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The Amazing Deception in the Muslim Brotherhood's Charm Offensive
Almost since the beginning of the current debate over the nature of the Muslim Brotherhood and engagement vs. confrontation policy with the "moderate" group, one theme has been repeated by those who favor dialogue with the group. Unfortunately, the central argument is a fabrication, spun by the Muslim Brothers seeking to blunt the history of its support for violent _jihad_.

The campaign to portray the Brotherhood as a moderate, non-violent political force is predicated on the notion that the Brotherhood has turned away from the radical teaching of Sayyid Qutb and embraced a more moderate theology that now supposedly holds sway. Unfortunately, this line, while demonstrably untrue, has been seized on by academics and policy makers anxious for some type of engagement with the "moderate" Muslim world.

In a nutshell, the argument, put forth by Leiken and Brooke in their controversial Foreign Affairs piece, as well as James Traub in the New York Times Magazine and others is this: That the radical tract _Milestones_ , written from prison by Brotherhood leader Sayyid Qutb calling for violent _jihad_ against non-Muslims, particularly the West, and apostate Muslim regimes, has been repudiated, at least tacitly, by the current Brotherhood.

Replacing _Milestones_, the argument goes, was a book written by a fellow prisoner named Hassan al-Hudaybi called _Preachers, Not Judges_.

As Leiken and Brooke wrote, "But from his own (prison) cell, Hudaybi disputed Qutb's conclusion. Only God, he believed, could judge faith...Within the Brotherhood, Hudaybi's tolerant view, in line with (Hassan al-Banna's) founding vision-prevailed, cementin the group's moderate vocation."

This is a strange argument, given that _Milestones_ has been in print since 1964, in many languages. It is printed in the United States, taught as part of curriculum of various Islamist groups here, and has been one of the best selling books of all time in Arabic.

In contrast, _Preachers_ was printed twice, in 1977 and 1985, in Arabic, was not printed in other languages and has not appeared anywhere in Arabic world since 1985.

(Much of the following, including finding and passing on the key texts, was initially done by Patrick Poole, whose research, who went further and faster on the topic than I did and will have a more lengthy piece forthcoming shortly. Additional information and insights were provided by other readers, who found what I had, and what Patrick elaborated on).

But there is a far larger problem with _Preachers_. Hudaybi never wrote _Preachers._ Poole and others have unearthed academic findings written before 9-11, that is, before the Brotherhood was fighting the image of the primary organization from which almost all violent Islamist movements spring, showing that _Preachers_ can credibly be attributed to Egyptian intelligence, written to divide the Brotherhood members jailed by the Egyptian regime.

At a conference held at Georgetown University in March on the theme of Islamist Politics: Contemporary Trajectories in the Arab World, Barbara Zollner, Director of Islamic Studies at Birbeck College, University of London, summarize her extensive research on the subject of Hudaybi and his role, as follows:

"There are a number of writers who argue that Du'at la Qudat, (Preachers, not Prophets), when it was published in the 1970s... that it is an evidence of the Muslim Brotherhood’s turn away from radical thinking, and that it evidences a shift of the Muslim Brotherhood’s stance towards a centrist Islamist ideology…What I want to say today are two things. Overall my argument is that Preachers, Not Judges was not written by Hassan al-Hudaybi, and secondly, it is not written as a response to Sayyid Qutb."

Dr. Zollner noted that:

"As we know all you have to do is go on their [the Muslim Brotherhood] website today you still have a sub-section where Qutb is referred to and reference is made to his work; Qutb is still held in the Brotherhood’s memory, the Brotherhood did not turn away or against Qutb. To say that it that the Muslim Brotherhood issued a refutation in the 1970s rejecting Qutbian thinking, that would contradict exactly that."

Zollner’s research, along with that of Sayed Khatab of the University of Melbourne, Australia, found is that rather than being the product of the Muslim Brotherhood leadership, the book was most likely a collaborative effort by the Egyptian security apparatus and scholars of Al-Azhar University.

In his 2001 work titled "Al-Hudaybi's Influence on the Development of Islamist Movements in Egypt," (The Muslim World, Fall, 2001) , Khatab quotes a series of 1995 interviews by Brig. Gen. Fu'ad Allam, an official of the Security Apparatus of the (Egyptian) State from 1962-1971. In it, Allam describes how the state security apparatus wrote the book in part to divide the Brotherhood members in prison, using Khatab's son as a key interlocutor.

As Khatab wrote: "With regard to the reliability of Allam's claims, neither Hudaybi, his son nor al Azhar have decided to challene Allam's account. We may thus presume it is accurate."

I would argue that the Brotherhood, in granting access to selected scholars and journalists in an effort to make their case for moderation, planted the _Preachers_ story of rejection of radicalism as a deliberate part of their ongoing campaign of deception. They were banking, correctly in the initial phases, that no one could dig up the relatively obscure text that is in Arabic and long out of circulation, and so would simply take the Brotherhood statements as fact.

A good strategy, as it netted them the results they hoped for. A lie exposed late will often live on. I would bet we see the Brotherhood canard repeated again and again. Denial and deception on our part is a lost art. Too bad the Brotherhood keeps honing its skills in that department.

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