There is a widespread, general conception that the Muslim Brotherhood is a domestic organization found in Egypt, even if it has, since its beginnings more than 80 years ago, received financial support from external sources, in particular Europe and America.
This concept is fundamentally true, but has not kept up with important developments that the Brotherhood organization has undergone over many years, especially the years during which it relied on the expanse of its support and membership outside the country. That development began during the era in which domestic blows to the Brotherhood organization made it depend on the outside world.
This clarification clears the way for us to discuss the Brotherhood’s organizational presence overseas, which has resulted from the severe blows it received in Egypt, blows that weakened it.
Thus, we look toward trying to understand the Brotherhood’s external organizations because, on the one hand, these external organizations have come to play a bigger and broader role than that of past years. The activities of the external Brotherhood organizations have clearly increased, as have their actions aimed at helping the mother organization in Egypt keep its head above the water in any way possible. Even though the external organizations’ performance in helping the domestic organization inside Egypt has been weak, it is still necessary to follow and understand their activities and actions.
The Brotherhood’s external organizations are currently centered in the United States, although they were for many years previously, had been centered in Europe. We can trace the change from Europe to America to the fact that the United States itself has changed its political path vis-à-vis the Brotherhood during the last 30 years, a situation that occurred because the Brotherhood, as an organization, did not have a very dense presence in the United States until about 30 years ago. Prior to that, the Brotherhood presence in America was as weak and fragile as it was in the Islamic world, particularly the Arab part of it. When the Brotherhood leaders became aware of the role they needed to fulfill in outside countries, they focused their activity on Europe because of the presence of densely populated Islamic migrant communities there. In these conditions — in line with the population density of Muslims in European countries — it became possible for the Brotherhood leaders to intensify their activities. Now the European authorities find themselves in a state of confusion, as they confront the Islamic migrant communities after they had been targeted by the Brotherhood organizations. That’s because European laws and constitutions impel the governments of these countries to not discriminate between Europeans of European origin and Europeans of Middle Eastern (Arab) origin or Afro-Asian origin more generally. Despite these anti-discrimination provisions, relations between European security forces and the organizations that profess Islam have in recent years become strained.
When it seemed like the population density of migrants from Islamic countries had increased in many American cities, the American state became aware that it might face the same dilemma faced by Europe. Even though America’s situation differs from Europe’s situation — the composition of the American public, having originally been formed from migrant colonies, seemed better able to absorb Islamic groups — the American public and successive administrations have begun to realize that Islamic migrant communities pose the same problem inside American cities that they had earlier posed in European cities. Perhaps the compositional difference is the reason why recognizing the danger that the Brotherhood organizations pose in American cities is coming late: When the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks occurred, a tragedy in which civilian passenger planes were used to bomb skyscrapers in New York, official American bodies insisted that it was clear the perpetrators of these painful strikes were from outside the United States, not from among the “American Arabs” or “Muslims residing in the United States.” Nevertheless, since those attacks occurred, American authorities have carefully monitored “Islamic” group activity inside the country.
But American authorities have continued insisting that these momentous events should not be thought of as an indication of what their country can expect from the “Islamic migrant communities” living in its cities. This shows that the United States is not taking the danger that the Brotherhood poses inside the country into account — perhaps because it believes that its support for the organization and its violent activities in countries like Egypt, Syria and Iraq will protect it from Brotherhood strikes in its own cities. American authorities know well that the Brotherhood has political organizations and conducts activities that head in this political direction, but they believe that their support for the Brotherhood in Middle Eastern areas protect their country from being subjected to attacks on the level of those occurring in Egypt. At the same time, official bodies in the United States believe that Egypt is the source of basic information about the Brotherhood and its organizations and activities.
America is a country that insists on appearing to intervene in Egypt. It does this because it wants to prove that it has a role in what is occurring. It believes that it enjoys widespread support in Egypt and the Arab region. Therefore, it prefers to ignore the phenomena indicating otherwise, including the millions-strong protests that occurred in Egypt’s squares on June 30, 2013. Americans prefer to think that the stormy protests in Egypt were not directed against them or the policies of their government.
A large part of American public opinion thinks that America should fear a numerical expansion of the Brotherhood in its cities, especially the cities where large numbers of Muslims from Arab, Asian and African origins are found. This part of American public opinion believes that Brotherhood members are present in American cities — namely New York, New Jersey, Detroit and Los Angeles — in large numbers, their total estimated being about 15 million. These numbers would not constitute a majority but would allow members to provoke big problems in these cities if they were ordered to do so by Brotherhood organizations.
The only conclusion that can be drawn from America’s stance is that the country wants a state of instability to persist in Egypt and other countries in the region. It believes that such a situation is the most useful to its policy. Therefore, Egypt will have to expend great effort to proving that an American policy which supports the Brotherhood will not lead to positive results for America itself.