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Militant Islam Monitor > Articles > The Origins of the Muslim Brotherhood "Project"

The Origins of the Muslim Brotherhood "Project"

July 24, 2008

The Origins of the Muslim Brotherhood "Project"

By Patrick Poole



In May 2006, when I first introduced American readers to the Muslim Brotherhood strategic plan known as "The Project" (including the first complete English translation of such, published here at FrontPage), very little was known about the document beyond what had been reported in the European press and Swiss journalist Sylvain Besson's book, La conquête de l'Occident: Le projet secret des Islamistes (Paris: Le Seuil, 2005).

We knew at that time from Besson's research that the document had been recovered from the home of Yousef Nada, the head of the Al-Taqwa Bank in Lugano and the de facto Foreign Envoy for the international Muslim Brotherhood movement, during a raid of his compound in November 2001 investigating Al-Taqwa's involvement in terrorism financing. The strategic plan has received considerable discussion and analysis in the Western intelligence community ever since. As Besson notes in his book, Nada admitted that the document was genuine but declined to elaborate about the circumstances of its drafting.

A new book, however, sheds fresh light on the background of "The Project" and offers new details on the fundamental realignment of Muslim Brotherhood strategy and doctrine that it represents. The book in question, HAMAS: A History from Within (Northhampton, Mass.: Oliver Branch, 2007), is authored by a well-known international Muslim Brotherhood operative and HAMAS insider, Azzam Tamimi, who heads the Institute of Islamic Political Thought HAMAS front organization in London.

Tamimi outlines the circumstances and dramatic changes inside the Muslim Brotherhood that led to the adoption of "The Project" strategic plan at the historic 1983 Amman conference of international Muslim Brotherhood leaders. Here's what Tamimi wrote about that event and the formation of "The Project":

It is now known that Palestinian Ikhwan [Muslim Brotherhood – ed.] members in the diaspora had also been pressing for military action. Their efforts were assisted by the unification of their organizations at the end of the 1970s, a project that reached its culmination in the historic conference convened secretly in Amman in 1983. Representatives of the Palestinian Ikhwan attended from within Palestine, both from the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, as well as from Jordan, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, the other Gulf countries, Europe, and the United States. The purpose of the meeting was to lay the cornerstone for what became known as the Islamic "global project for Palestine," a project proposed to the conference by the delegates from Kuwait. At this conference, a unanimous decision was taken to give financial and logistic support to the effort of the Ikhwan in Palestine to wage jihad. (p. 45)

What Tamimi describes in his book is that "The Project" represented several fundamental shifts in both ideology and methodology of the global Muslim Brotherhood leadership. Rather than waiting for the creation of an Islamic state that would undertake the liberation of Palestine, they would militarize the Palestinian Muslim Brotherhood organization by reviving the terrorist "secret apparatus", which would eventually culminate in the announcement of the creation of HAMAS in December 1987 and the unveiling of the HAMAS charter in August 1988.

Thus, the claims of a spontaneous creation of HAMAS at the beginning of the first intifada are entirely myth, as Tamimi claims that military preparations had been long underway and the secret cells made operational years prior to 1987. According to Tamimi's account, the Palestinian Committee of the Muslim Brotherhood established the Jihaz Filastin (the Palestinian Apparatus) in 1985 to coordinate global activities in support of the new jihadist movement in accordance with "The Project". Two other organizations were also created by Palestinian Ikhwan leader (and HAMAS founder) Sheikh Ahmed Yasin within the territories along the lines of the : the al-Majahidun al-Filastiniyun (the Palestinian Mujahidin), which would conduct terrorist operations against Israeli military targets; and Majd (glory), an internal security force which would target and kill non-cooperative Palestinians. These would later become active arms within the HAMAS infrastructure.

Two factors contributed to this shift: 1) the failure of outside Arab armies to effect liberation; and 2) the creation of the competing Palestinian Islamic Jihad. The catastrophic military failures of 1967 and 1973 led to Egypt, who bore the brunt of those defeats, signing the Camp David Accords in September 1978 and the Israel-Egypt Peace Treaty of 1979. Those developments dashed the hopes of continued outside military assistance and led to the abandonment of what Tamimi describes as the "Messianic fatalism for the emergence of the Islamic state that would lead the jihad to liberate Palestine" (p. 47).

Inside the Palestinian territories, Fathi Al-Shiqaqi, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, had launched Al-Tal'I' Al-Islamiyah (the Islamic vanguards), which later was renamed Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Adopting Muslim Brotherhood ideologue Sayyid Qutb's revolutionary methodology, Al-Shiqaqi began recruiting for jihad amongst the members of the Ikhwan (which led to his expulsion) and forged an alliance with Saraya al-Jihad, which was already conducting terrorist operations against Israeli military personnel. Among Saraya al-Jihad's leadership was future Al-Qaeda founder Abdullah Azzam. This new organization and their terrorist operations quickly gathered the attention and support of the younger Palestinians, and threatened the Ikhwan's position of leadership inside the territories.

The realignment in ideology and methodology amongst the Muslim Brotherhood global leadership by institutionalizing Qutb's top-down, revolutionary approach also permanently secured Qutb's ideological dominance throughout the organization. The crackdown in Egypt on the Brotherhood in the 1950s and 1960s led to the scattering of the membership across the Middle East and into the West, which removed the immediate pressure to moderate their ideology. From these new locations, they could fully embrace Qutb's vanguardist ideology.

The push of the organization into the West was largely the result of the efforts of Said Ramadan, son-in-law of Hassan al-Banna, founder of the Brotherhood (see Ian Johnson's recent essay on the establishment of the Muslim Brotherhood in the West). Meanwhile, Ikhwan leaders who had sought refuge in Saudi Arabia forged a theological link with Salafi/Wahhabism that has marked the group ever since. Through these leaders in diaspora came the international organizations (Muslim World League, World Assembly for Muslim Youth), financing (various "charities" and the Al-Taqwa Bank, headed by Yousef Nada, in whose possession "The Project" document was found), and ideology that would not only result in the formation of HAMAS, but would influence and support virtually every Islamic terrorist organization in the world.

For this reason, understanding the historic role of "The Project" as part of the global strategy of the Muslim Brotherhood is essential. Fortunately, Azzam Tamimi's account fills in several blanks that had gone unreported:

  • Its adoption at the 1983 Amman Conference;
  • Its actual title – the "global project for Palestine";
  • Its origination by the Kuwaiti Ikhwan leadership (Tamimi also reports that they donated $70,000 in start-up money for the Palestinians to buy arms and to send leaders to Jordan for military training);
  • Its strategic role in defining how the Muslim Brotherhood would focus its efforts and resources to Palestine to make that a key issue in advancing their global Islamic supremacist agenda;
  • Its ideological importance representing the shift in methodology to a more revolutionary approach and the embrace of Sayyid Qutb's vanguardist vision by the organization globally.

Tamimi's account provides new details about "The Project", and his status as a high-ranking international Muslim Brotherhood figure adds considerable weight to authenticate much of what had already been reported, notwithstanding some of his revisionist history elsewhere in his book. An examination of that strategic plan, as well as the many exhibits that came from the Holy Land Foundation terrorism finance trial last summer in Dallas (see my colleague LTC Joseph Myers' overview of those documents) gives us a glimpse at the Muslim Brotherhood's global playbook and how far they have come in achieving their long-term goals of infiltrating the West and establishing a global Islamic state ruled by Islamic law. What we find by those measures and from seemingly daily reports is that their relentless coordinated campaign for Islamic global dominance has met with astounding success.

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