The international press cried foul on October 19 after the U.S. denied a visa to a senior Muslim Brotherhood leader. Newsweek, Reuters, ABC News, The National Interest and other media complained that the ‘moderate’ Muslim Association of Britain (MAB) founder Kamal Helbawy was barred from appearing at New York University’s Center for Law and Security. The U.S. also barred entry to Egyptian doctor and MB ‘guidance counsel’ Abd El Monem Abo El Fotouh, who was scheduled to speak in the same discussion on the Muslim Brotherhood.
Helbawy claims to be ‘moderate.’ The U.S. should not prevent ‘moderates from talking and discussing,’ Helbawy stated after being pulled off his flight. El Fotouh is purportedly also temperate.
‘At the end of the day, [Islam and the West] have a set of common humanist values: justice, freedom, human rights and democracy,’
he told The Economist in September 2003. Arabists consider El Fotouh ‘one of the brightest stars‘ of the MB’s so-called ‘middle generation.’
The Department of Homeland Security didn’t explain their actions. One can only surmise–and applaud. Consider:
Although the Muslim Brotherhood describes itself as a political and social revolutionary organization, the group is widely (and correctly) recognized as the parent of most Islamic terror groups. Indeed, U.S. authorities most worry about the MB defense of ‘the use of violence against civilians,’ said security and terrorism adviser Juan Zarate recently.
Founded in March 1928 by Hassan al-Banna, the MB rejected the West and sought return to the ‘original Islam.’ Its philosophical and ideological ideas should cause even academics serious concern. The recently exposed 1982 ‘Muslim Brotherhood ‘Project’‘ orders members worldwide
‘To channel thought, education and action in order to establish an Islamic power [government] on the earth.’
Today, the MB still calls for ‘Building the Muslim state…Building the Khilafa…Mastering the world with Islam.’
MB spiritual leader Yusuf Qaradawi, an Egyptian member of the European Council for Fatwa and Research, likewise calls for an Islamic conquest of Europe (starting with Rome and Italy). ‘[T]he patch of the Muslim state will expand to cover the whole earth….,’ he writes. Qaradawi also praises suicide bombing, readily accepts wife beating and calls upon Muslim women to detonate themselves in order to kill Jews.
Despite all evidence to the contrary, on Oct. 19, the Open Forum on The Muslim Brotherhood nevertheless praised Helbawy and El Fotouh as peaceful moderates, and their organization as a peaceful, just, and moderating influence on Middle East and global politics. Their absence was yet another strike against the Bush administration, executive director Karen Greenberg stated. ‘This center tries to educate one another, policy makers and the public,’ she added–a job Greenberg apparently considers more important than public security.
Former Sunday Times senior reporter Nick Fielding then took the floor. He denied the risks the MB poses to the West. Helbawy is ‘a wonderful human being,’ he stated, adding that the 2005 election of 22 Muslim Brothers to Egypt’s parliament–and the Hamas victory in the January 2006 Palestinian Authority vote–were cause for celebration. Fielding objected only to ‘the reward’ Muslims received for their free elections–‘the silence of the U.S. State Department in the face of Egyptian government abuse,’ and the U.S. and international boycott of the Hamas-controlled PA.
The MB is ‘reformist,’ according to Fielding. It provides ‘the best possibility in the Middle East of leaders who can make deals and stick to them,’ he stated, noting their solid political backing in Jordan, Tunisia, Morocco, Algeria Kuwait and Yemen. The MB, he insisted, has ‘for the past 30 years…[consistently] followed a non violent’ path. The brotherhood’s only problem, Fielding claimed, is its ostracization by such analysts as ‘The Counterterrorism blog,’ whose data he derided.
True democracy would never take root in the Middle East, Fielding predicted. It’s ‘about as likely as Shari’a being adopted in Washington D.C.,’ he joked.
Despite Islam’s inherently political nature–‘Muslims want Islam to be a central part of life,’ Fielding stated–he dismissed concerns over calls for a global Islamic caliphate. ‘We shouldn’t terrify ourselves with this rather silly point,’ he said. ‘Refusing to recognize state Shar’ia law in Islamic [nations]’ is what has caused intensifying radicalism. ‘Countering the spread of jihadist organizations’ requires that the West ‘address the grievances–many of them legitimate–of the jihadist movement,’ Fielding concluded.
Sharing Fielding’s view is Nixon Center Senior Fellow and ABC news consultant Alexis Debat–a former adviser to the French transatlantic defense minister. [for new data on Debat’s credibility, 9/15/2007, see here and here] ‘Let’s stop hyperventilating about the Muslim Brotherhood,’ he said. ‘I hear the same things in a church as I hear in a mosque.’ Debat concluded, ‘Islam is a source of enlightenment.’
Debat also recognized Islam’s centrality–as both the Middle East’s ‘primary source of political action’ and ‘universal’–that is, encompassing every aspect of life. ‘We don’t know where it starts and where it ends,’ he observed. Strangely, however, Debat denied that the Muslim Brotherhood is ‘religious.’ It’s chiefly a ‘political movement, not a party,’–a ‘liberation’ movement. He admired the group’s ‘highly pragmatic’ approach to becoming ‘the leader in Egypt.’
Islamist cleric Yusuf Qaradawi, Debat allowed, ‘is the single most influential Islamic thinker today.’ He did not condemn Qaradawi’s views. Almost without missing a beat, Debat maintained that the Muslim Brotherhood is a ‘progressive’ movement, whose ultimate goal ‘is a better, more just society.’ He added, ‘Social justice is the cornerstone of Islam.’
Regarding the MB vision of a global Islamic caliphate, Debat insisted this ‘is completely absent from Muslim Brotherhood rhetoric,’ even that of Qaradawi.
‘I guarantee you that no serious official of the Egyptian ikhwan today would even mention the Caliphate as a program,’
he reiterated in a follow–up email, neglecting the worldwide Brotherhood, which claims membership in more than 70 countries.
Despite his assurances, Debat opened with a troubling disclaimer: He admitted ‘failing to understand the Middle East.’ His five-year ‘journey to understand the Muslim Brotherhood … will be lifelong,’ Debat stated. And ‘there’s a limit to what we [Westerners] can understand about the Middle East,’ he said.
Thank goodness Homeland Security does not take advice from those who admit their failure to understand the Middle East, believe Westerners incapable of comprehending it–and with such an obvious disregard for established facts.
Alyssa A. Lappen is a poet, Senior Fellow at the American Center for Democracy, and an occasional contributor to American Thinker.
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