By Patrick Poole
FrontPageMagazine.com | April 20, 2007
In this concluding Part 3 of my rejoinder to Nixon Center Fellows Robert Leiken and Steven Brooke’s article, “A Response to Patrick Poole’s “Mainstreaming the Muslim Brotherhood‘,” I cover the following points:
1) The very un-moderate statements of the so-called “moderates” they identify within the Muslim Brotherhood;
2) I take note that many of the reformists within the Brotherhood, many of whom served in the organization’s leadership, left a long time ago (1996) to form the Al-Wasat (“Center”) Party, frustrated by the radicalization and ideological lockdown within the Brotherhood;
3) I respond to their accusation that US foreign policy is responsible for Islamic radicalization in the Middle East;
4) I document my previous claim that the Brotherhood has engaged in vote rigging and rampant financial fraud in their administration of the professional syndicates in Egypt, as well as observing that the sole piece of evidence they cited in their response on this point was subject to some suspicious editing on their part;
5) I directly challenge their claims that the Muslim Brotherhood has not been implicated in the violent and fatal attacks against the Coptic community in Egypt by citing a report published by the US Commission on International Religious Freedom, in addition to reports issued by the Coptic community and articles in the Egyptian press;
6) I revisit the events surrounding the military demonstration by Muslim Brotherhood youth cadres at Al-Azhar University this past December, which prompted the current government crackdown on the organization, as evidence that the intentions of the Brotherhood are not entirely peaceful;
7) I observe that their characterization of the Muslim Brotherhood affiliate in France, the UOIF, as a “moderate” organization is directly contradicted by recent studies published by their own organization, the Nixon Center, and that most careful researchers have concluded that France’s policy of embracing the Muslim Brotherhood has been a catastrophic failure and fueled Islamic radicalization — the same policy Leiken and Brooke demand the U.S. implement.
The previous parts to this rejoinder can be found here:
Showdown on the Muslim Brotherhood, Part 1
Showdown on the Muslim Brotherhood, Part 2
Muslim Brotherhood — Leiken and Brooke
To begin the concluding Part 3 of my rejoinder to Robert Leiken and Steven Brooke, I would quickly point out to FrontPage readers that the Muslim Brotherhood is now featuring their response to me on the official Ikhwan website, and promoting it on their home page.
Leiken and Brooke’s Muslim Brotherhood “Moderates”
Following up on a point I made in Part 2 in my rejoinder to Leiken and Brooke was how virtually all of the “reformists” they claim that they have spoken with in the Muslim Brotherhood over the past year have gone unnamed. We realize the reason that the “many members” of the Brotherhood that Leiken and Brooke spoke with during their Magical Muslim Brotherhood Mystery Tour remain unidentified — to prevent “armchair/internet intellectuals” like me from conducting follow-up research on these alleged “reformists” and “pragmatists” that are supposedly proof of their so-called “Moderate Muslim Brotherhood.”
In their response to my original criticism, they tacitly identify one of these figures:
“Many high-level figures in the Brotherhood take a pragmatic view of Israel. As one explained to us ‘we may not like it, but we have to accept the fact that Israel exists and is not going anywhere. We must start from this point’.”
When following the link they provide, we arrive at an interview conducted by anti-war activist and Christian Science Monitor columnist Helena Cobban with Dr. Abdel Monem Abul-Futouh, a member of the Brotherhood’s Guidance Council and the head of the Brotherhood-controlled professional syndicate, the Arab Doctors’ Association.
Following the publication of Part 2 of my rejoinder, I was reminded by my colleague Alyssa Lappen, Senior Fellow at the American Center for Democracy, of the review she gave several months ago (“Islam’s Useful Idiots” The American Thinker [October 23, 2006]) to “pragmatic” statements previously made by El-Futouh, such as these quotes given to the New York Times where he expresses his preference for a “Hezbollah-Iranian agenda” over an “American-Zionist one”:
The Muslim Brotherhood, the Sunni Islamist group founded in Egypt, has been particularly outspoken. Abdel Moneim Abul Fotouh, a member of its guidance office, said that the United States had invaded Iraq to divide Muslims and that it was better to support a Hezbollah-Iranian agenda than an “American-Zionist” one.
