The Muslim Brotherhood, an Egyptian-based group, has taken a low, sometimes secretive profile in the U.S., but has been instrumental in turning American Islam in a more conservative direction, according to the Chicago Tribune (Sept. 24).
An in-depth article by Noreen S. Ahmed-Ullah, Sam Roe and Laurie Cohen reports that the brotherhood has operated in secrecy: as they advocate the creation of Muslim states overseas and, they hope, someday in America as well. The Brotherhood has had a significant and ongoing impact on Islam in America, helping establish mosques, Islamic schools, summer youth camps and prominent Muslim organizations.
It is a major factor, Islamic scholars say, in why many Muslim institutions in the nation have become more conservative in recent decades. Many moderate Muslims in America are uncomfortable with the views preached at the many Brotherhood-influenced mosques. One document tells leaders to be cautious in revealing the identity of the Brotherhood when screening for potential recruits.
Leaders would scout mosques, Islamic classes and Muslim organizations for those with orthodox religious beliefs, usually young professionals, consistent with Brotherhood views, according to one booklet published by the group. The leaders then would invite them to join a small prayer group, or usra, Arabic for “family.”
Some have wanted the Brotherhood, which has recently operated under the name Muslim American Society (MAS), to remain underground, while leaders have pushed for more openness. But U.S. members have remained guarded about their identity and beliefs because of their support for Hamas [although no terrorism charges have been made against the group.]
It has headquarters in Alexandria, Va., and 53 chapters nationwide, MAS says it has about 10,000 members and that any Muslim can join by paying $10 a month in dues. But to be an “active” member — the highest membership class — one must complete five years of Muslim community service and education, which includes studying the writings by Brotherhood militants, such as Sayeed Qutb.
American leaders say MAS does not focus on making the U.S. Islamic and is independent of the Egyptian leadership, welcoming a diversity of Muslims. The Chicago chapter’s web site includes reading materials that say Muslims have a duty to help form Islamic governments worldwide and should be prepared to take up arms to do so. The site adds that Western secularism and materialism are evil and that Muslims should “pursue this evil force to its own lands” and “invade its Western heartland.”