Fact Check a Fact Check: Rep. Bachmann and Muslim Brotherhood

On September 11th, 2013, the Tampa Bay Times ran a www.politifact.com item written by Julie Kliegman, regarding a speech made by  U.S. Representative Michele Bachmann, R-Minn.

Rep Bachmann was addressing the Egyptian people while on an eight-member House delegation to Egypt. Ms. Kliegman’s “fact checking” focused on Rep. Bachmann’s references to threats posed by the Muslim Brotherhood.

“We’ve seen the threat that the Muslim Brotherhood has posed around the world,” she said Saturday. “We stand against this great evil. We are not for them. We remember who caused 9/11 in America. We remember who it was that killed 3,000 brave Americans. We have not forgotten. We know that you have dealt with that enemy as well.”

Was Bachmann blaming the Muslim Brotherhood for the 9/11 attacks? Or, was she making a more general statement that both Egypt and the United States should fight extremists?

Dan Kotman, Bachmann’s press secretary, told PolitiFact in an email that her comments were not meant to imply that the Muslim Brotherhood caused 9/11. Her main point was that the United States and Egypt need to maintain their resolve against terrorism in general, Kotman said.

Bachmann’s comments struck us as open to interpretation, so we won’t rate them on our Truth-O-Meter. Nevertheless, we thought it was worth taking a closer look at the Brotherhood, al-Qaida and misconceptions about the attacks.

Ms. Kliegman provides a brief historical background on the Muslim Brotherhood and reports:

In recent memory the Brotherhood has not supported violence as a means of changing political processes in Egypt, wrote Dave Siegel, Duke University political science professor, in an email.

This is rather disingenuous and leaves the reader with an impression that the group has rejected violence in general.   The process leading to Morsi’s election was largely reported by western media as non-violent, but the social change sought by the Muslim Brotherhood has been quite the opposite.  It’s leaders have supported violence against Egypt’s Christians as well as attacks on the U.S. Embassy in September of 2012.

About 10 days prior to the referenced email from Siegel, Muslim Brotherhood leader Youssef Qaradawi called the ousting of President Morsi a conspiracy and directed Egyptian men and women to rebel against the current government.

According to The Global Muslim Brotherhood Daily Watch : Youssef Qaradawi is the most important leader of the Global Muslim Brotherhood and is the de facto spiritual leader of the movement. He is also considered to be the “spiritual guide” for Hamas and his fatwas in support of suicide bombings against Israeli citizens were utilized by Hamas to justify their operations.  In 2004, Qaradawi turned down the offer to head he Egyptian Brotherhood after the death of the Supreme Guide.

Ms. Kliegman’s article then moves to address Rep. Bachmann’s references to the attacks of 9/11/2001.  She cites a telephone interview she has with James Gelvin, a Middle Eastern history professor at UCLA:

While the Muslim Brotherhood focuses on politics within countries like Egypt, al-Qaida seeks to liberate the Middle East from imperialist rule, which they think was implemented to keep the Muslim world divided and weak.

To paint the Muslim Brotherhood as simply a political group, with no ties to terrorism is naive at best.  Since 1997, Hamas has been a U.S. designated terrorist organization and openly identifies itself as a Muslim Brotherhood group in its charter.   In the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development trial/investigation, Muslim Brotherhood front groups in the U.S. were identified as providing funds to Hamas.  An informative and well documented article highlighting how charity groups fund terror can be found at UK Funds Terror Connections: Islamic Relief Worldwide.  References  to Muslim Brotherhood groups/connections are numerous.

Regarding the 9/11 Commission report, Ms. Kliegman writes:

The commission frequently referred to al-Qaida in explaining its makeup and recommending future action. By contrast, there are only five references to the Muslim Brotherhood in the 585-page document.

In a report regarding the largest terrorist attack on U.S. soil, being associated and having multiple mentions is not something that should be considered insignificant.

Ms. Kliegman’s fact checking concludes with a section in bold of No link and implies that since the Muslim Brotherhood denounces violence it would be at odds with al Qaeda.  She relies on another telephone interview with Tony Gaskew, University of Pittsburgh criminal justice professor:

“It is impossible to be socially active in the Middle East and not have come into contact with the tenants of the Muslim Brotherhood,” he said. “They are extremely active in creating and sustaining social services, educational services, employment programs and health care programs.”

This is exactly how  al Qaeda obtains significant funding under the guise of charity work.  In an evidentary proffer submitted in  the case of U.S. vs. Emann M. Arnaout:

In or about 1993, Bin Laden advised an al Qaeda member that al Qaeda was using several charities to fund its operations overseas, including al Birr. The al Qaeda member understood from conversations with Bin Laden and others in al Qaeda that the charities would receive funds that could be withdrawn in cash and a portion of the money used for legitimate relief purposes and another portion diverted for al Qaeda operations. The money for al Qaeda operations would nevertheless be listed in the charities’ books as expenses for building mosques or schools or feeding the poor or the needy.

Ms. Kliegman’s academic contacts further state:

  • Many people leave the Muslim Brotherhood due to the social movement’s opposition to violence, Gaskew said. They have repeatedly denounced violence, Gaskew said.
  • The Muslim Brotherhood and al-Qaida aren’t on good terms with each other, Siegel said.
  • “(The Muslim Brotherhood’s) methods — focused more on the political process than pure violence — have actually been explicitly criticized by Bin Laden, who accused it of betraying the cause,” Siegel wrote in an email. “It is certainly not responsible for 9/11.”

The U.S. Treasury department identified the Benevolence International Fund (BIF) and  Global Relief Foundation (GRF), both Muslim Brotherhood entities, as Funneling Dollars to Al Qaida.

The global funding aspect brings to light a very important fact that Ms. Kliegman has apparently missed in her analysis of the Muslim Brotherhood – it is a global organization.    It operates through a seemingly myriad of front groups in supporting terror to achieve an Islamist agenda.  It’s goals, operations and main interests are not defined by sovereign borders.

This is the threat that Rep. Bachmann is addressing, “We’ve seen the threat that the Muslim Brotherhood has posed around the world,”


ADDITIONAL COMMENTS:  Ms. Kliegman relying heavily on the opinions of several academics versus documented facts provides a rather weak evaluation of Rep. Bachmann’s comments.  Even more so when their opinions do not even reflect the documented history of the Muslim Brotherhood.   

An excellent reference in regards to the Muslim Brotherhood’s Global operations/activity can be found at The Global Muslim Brotherhood Daily Watch.  In regards to Muslim Brotherhood’s operation though front groups in the U.S., one of the best reference papers to date is the Hudson Institutes: Muslim Brotherhood in America.

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