“Which one is more dangerous to the Muslim world?” he said in an interview, before attacking “the regimes who tremble before Iran. They are weak and tattered regimes who don’t acknowledge the will of their people.”
When pressed, though, a vague ambivalence emerges. “Iran would be at the end of our list of enemies, even though it’s not an enemy,” he said. “Let’s combat the American danger on the region before we ‘compete’ with Iran.” (Neil MacFarquhar, “Hezbollahâ€™s Prominence Has Many Sunnis Worried,” New York Times [August 4, 2006]; emphasis added)
Now remember that El-Futuoh was the member of the Muslim Brotherhood tacitly identified by Leiken and Brooke noted for his pragmatism related to Israel. But when pressed by the New York Times, we discover that his pragmatism leads him to embrace the terrorist organization Hezbollah and the terror-supporting regime in Tehran over the democratic states of Israel and America. This is “pragmatism” for the Nixon Center pair.
Lappen also notes more of El-Futouh’s “pragmatism,” endorsing Al-Azhar scholars’ call for jihad against the U.S.:
Islamic scholars had performed their ‘basic religious duty’ in calling on Muslims to join jihad against the U.S., El Fotouh stated in March 2003. Al Azhar had rightly urged them to ‘defend themselves and their faith’ against an ‘enemy’ stepping ‘on Muslims’ land’—which the scholars called ‘a new Crusader battle targeting our land, honour, faith and nation.’ Al Azhar’s decree, El Fotouh stated, was ‘no more than an attempt on the part of its scholars to fulfill their duty before God.’ The U.S. had ‘plans to enslave the Arab nation,’ he also claimed. (“Islam’s Useful Idiots“; link is to Gihan Shahine, “Debating Jihad” Al-Ahram Weekly [March 27-April 2, 2003])
Leiken and Brooke are sure to claim that El-Futouh’s call to fight the “Crusaders” is in line with their distinction between “defensive jihad” and “global jihad”; but it is undeniable that Egypt has not been attacked by the United States, nor is it the national defense forces of Egypt that El-Futouh is supporting to fight the “enemy,” i.e. the United States. El-Futouh is calling for support of terrorists — al-Qaeda terrorists, in fact — in Iraq, who have killed tens of thousands of innocent Iraqi since he made those pronouncements in favor of the Al-Azhar fatwas — as many, if not more, than US forces have accidentally killed.
We also learn a little bit more about El-Futouh from an article in the New York Post last year when El-Fatouh was denied a visa by the Department of Homeland Security to attend a NYU symposium supporting the Brotherhood,
El-Fotouh is believed to have led a radical resurgence of the group in the 1970s, although today he is regarded by many watchdogs as a moderate.
He was also among 62 group leaders sentenced to five years in prison in Egypt in 1995 for their alleged role in a failed coup. (David Andreatta, “NYU in Islam Furor,” New York Post [October 20, 2006])
In 2005, when Muslim Brotherhood Supreme Guide Mohammad Akef told the Egyptian daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat that the organization would back a Mubarak candidacy for President — a surprising conciliatory gesture to the current regime — it was El-Futouh that became enraged and penned a heated editorial in Al-Hayat against the Brotherhood leader for showing signs of compromise with the Egyptian government.
Later I will discuss the Muslim Brotherhood’s governance of the professional syndicates in Egypt, but at this point I should note that in his tenure of the Arab Doctors’ Association, it has been reported that El-Futouh has been responsible for diverting funds from the syndicate to support terrorist activities in Iraq, Chechnya, and Afghanistan, while denying funds be sent to tsunami victims in Indonesia, because that was an act of “divine punishment” against the Muslims there.
