If there was any doubt about the current state of the relationship between Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood, a recent report published in the Egyptian newspaper Al-Masry Al-Youm makes the issue crystal clear.
In the report made public on January 22nd, authors Fathia al Dakhakhani and Tariq Salah illuminated the extent of the bond between the Brotherhood and Hamas, noting that "the leader of the de facto Hamas government in the Gaza Strip, Ismail Haniyeh, proffered allegiance to the new Guide of the Brotherhood, Doctor Mohamed Badei…" What is lost in translation, however, is the significance of this pledge of allegiance, or bay'ah in its original Arabic.
Unlike loose displays of support so evident in Western culture – where not much is expected or at stake – the concept of bay'ah means much more. As one U.S.-based Muslim cleric has explained here, giving bay'ah is theologically demanded of all Muslims; it represents a declaration of who is the proper leader of Islam. Once a commitment is made, it is difficult to withdraw, and doing so would have serious implications for both the reputation of the individual or group who received the pledge and that individual or entity making it. Thus, a declaration of bay'ah requires full support and backing.
So what could this suggest for the future? Looking to other examples in which bay'ah has been declared – most notably that of former Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) leader, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, pledging allegiance to Osama bin Laden – it could portend a new era of open cooperation between parent and offspring. This move could be a significant departure from the previous Brotherhood strategy of denying its relationship with the militant Palestinian group, as evidenced in this August 2009 post by the Global Muslim Brotherhood Daily Report.
Aside from its close ties to HAMAS, the Egypt-based Brotherhood has had close historical ties with numerous other Islamist groups both around the world and in the United States. Evidence made public during the 2007-08 trial of the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development (HLF) made clear the extent to which the Brotherhood has played a role in shaping many of the so-called "mainstream" U.S. Muslim organizations. Badei's predecessor, former Brotherhood General Guide Mohammed Mahdi Akef, publically acknowledges his role in helping to form one of these organizations, the Muslim American Society (MAS).