Book Review: The Secret Apparatus: The Muslim Brotherhood’s Industry of Death by Cynthia Farahat, Simon & Schuster Bombardier Books (2022)
A grim irony of twentieth-century history (but, of course, also predating it) is that the most horrendous threats to humanity have simply been too monstrously evil to be believed—at first.
Murder or enslavement of millions in Stalin’s Russia, systematic extermination of millions in Nazi Germany; deaths of tens of millions in Mao Zedong’s communist China; wholesale communist genocide in Cambodia: years passed, and millions more died, before the world could credit the reports. Yes, there were ideological apologists and “idealists” who whitewashed or tried to conceal what was happening. In large measure, I believe, they succeeded because the magnitude of the evil defied belief. Such things simply did not happen.
The pattern persists today. But, in this case, it is not the human devastation per se that we cannot bring ourselves to credit. It is instead that this devastation—al-Qaeda and 9/11, genocide of millions in Sudan, U.S. defeat and Taliban dictatorship in Afghanistan, Iran-sponsored terrorism, the medieval horrors inflicted by ISIS, the endless jihad of Hamas against Israel—has a single root-cause in a one worldwide organization now almost a century old.
Always there have been individuals not deceived and determined and persistent enough to uncover the facts and bring forward the incredible truth. They breach the defenses of denial and disbelief—and deception—to tell the story in a way that cannot be dismissed.
In our time, the “dispatch from reality” comes to us from Egyptian-American scholar, writer, and foreign policy authority Cynthia Farahat in The Secret Apparatus: The Muslim Brotherhood’s Industry of Death, who risks her life to bring forth some two decades of her intensive inside experience and research to rip aside one of the most sustained, elaborate deceptions of our time.
Let Daniel Pipes, American historian, president of the Middle East Forum, and publisher of its Middle East Quarterly journal, summarize it:
“Cynthia Farahat argues that the Muslim Brotherhood (MB), founded nearly a century ago, presents a far greater threat than is usually perceived, being nothing less than ‘the world’s incubator of modern Islamic terrorism’ and ‘the world’s most dangerous militant cult.’”
That the Muslim Brotherhood has existed “unexposed” for almost a century not because the devastation it has produced—via al Qaeda, the Taliban, Hamas, and other agents—defies belief, because it has not been widely believed that a single organization could be responsible. And that widespread impression is no accident. Founded in the Kingdom of Egypt in 1928 (the beginning of modern Islamism, Farahat argues, “the first covert Islamic terrorist organization”), the Muslim Brotherhood organized itself for deception.
It divided into a public organization controlling philanthropies, universities, membership organizations, lobbying groups, and governments—and a “Secret Apparatus.” This historic deception, sustained and refined as the Muslim Brotherhood became a worldwide organization with an international Secret Apparatus—criminal, conspiratorial, terrorist, with the goal of a world caliphate enforcing sharia law-or-death—explains almost a century of success in remaining the unknown locus of devastation.
And that raises the seemingly “technical” question: Of what genre is The Secret Apparatus: The Muslim Brotherhood’s Industry of Death? Yes, it is brilliant untold history, desperately needed exposé, and an urgent foreign policy alarm and guide for America. But first and foremost, Cynthia Farahat has written an indictment—as befits the treatment of a criminal conspiracy unprecedented in historic duration and international scale.
Her book, documenting a century of Muslim brotherhood leaders, ideology, decisions, assassinations, political coups, indoctrination, infiltration, and mass murder, provides the reader with comparatively few generalizations. When they do appear, generalizations cap pages of names, dates, quotations, arrest records, documented relationships and networks, known terrorist acts…
Henry Kopel, former U.S. Federal prosecutor of national security matters and terrorism, comments: “Cynthia Farahat names names, maps connections, and compellingly exposes both the vast reach and the singular purpose of the Muslim Brotherhood…a world-conquering, Sharia-enforcing global caliphate. …we are all in…[her] debt for so thoroughly and definitively documenting those hard yet vitally important realities.”
Dr. Pipes draws out the implications for the reader, explaining that Farahat’s book “contains a wealth of names, dates, events, and other granular facts, all needed to establish the author’s case; accordingly, it is not a book to be speed read but studied and returned to. Much of the evidence is original, Farahat having taken advantage of archives opened after the 2013 revolution in Egypt or relying on new sources…”
That is, it is an honest and compete indictment with the “who,” “what,” “where,” and “when” of the Muslim Brotherhood’s public actions and statements (for example, through many U.S. front groups that it controls and that regularly lobby Congressmen) and its covert acts of ceaseless striving for world domination in the name of Islamism.
