European Eye on Radicalization is pleased to have been able to speak to Cynthia Farahat about her new book: “The Secret Apparatus: The Muslim Brotherhood’s Industry Of Death”.
EER: EER would like to thank you for accepting our invitation to conduct this interview and congratulate you on the publication of your book.
Cynthia Farahat: Thank you very much, I appreciate your interest in my book.
EER: To begin with, why has the United States so often, and so badly, mishandled the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) in your view?
CF: I believe this is due to the fact that U.S. government officially began working with the MB in 1979. During my research, I discovered a declassified document on the CIA’s public library website titled, “Covert Action.” This document discussed a meeting which occurred in 1979 in Washington, DC. It was attended by officials in President Jimmy Carter’s administration and official government representatives from almost all Islamic and Arab countries, including the then-President of Pakistan, General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq.
This committee unanimously endorsed a proposal to to fund Afghan jihadists, but what was much more disturbing than utilizing the MB offices across the world to recruit these fighters, was the fact that this document stated that it, “also authorized CIA propaganda operations in support of the insurgency.” This essentially means that the meeting launched the largest propaganda campaign in history to radicalized Middle Eastern and Arab populations to find a supply of fighters. Unfortunately, the cooperation between some U.S. government agencies and the MB is still intact. The U.S. still hasn’t accepted the fact that in the presence of reformist governments in the United Arab Emirate, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain, and Sudan, there significantly limit the supply of militants.
EER: You describe “the Assassins” as “the biggest influence” on how the MB came together. Many will be surprised to hear this, given that the Assassins were obliterated in the 1270s and that this sect—as its proper name, the Nizari Ismailis, indicates—was from the Shi’i branch of Islam, and the MB notoriously presents itself as a hyper-orthodox Sunni organization. Can you explain this more?
CF: This is a great question, but this is not my personal claim. Secret Apparatus former leader, Ali Ashmawi, made this statement. He said that they modelled their group after al-Hashashin (the Assassins). I dedicated two chapters in my book to explain how a Sunni group like the MB adopted theological and tactical elements of the Nizari Ismaili sect’s medieval militia. I also track the Shi’a militant project of infiltration of Sunnis for a millennia. The MB, indeed, borrow theological elements of dissimulation, concealment, and hidden theology from Shi’a militant thought. Any decent, moral human being wants Sunnis and Shi’as to have a peaceful and friendly relationship. But the basis for cooperation between Brotherhood militants are Shi’a militants aim to deliver the exact opposite purpose.
EER: Relatedly, you discuss the relationship between the MB and the Islamic Republic of Iran, particularly its founder Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. Can you give us an outline of how much, ideologically and practically, the Iranian theocracy’s creation owes to the Brotherhood?
CF: The symbiotic relationship between the MB and the Mullah regime in Iran is foundational. I wonder if either of them could have existed without the other. After Ruhollah Khomeini’s visited MB founder Hassan al-Banna in his office in Cairo in 1938, he was mesmerized by his thought and mission. After the Islamic Revolution in Iran, Khomeini started to call himself “Supreme Leader,” in honour of Al-Banna. In fact, the second airplane that landed in Tehran after the revolution, was the MB’s Secret Apparatus private jet, according to Youssef Nada. The same year, Khomeini officially agreed to open a branch for the MB in Iran. The current Supreme Leader of Iran, Ali Khamenei translated two of Sayyid Qutb’s books from Arabic to Persian and they are a required reading for Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). The MB also requires its members to read Khomeini’s book, “Islamic Government”. And during Saddam Hussein’s war with Iran (1980-1988), the MB publicly supported the Mullahs and told their Sunni base, “the Iranian Revolution is your revolution.” I provide 945 footnotes in my book that prove all these allegations and much more, from the MB’s own documents, writings, and public discourse.
EER: Nearer our own time, the clerical regime in Iran controls an array of terrorist forces around the region directly—the Houthis in Yemen, Hezbollah in Lebanon, etc—but Tehran maintains relationships with Sunni militants, too, including Al-Qaeda. To what extent is the Muslim Brotherhood supported by the Iranian state, and what kinds of support are given, if any?