In their original Foreign Affairs article, they direct our attention to another alleged Muslim Brotherhood “reformer”:
The United States lost an opportunity to hear from one of these reformers last October when [Kamal] Helbawi—the imam whom we heard deliver a sermon extolling a Jew—was forced off a flight en route to a conference at New York University. This treatment of a figure known for his brave stand against radical Islam and for his public advocacy of dialogue with the United States constitutes yet another bewildering act by the Department of Homeland Security, which provided no explanation. This London-based admirer of Shakespeare and the Bronte’s appears to be exactly the sort of interlocutor who could help bridge civilizations. Instead, his public humiliation was a gift for the radicals, a bracing serving of “we told you so” on the subject of engaging Americans. (“The Moderate Muslim Brotherhood,” p. 121)
But at other times when enthusiastic Western supporters, such as Leiken and Brooke, have not been around, Helbawi has had less favorable things to say about Jews, as journalist and counterterrorism expert Steve Emerson reported that he heard first-hand at a 1992 Muslim Arab Youth Association conference:
“Do not take Jews and Christians as allies, for they are allies to each other.”
“Brothers, the Palestinian cause is not a conflict of borders and land only. It is not even a conflict over human ideology and not over peace. Rather, it is an absolute clash of civilizations, between truth and falsehood. Between two conducts — one satanic, headed by Jews and their co-conspirators—and the other is religious, carried by Hamas, and the Islamic movement in particular and the Islamic people in general who are behind it.” (Steve Emerson, “Muslim Brotherhood Member Barred from United States,” Counterterrorism Blog [October 20, 2006]; cited in Lappen, “Islam’s Useful Idiots”)
With regards to Helbawy, Emerson additionally reports and concludes:
In 1991, Helbawy spoke at a conference hosted by the Islamic Committee for Palestine, a front group that was headed by convicted Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) operative Sami al-Arian. Other speakers at the event include Specially Designated Terrorist and current General Secretary of PIJ, Ramadan Abdullah Shallah, the notorious Egyptian “Blind Sheikh,” Omar Abdul Rahman (spiritual leader of the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center, currently serving a life prison sentence for his role in a plot to blow up New York City landmarks), and PIJ founder and spiritual leader Abdel Aziz Al Awda.
Helbawy’s radicalism and support for terrorism (and terrorists) is both longstanding and well documented. Despite his current protestations and NYU’s willful blindness, U.S. government officials are rightfully wary of his past and level of influence. The Department of Homeland Security deserves credit for keeping Helbawy, and others like him, out of the United States. (ibid.)
It is “reformers” and “pragmatists” like El-Futouh and Helbawy that Leiken and Brooke direct our attention to in support of their claim of a “moderate” Muslim Brotherhood. In light of the present evidence, we would do well to take their claims “with much salt.”
The Reformists Have Left the Building — Quite a While Ago!
In listening to the clap-trap about how the Muslim Brotherhood is brimming with “reformists” and “moderates,” we should recall a piece of recent Egyptian political history. In 1996, a number of Muslim Brotherhood leaders and members broke away from the organization to found the Al-Wasat (“Center”) Party because of the radicalism and intransigence of the leadership of the Muslim Brotherhood.
In a 2004 interview, the head of Al-Wasat, Abu al-Ula Madi, who was a senior Brotherhood leader in the Engineering Syndicate, explains that he decided to leave after more than a decades-worth of unsuccessful attempts to “reform” the Brotherhood:
Al-Wasat doesn’t only stand for an explicitly Islamist agenda, it actually emerged as a breakaway movement from the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood. For over fifteen years Abu al-Ula Madi was himself active in the Brotherhood, rising to a leadership position in the Brotherhood-dominated engineers’ trade union.
