The Cold War, the Muslim Brotherhood and what happened next: part 1

This week, regular readers will have noticed my potted history of the Muslim Brotherhood from 1928 to the present: ‘How the Muslim Brotherhood expanded in Europe’ (parts 1, 2 and 3).

One name occurs throughout each of those three posts: Said Ramadan, Tariq’s father.

To briefly recap, Said Ramadan married the daughter of the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood Hassan al-Banna.

In 1945, Ramadan created an armed branch of the movement in Palestine in order to fight against the Zionist movement. In 1954, he also split with former Brother — and, by then, Egyptian president — Gamal Abdul Nasser. Although the Brotherhood — along with Young Egypt (their version of the Nazi Party) — put Nasser in office in 1952, Nasser decided to modernise Egypt. Not surprisingly, the Brotherhood objected. Nasser banned the Brotherhood from Egypt in 1954.

Al-Banna, by the way, was assassinated in 1949. As we shall see in this post, Ramadan carried on his work, even once he ended up spending much of his time in Geneva quietly fretting over his unfulfilled leadership of the Munich Mosque, which, for a time ended up being a centre for the Muslim Brotherhood in Europe.

Mother Jones, an American left-wing publication of long standing, featured a four-page profile of Said Ramadan in 2006, ‘Cold War, Holy Warrior’. What author Robert Dreyfuss uncovered will ring bells with many readers.

Why it is that our governments are so apathetic about radical Islam is a mystery. Perhaps it is because names we’ve never heard of have been in their framework for decades. Not unlike Said Ramadan’s.

Dreyfuss’s article opens in September 1953 at the Ivy League Princeton University in New Jersey. Dwight D Eisenhower was president at the time. The Cold War was hotting up. Josef Stalin had died only six months before. Five high-ranking Soviets were managing the USSR’s affairs at the time. The British and West Germans were involved in anti-Soviet propaganda missions, as were, of course, the Americans with Amcomlib, which introduced Radio Liberty and Radio Free Europe.

We can joke about it all we want these days, but it is not an era in which I would have wanted to live. Conversely, if those living then were alive now, they probably wouldn’t like our day and age.

On that autumn day in 1953 at Princeton sat Said Ramadan along with a group of other Muslim men. Some were dressed in suits and ties, others wore Islamic dress. At one point during the day, Ramadan stood next to President Eisenhower.

Dreyfuss explains the reason for the event (emphases mine):

Officially, Ramadan was in the United States to attend a colloquium on Islamic culture at Princeton University, cosponsored by the Library of Congress. It was an august event, held with much pomp and circumstance in Princeton’s Nassau Hall. Delegates sat neatly arrayed in stiff-backed pews in the high-ceilinged Faculty Room and attended lavish luncheons, receptions, and garden parties in the shade of bright fall foliage.

According to the published proceedings, the conference was the fortuitous result of the fact that a number of celebrated personages from the Middle East were visiting the country. “During the summer of 1953 there happened to be an unusually large number of distinguished Muslim scholars in the United States,” the document notes. But the participants didn’t just “happen” to have crossed the Atlantic. The colloquium was organized by the U.S. government, which funded it, tapped participants it considered useful or promising, and bundled them off to New Jersey. Conference organizers had visited Cairo, Bahrain, Baghdad, Beirut, New Delhi, and other cities to scout for participants. Footing the bill—to the tune of $25,000, plus additional expenses for transporting attendees from the Middle East—was the International Information Administration (IIA), a branch of the State Department that had its roots in the U.S. intelligence community; supplementary funding was sought from U.S. airlines and from Aramco, the U.S. oil consortium in Saudi Arabia. Like many of the participants, Ramadan, a hard-edged ideologue and not a scholar, was visiting the conference as an all-expenses-paid guest.

At that time, the Americans didn’t understand much about the Middle East or Asia. Talcott Seelye, an American diplomat at the time who visited Ramadan in the early 1950s, told Dreyfuss that Islam was the hoped-for buffer between Marxism and Soviet expansion.

Wow. They couldn’t have been more wrong.

Another veteran American diplomat, Hermann Eilts, was assigned to Saudi Arabia in the late 1940s. He had regular meetings with Ramadan’s father-in-law Al-Banna, head of the Muslim Brotherhood. Eilts found Al-Banna a decent cove.

Dreyfuss notes:

Over the four decades after Ramadan’s visit to the Oval Office, the Muslim Brotherhood would become the organizational sponsor for generation after generation of Islamist groups from Saudi Arabia to Syria, Geneva to Lahore—and Ramadan, its chief international organizer, would turn up, Zeliglike, as an operative in virtually every manifestation of radical political Islam.

This includes Iran’s ayatollahs (Devotees of Islam), Hamas, Egyptian Islamic Jihad (who assassinated Anwar Sadat in 1981), Al Qaeda and their forerunners the Arab Afghans.

Dreyfuss states:

It’s no exaggeration to say that Ramadan is the ideological grandfather of Osama bin Laden. But Ramadan, the Muslim Brotherhood, and their Islamist allies might never have been able to plant the seeds that sprouted into Al Qaeda had they not been treated as U.S. allies during the Cold War and had they not received both overt and covert support from Washington …

Tomorrow’s post concludes with Said Ramadan’s Islamic activities.

5 comments for “The Cold War, the Muslim Brotherhood and what happened next: part 1

  1. john in cheshire
    February 7, 2014 at 4:17 pm

    CM, many thanks for these articles; they have been most informative, very well written. What you have presented is as profoundly disturbing as the work that Diana West has done regarding the Soviet infiltration of the US government.

    • February 8, 2014 at 11:23 pm

      Thank you, John — greatly appreciated.

      I’m going to start on Josef Stalin at my blog next week, if you are interested.

  2. Viscount Rectum
    February 8, 2014 at 9:52 am

    You have it wrong about Obama, although Obama is a Muslim and an Indonesian his ideological grandfather is more likely to be Karl Marx, Al Qaeda is a CIA construct. If you really want to know about seed-ing try “

    • February 8, 2014 at 11:26 pm

      There’s no doubt much about Obama that we do not know. It’s interesting that the British don’t give him a second thought.

      Might others have said the same (‘got it wrong’) about Said Ramadan 40 or 60 years ago?

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