Last Week's House Judiciary Committee discussion of a bill requesting the State Department evaluate classifying the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization showcased the confirmation bias of the bill's Democratic opponents on the panel.
Numerous examples of ties between the international Muslim Brotherhood and terrorist groups like Hamas and al-Qaida peppered the original draft of the bill introduced by Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Fla.
However, Ranking Member Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., made the oft-repeated assertion the organization had sworn off violence.
Conyers asserted that the Brotherhood had become a "non-violent religious and social service organization" and that Diaz-Balart's bill promotes so-called "Islamophobia."
"Before rushing to conclusions that can lead to unknown and unintended consequences, our committee should consider the facts that pertain to this complex organization," Conyers said.
He pointed to testimony given in a 2011 hearing but much of what was said there undermines Conyers' premise the Brotherhood is "non-violent."
For example, Washington Institute Executive Director Robert Sotloff testified that the Muslim Brotherhood is far from "an Egyptian version of the March of Dimes," whose orientation was fundamentally humanitarian.
"Should the Brotherhood achieve political power, it will almost certainly use that power to transform Egypt into a very different place ... A more realistic situation would see deeper and more systemic Islamization of society, including the potential for a frightening growth of sectarianism between Muslims and Copts and even deepening intra-Muslim conflict between Salafis and Sufis," Sotloff said, accurately predicting the divisive nature of the Brotherhood's rule before it was ousted in July 2013.
Similarly, another person who testified before the subcommittee cautioned against falling victim to the Brotherhood's semantics when it comes to terrorism.
"Just because the MB opposes al-Qaeda does not mean that they agree with us on the definition of terrorism," Tarek Masoud of Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government told the committee. "For example, they view both Hamas and Hezbollah as freedom fighters whose acts of violence are legitimate forms of resistance against what they see as Israeli occupation. In August 2006, former Muslim Brotherhood leader Mahdi Akef even declared that he was ready to send 10,000 (ten thousand) Brothers to fight alongside Hezbollah in its war against Israel. He didn't, of course. But the sentiment reveals the gulf between us and the Brotherhood on this issue."
The House bill also includes the 2011 assessment from then-FBI Director Robert Mueller: "I can say at the outset of that elements of the Muslim Brotherhood both here and overseas have supported terrorism."
Conyers' effort to characterize the Brotherhood as a "a predominately non-violent religious political and social service organization" ignores the repeated involvement of Brotherhood-linked charities in terrorism financing, ranging from the Union of Good to the Holy Land Foundation. The Holy Land Trial exposed a Hamas-support network in the United States created by the Muslim Brotherhood which included the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) as a branch.
Conyers ignores statements by the Brotherhood in the past year, including a Jan. 27 call for a "long, uncompromising jihad" against the Egyptian government, as noted in Diaz-Balart's bill.
Groups calling themselves "Revolutionary Punishment" and "Popular Resistance" have carried out attacks against Egyptian police stations and businesses with support from Brotherhood-connected social media accounts. These accounts have been promoted by U.S. based pro-Brotherhood activists.
The legislation included other numerous specific examples of Brotherhood support for funding or engaging in violent jihad since its founding in 1928 by Egyptian schoolteacher Hasan al-Banna.
"...Jihad in its literal significance means to put forth one's maximal effort in word and deed," Al-Banna said in an undated speech. "[I]in the Sacred Law it is the slaying of the unbelievers, and related connotations, such as beating them, plundering their wealth, destroying their shrines, and smashing their idols ... it is obligatory on us to begin fighting with them after transmitting the invitation [to embrace Islam], even if they do not fight against us."
Al-Banna also stated that the "people of the Book" should be fought until they pay jizyah, a tax mandated by the Quran paid by Christians and Jews to an Islamic state in exchange for keeping their lives and not embracing Islam.
It notes that the U.S. government previously listed Hamas, the Brotherhood's Palestinian branch, and Lajnat al-Daawa, the social wing of Kuwait's branch of the Brotherhood, as terrorist entities.
Lajnat al-Daawa's reported involvement in terrorism financing on behalf of Osama bin Laden underscores the hollowness of the Brotherhood's condemnation of al-Qaida. Ramzi Yousef, planner of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, and Khalid Sheikh Muhammad, architect of 9/11, each worked for Lajnat al-Daawa.
Numerous individual Brotherhood members with ties to al-Qaida who were previously sanctioned by the U.S. government as terrorists are mentioned in the bill. Among them; Osama bin Laden's brother-in-law, Mohammad Jamal Khalifa, served a senior member of the Lebanese branch of the Muslim Brotherhood. Khalifa ran charitable offices on al-Qaida's behalf in the Philippines, including an office for the Saudi-controlled International Islamic Relief Organization. He also established a charity called the International Relations and Information Center in the Philippines, which was the primary funding mechanism for Khaled Sheikh Mohammed and Ramzi Yousef's 1995 "Bojinka" plot to blow up American airliners over the Pacific.
Diaz-Balart's bill additionally points out that the Libyan Muslim Brotherhood's militias joined forces with Ansar al-Sharia, the al-Qaida linked militia responsible for the Sept. 11, 2012 attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi.
In opposing the bill, Conyers said it unfairly paints all Brotherhood members as terrorists. He dismissed the measure as "Islamophobia [which] may be good politics ... but it certainly is not good policy." Classifying the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization had more to do with fear than keeping Americans safe, he said.
But existing groups on the State Department's terror list. such as Hizballah and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), also actively engage in social services or serve in parliament.
Hizballah's social services give it strong support among poor Shiites in Lebanon. It also has 14 seats in Lebanon's parliament and considerable political clout. Likewise, FARC has a significant social-service component.