Recent news out of Malaysia demonstrates yet another link in the long-standing nexus between global affiliates of the Egypt-based Muslim Brotherhood and violent jihad. Although the Brotherhood has gone to great lengths to deny any connection to violence or global jihad— including dedicating a section on its English-language website to differentiating between Al Qaeda and the Brotherhood— a report Thursday in Malaysia's New Straits Times paints a different story.
According to the report, a Syrian named Aiman Al Dakak moved on from his early days as a Brotherhood member to join the ranks of Al Qaeda in Afghanistan in the 1980s. There, he is said to have received military training and maintained "close links with al-Qaeda top leader Osama Bin Laden." Staying out of the public eye until after 9/11, Dakak re-emerged in 2004 in Malaysia, where he arrived under the guise of a student visa. However, instead of leaving behind his violent history as a thing of the past, Dakak chose to use Malaysia as a base of operations:
"getting new recruits for al-Qaeda and Jemaah Islamiah, and in the process, attack[ing] places of worship here."
The report notes that Dakak specifically chose Malaysia because "the country's geographical location was ideal and the people… were generally friendly and unsuspecting."
This most recent example of a Brotherhood member-turned-violent jihadist—in essence, serving as the "gateway drug" in the path of Islamic radicalization—is just one in a long line. Al Qaeda's deputy leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, began his Islamist career as a member of the Brotherhood. He later disavowed ties to the Brotherhood for renouncing Jihad as a means to establish the Islamic State, and the Brotherhood vehemently denied he was ever affiliated with the group.