Inside the Muslim Brotherhood in the West
The so-called Arab Spring has seen the Muslim Brotherhood rise to power in the Middle East and North Africa.
But those aren't the only regions where the group is spreading its influence: the Brotherhood has also been active in the West for decades.
CBN News recently traveled to Europe to discover how the Muslim Brotherhood got here and what it has planned.
Sparking a Capitol Debate
It's an issue that continues to heat up on Capitol Hill.
When Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., and four other GOP House members called for an investigation recently into Muslim Brotherhood infiltration of the U.S. government, they were widely criticized, even by some of their Republican colleagues.
Yet documents captured by the FBI show cleary that the Muslim Brotherhood is active in the United States.
And Egypt's new president, Mohammed Morsi, reportedly joined the group while he was a student at the University of Southern California in the late 1970s and early 80s.
Establishing a Toehold
The Brotherhood's presence in the West, however, goes back much further than that.
CBN News recently visited the Islamic Center of Munich, which many consider the birthplace of radical Islam in the West.
It was there that the Muslim Brotherhood first established a presence in the West and spread its tentacles throughout Europe and the United States.
"Initially, the mosque was an idea of the West Germans, who also wanted to harness Islam for its political purposes in the Cold War," said Ian Johnson, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of A Mosque in Munich.
"But the project was taken over by young students, mostly members or sympathizers with the Muslim Brotherhood," he said.
Johnson told CBN News the United States and West Germany initially supported the mosque as a buffer against Soviet communism during the Cold War.
It soon became much more than that.
"It was a refuge for senior key Brotherhood people," Johnson explained. "The board of directors was a who's who of radical Islam people, from Pakistan, Egypt, Syria, North Africa, and of course, Europe."
"It really had nothing to do with Munich. It wasn't a local mosque for local Muslims," he continued. "It was a political entity that was trying to organize political Islam around the world."
From Munich, and with the help of funding from Saudi Arabia, the Brotherhood soon began establishing mosques throughout Europe and America.
"People who were key members of the mosque in Munich moved to the United States and helped set-up and organize Islam there as well," Johnson said.
How the Brotherhood Operates
CBN News recently spoke with two Muslim leaders in Europe who have been linked to the Brotherhood to get their insights on how the group operates.
Ibrahim el-Zayat has been closely involved with various Islamist organizations in Germany while Anas al-Tikriti heads up the Cordoba Foundation in Great Britain.
Al-Tikriti's father, Osama, is the former leader of the Muslim Brotherhood in Iraq.
CBN News asked al-Tikriti how the Muslim Brotherhood operates and whether each local branch reports back to the Brotherhood's "mother ship" in Egypt.
"This myth of the global network where there's one hub -- possibly Cairo or elsewhere, sometimes it's claimed -- where every single command, every single move is orchestrated and planned, is not only a myth: it's a fantastical myth," al-Tikiriti answered.
"The local Muslim Brotherhood movements in the various countries, they're extremely contextualized," he continued. "They're very, very local thinking. They operate according to their local constraints."
In 2008, David Cameron, who went on to become Britain's prime minister, called al Tikriti's Cordoba Foundation "a front for the Muslim Brotherhood." Al-Tikriti denies the charge.
"The Cordoba Foundation isn't a front for the Muslim Brotherhood," he told CBN News. "We're an independent organization. My links to the Muslim Brotherhood are extremely well-known…first of all, I'm the son of Osama al-Ttikriti. He was, for many years, the leader of the Muslim Brotherhood (in Iraq)."
Ibrahim el-Zayat has faced similar charges of Brotherhood involvement.
In 2005, a German parliamentarian called him a "functionary of the Muslim Brotherhood" and the Egyptian government under Hosni Mubarak made the same claim.
El-Zayat denies the charges but praises the Brotherhood as an Islamic reform movement.
"I think what is special about the Muslim Brotherhood in the end -- and it's not only the Muslim Brotherhood -- it is what you could describe as a thought which is combining Islam with modern life," he told CBN News.
Al-Tikriti agreed, telling CBN News the Brotherhood's intentions in Egypt and elsewhere are non-violent and consistent with modern societies.
"None of the leading figures of the Muslim Brotherhood has actually come out and said this is our plan, for Egypt to turn to Islam."
A Double Game?
Yet that's exactly what Egyptian president Morsi did in May, telling an audience at Cairo University, "The Koran is our constitution, the prophet is our leader, jihad is our path, and death in the name of Allah is our goal."
"Today we can establish sharia law," Morsi continued. "Because our nation will acquire well-being only with Islam and Sharia. The Muslim Brothers and the Freedom and Justice Party will be the conductors of these goals."
CBN News asked El-Zayat about another of the Brotherhood's long-stated goals: the return of the Islamic caliphate, or a union of all Muslim nations under one ruler, or caliph.
"In today's time, we have so much different information, we have so many different ways of running countries, that it can't be one to lead it and to lead all the Muslim world like this," El-Zayat answered. "I don't think anyone within the leadership of the Muslim Brotherhood is thinking of the caliphate like this."
The message was quite different, however, at a large rally in Cairo in May, when a Brotherhood cleric introduced Morsi as the soon-to-be Egyptian president looked on amid cheers and chants:
"The United States of the Arabs will be restored by (Morsi) and his supporters…the capital of the caliphate-the capital of the United States of the Arabs-will be Jerusalem, Allah willing."
El-Zayat told CBN News that Islamic nations should seek to gain more influence through the UN and other international bodies.
He worked towards that agenda for years as an official with the Federation of Islamic Organizations in Europe, widely considered the Muslim Brotherhood's lobbying arm at the European Union.
CBN News visited the FIOE's headquarters in a run-down neighborhood of Brussels only to be told that no one from the organization was there who could talk to us.
It's another piece of the Brotherhood's often murky puzzle in the West.
"People who are close to the Brotherhood will often say, 'I'm not a member of the Brotherhood' and technically, they are correct," Johnson said.
"Because it's more like an ideological universe," he explained. "It's a group of people who have similar ideas and thoughts, who read all the same classic works by Muslim Brotherhood thinkers and who strive for the same goals in society."
Al-Tikriti is one who seems to strive for those goals. He regularly meets with U.S. and European officials and says they should embrace the Brotherhood as a counterweight to al Qaeda.
"I think it's a very, very valid strategy," he said. "I think it will work, and I think it will be in our best interest."
A Foolish Embrace?
Johnson disagreed, saying Western governments should steer clear of the Brotherhood.
"They're creating the ideological mindset that turns people into terrorists," Johnson told CBN News. "It's true that not all Muslim Brothers are terrorists, but all terrorists pretty much started by reading the works of the Muslim Brotherhood. It's the gateway drug, if you will, that leads to radicalism."
Here in the United States, the Obama administration appears to have adopted al-Tikriti's view.
It hosted a Muslim Brotherhood delegation from Egypt in April and Morsi will meet with President Obama at the White House in September.