslim Brotherhood, and you'll think that by the end of the program, he will be reciting the Muslim declaration of faith. [4]

"The Muslim Brotherhood takeover of the symbolic Palestine will not liberate the land of Palestine - not before the Muslim Brotherhood subjugates the entire Arab world to its rule. The Muslim Brotherhood prefers to eliminate the nearby enemy - the existing Arab states - in order to prepare the means for facing the distant enemy, [namely] Israel..."


[1] Dr. Fandy, who writes regularly for the London daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat and the Egyptian government daily Al-Ahram, was a senior fellow at the Baker Institute; a senior fellow at The United States Institute of Peace; a professor of politics at Georgetown University; and professor of Arab Politics at the Near-East South Asia Center for Strategic Studies at the National Defense University. He is the author of several books, among them Saudi Arabia and the Politics of Dissent and America and the Arab World After September 11th.

[2] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, London, January 22, 2007.

[3] In November 2006, Egyptian Culture Minister Farouq Hosni said that the hijab signified cultural regression and backwardness. Al-Gumhuriya, Egypt, November 18, 2006.

[4] The author is probably referring to Al-Jazeera's Faisal Al-Qassem, of Druze origin, who is a host of a popular debate program.

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