Egypt’s MB and their money: where does it come from?

Egypt’s MB and their money: where does it come from?

CAIRO: Don’t ask, don’t tell. This is the unspoken policy of the Muslim Brotherhood in terms of where their money comes from. The reason is simple, the Egyptian government has cracked down on the banned political opposition group since its surprise showing in the 2005 Parliamentary elections that saw them take nearly one-fifth of the seats, running candidates as independents.

High-profile cases have sporadically appeared in recent years over funding the Islamic group, most notably Khairat al-Shater, the former deputy who now resides in an Egyptian prison, after being found guilty for “funding a banned organization.”

Current deputy Mohamed Habib says that the group would have no problem revealing the group’s sponsors, but “the Egyptian regime does not allow this to be made public because they arrest and imprison persons that are openly known to be funding our group.”

It begs the question, who then, is funding the Muslim Brotherhood? Habib said that for the most part, “it is individuals who feel the need to help support their organization on a personal basis. This is how we get the vast majority of our financial support.”

He argued that the group runs very similar to how an American political party deals with funding. “Personal donations make the largest portion of our money and that is why we continue to be able to function. The cause is right, so they support it.”

Exact figures for the total amount of funding the Brotherhood receives annually is unclear due to security concerns, but a leading accountant in the group said that it is “substantial.” He added that although a number of individuals have been detained, arrested and imprisoned over the past four years, “we are able to continue doing the projects and establishing a solid base.”

The accountant, who asked not to be named due to the precarious security situation in the country facing those with Brotherhood affiliations, said that when individuals within the group are arrested, there have already been established protocols to ensure that the funds they were providing are continued. In a sense, the government is doing little to curtail the money.

“The government believes they are cutting off our money, but in reality, what they are doing is imprisoning someone who then becomes a calling point for others to join the movement,” the accountant added. And this means an increase in donations.

A number of foreign, namely American anti-Islamic organizations such as Jihad Watch, Campus Watch and Front Page Magazine, have long argued that the Muslim Brotherhood uses their money to fund terrorist activities across the globe. The accountant laughs at this, saying that they are taking the fact that a number of European members of the group who give money have been under investigation simply by funding “our non-violent and peaceful political organization.” He argued, as have many MB leaders, that the group does not involve itself in violent activities anywhere in the world.

He showed Bikya Masr one of the computer printouts – a fact that did not allude him to point out how “more advanced” the Brotherhood was from the government – to prove that much of their funding does come from foreign sources. Indeed, almost all Western European nations were listed.

The names of persons and organizations were there, listed in a neat, pristine manner to for all to see in what he said would be “a transparent manner if the government allowed it.” The accountant said that these are the types of people who help fund the group. “They are mainly businessmen that believe in our mission.”

How do they do it, with the government keeping a close watch over where the money goes?

“What happens is [that] when a Brotherhood member or an organization interested in grassroots initiatives in Egypt contact us to donate money, we go through a process of investigation in order to ensure that they have not given to other groups that could be construed as terrorist or violent,” he says.

The only name on the list, the accountant said was public knowledge and that he would feel comfortable revealing was Egyptian businessman and Swiss resident Youssef Nada, who was recently released from house arrest and had his travel ban lifted by Swiss officials after investigations into his alleged terrorist funding post-2001 “proved false,” Swiss authorities revealed earlier this month.

Nada, the accountant said, is a typical example of how funding within the Brotherhood works. “While Nada is not officially a Brotherhood member, he sees some of the ideas and projects as part of a way to use Islam for the greater good. Each funding partner has the ability to choose where the money goes.”

For Nada, he had been a posterchild for Western groups who argued Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood was funding terrorist activities and by clamping down on individuals like Nada, “they would fold and not be able to kill people,” as an American representative of Jihad Watch said in a phone interview.

“We know what their real goals are and that is why it is so disappointing that Nada has been released, because we know that the Muslim Brotherhood gets money from international terror networks and individuals that support violent activity,” the official said, not revealing his name or title. When asked about the Swiss government’s statements to the contrary, the Jihad Watch consultant said bluntly “it is lies that the Brotherhood is creating in foreign governments’ minds that they are peaceful and do not get money from terrorists.”

Nada did not want to discuss his financial situation at the present, saying that “I have been proven not to be a so-called terrorist and I just want to be able to travel and visit the holy places of Islam after 8 years in my home,” adding that he has never “supported terrorist activity financially and I think the killing of innocent people is wrong. I am just grateful to be free.”

Back in Egypt, the Brotherhood, despite a series of arrests and government claims as to their financial support of violent activity, denies they use any funding for terrorist activities.

“What happens after individuals contact us, we discuss where the money will go. Often, businessmen will give us a percentage of their companies earnings, so that if they are detained or imprisoned the funding will not be cut off. The government can try hard to cut us down, but it won’t work because we are not a terrorist organization and European and American governments will not freeze these bank accounts,” the accountant revealed, saying that most Brotherhood funders have smartly “put their money in international accounts that the Egyptian government cannot access.”

Supreme Guide Mahdi Akef’s office said that the issue of money has been one of the few issues that they have been forced to keep secret due to the crackdown on individuals and members being accused of funding the Brotherhood.

Like Habib, the official in Cairo said that “if we lived in a perfect world, where we were accepted as a legitimate political group, our finances would be open to the public to see.”

The accountant responded similarly, closing the binder with the financial statistics. “Look, we will show people who are interested in the money, but at this time, we just can’t put up a list like President Obama did of those people who funded his campaign, but we hope this will change soon.”