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Mideast militant: Abdul of the Muslim Brotherhood

By / December 10, 1980



Amman, Jordan

Abdul has a long, dark beard, deep brown eyes, and a proselytic intensity. He is a member of the Muslim Brotherhood -- and as such was one of the reasons Syria and Jordan almost went to war last week.

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Sitting in the spartan cinder-block and plate-glass offices of the Muslim Brotherhood in Amman last weekend, Abdul (not his real name) categorically denied that the Jordanian branch of the brotherhood has been involved in insurgency in Syria.

But the history and philosophy of the organization to which he belongs is one militancy and armed struggle to achieve political ends throughout the Arab world. Abdul admits that legal and clandestine branches in various countries have contact. But it is difficult to determine if this contact includes aiding and abetting revolutions.

Founded in ismailia, Egypt, in 1928 as a revivalist group of Koran interpreters, the Muslim Brothers became a virtual political party under Hasan el Banna, a fiery orator Soon, Mr. Banna was directing anti-British mobs in the Suez Canal Zone and Cairo. The brotherhood, which almost from the beginning has had its own militia known as the "secret apparatus," worked with Gamal Abdul Nasser to oust the Egyptian monarchy in 1952.

Later, the brotherhood fell out of favor with Mr. nasser, and tens of thousands of its followers were imprisoned by him. Since Nasser's time the activities of the brotherhood -- real of imagined -- have been grounds for disruptions relations between different Arab leaders.

Many Arabs charge that the brotherhood has been taken over by the US Central Intelligence Agency or by Israel (two frequent culprits in Middle Eastern Conspiracy theories) to undermine various Arab leaders. Christians in Lebanon and Egypt have claimed the brotherhood has been behind discord in their communities.

The brotherhood is outlawed in Syria and has dubious status in most other Arab nations. King Hussein of Jordan allows it to operate as a "cultural" group , not as a political party, and its activities are closely watched. The group's following in Jordan is not thought to be large, but is highly motivated in the main.

Some analysts warn that the Hashemite monarchy eventually could become a target of the brotherhood. While King Hessein is viewed as a less-than-ideal Muslim leader, the King's brother Crown Prince Hasan, is respected by the Muslim Brotherhood for his devotion to islam. The King supports his throne, moreover, by tracing his family back to Muhammad. But Muslim Brotherhood members do not revere lineage as much as most Muslims do.

Abdul admits that, as far as he is concerned the brothers' "cultural" status in Jordan is a temporary accommodation: "We are involved in political affairs. You cannot separate politics from Islam. You find us in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, and many other places where we fight of leadership based on the principles of the Koran."

Syrian President Hafez assad has charged that King Hussein has allowed the Muslim Brotherhood to conduct a 1 1/2-year campaign of assassination and civil disruption in Syria. The massing of Syrian troops on the Jordanian border last week as the result, in part at least, of Mr. Assad's anger with King Hessein over this point.

Jordanian leaders vigorously deny the brotherhood or any other rebel group is using Jordan as a base. Within the past year, it is clamed, King Hessein has allowed Syrian detectives into Jordan to search for Syrian rebels.

Abdul bitterly denounces Mr. Assad, an alawite Muslim and an Arab socialist (Baathist), for "putting on the clothes of the Muslim, when indeed he is not one." Mr. Assad is using an imagined external enemy to cover up for an internal rebellion, Abdul charges.

But it is Mr. Assad's closeness with the Soviet Union and his Alawite faith that most bother Abdul and other Muslim Brothers. Alawites, Druses, and Bahais are considered psuedo-Islamic. These sects are disavowed by both Sunnis and Shiites, and Muslim Brothers consider themselves the fighting defenders of the faith.

The brotherhood also condemns socialists, communists, and pro-Westerners. Brotherhood literature considers all of these forms of corrupt Christian-based modernism with which Islam is at war.

Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini of Iran comes closest to the brotherhood's concept of a good Islamic political leader. But being Shiite and Persian, the Ayatollah still is not considered ideal by the primarily ArabSunni brothers.

The person we want is one like Omar [Omar the Great, caliph in the 7 th-century expansion of the Islamic Arab empire]," says Abdul. "We want someone who will reunite the Arab world on the principles of Islam."