In 1996, together with a few like-minded people, he turned his back on the Muslim Brotherhood. He says that was “after we’d tried for ten years to reform them.” (Jurgen Stryjak, “Al-Wasat Party: Democratic and Pluralistic” Qantara [September 28, 2004])
Many of the reformers within the Muslim Brotherhood left at this time, and others have left since. While Leiken and Brooke are certain to tell us that the group’s supply of “reformists” has been restocked and now represent the majority within the organization, other careful researchers and analysts have admitted that the reformists are far from having won the battle within the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood:
The balance between reformers and hardliner differs from one Islamist movement to another. Reformers are clearly the most influential force in the Moroccan PJD and the Egyptian Wasat Party; in fact, the latter was launched by a breakaway reformist faction of the Muslim Brotherhoodâ€¦The 2004 Wasat Party program calls for establishing a democratic political system in Egypt within the framework of the Islamic marji’iya. In other movements, such as the Jordanian Islamic Action Front and the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, however, the reformists have not yet won the battle. (Nathan Brown, Amr Hamzawy, and Marina S. Ottaway, “Islamist Movements and the Democratic Process in the Arab World: Exploring the Gray Zones,” Carnegie Endowment for Peace, Carnegie Paper No. 67 [March 2006], p. 18; emphasis added)
Despite the massive exodus of true reformers and moderates out of the Muslim Brotherhood — a stunning refutation of their “moderate” claims — Leiken and Brooke must assert their unquestioned authority and rely upon the ignorance of their readers, much like Johann Tetzel hawking indulgences in 16th Century Germany, to continue peddling their policy wares.
If all else fails, blame America First!
As the foundations continue to crumble for Leiken and Brookeâ€™s argument advancing the claim of a “moderate” Muslim Brotherhood, we uncover that they have created an escape plan in case their argument for the “rejecting global jihad” and “embracing democracy” “Moderate Muslim Brotherhood” comes crashing down around them. Towards the end of Leiken and Brooke’s response, we come across this critical statement:
“Probably the most important development of the past five years is cited by Poole himself, the ‘upward trend of Islamic radicalization.’ But what Poole ignores is that U.S. policies have been responsible for this radicalization.”
First off, I don’t ignore; I reject it. We only need to look at recent history to see that radicalization was well on the rise long before 9/11 and the invasion of Iraq. If they had argued that the military actions in Iraq and Afghanistan have been used by others in the Middle East to radicalize elements, we would be close to an agreement. However, they say that “U.S. policies have been responsible,” which is an attribution of culpability.
In fact, it was during the 1990s, as Islamic radicalism and terrorism directed at the United States was on a sharp rise, that America was doing the most for Muslims around the world: defending the “Land of the Two Mosques” at the request of the Saudi government, and leading the military campaign alongside most Arab countries to liberate Kuwait; the humanitarian effort directed at ending the man-made famine and tribal warfare in Somalia; forging the Dayton Peace Accords, which stopped the slaughter of Muslims in Bosnia; using diplomatic pressure to get Israel to agree to the Oslo Accords, the first substantive diplomatic effort to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict; and the ongoing US-led NATO mission in support of the Muslims in Kosova. Yet during this period, al-Qaeda was in its ascendancy and Islamic radicalism was on a fast boil throughout the Middle East.
Since 9/11, Leiken and Brooke should remember that it hasn’t been President Bush, Vice President Cheney and former Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld that has preaching anti-Americanism from the pulpits of mosques throughout the Muslim World; it hasn’t been CBS, NBC, ABC and CNN that has spewed all manner of anti-Jewish propaganda in the Middle East; it isn’t a US-backed Arab regime that’s perpetrating genocide against non-Arab Muslims in Darfur; it hasn’t been Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell that has issued fatwas endorsing terrorism and calling for jihad; and it hasn’t been American and coalition forces soldiers that has been killing tens of thousands of innocent Muslims in horrific terror attacks in Iraq and Afghanistan. But nonetheless, Leiken and Brooke want to lay responsibility for all this at the feet of American foreign policy.
