The Brotherhood’s secrets
Gamal Essam El-Din, , Wednesday 31 Jul 2019
As Muslim Brotherhood leaders exchange accusations in Turkey a new book reveals the inner workings of the group, writes Gamal Essam El-Din

Muslim Brotherhood members in Turkey have been busy exchanging accusations of corruption. Members of the Brotherhood Youth Group have used Twitter and Facebook accounts to accuse Brotherhood leaders living in Turkey of embezzling millions of dollars.

Four members of the Brotherhood’s Shura Council are said to have lined their own pockets with millions of dollars from Qatar and other donors at a time when the group’s rank and file are struggling to make ends meet in Turkey.

“They embezzled funds to buy luxury flats and cars in Turkey,” Amr Hassan, a young Brotherhood member, wrote on his Facebook page.

Hassan named Mahmoud Hassan, Ibrahim Mounir, Mohamed Al-Ibiari and Mohamed Al-Beheiri, all members of the group’s Shura Council, as the worst offenders.

Amir Bassam, another member of the group’s Shura Council, joined the finger pointing, saying corruption and embezzlement were endemic among the group’s leaders.

“We can’t allow this to continue, not at a time when some of the group’s members are facing starvation on the streets of Istanbul,” said Bassam.

“Secretary-general Mahmoud Hussein, spokesperson Ibrahim Mounir, Brotherhood Africa official Mohamed Al-Beheiri and the manager of the Brotherhood’s office in London Mahmoud Al-Ibiari embezzled large sums to buy real estate in Turkey and set up bank accounts in the names of family members.

“Hussein admitted he used donations to buy property, as well as spending $100,000 on a car. And this at a time the group’s younger members are eking by on 200 Turkish lira a month, or else have had all financial assistance removed,” said Bassam.

Essam Talima, a preacher, said on a Brotherhood TV channel broadcast from Turkey that Hussein, Mounir, Al-Beheiri and Al-Ibiari had bought an apartment building valued at $1 million and “10 members of the Shura Council have demanded an investigation into the misuse of funds.”

Maher Farghali, an expert on Islamist movements and former member of the Muslim Brotherhood, told Al-Arabiya TV that “the Brotherhood has a long history of milking funds from charitable organisations in Europe and elsewhere, particularly Qatar.

“The group’s technique, particularly in Europe and the non-Islamic world, is to present itself as a victim of Arab autocracies.

“The leaders use the money to spend on themselves and also to fund so-called Islamic centres which are then used to collect more donations and spread the Brotherhood’s extremist version of Islam.

“They know how to sell themselves as victims, using the pose to amass personal wealth and at the same time spread their jihadi and takfiri ideology, incubating extremist movements and terrorist cells in Europe, something the world discovered when hundreds of Muslim Europeans joined Islamic State in Syria.”

The accusations of corruption were reaching a crescendo just as part two of political thinker and researcher Tharwat Al-Khirbawi’s bestseller The Secret of the Temple was published.

The book, which is thoroughly sourced, lays bare the inner workings of the outlawed group Muslim Brotherhood and casts light on the actions of its founder, Hassan Al-Banna.

It details the relationship between the Brotherhood’s Al-Banna and the British intelligence service MI6, the role of the Brotherhood in assassinating Syrian-born singer Asmahan in 1944 and in the arson that consumed Downtown Cairo in January 1952, much of the material being drawn from the memoirs of Abdel-Rahman Al-Sanadi, first chief head of the Brotherhood’s clandestine armed wing.

In an interview with MBC Misr channel on 26 July Al-Khirbawi, 62, noted “the story of Brotherhood leaders embezzling donations is hardly new, beginning with Hassan Al-Banna himself who in 1928, the year the Muslim Brotherhood was founded, somehow managed to obtain a large donation from the Suez Canal Company, headquartered in Ismailia.

“In 1948, the Brothers were particularly busy, exploiting the war in Palestine to collect money for Jihad. Ahmed Al-Sokkari, Al-Banna’s deputy, resigned after he discovered Al-Banna had embezzled most of the funds.

The Secret of the Temple Part 2, published by the General Egyptian Book Organisation, also details the influence of the Masos on Al-Banna’s thinking.

“Louis Antoine, who was the Grand Master of a Masonic lodge in France, was the director of the Suez Canal Company when it made a donation to Al-Banna. Al-Banna adopted elements of Masonic structural organisation, including the requirement members swear an oath to the organisation and its leader.”

While Al-Khirbawi denies the oft-stated claim Gamal Abdel-Nasser swore allegiance to the group in 1945, perhaps the most remarkable episode in The Secret of the Temple concerns the Brotherhood’s relationship with the British occupation authorities and intelligence service in Egypt. Al-Khirbawi claims the assassination of Asmahan, the Syrian born singer and sister of musician Farid Al-Atrash, was ordered by Hassan Al-Banna on the instructions of British intelligence.

“Al-Banna was instructed by MI6 to kill Asmahan in 1944,” writes Al-Khirbawi. “British intelligence asked Al-Banna to arrange her assassination because of her German contacts. In turn, Al-Banna asked Abdel-Rahman Al-Sanadi to arrange her murder because, in Al-Banna’s words, she was a loose woman who spread immorality and an infidel to boot, having been born to a Druze family.”

Al-Khirbawi’s book also includes revelations about the Muslim Brotherhood involvement in the wave of attacks against Jews living in Cairo following the declaration of the state of Israel in 1948. When the Egyptian police learned the Brotherhood was behind the attacks the group was banned.

“In response,” says Al-Khirbawi, “Al-Banna ordered the assassination of Mahmoud Fahmi Al-Noqrashi, the prime minister and interior minister.”

According to Al-Khirbawi, when members of the Brotherhood’s armed wing later learned that Al-Banna had given the government a list of their names in return for not being prosecuted, they determined to exact their revenge and kill him.

“The Brotherhood’s leaders have long claimed that Al-Banna was killed by the Egyptian police, but Al-Sanadi’s memoirs make clear this is not true,” says Al-Khirbawi.

The first part of Al-Khirbawi’s Secret of the Temple appeared in November 2012, four months after Mohamed Morsi had been elected president. It focused mainly on the Muslim Brotherhood’s relationship with the Masonic movement, the group’s deals with the regime of former president Hosni Mubarak, and relations between Brotherhood leaders and MPs on the one hand, and American officials and congressmen on the other.

In March 2016, Al-Khirbawi published The Heart of the Brothers, an account of his involvement with the Brotherhood and the reasons behind his decision to leave.

Al-Khirbawi defected from the Brotherhood’s ranks in 2002. He told MBC Misr on 26 July that his books seek to portray the true face of the group.

*A version of this article appears in print in the 1 August, 2019 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly under the headline: The Brotherhood’s secrets