The New Muslim Brotherhood in the West

The New Muslim Brotherhood in the West

Lorenzo Vidino
Copyright Date: 2010
Pages: 336
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  • Book Info
    The New Muslim Brotherhood in the West
    Book Description:

    In Europe and North America, networks tracing their origins back to the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamist movements have rapidly evolved into multifunctional and richly funded organizations competing to become the major representatives of Western Muslim communities and government interlocutors. Some analysts and policy makers see these organizations as positive forces encouraging integration. Others cast them as modern-day Trojan horses, feigning moderation while radicalizing Western Muslims.

    Lorenzo Vidino brokers a third, more informed view. Drawing on more than a decade of research on political Islam in the West, he keenly analyzes a controversial movement that still remains relatively unknown. Conducting in-depth interviews on four continents and sourcing documents in ten languages, Vidino shares the history, methods, attitudes, and goals of the Western Brothers, as well as their phenomenal growth. He then flips the perspective, examining the response to these groups by Western governments, specifically those of Great Britain, Germany, and the United States. Highly informed and thoughtfully presented, Vidino's research sheds light on a critical juncture in Muslim-Western relations.

    eISBN: 978-0-231-52229-8
    Subjects: Political Science, Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. 1 Who Speaks for Western Muslims?
    (pp. 1-16)

    No American Muslim leader ever had better access to the U.S. political establishment than Abdurahman Alamoudi. After his arrival in the United States as a student in 1980, the Eritrean-born biochemist involved himself in various American Muslim organizations, assuming leadership positions in several of them.¹ By the end of the decade he had settled in Washington, where he began to develop an impressive network of contacts within the upper echelons of the American political establishment. In 1990, Alamoudi cofounded the American Muslim Council (AMC) and soon became a regular visitor to the White House, establishing cordial relationships with both Republican...

  5. 2 The Western Brotherhood
    (pp. 17-55)

    The history of what is today commonly referred to as modern political Islam or Islamic revivalism starts in the late nineteenth century, when thinkers such as Jamal al-Din al-Afghani, Mohammed Abduh, and Rashid Rida began addressing the reasons for the Muslim world’s state of crisis. At a time when Europeans were exerting their colonial influence in most of the Islamic world, Muslims were asking themselves why their power and culture were in decline. Many thinkers and rulers argued that their religiosity had kept them back and that the military, economic, technological, and cultural advantages of the West could be overcome...

  6. 3 Aims and Methods
    (pp. 56-95)

    Virtually ignored outside of specialized academic and political circles throughout the 1980s and 1990s, since 9/11 Islamism has been the subject of constant and often ill-informed discussion. The heterogeneity of the movement, which arguably encompasses both groups that employ horrifying violence to further a millenarian view of society and modern political organizations that participate in the democratic process and publicly reject violence, has made political Islam particularly difficult to grapple with. Clearly no single assessment can be applied to all, and any analysis must take into consideration the nuances that characterize such diverse forces.

    Although experts may disagree about the...

  7. 4 The Governments’ Dilemma
    (pp. 96-113)

    The previous chapters have described the New Western Brothers as rational actors operating within the democratic framework to achieve their political goals and as main candidates, thanks to their resources and activism, for the role of representatives of Western Muslim communities. It is now important to see how the New Western Brothers fit into the Western governments’ search for interlocutors within the Muslim community. Do the governments perceive the Brothers’ desire to participate in the democratic process as based on heartfelt convictions or on tactical calculations? Do they think that the Brothers’ ideology is compatible with life in a secular...

  8. 5 Great Britain
    (pp. 114-146)

    This second part of the book will analyze in more detail the situation in various Western countries, providing examples of some of the patterns identified in the previous chapters. It is perhaps appropriate to start with Great Britain, because Islamic revivalist organizations, mostly of South Asian origin, have traditionally been particularly active there; an analysis of their tactics reveals patterns common to most other countries. Moreover, Britain has been one of the first Western countries to attempt to craft a policy of engagement with Islamist spinoffs. The internal debate and the shifts in policy provide particularly useful insights on processes...

  9. 6 Germany
    (pp. 147-165)

    In May 1999, the German Parliament passed a historic piece of legislation that drastically changed the country’s approach to citizenship.¹ By shifting the basis for acquiring German nationality from descent (jus sanguinis) to birth on German soil (jus solis) and making naturalizations easier, Germany finally accepted the fact that the millions of guest workers (Gastarbeiter) and their progeny who had settled in the country since the mid-1950s were not going to return to their countries of origin but had become a permanent part of German society. Policy makers, who passed the bill with a large majority, understood that a less...

  10. 7 The United States
    (pp. 166-198)

    The situation of both the Muslim community and the Muslim Brotherhood in the United States represents an anomaly, characterized by several differences from Europe. Wealthier and more educated, on average, than both European Muslims and non-Muslim Americans, American Muslims experienced few problems integrating into a nation that, unlike most European countries, has absorbed millions of immigrants since its birth. Moreover, enjoying the strict separation between church and state and the laissez-faire attitude toward religious pluralism that has characterized America since the Founding Fathers, they have experienced few of the problems of recognition and institutionalization of their faith that European Muslims...

  11. 8 The Brothers and Terrorism: Firefighters or Arsonists?
    (pp. 199-221)

    Since September 11, 2001, security considerations and terrorism have almost inevitably become the prisms through which most issues involving Western Muslim communities have been viewed. During the months following the attacks, policy makers, fearing imminent further attacks, understandably focused on uncovering and dismantling terrorist networks. Yet, over the last few years, and particularly after the attacks in Madrid and London and the arrests of hundreds of European and American Muslims who had been involved in terrorist activities, many governments have understood that simply dismantling terrorist networks without preventing the radicalization of potential new militants is like playing a never-ending game...

  12. Conclusion: The Way Forward
    (pp. 222-226)

    The difficulties experienced by most Western governments in assessing and engaging New Western Brotherhood organizations are paradigmatic of the challenges posed by such a complex movement. Conceptualizing a movement that mixes politics and religion, particularly a religion about which most policy makers know little, has proven extremely difficult. In some cases, the Brothers’ actions seem to reflect the moderation and prointegration stance that Western governments are desperately looking for in their Muslim interlocutors. In others, they seem to harbor an agenda and embrace values diametrically opposed to those of a Western liberal democracy. Policy makers, eager to find solutions to...

  13. Notes
    (pp. 227-278)
  14. Bibliography
    (pp. 279-308)
  15. Index
    (pp. 309-326)