The hitherto mysterious Muslim Brotherhood global network has taken center stage in recent debates about the mother group which first emerged in Egypt some 85 years ago.
Brotherhood literature explicitly refers to an international network, even though many members deny its existence on the ground.
The Brotherhood boasts a presence in more than 70 countries around the world.
It would not be surprising, therefore, to find a single body that brought together senior members of all the group's regional offshoots.
With the ongoing showdown between Egypt's military-backed authorities and the Brotherhood since the July 3 ouster of elected President Mohamed Morsi, a Brotherhood leader himself, local media has begun accusing the international network of playing a secret role in the crisis.
The media claimed that the global network's leaders had recently held several meetings in Turkey and Pakistan to discuss helping the mother group against the Egyptian authorities.
"There is indeed an international network of the Muslim Brotherhood led by a global guidance office chaired by Mohamed Badie," senior group member Ashraf Abdel-Ghaffar told the Anadolu Agency in reference to the Brotherhood's jailed supreme guide.
"According to the global network's regulations, the supreme guide -- along with two of his three deputies -- must come from Egypt," he added.
Abdel-Ghaffar did not deny that Egypt had been a main subject of discussion at recent meetings of the global network.
"The entire world is watching Egypt," he told the AA from Turkey, where he is currently staying.
"It's no surprise then that the Brotherhood in other countries would discuss developments taking place there."
Abdel-Ghaffar said the meetings aimed to bring together the group's leaders around the globe for consultations, excluding any intervention in countries' domestic affairs.
"Participants aren't bound by the views expressed at such meetings," he said.
"Each individual leadership is better aware of how things can be steered in their respective countries."
"It's important to note, however, that Egypt is far more important than the [Muslim Brotherhood] network," Abdel-Ghaffar insisted.
"Everything being done now aims first and foremost to serve Egypt, not the organization."
Abdel-Ghaffar said Muslim Brotherhood offshoots in other countries were working to raise awareness about Morsi's July 3 ouster among the peoples and governments of their respective nations.
These groups, he said, sought to function as an "alternative media" to Egyptian state-run and private media, which, Abdel-Ghaffar contends, is biased against his group and flagrantly pro-army.
He added that the Brotherhood's regional branches frequently organized events aimed at rallying support for the mother movement in Egypt and raising awareness about the need to support "democratic legitimacy" and resist what he called the "military coup" against Egypt's first-ever freely elected leader.
"Other Brotherhood-affiliated movements, particularly those in countries that have ratified the International Criminal Court agreement, are trying to help us bring those who committed crimes in Egypt to international justice," Abdel-Ghaffar added.
He revealed that his movement had already initiated international legal proceedings against Egyptian army chief Gen. Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi -- widely perceived as the architect of Morsi's ouster -- and Interior Minister Mohamed Ibrahim.
He denied refuted arguments that the Muslim Brotherhood was on the verge of extinction due to recent blows by the Egyptian security apparatus, stressing that the movement was "still strong."
Abdel-Ghaffar pointed in particular to the group's ability to harness the "revolutionary activity" that continues to convulse the Arab region.
He believes that the scenarios of 1954 and 1965 -- when former Egyptian presidents Gamal Abdel-Nasser and Anwar al-Sadat, respectively, cracked down on the Brotherhood, jailing most of its leaders -- cannot be repeated.
"The world has changed," he stressed. "The people can no longer be silenced."
He pointed out that, under group regulations, the supreme guide of the international organization -- along with two of his three deputies -- must come from Egypt.
According to Mohamed Ghali, professor of political science at the University of Marrakesh, the Muslim Brotherhood global network is like any other organization that "aims to serve as a forum for consultation and the exchange of expertise."
"But the organization's decisions aren't binding," Ghali said.
He added that the organization needed to be more active in order to better formulate the practical visions of various Muslim Brotherhood movements worldwide.
Kamal al-Helbawi, a former spokesperson for the Muslim Brotherhood global network in the west, recently said the network was based on the writings of Brotherhood founder Hassan al-Banna.
The global network, he said, was actually created at the end of the 1970s, when Brotherhood leaders enjoyed relative freedom of movement following their release from prison.
"Arab and Islamic issues were already becoming complicated at that point, including the Palestine cause," al-Helbawi said.
He went on to explain that the global network did not have a fixed agenda.
The agenda of its meetings, he said, was usually determined by local developments in the countries in which the Brotherhood had a presence.
In his memoirs, Sheikh Youssef al-Qaradawi, head of the International Union of Muslim Scholars, wrote about the emergence of the global network.
After 1965, he wrote, when most Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood leaders were thrown in jail, Brotherhood members in other countries met to discuss how to help the families of their jailed Egyptian colleagues.
"With the passage of time… the network evolved into an entity that included all Muslim Brotherhood members across the world," al-Qaradawi acknowledged.
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