Muslim Brotherhood Challenges al Qaeda for Jihadi Primacy

The first rumbles of a quake threatening to sunder the militant Islamic world have gone unnoticed. Still subterranean, they have not yet begun to touch on any political or economic conventions in the West. That exemption will not last long.

It is the first time in the 12 years since al Qaeda snatched the lead of the Sunni Muslim warfront by its first attempt to blow up New York’s Twin Towers that the Muslim Brotherhood has decided to fight back and recover its primacy of international radical Islam.

DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s Muslim experts, having discerned the first symptoms of this rupture, see it developing into a bloody struggle for supremacy. The potential mutual attrition of the two violent movements could afford the West its first prospect of some respite from the global plague of Islamist terrorism.

The Muslim Brotherhood was galvanized into bestirring itself to challenge al Qaeda’s pre-eminence by the loss of one important Middle East stronghold after another.

1. Their leaders decided enough was enough when they heard Osama bin Laden‘s deputy Ayman Zawahiri’s videotaped message on Jan 5, in which he mocked the Muslim Brotherhood’s historic election gains of one-fifth of Egypt’s parliamentary seats, then poked fun at the Brotherhood’s rising strength in Jordan and finally ridiculed the Hamas’ expectation of victory in the Palestinian general elections on January 25th.

Al Qaeda’s No. 2 sneered at the “naivete” of the Muslim Brethren for trusting that the infidels would let them assume power. He then accused them of serving as fig leaves for corrupt regimes.

As the largest and most powerful movement of Sunni Islam, the Muslim Brotherhood could not afford to be made a laughingstock in Muslim eyes.

2. The Muslim Brotherhood movement is dismayed by al Qaeda’s rapid invasion of its strongholds in Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Sinai and the Gaza Strip. Its leaders are aghast at al Qaeda’s takeover of the Palestinian street and its threatened displacement in the Gaza Strip of Hamas, an arm of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood. This encroachment was made possible by the Palestinian policy pursued by the United States and Israel

(This process was described in detail in the last issue of DEBKA-Net-Weekly).

3. A similar situation prevails in Jordan.


Goaded by mockery


4. It may be recalled that Dr. Zuwahiri hails from the Egyptian Jihad Islami, the sworn foe of the Muslim Brotherhood. They well remember him for the book he wrote twenty years ago called Bitter Harvest, in which he disparaged the Muslim Brotherhood movement as an “ornament of the Muslim world” and an impediment to the development of Islamic faith.

Nothing since 1985 has happened to change this animosity.

Goaded into action, our sources report the world leadership of the Muslim Brotherhood headed by Mahdi Akf convened in Cairo Monday, Jan 9, and resolved to stand up and beat al Qaeda back. Wakf’s deputy Muhammed Habib was put in charge of getting the movement ready for the challenge.

If this decision is translated into outright conflict, our experts expect blood to flow and its fallout to appear first of all in three spheres:

A. In Iraq, where al Qaeda’s Abu Musab al Zarqawi has held back from attacking Sunni targets except for factions and figures lining up with the Americans. This truce may disappear overnight. The first intimation of a change afoot was signaled by an ominous notice addressed by Zarqawi on Jan. 8 to Iraqi Sunnis: “Don’t imagine I accepted your participation in Iraq’s general election. This time I held back, but no more.”

B. In Afghanistan, where the Taliban will find itself on the horns of a dilemma between reverting to its parent-movement, the Muslim Brotherhood, or sticking with al Qaeda.

C. In the Gaza strip, where Hamas may decide to forcibly expel the newly-established al Qaeda cells.

If this conflict gathers steam – in these three arenas before spreading across the Muslim world – the prognosis is for key elements of Osama bin Laden’s terrorist movement to find themselves severely hamstrung for the first time.

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