January 30, 2015 | Policy Brief

The Brotherhood Declares Jihad – in Arabic

Islamic State-linked jihadis struck the Sinai Peninsula on Thursday, killing as many as 60 troops and police officers in Egypt’s deadliest violence since the revolution against Hosni Mubarak four years ago. In English, the Muslim Brotherhood condemned the attack, but it occurred the same day that a Brotherhood TV channel threatened to target foreigners in Egypt and two days after the group called, in Arabic, for its supporters to wage “jihad.”

The “jihad” statement, posted to the Brotherhood’s Arabic site, was unambiguous in its language, touting the need for “strength” (or “force,” depending on translation) no fewer than 18 times. “Rising nations need strength,” it said, quoting Brotherhood founder Hassan El-Banna, “and need to instill military morals into their children in this age where peace is only guaranteed by preparation for war.”

The statement also lauded Banna’s “special apparatus,” a secret Brotherhood militia that in the 1940s and 50s attacked symbols of British rule in Egypt and Jewish settlement in Palestine (“the usurper Jews,” in the statement’s wording), and even assassinated an Egyptian prime minister.

“We are at the threshold of a new period in which we recall our strength that has been lying in wait,” the declaration said, “in which we evoke the meanings of jihad and prepare ourselves, our wives, our sons and our daughters and anyone else walking along our path for a long, relentless jihad.”

Following the Sinai attack, the group’s English statement carried a rather different theme: “peace.” It extolled the group’s commitment to “peaceful civil and political struggle, to democratic mechanisms and popular choices,” and to a “peaceful approach and [the] path of non-violent action.” The word “peace” – which featured nowhere in the Arabic announcement – appeared 12 times.

The notion of a moderate Muslim Brotherhood was always predicated more on aspiration than experience. Old myths die hard, but as this week’s events underscore, this is one whose demise is long overdue.

Oren Kessler is Deputy Director for Research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.