MAS's Muslim Brotherhood Problem

This column was written by Daveed Gartenstein-Ross.
On May 14, 2005, PAX-TV's Faith Under Fire broadcast a debate that I took part in against Mahdi Bray, the executive director of the Muslim American Society's (MAS) Freedom Foundation. Bray had selected the debate topic in advance, and chose to argue about "The United States of Islam?" -- that is, whether American Muslims wanted to see Islamic law sharia) implemented in the United States. While I unwaveringly agreed that most American Muslims don't want to see the United States ruled by Islamic law, I nonetheless jumped at the chance to debate this topic against Bray. After all, the Chicago Tribune recently published a story detailing how the fundamentalist Muslim Brotherhood operates in the United States as none other than MAS. So while most American Muslims don't want to see the United States governed by sharia, Bray's organization does. And while researching for the debate, I found that MAS -- except in its most public of statements -- is quite open about its agenda and allegiances. Even a brief review of various MAS chapters' websites provides a revealing look at what the national organization is teaching its members.

The Muslim Brotherhood is an international Islamist group that largely operates underground and behind the scenes, with branches in about 70 countries. The Brotherhood was founded in 1928 by Hassan al-Banna, an Egyptian schoolteacher who -- in the wake of the collapse of the Ottoman Empire and abolition of the caliphate -- bemoaned the sickness of the Ummah, or larger Muslim community. The Brotherhood's response to this perceived sickness was to emphasize doctrinally that Islam encompasses all the affairs of man. As al-Banna wrote, "Islam is faith and worship, a country and a citizenship, a religion and a state. It is spirituality and hard work. It is a Qur'an and a sword." The group also emphasizes that Islam is a universal faith. As al-Banna put it, Islam "has encompassed all aspects of human life, for all peoples and nations, and for all times and ages."

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