It seems here that Leiken and Brooke have gone “native.” They have adopted the exact same rhetoric and justification for terrorism as Osama bin Laden and the Muslim Brotherhood. To blame US foreign policy for Islamic terrorism and radicalism (which goes back long before 9/11 and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan) is just as ridiculous as Sayyid Qutb’s condemnation of American moral laxity and “barbarism” he claims he witnessed in the 1940s. The United States is no more responsible for the terrorism that is afflicting the Middle East today than the mixed sex crowd at the social dance that Qutb attended in the dry town of Greeley, Colorado in 1948 that he claimed was responsible for his jihadist ideology.
With foreign policy realists like the Nixon Center, who needs the Muslim Brotherhood or al-Qaeda for enemies?
Egypt’s Professional Syndicates and the Muslim Brotherhood Mafia
“Poole charges, again without evidence, that the Brotherhood’s behavior in the syndicates (essentially Egyptian unions) shows that the Brotherhood will one day rule Egypt dictatorially. Corruption and mismanagement are problems for all syndicates, as they are for much of Egyptian society. But careful researchers must parse facts from sour-grapes accusations by political operatives on the losing end.”
Did you catch that “careful researchers” comment? I did too. I assume that they fancy themselves as “careful researchers,” but had they bothered to do their homework, they would have found that there is scholarly research to back up my claim (and I would have been glad to provide them with such had they bothered to ask).
But before we get too much further on this topic, let’s continue with what they have to say about the Brotherhood’s administration of the professional syndicates:
We note a study by the prestigious Cairo-based Al Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies. According to the Arab Strategic Report, in the 2001 Lawyers Syndicate elections, the Brotherhood
presented a list of 24 candidates which included members from outside the brotherhood. The list included 8 brothers, 3 NDP members, one Nasserist, one Labor party member, one liberal Copt, and one Wafd member. The rest were independents…. The Brothers were able to score more successes within the lawyers syndicate during 2002. They cooperated successfully with other opposition forces especially with the Nasserists.
Most people wouldn’t realize it, but here we have a very suspicious cut-and-paste quotation. Here’s what they cut out of their quotation of this Al-Ahram Center study in their very convenient ellipsis:
“During those elections, the candidates of the brotherhood were much more representative of their syndicate’s interests and less representative of the brotherhood than during any other election. Their election campaigns focused on syndicates issues wrapped in Islamic garb. This was contrary to their traditional practice of advancing an Islamic agenda in the context of syndicates” (emphasis added)
The very point that the “prestigious” Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies was intending to make in their study is that the very election that Leiken and Brooke identify as being fair and competitive was the marked exception, not the rule. And yet with their curious and convenient block-quote editing, they are able to turn the Al-Ahram Center’s analysis on its head — all to make the Brotherhood look its best.
Again, we are offered only half-truths by Leiken and Brooke, and as I’ve charged in my previous critique and I repeat here, the parts they leave out are precisely the points that defeat the heart of their “moderate” Muslim Brotherhood thesis. I realize that the Nixon Center has received sizable grants to arrive at these conclusions, and that this is pro forma behavior for the Beltway intelligentsia, but “armchair/internet intellectuals” such as myself are not so easily fooled.
Getting back to the issue at-hand, they charge me with initiating this line of argument about the connection between the Muslim Brotherhood’s dominance of Egypt’s professional syndicates and their alleged democratic leanings; but in fact, they first raised the Brotherhood’s performance in the syndicates as a demonstration of their “reformist” rehabilitation:
“Such pressure exacerbates differences between various tendencies in the Egyptian Brotherhood. Since the 1980s, middle-class professionals have pushed it in a more transparent and flexible direction. Working within labor unions and professional organizations, these reformers have learned to forge coalitions with and provide services to their constituents.” (“The Moderate Muslim Brotherhood,” p. 114)
Not long after the Brotherhood began taking over the professional syndicates (teachers, lawyers, doctors, engineers, etc.) in the early 1990s, it quickly became apparent that despite the fact that they had campaigned on cleaning up corruption, their administration of the syndicates was swiftly setting new lows. Here is one scholar’s analysis several years after the fact:
At a time when the Muslim Brotherhood was criticizing both the government and other secular political forces in the syndicates for falsifying the results of a number of syndicate council elections, they were doing the same thing. In fact, the Muslim Brothers appear to have outwitted the government in this area.
