Disagreement Among MB Fronts Over USCMO Statement on Armenian Genocide

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As the Free Fire Blog noted last week, the Muslim Brotherhood umbrella organization the U.S. Council of Muslim Organizations (USCMO) issued a statement supporting Turkey and downplaying calls to recognize the Armenian genocide. Now it appears the USCMO is receiving pushback from other Muslim Brotherhood front groups for the bad press generated by the press release. The American Muslim reports that USCMO member the Muslim Legal Fund of America was the first to begin to distance themselves from the USCMO release:

“It is not MLFA’s place nor is it part of its mission to question the Armenian genocide,” said Meek. “I apologize if the inclusion of MLFA’s name in this statement caused any confusion to our donors, supporters or anyone else.”

Meek said that he believes it is important for Muslim organizations to work together on issues of common concern. However, he said he will make it clear to concerned parties that MLFA’s name should not be included on any international statements made by any organization.

MLFA was not as resistant to controversial issues in 2003, when they accused the U.S. and Pakistani governments of “kidnapping” Al Qaeda terrorist Aafia Siddiqui. Siddiqui, a regular of the Muslim Brotherhood-connected Islamic Society of Boston, is serving an 86-year sentence for attempted murder of U.S. troops in Afghanistan and terrorism activities related to a prospective plot to blow up New York City landmarks including the Empire State Building.

The USCMO’s position also faced push back from University of California Berkley’s Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) which issued a statement including the following:

We also would like to express our shock and dismay in reaction to the recently published statement issued by the US Council of Muslim Organizations (USCMO), which includes otherwise pro-justice groups like the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) and American Muslims for Palestine (AMP), that denies the reality of the Armenian genocide. The cowardly and overtly political move by these groups calls into question their commitment to the struggles for justice and self-determination that they claim to champion.

The UC Berkley-SJP is the founding chapter of the organization, which now operates on college campuses across the country and which has been accused of providing material support for Hamas. SJP was founded by Hatem Bazian, a radical campus professor with ties to the Muslim Brotherhood in order to establish a broader anti-Israel alliance of college students beyond the existing MB group the Muslim Students’ Association (MSA). Bazian is also a leading member of American Muslims for Palestine, a Brotherhood front organization which is also a USCMO member.

This is not the first time for Brotherhood-linked groups to show a public appearance of disunity. In the past these issues have centered over policy debates regarding whether achieving Muslim Brotherhood “Settlement” objectives in the United States were of more importance than fulfilling the Brotherhood’s obligation to support jihad, most particularly in Palestine. In their recent National Advocacy Day, for example, the USCMO purposefully divorced lobbying on behalf of Palestine from its overall effort, making the event a secondary (and less well-attended) day which raised criticism from some participants on twitter.

MB fronts in the United States have undertaken a very conscious policy of outreach, targeting perceived minority organizations on a wide range of “social justice” issues, and attempting to insinuate themselves into the discussion, as they did for example over the shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO.

Having successfully established deep ties with non-Muslim groups with a wide variety of interests, MB groups may now find themselves constrained as various groups fear losing outreach capability due to the risk of alienating partners with umbrella statements like the one issued by the USCMO.

On the other hand, the MB at the global level can ill-afford to alienate Turkey, which plays a key role in supporting the Muslim Brotherhood, in particular providing support for Hamas.  Turkish President Erdogan’s support for the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood’s insurrection against the Egyptian government has also been widely publicized, along with a tight relationship with International Muslim Brotherhood figures like Qaradawi.

As with other cases where Brotherhood-linked groups have expressed public disagreements, such incidents should be viewed in the context of an internal debate regarding priorities of the Movement, but not necessarily as a long term disagreement or evidence of a wider split.

Kyle Shideler
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