I do not see how anyone concerned with understanding what has shaped Middle East politics (including decades of efforts to exterminate Israel) or has shaped America’s decades of costly struggle at home and internationally with Islamism can choose to ignore Cynthia Farahat’s book. Dr. Pipes suggests the challenge of coming to grips with this definitive exposure and analysis; I would suggest that he also provides the solution. Readers can grasp from his introduction the peril that the Muslim Brotherhood presents to the very concept of the modern world: secular government, human rights, freedom including freedom of worship, genuine “brotherhood” of equals, science, and peace without subjugation. And having read it, most readers will eagerly continue to Farahat’s heretofore untold history of our time.
The reviewer must defer to Farahat for the hundreds of shocking particulars of this story, many that make intelligible historical events we only thought we understood, but the broad headings are these: the ideology of sacred obligation to slaughter unbelievers and the glory of martyrdom in that cause (“Islam is the solution”); the public face of the Brotherhood, now with millions of members and controlling governments, universities, propaganda outlets worldwide, and raising billions of dollars; the Secret Apparatus, intentionally modeled on a similar organization created by Josef Stalin, that recruits, trains, disciplines, and directs the violence of cadres worldwide; the infiltration of American education, policy organizations, Muslim associations, and government by members of the Brotherhood both overt and covert; the influence and impact of the Brotherhood on U.S. disasters at home (9/11) and in places such as Iran, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria—and U.S. policies that leave America on the losing side.
Influences and ideology. Farahat traces the creation and ideology of the Muslim Brotherhood to many sources, chief among them Iran and the Shi’i branches of Islam with its medieval Assassins. A goal became to unite Shi’i and Sunni Islam for the far distant goal of re-establishing the caliphate and waging jihad against all unbelievers. This suggests that Jamal ad-Din al-Afghani, founder of modern jihad, is a pivotal influence in the Muslim Brotherhood’s revival of Islamism—combining the western concept of secret societies with (at first) clandestine recruiting to Islam.
Ayatollah Khomeini, leader of the Iranian revolution in 1979, apparently visited the founder of the Brotherhood, Hassan al-Banna, as early as 1938 and, with the Iranian revolution, established two Muslim Brotherhood branches in Iran. The Iranian influences are many, as documented by Farahat, including massive funding of Hamas by Tehran and, in turn, the Brotherhood’s ardent support for Iran’s nuclear ambitions.
Among influences on the organization of the Apparatus, none exceeds that of Hitler and Stalin, both of whom Banna admired. The Muslim Brotherhood’s structure closely reflects to this day Stalin’s institutions for exercising power, including his governing apparatuses.
Farahat traces other founding principles of the Brotherhood to Hassan al-Banna’s ideology, writing that his “paranoid, obsessive, and criminal vision endures” as the secret identity of the Brotherhood.
The organization views individual members as utterly subservient to the collective along with their spouses and children, who are “resources.” Total obedience to the leader or General Guide is enforced by pressure, bribes, extortion, and penalties including torture and death—and that obedience applies to all aspects of a member’s personal life.
The Brotherhood has the earmarks of both a cult and the cell of a revolutionary underground. Farahat writes that “Muslim Brotherhood members are allowed to marry only into other Muslim Brotherhood families. It is prohibited to marry outside the Muslim Brotherhood, with rare exceptions.”
The ideology bequeathed by Banna emphasizes, as Dr. Pipes puts it, the two themes of “the caliphate and death.” The Muslim Brotherhood exists to restore the Islamic caliphate to enforce Islamic law (the Shari’a). Because this end justifies all means, lawful and criminal, Banna’s ideology valorizes death. He writes: “God is our goal, the Prophet is our model, the Qur’an is our law, jihad is our path, and martyrdom is our aspiration.” Members should rejoice: “Death is an art, sometimes a beautiful art despite its bitterness, it might even be the most beautiful of arts…Muslims will not be saved from their reality unless they adopt the Qur’an’s philosophy of death and embrace it as an art, a truly beautiful art.”
The direct corollary is that loving life is a deadly sin, a barrier on the path to paradise and “…all Muslims who aren’t members in jihadist groups are infidels and deserve to get killed.”
