Across Europe, according to intelligence sources, the international Muslim Brotherhood is competing for recruits and cash with armed, radicalized Islamist groups operating in Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan and elsewhere.
The competition is not over the ultimate goal of the Islamist project: the recreation of a Muslim caliphate in the areas of the world once ruled by Muslims and the eventual Islamization of the entire world. Rather, it appears that the Brotherhood, long able to recruit among the best and brightest Islamists in Europe and the Arab peninsula, is now struggling to make its more staid message of incremental change relevant to those who would join the Islamist movement.
The Brotherhood has long served as a key financial node for different Islamist groups, and the intelligence officials say that has not changed signficantly. What has changed is the unwillingness of many potential young recruits to play the long-standing double game that the Brotherhood has mastered. This includes a moderate public discourse, particularly for non-Islamist audiences; deception; denial of the true goals and aims of the Brotherhood; and the stated need to portray the Brotherhood as modern and open to assimilation in the West.
With the Islamist insurgency in Iraq led by Zarqawi recruiting heavily Europe and the existence of visible battlefields where Islamists can go and wage jihad, the Brotherhood message is being drowned out in some circles. Why assimilate, blend in and pretend to be moderate when you can join a group that openly states its claim to Islamic legitimacy, can wage a hot war against the infidels and makes no attempt to hide its agenda? Increasingly, the best in the Islamist mosques are opting for the latter course of action.
The Brotherhood of Yousef Nada, Idriss Nasreddin, Gahlib Himmat and others is an organization that moves easily in the corridors of power in much of the Gulf, despite recent difficulties with the Saudi regime. While they can and do support the Islamist project, it is part of the existing power structure. Zarqawi and others represent the chance to go out and do something NOW, not the multi-generational, long-term view the Brotherhood has traditionally taken. Those that move in the corridors of power are often viewed as the enemy, even if their money is not.
The Brotherhood has the financial infrastructure. The jihadists are getting the recruits. How this plays out in Europe, particularly, will have a significant impact on the shape of jihad in coming years.