“Some Muslim Brothers have claimed that change in the council leadership of syndicates under their control has taken place more frequently than in other syndicates. These changes, however, have been confined to members of the Muslim Brotherhood, and have taken place in an undemocratic way. (Ninette S. Fahmy, “The Performance of the Muslim Brotherhood in the Egyptian Syndicates: An Alternative Formula for Reform?” Middle East Journal 52:4 [Autumn 1998], p. 559, 560)
As Fahmy chronicles, the Muslim Brotherhood racked up an impressive record of corruption and undemocratic behavior in their governance of the syndicates. Here are some of the examples she cites:
* In the 1995 Engineering Syndicate elections, the Brotherhood only submitted 70,000 names of the 220,000 that had paid their annual dues. Most of those omitted from the voting lists were government engineers. Because of the Brotherhood’s rampant voter fraud, the judicial commission was forced to cancel the elections seven times. (ibid., pp. 559-560)
* During the 1993 Lawyers Syndicate election in Giza, several current and former syndicate officials charged the Brotherhood with leaving out a number of dues paying lawyers, while stuffing voter roles with Brotherhood supporters who did not even live in the Giza district. (ibid., p. 560)
* In 1990, Christian doctors were prevented from voting in the Doctors Syndicate elections by failing to send them their ballots, and by holding the election on Good Friday. Christians were again the target in 1992, when Muslim Brotherhood officials removed their names from voter roles in the Doctors Syndicate elections in the Daqahiliyya governorate. The same was true in the 1995 Engineers Syndicate elections. Because of rampant corruption by Muslim Brotherhood officials, an independent Association of Egyptian Doctors was formed catering to Christians, secularists and moderate Muslims (ibid.)
* In 1994, the Central Auditing Agency discovered that $400,000 could not be accounted for from the Engineering Syndicate treasury, that $120,000 had been spent on unrelated religious conferences abroad attended by Brotherhood officials, and another $60,000 had been taken from the pension fund. To help fund their elections, Brotherhood officials had spent $260,000 on advertising and propaganda from syndicate accounts. The Engineering Syndicate was placed under judiciary supervision due to the rampant financial and electoral fraud perpetrated by the Brotherhood (ibid., p. 561)
* Another audit found that $88,000 had been spent out of the Pharmacists Syndicate accounts for publishing a Muslim Brotherhood magazine. (ibid.)
Maybe next time Leiken and Brooke won’t be so quick to throw around the “without evidence” charge. Wishful thinking, I know.
As with all things related to the Muslim Brotherhood, in one way or another we are quickly brought right back to the terrorism issue, and the Egyptian professional syndicates is no different. One recent analysis discusses how the Muslim Brotherhood has used their control of the professional syndicates to raise funds to support terrorist activities all over the world, including violence directed at the Coptic population in Egypt itself (which Leiken and Brooke deny the Brotherhood has any involvement in; discussed in detail below):
Within these groups, it has a record of corruption, fanaticism, and promoting conflict. The major concern of the Muslim Brotherhood was to raise funds or use those belonging to these institutions in order to support Islamists all over the world, from Chechnya to Afghanistan and Bosnia. Terrorist groups have used these same funds to threaten Egypt’s national security, its Christian citizens, and foreign guests–giving a small, horrendous taste of what is to come should they gain power. (Magdi Khalil, “Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood and Political Power: Would Democracy Survive” Middle East Review of International Affairs 10:1 [March 2006])
Americans saw first-hand on 9/11 the consequences of the radicalism preached by the Muslim Brotherhood in the Egyptian professional syndicates. As the Washington Post reported just days after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Mohammad Atta, the terrorist ringleader, began his infamous journey into al-Qaeda in 1990, when he entered the Brotherhood-controlled Engineering Syndicate:
In 1985, Atta entered the architecture school in the engineering department at Cairo University. The Muslim Brotherhood and other religion-based political organizations are banned in Egypt, but the beliefs they represent show up in many seemingly unlikely institutions. One of them was the engineering department.