Farahat writes: “It gets worse…they also consider all Islamic nations houses of war, and the vast majority of Muslims as infidels whom they believe should be killed.”
For Islamists of both main sects (and policy analysts often fail to recognize that in Jihad they unite), “war is a way of life—it is perpetual….In the Islamist mind, war is not a temporary condition, nor is it a necessary evil. …it can incorporate other aspects of daily existence and is a stable constant.”
The very remoteness of such thinking from the Western mind provides the Muslim Brotherhood’s strategy of purifying Islam by killing everyone else with a built-in immunity against exposure because it defies Western concepts of sanity. Farahat explains: “In the Shi’a eschatology, jihad is practiced until the appearance of the Mahdi—the redeemer of Islam, after the earth is ‘cleansed’ from non-Muslims and the sun rises from the West.”
No review can hope to capture the history of modern Islam presented in The Secret Apparatus. This is revisionist history in the best sense. It adjusts our perspective on a century or more of Middle East history, moving that perspective closer to the truth, by documenting the vast impact of key individuals, ideas, organizations, and events that are best understood as reviving in protean guises the historic spread of Islamism by the sword: invasion, forced conversion or murder, enslavement, and subjugation of the infidel.
We see this in chapters devoted to the evolution of the Islamic “revival” in Iran; the role of Islamic charity organizations (with overt and covert agendas); the role of the Islamic Ethics Organization; the impact of two world wars with Nazi presence in the Middle East, including the German agent who headed al-Azhar University; the Bolshevik Revolution and Lenin’s attempts to induce Muslim’s to join the worldwide communist revolution with “full religious freedom”; the thoroughgoing analysis of the long, secretive ideological and political struggle to create the Muslim Brotherhood, its apparatuses, and its multitude of shaping influences (including admiration of Cosa Nostra); the involvement with both Hitler and Stalin during WWI and after.
The reader may begin, despite himself, to marvel at the energy and passion of scholars who drove the renaissance of Islamism; the sacrifices of normal living and life itself by adherents; the capacity to think and act for generations. Farahat understands and articulates this mentality for the Western mind. The soul of the Jihadi, she explains, is the consecration of every cell of the body, every thought, every aspiration, every familial affection to a remote future on earth and a reward beyond life.
The faces of the Muslim Brotherhood. From the outset, the Brotherhood has built its public presence, the General Apparatus, for propaganda and politics, education and recruitment, fundraising, and elaborate cover for the Secret Apparatus with its agenda of violent jihad, political assassination, terrorist exploits, and the birthing of offshoots such as al-Qaeda, Hamas, the Taliban, and ISIS.
Since at least the mid-twentieth century, the Brotherhood has mouthed liberal democratic ideas and denied that an “other half” still exists to promote terror. The Secret Guide, counterpart of the General Guide, became the Muslim Brotherhood’s leader, leaving to the General Guide public relations, including endless repetition of the myth that the Secret Apparatus is no more. Both divisions engage in permanent jihad as demanded by Banna. Farahat sums up: “If the Brotherhood were to give up violent jihad, it…would lose its legitimacy and its sole reason for its existence.”
Deception may require members to sever ties with the Brotherhood and go “independent.” Thus, Farahat cites Egypt’s Free Officers, who took on the mission of overthrowing Egypt’s monarchy in 1952. And Hamas, a model Muslim Brotherhood “franchise,” has succeeded beyond all expectations as the “independent” force injecting permanent violence into the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
Farahat quotes Egyptian general Rif’al Qumsan’s warning against being fooled by the names assumed by a dozen or more jihadist organizations, including al-Qaeda, which are all franchises of the Muslim Brotherhood, each with its separate but related Secret Apparatus.
The Secret Apparatus intelligent unit “infiltrates and internally subverts political parties, militaries, intelligence agencies, media, education systems, governmental and nongovernmental organizations.…” Egypt and its government was the first focus of infiltration; today, co-opted institutions in Egypt include not only government but charitable organizations, the Communist party, and the leading al-Azhar University.
The University is but one prime example of a Muslim Brotherhood instrument for carrying the message of “the theological legitimacy of inflicting pain upon infidels”—including murder of Muslim apostates and infidels, including woman and children. Master’s- and Ph.D-degree theses by aspiring jihadis have been “terrorism manifestos” and ruthlessly violent jihadis have had religious training at one of legion al-Azhar-affiliated mosques, schools, and centers worldwide.