CF: Al-Qaeda and Hamas and other Sunni terror groups are branches of the MB’s Secret Apparatus operating under ostensibly different banners. This is also something I prove in my book from their own words and documents. Iran funds the Taliban and other Sunni jihadist groups. Iran has also always funded the MB and has legitimized its cooperation with the group under the guise of The World Forum for Proximity of Islamic Schools of Thought (WFPIST), which was originally founded by jihadists from both sects. It also acts as a public front to network jihadists world-wide.
EER: You highlighted in your book that Hassan al-Banna was influenced by some Western dictators, including Hitler and Stalin. Could you please explain more about the ways and the extent of this influence?
CF: The cooperation between Islamists, Germany, and the Bolshevik Revolution predates the MB. Earlier Islamists, such as Jamal al-Din al-Afghani, Rashid Rida, and German agents, such as Sheikh Muhammad al-Khidr Hussein and Sheikh al-Sharif al-Tunsi, made it theologically acceptable to import foreign models and amalgamate them with a covert Islamist structure. Thus, their replication of Stalin’s power apparatus and Hitler’s internal structure of his terror wing, was an ideologically acceptable practice by the MB.
EER: In your book, it is said that MB has perfected a killing machine. How—what targets and with what roadmap in mind—does the MB use violence to achieve its political goals?
CF: The MB considers anyone outside their group as a target, whether they are Muslim or non-Muslims. They utilize several modes of operation for violence such as, close-quarters combat (CQC). It is physical confrontation between two or more opponents. It involves armed and unarmed, lethal and nonlethal, fighting techniques that range from forced compliance to deadly force. Unarmed techniques are hand-to-hand combat, and armed techniques are applied with any weapon. The MB also introduced the use of Vehicle-Borne Improvised Explosive Devices (VBIEDs), as well suicide belts or vests to Islamic jihad. The MB licenses this with assassination fatwas that resemble contract killing.
EER: You argue that the Muslim Brotherhood, by its very structure and history, is committed to violent jihad in pursuit of a caliphate as its raison d’etre. Yet, there are some experts who argue that the Muslim Brotherhood has renounced violence. Can you explain what is going on here?
CF: What matters is the MB’s own words, documents, and public discourse. When they say they are still operating their terrorism apparatus, and I see them committing acts of terror, I believe them. These experts are either willing or unwilling victims of MB propaganda. I was personally offered bribes to regurgitate this talking point.
EER: Does your description of the Brotherhood’s mission—a violent Islamic revolution—apply to the Brotherhood groups and affiliates in Europe?
CF: Absolutely. Each chapter of the MB is bounded by their bylaws. The mythology that each chapter is separate is another propaganda talking point.
EER: Has foreign funding altered the outlook or behaviour of the MB?
CF: I don’t believe it has or ever will. The MB are public relations experts. They are chameleons. They are capable of getting funds from two opposing entities, and making each party think that they’re working for their interest. But of course, any funding the MB receives is only utilized to the advance the group’s missions.
EER: Has foreign finance for the MB in Europe affected its evolution in ways different from the networks in the Arab world?
CF: The effects are only technical. It means they spent more effort concealing their money laundering operations, but I don’t believe it goes beyond that.
EER: How far have the measures taken by the Gulf states and others been sufficient to combat the spread of Muslim Brotherhood and mitigate the threat posed by this group?
CF: I think Gulf states have been doing an impressive job in curbing the MB threat. But this battle is far from over. It is not easy to counter a highly covert body like the MB. In my book, I have proposed specific measures to assist law enforcement agencies in their investigation to help identity covert cells of infiltrators who work to destroy governmental and non-governmental institutions from the inside out.
EER: Thank you very for answering our interview questions.
European Eye on Radicalization aims to publish a diversity of perspectives and as such does not endorse the opinions expressed by contributors. The views expressed in this interview represent the speaker alone.