The Cold War, the Muslim Brotherhood and what happened next: part 2

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).

Yesterday’s documented the American efforts to work with the Muslim Brotherhood during the Cold War.

Today’s concludes the story of the Muslim Brotherhood and Said Ramadan. He was the son-in-law of the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood Hassan al-Banna. He is also Tariq’s and Hani’s father.

Ramadan was born in 1926, 40 miles north of Cairo. He became involved at the age of 14 with Al-Banna’s Muslim Brotherhood. When he graduated from Cairo University at the age of 20, he became Al-Banna’s right-hand man and his roving ambassador.

In 1948, he helped send the Brotherhood and their supporters to Israel to fight the Jewish armed forces there.

When he wasn’t an ‘itinerant preacher’ — Dreyfuss’s words — he went to Pakistan in 1949 and 1951 and participated in the World Muslim Congress in Karachi. Because Pakistan was attracting much militant Islamic attention, it became a second home for Ramadan. There, he helped to found a Pakistani version of the Brotherhood which held violent protests on university campuses. The organisation — the IJT, in Urdu — was modelled on Mussolini’s fascist squadristi. The IJT went on to train the next generations of Islamic radicals which have threatened Pakistan’s stability from 1977 to the present. They also sheltered Al Qaeda.

In the Middle East, he founded the Islamic Liberation Party, which we know as Hizb-ut-Tahrir. They receive Saudi funding and are present throughout Europe.

Dreyfuss says that when Nasser banned the Muslim Brotherhood, Ramadan was in Syria gathering anti-Nasser propaganda. My posts describe how the Brotherhood — and Ramadan — had to find congenial countries in which to settle. For some, it was Germany. For Ramadan, it was eventually Switzerland.

Questions still remain over who exactly helped Ramadan settle in Europe. Whatever the case, Dreyfuss points out that the West made a serious error in assuming the Brotherhood would be a natural ally to the West. Of the United States’ role, he writes:

Rather than allying itself with Nasser’s brand of Arab nationalism, the United States had made perhaps its biggest mistake in the Middle East since World War II: It chose to make common cause with Saudi Arabia’s reactionary monarchy. Starting in the 1950s, Washington encouraged the kingdom to create a network of right-wing Islamic states and Islamist organizations, thus helping to build the foundation on which Al Qaeda would ultimately rest. Ramadan’s Islamic Center [Geneva] was a major beneficiary of the policy, reaping generous funding from the kingdom.

Ramadan’s Islamic Center still exists in Geneva. His son, Hani (Tariq’s brother), is in charge and says:

The creation of the Islamic Center was supposed to realize my father’s desire of creating a center from which he could spread the teachings of Hassan al-Banna … a place where students coming from various Arab countries could meet and be trained in the message of Islam.

If you recall the story of the Munich mosque, the Bahamas-based Bank al-Taqwa, implicated as having links to terrorism, has offices in the swank Swiss Alps town of Campione d’Italia.

In addition to all the above, Hani Ramadan says that his father was the brains behind the Muslim World League, which started in 1962. This organisation not only sends out missionaries and propaganda in the Middle East and Asia but also secures Saudi funding for worthy recipients. The Deobandi movement and their madrassa schools on the Subcontinent have received money thanks to them.

So, Ramadan wasn’t just sitting in Geneva doing nothing after he lost his leadership at the Munich Mosque in the late 1960s. He kept busy in between periods of introspection. In 1970, after Nasser’s death and Anwar Sadat’s rise to power, Ramadan brokered a deal to re-establish the Brotherhood in Egypt. Ramadan knew Sadat was on shaky ground; a number of Nasser’s  supporters were still in the halls of power. Sadat was also trying to stop Egypt from looking to the Soviet Union and instead to the Saudis and the United States.

Sadat agreed to work with the Muslim Brotherhood, which went wild at the chance. Throughout the 1970s, small Islamist organisations appeared overnight. Dreyfuss says that, together, they mobilised to help the CIA’s anti-Soviet jihad in Afghanistan. This group of volunteers, Islamic Jihad, later joined with Al Qaeda, and we know how that turned out.

However, in Egypt, in 1981, the Brotherhood turned on Sadat. He was gunned down by an Islamist during a televised army parade.

Oddly, the year before — 1980 — seems to have been the first recorded incident of Islamic terrorism in the United States. Ali Akbar Tabatabai who had been a press attache at the Iranian Embassy in Washington — and a supporter of the recently deposed Shah — was shot in cold blood by a young man posing as a postman.

The ‘postman’ was an American, David Belfield, who now goes by the name of Daoud Salahuddin. Investigators were bemused to find that immediately after Belfield fatally shot Tabatabai, he fled to Geneva before going to Iran. Dreyfuss posits that, from investigators reports, Ramadan planned Belfield’s escape and ensured he would make it to safety.

Dreyfuss describes the association between Ramadan and Belfield, which dated back to 1975:

when Ramadan spent several months in the United States, a tour that included speaking engagements at Washington’s Islamic Center, an Eisenhower-era mosque on Massachusetts Avenue adjacent to Rock Creek Park. Their first encounter was in Ramadan’s hotel room; after that, Ramadan stayed for three months at Belfield’s modest home on Randolph Street in Washington. Ramadan regaled Belfield with tales of jihad, and the young American began almost to worship the Egyptian. According to an account of the relationship published much later in the Washington Post, Belfield became Ramadan’s “personal secretary, special emissary and devoted servant. Ramadan became his spiritual leader for life.” Ramadan told Belfield that if he were to undertake violent action in support of Islamic revolution, “he wouldn’t be emotionally scarred by it—it would ‘be accomplished and simply forgotten.’” Belfield would later tell The New Yorker, “His tone was emphatic. And for me it was taken as a command.”

From Iran, Belfield became an emissary of sorts for Ramadan. At one point he contacted Libya’s Muammar Qaddafi on Ramadan’s behalf; later, he delivered a missive from Ramadan to Afghan President Burhanuddin Rabbani. For two years, Belfield himself served in Afghanistan as a jihadist, fighting the Soviet occupation.

So, Ramadan was unlikely to have been licking his wounds excessively over his loss of power at the Munich Mosque from 1967 until his death in 1995.

Dreyfuss concludes his report by saying that professors and former CIA agents maintain that the US was better off courting the Muslim Brotherhood than secular dictatorships in the Middle East. Unbelivable, but that’s what the proverbial ‘They’ say.

Hmm. Meanwhile, pursuing the route of chumming up with the Brotherhood has put every citizen under surveillance, inspection — and at greater risk of losing their lives in random terrorist attacks anywhere in the West.

Maybe that’s the idea?

1 comment for “The Cold War, the Muslim Brotherhood and what happened next: part 2

  1. February 10, 2014 at 6:10 am

    Excellent – thanks very much for that expose.

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