Farahat documents cases such as Burhanuddin Rabbani, a prime mover in advancing Islamism in Afghanistan, and the renowned Blind Sheikh, Omar Abdel-Rahman, imprisoned in the West for inciting jihad against New York City monuments. Farahat adduces evidence, however, that over half-a-century of influencing Sunni militant groups, the Sheikh has been the ideological driver behind the founding of al-Qaeda and other jihadist organizations prefigured in his doctoral thesis. In all his activities, states Farahat, he was provided with cover and legitimization by al-Azhar University and “couldn’t have created this massive wave of transnational terrorism without al-Azhar.”
Infiltration may be gradual, but decades of disciplined effort have paid off. Today, Muslim Brotherhood operatives control Qatar, Turkey, and Sudan, as they once controlled Egypt, and have alarming influence in the United States, United Kingdom, and Germany.” All of this is courtesy of mostly unaware Egyptian taxpayers who support al-Azhar as it “militarizes its students and turns them into jihadists.”
The Apparatuses in action. Muslim Brotherhood jihadi operations, begun in Egypt, included assassination of two prime ministers, in 1945 and 1948, and assassination in 1981 of President Anwar Sadat. An attempt at Gamal Abdel Nasser in 1954 narrowly missed. But two years earlier, the Muslim Brotherhood provided manpower for the burning of central Cairo.
As noted above, the public and legal Civilizational Jihad Operation in Egypt has achieved enormous influence by gaining control of al-Azhar University, based in Cairo but with worldwide influence on Sunni Muslims. In Egypt, Azhar now drafts or vets all proposed laws before they are presented to the legislative branch of government, effectively controlling the parliament.
None of it would be possible without recruitment and indoctrination at the highest levels. Egypt’s second president, Nasser, secretly joined the Brotherhood in 1942. He later toyed with communism, but as president released from prison all Muslim Brotherhood jihadis and employed German Nazis to derail Egyptian education and ideology to make way for Islamist ideology. Sadat joined Nasser in pledging fealty to the values of Banna and jihad. After Sadat’s assassination for making peace with Israel, Egypt under Hosni Mubarak (who had joined the Brotherhood in 1944) became the state sponsor of terrorism recruitment, broadcasting around the clock on Egyptian government radio and television. In 2012, Mohammed Morsi became the first president officially known to belong to the Muslim Brotherhood and indeed publicly chosen by it to run for president.
Thereafter, the Muslim Brotherhood became openly jihadist. Farahat documents in detail how the group set up torture and murder camps across Egypt where protestors against government were brought to be tortured and killed. Plans were afoot for mass extermination of Christian and Muslim Egyptians consistent with Banna’s doctrine of using the Muslim population as a blood sacrifice.
At last, however, the campaign of torture and murder stirred wide, determined opposition and the largest political rally in all history, June 30, 2013. There followed a revolution led by Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who became Egypt’s first anti-Muslim Brotherhood president. When the Brotherhood struck back with violence, Sisi designated it a terrorist organization. It was the first time the change of government was not by military coup led by Muslim Brotherhood officers who in truth already ran government and at best pretended to oppose the Brotherhood.
Outside Egypt, the Brotherhood’s power reached into Mandatory Palestine and Transjordan; into Afghanistan in its war against Soviet takeover (leading to founding by three Muslim Brotherhood leaders, including Osama bin Laden, of al-Qaeda and by others of the Taliban); into Sudan where Omar Al-Bashir became the first Brotherhood member to openly and officially rule a nation; into Tunisia where a coup by the Muslim Brotherhood initiated the “Arab Spring”; and, as Farahat documents extensively for the first time, into Turkey, where there is evidence that strongman, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, is both the General and Secret Guide of the Muslim Brotherhood and spearhead of its International Apparatus, converting Turkey, Farahat writes, into “the command-and-control center for Islamic terrorism” and Istanbul into “a haven for recruiting terrorists, smuggling jihadists in and out of Turkey, and plotting international terrorist attacks.”
The United States as target. America is now Cynthia Farahat’s home. In Egypt, she co-founded the Liberal Egyptian Party with policies including peace with Israel, capitalism, and separation of mosque and state. She had studied Islamic jurisprudence for two decades and had written Desecration of A Heavenly Religion, banned by Al-Azhar University for criticizing Egypt’s blasphemy law.
