Last month, a group of U.S.-allied, Sunni Arab nations issued a list of demands to Qatar as a condition to restore diplomatic and economic ties. Among the leading demands was that Qatar end its relationship with various terrorist groups, including the Muslim Brotherhood.
As a way to defuse the crisis, this list of demands may prove counter-productive, but the stated goal of encouraging Qatar to halt its support for the Muslim Brotherhood is one Americans should not only support, but should more actively pursue ourselves. The United States can’t win the broader war on terror until we take seriously all those who provide aid, resources, and inspiration to terrorists — even groups who try to obscure their links to terrorism like the Muslim Brotherhood.
The Muslim Brotherhood's deep connection to terrorism is personified by Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, the organization's 91-year old spiritual leader. For decades, Qaradawi has waged a campaign to fund, sanction and inspire terrorism yet the United States government has long declined to designate him a terrorist. This silence in the face of decades of outspoken malevolence has only served to legitimize Qaradawi and extend his influence.
Qaradawi’s ties to terrorism are well established. In 2001, he issued a religious ruling that Palestinian suicide bombers were not violating Islamic law by taking their own lives but were instead “martyrs” destined for heaven. On Qaradawi’s religious authority, Hamas later began deploying women as suicide bombers.
When he’s not inciting terrorist attacks, Qaradawi has been busy raising money for them. He served as chairman for the “Union of Good,” a network of Muslim Brotherhood organizations in Europe that raised tens of millions of dollars for Hamas. The Union of Good was designated a terrorist organization by the United States nine years ago, but Qaradawi, its founder and head, was not even mentioned in the designation.
Unfortunately, Qaradawi has long enjoyed an enormous platform via a long running television program on Qatar’s al Jazeera called “Shariah and Life.” This has helped turn Qaradawi into a pop culture figure in much of the Arab world despite (or because of) his teachings that suicide bombs are proof of “God’s justice,” and that spousal abuse may be “helpful with some” wives.
Qaradawi’s terrorist advocacy is not surprising given his longstanding ties to the Muslim Brotherhood. The Muslim Brotherhood has served as a training ground for future terrorists since its founding in the late 1920’s. Both Ahmad Yassin, the founder of Hamas, and Ayman Zawahiri, the current leader of al Qaeda, began their careers as foot soldiers in the organization. Hamas itself was founded as the Brotherhood’s Palestinian branch.
As the United States and other Western democracies have vacillated between inaction and tacit support for the Muslim Brotherhood — seeing it as a more moderate variation on militant Islam — leading Arab states have taken the lead. Within the last three years, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, and other Arab nations have formally designated the Brotherhood a terrorist organization and earlier this month, at the same time they cut diplomatic ties with Qatar, these Arab governments also blacklisted 59 people and 12 organizations that financed terrorism. Sheikh Qaradawi was included on that list.
The actions of these Arab nations were, to be sure, motivated more by self-preservation than any liberal impulse or intrinsic opposition to violence. But in his recent trip to Saudi Arabia, President Trump urged governments to confront “the crisis of Islamist extremism and the Islamist terror groups it inspires.” The leading Arab states have now taken an important first step and we have a responsibility to follow suit.
Designating Qaradawi will not, by itself, materially reduce the risk of global terrorism, but it would send a powerful signal to our enemies and allies alike that the West is slowly waking from its dream and is perhaps ready to face the truth that Islamist terror groups do no emerge fully formed from the ether: they metastasize from within communities nurtured for decades by the religious teaching and financial and institutional support of the Muslim Brotherhood and its iconic leader, Sheikh Qaradawi.
As the president rightly concluded in his Riyadh speech, “if we do not confront this deadly terror, we know what the future will bring — more suffering and despair.” But that confrontation can’t just take place on a battlefield. It must begin in earnest by designating Sheikh Qaradawi, the Muslim Brotherhood, and all those who share in their toxic ideology.
Gary M. Osen litigates terrorist financing, state-sponsored terrorism and U.S. anti-terrorism law cases in federal courts. He served as lead trial counsel in the landmark Linde v. Arab Bank, Plc case, which resulted in the first, and still only, jury verdict against a financial institution under the U.S. Anti-Terrorism Act. For Gary’s work on that matter, he was named one of Public Justice’s Trial Lawyers of the Year in 2016. Gary currently serves as co-lead counsel in five major terrorism-related cases pending in federal courts: Karcher v. Iran; Freeman v. HSBC Holdings Plc, et al.; Shaffer v. Deutsche Bank AG; Strauss v. Crédit Lyonnais, S.A. and Weiss v. National Westminster Bank Plc. The New York Times has recognized Gary as "an internationally consulted legal authority on terror financing." Businessweek has also noted that "Osen is doing what good lawyers do: capitalize on how jurisprudence evolves to fit the times." To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.
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