CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Eric Trager, a fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, will speak in Charleston on Sunday about the growth of the Muslim Brotherhood, which was founded in 1928.
"My essential argument is that the Muslim Brotherhood doesn't function like other political parties and is unlikely to moderate its long-held extremist views," Trager said during a telephone interview.
The program will begin at 7 p.m. in the sanctuary of B'nai Jacob Synagogue at 1599 Virginia St. E., on Charleston's East End. Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., will also speak during the program.
"My comments on Sunday will focus on Egypt and why I think the Brotherhood is a real threat to American interests and, of course, to Israel," Trager said. "There is no question that the Brotherhood has affiliates here in the U.S."
Joining the Brotherhood, Trager said, is very "unlike joining a party where you fill out a form...
"Becoming a member of the Muslim Brotherhood is a five- to eight-year process. You ascend through five levels and you get tested at each level.
"Candidates are vetted over their commitment to the Brotherhood's ideological principles -- whether they are really religious and, most importantly, if they are willing to take orders from the Brotherhood's central leadership."
The Brotherhood, which has members in 72 different countries, is particularly influential in Egypt, where it was founded.
"It is a nationwide pyramid-shaped hierarchy in which top leaders are able to quickly disseminate orders down to cells, which are actually called families.
"They are really cells which are distributed throughout Egypt. This is an organization that has vetted its members for their commitment to the cause and their willingness to follow leaders' orders. It is also an organization that can move people with the efficiency of the military," Trager said.
Mohamed Morsi, Egypt's new president, is a former leader of the Muslim Brotherhood.
Trager, who is working on a Ph.D dissertation at the University of Pennsylvania about Egypt and the Muslim Brotherhood, said the Brotherhood is not likely to moderate its views during the growing crisis between Israel and Gaza.
While working on his dissertation, Trager said, he interviewed most of the top leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood, as well as many of youth activists.
Those leaders included Morsi.
"My personal impression is that he is extremely hostile. That is not only my impression. Other Americans who I have talked to, whatever their views about the Brotherhood, all agreed Morsi is very hostile to Americanism."
Trager said several organizations in the United States are considered to be Muslim Brotherhood affiliates, including: ISNA, the Islam Society of North America; MAS, Muslim American Society; MAYA, Muslim American Youth Association; and MSA, Muslim Student Association.
"They are all Brotherhood-affiliated organizations, although a lot of the time, they will deny it."
Morsi was actually recruited to the Muslim Brotherhood in the U.S. by an American Islamist, not in Egypt, Trager said.
Mousa Mohammed Abu Marzook, now Deputy Political Bureau Chief of Hamas, was also recruited by Brotherhood leaders in the U.S.
Today, Egypt has 85 million people.
"The Muslim Brotherhood has between 700,000 and 800,000 members in Egypt, while the Muslim Sisters have roughly the same number," Trager said.
"They run all sorts of social services, including food and fuel distribution, religious education and mosque preaching.
"The Brotherhood structures itself in a really undemocratic way, and they really know how to play politics," Trager said. "They are going to use the political power they won to steer Egypt in a very theocratic, not to mention hostile, direction."
On Thursday, Trager released his latest article entitled: "The Gaza Invasion: Will It Destroy Israel's Relationship with Egypt?" It is available at www.washingtoninstitute.org.
"I am excited to be coming to Charleston," he said.
Reach Paul J. Nyden at pjny...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5164.