That put Farahat on an al-Qaeda-linked group’s hit list. For a decade, she endured daily death threats from Islamists. Then, her brother was kidnapped and tortured, her friend murdered, and she became the target of an assassination by Islamists. Later, she immigrated to the United States.
Here, she has testified before the U.S. House of Representatives, briefed some 200 congressional offices, and advised intelligence and law enforcement agencies. She has received awards and honors, including appointment as a fellow of the Center for Middle East Studies, and writes for national and international outlets.
Adding her extensive American experience and research to her decades of studying Islamism, Farahat turns to U.S. policy—and the success of Muslim Brotherhood propaganda and deception in America. As she explains throughout her book, the Muslim Brotherhood has evolved an extensive terminology—a systematic doublespeak—to promote its public relations and infiltration of the US government, universities, social media, and membership organizations—among others.
Concealing the existence of the Secret Apparatus has:
Allowed the Brotherhood to hijack the representation of overwhelmingly peaceful Muslim Americans whom the Brotherhood systematically terrorizes….
“One annual event in Washington, DC, embodies the US government’s failure in dealing with the Brotherhood and demonstrates a fraction of the magnitude of the national security crisis caused by Islamist infiltration. Once a year, the halls of Congress swarm with Brotherhood operatives—individuals directly connected to Islamic State and al-Qaeda. Islamists with ties to terrorism have met with members of Congress every spring since 2015 when the US Council of Muslim Organizations (USCMO), a coalition of national and local Islamist organizations, hosts its ‘Muslim Advocacy Day’…
Members of the Brotherhood have worked their way into federal agencies and policy bodies, academic positions, and leadership of virtually every US broad-based membership organization purporting to “speak for Muslims.”
Dr. Pipes summarizes her documentation of the Muslim Brotherhood’s systematic “translation” of the meaning of its ideology, goals, and ways of doing business into terminology “correct” in US policy and education circles:
“Truth means the implementation of the Shari’a. Freedom means the freedom from transgressions against the Shari’a. Tyranny means opposing the Shari’a. Justice means Shari’a over every aspect of life. Peace means accepting the rule of Muslims. Islamic revival means the subjugation of all people on earth to Allah. This coded Islamist terminology, entwined with infiltration…has allowed the world’s most violent jihadist group to gain power in America.”
A Brotherhood member knows what he means when he speaks or writes in this “code,” other members understand him, and every time he uses the corrupted terms they sow confusion and ambiguity in communications with those who assume they are hearing or reading plain English terms.
In implementing policy, Farahat observes, “Washington has abandoned its old approach of peace through strength” to replace it with the “strategy of employing jihadist mercenaries to carry out broken policies.” Misguided Western policy toward the Muslim Brotherhood has led to disaster, in Sudan alone contributing to hundreds of thousands of deaths and displacement of some 2.7 million people by the Muslim Brotherhood’s regime.
Farahat documents in detail how US policy steps, for example, unleashed riots and protests across the Middle East in 2011. During just the past decade, the leniency of policy toward the Muslim Brotherhood has “resulted in the loss of hundreds of thousands of lives and the displacement of millions of people in the Middle East.”
She concludes her massive indictment with her recommendation that Washington designate the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization—identifying it as criminal in order to remove ambiguity and confusion in identifying our enemy. (Other nations, mostly in the Middle East, are less confused and their governments have identified the Muslim Brotherhood as terrorist: Bahrain, Egypt, Russia, Syria, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates.)
Even more important for the United States, perhaps, is a new clarity in distinguishing between Muslims and Islamists like the Brotherhood, who have weaponized their religion’s terminology and infused it with concepts of violence and terrorism alien to the great majority of Muslims.
Cynthia Farahat’s history, exposé, warning, and urgent call to action come to us out of the same world of secrecy, violent repression of truth, and ruthless disposal of opponents as the first irrefutable factual reports on Stalinist Russia, Nazi Germany, Maoist China, and communist Cambodia.
We cannot assume that government, the media, university faculty, and the foreign policy establishment will hear Cynthia Farahat—as they denied as long as possible the earlier exposés. There are policy errors, media editorial positions, and scholarly reputations to protect.
That leaves it to each reader to understand, assess, and reach a judgment about the credibility of The Secret Apparatus and to act accordingly. For my part, I will keep faith with the vow of Thomas Jefferson: “I have sworn eternal enmity to every form of tyranny over the mind of man.”