Hamas, Muslim Brotherhood “not brothers”

Hamas, Muslim Brotherhood “not brothers”

CAIRO: A Muslim Brotherhood official has told Bikya Masr that the reports that Hamas “pledged” allegiance to the Egyptian group is “simply ridiculous.” The official from recently elected Supreme Guide Mohamed Badie’s office, said that Egyptian daily newspaper al-Masry al-Youm’s attacks on the group are “unfounded” and “far from the truth.”

Experts seem to support this claim. In a conversation with one of the world’s leading experts on the Muslim Brotherhood, Khalil al-Anani, the question of Hamas and its connection with the Brotherhood arose. He argued that in order for a member of the Brotherhood to turn toward violence “they would ostensibly have to leave the group, because the Brotherhood is not an extremist or violent entity and adheres to peaceful transitions of power.”

But, in the Egyptian daily’s article, Fathia al-Dakhakhani and Tariq Salah claim that “the leader of the de facto Hamas government in the Gaza Strip, Ismail Haniye, proffered allegiance to the new guide of the Brotherhood.”

“Where they come up with this stuff is strange to us, but we believe in a free press and they can write whatever they want. It is an opinion piece people should be aware of,” said the official, who asked not to be named because he was not authorized to speak to the press.

Anani’s assertions that Hamas and the Brotherhood should not be put in the same pot of Islamic groups is made evident in how the formation of Hamas came about. The organization was founded in 1987 by Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, Abdel Aziz al-Rantissi and Mohamad Taha, who had been prominent members of the Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood. They established the group because they felt the Brotherhood was not doing enough to combat the Israeli occupation at the onset of the first Intifada.

“To go from A to Z in terms of Islamic violence, Muslims must leave an organization such as the Muslim Brotherhood, because it simply forbids violence and believes in peaceful means to achieve its goals,” Anani said.

Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh, a leading reformist member of the group’s Executive Bureau – the decision-making body of the MB – told Bikya Masr that the group “stands for tolerance and understanding and hopes to create an open society.” So, the idea, at least to him, that Hamas and the Brotherhood are working toward the same goals “must be put in context.”

He argued that the Brotherhood is regularly in contact with the Palestinian group, “but for humanitarian purposes as the MB in Egypt often provides services and aid to Gaza.” In fact, Aboul Fotouh was jailed last summer for four months due to his connections with medical supplies being taken into the Gaza Strip.

“It is only consultative, we do not advise them on what they do and we are not connected in the decisions being made, much like the United States and Egyptian governments,” he said.

Young Brotherhood members, especially those calling for reforms within the Islamic group, have often pointed to the differences between militant factions and Egypt’s Brotherhood, arguing that they take their lead from Turkish organizations as an example of how an Islamic organization should function.

“We don’t believe in violence,” Abdel Rahman Mansour said bluntly when asked about violence. He says that the MB is more “political” in nature and looks to all of Egypt as a whole when searching for solutions to the growing societal problems facing the country. Hamas, to him and other young bloggers, is an afterthough.

Right Side News, a conservative American publication known for its anti-Islamic tendencies, used the article as support for arguing that “aside from its close ties to HAMAS, the Egypt-based Brotherhood has had close historical ties with numerous other Islamist groups both around the world and in the United States.”

For the Brotherhood, who recently was embroiled in a debate over Essam el-Erian’s ascension to the Executive Bureau – Erian is considered a reformist and many of the elderly conservative members opposed his election – another media campaign against the group is unlikely to stir the pot, said Badie’s office in a statement.

“We affirm our peaceful and democratic structures and denounce all violence,” it read. “We are one of only a few organizations in Egypt that have held real democratic elections. Even the government here cannot attest to this.”

The group added that while there are problems and issues that need solving, “we will do this in time.”