In 1990, after finishing his studies in architecture, Atta joined what is called an “engineering syndicate,” a professional or trade group. Like the school that trained many of its engineers, the syndicate was an unofficial base for the Muslim Brotherhood, where it recruited and propagated its ideas, including the demonization of the United States. (Peter Finn, “A Fanatic’s Quiet Path to Terror,” Washington Post [September 21, 2001], p. A1; see also, John Hooper, “The shy, caring, deadly fanatic,” The Observer (UK) [September 23, 2001])
As a number of reports have noted, Mohammad Atta operated out of a Muslim Brotherhood cell run by Syrians in Hamburg, Germany. From there he would travel to Afghanistan to receive his orders from Osama bin Laden, and eventually, the United States. The rest is one of the most horrific episodes in American history — one we can partially thank the Muslim Brotherhood for.
Finally, one recent report notes a number of articles in the Egyptian press concerning the Muslim Brotherhood’s infiltration of the educational system and how the organization uses that position to propagate Islamic radicalism:
The Muslim Brotherhood, explains Dr. [Imad] Siam, infiltrates the education system: “The first method is planned and organized infiltration by various political Islam organizations, that aim to take control of the [state’s] political authorities through direct, meaning violent, political activity, or through propaganda carried out by thousands of political Islam activists in [various] political organizations, unions, and NGOs.
“The second method is indirect infiltration— [carried out] by encouraging wide sectors of society to endorse political Islam’s ideology and activity without necessarily joining its political organizations. This latter type of infiltration is the most dangerous and difficult to control…
“[These two types of infiltration] have ultimately turned the education system into the chief production line of sectarian ideas, extremism and irrationality.” (“Egyptian Press Criticizes the Muslim Brotherhood’s Infiltration of Egypt’s Education System,” MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 1495 [March 9, 2007])
As we saw, the sole piece of evidence Leiken and Brooke cited on their behalf was a jerry-rigged quote from a study that disproved the very assertion that they were attempting to make. And the scholarly studies and reports I’ve cited clearly show that the Brotherhood has rigged elections, plundered syndicate funds to finance their own agendas, and used the syndicates to proliferate radicalism and jihad. So my original point still stands: If they refuse to act in a democratic fashion in the private sphere, why should we remotely believe their behavior would be any different in the civil sphere?
The Coptic Community: “With Friends Like These”
“Poole offers unsubstantiated arguments that the “military apparatus” of the Muslim Brotherhood has been attacking the Christian Coptic community. Sectarian violence does occur in Egypt, but the Muslim Brotherhood has not been implicated. On the contrary, the BBC reported that the Muslim Brotherhood supported Coptic Christians demonstrating for greater police protection. The Brotherhood also called one particularly high-profile attack — an attack against all the Egyptian people, Muslim and Copt.” There has been reported cooperation between the Muslim Brotherhood and Coptic candidates in Egypt, and earlier this year a Christian joined the leadership council of the political party affiliated with the Jordanian Muslim Brotherhood (although he soon resigned for reasons unclear).”
I’m sure the Coptic community in Egypt will be glad to hear that the ongoing lethal attacks directed by the Muslim Brotherhood against their persons, businesses and churches are all just a figment of my imagination!
Here’s their critical contention:
“Sectarian violence does occur in Egypt, but the Muslim Brotherhood has not been implicated.”
But a definite rebuttal to Leiken and Brooke’s agnosticism regarding Muslim Brotherhood-inspired violence directed at the Copts comes from a very authoritative source — the US Commission on International Religious Freedom:
Coptic Christians face ongoing violence from vigilante Muslim extremists, including members of the Muslim Brotherhood, many of whom act with impunity. Egyptian authorities have been accused of being lax in protecting the lives and property of Christians.
“At the end of December 1999, communal violence in the village of al-Kosheh resulted in the deaths of 20 Coptic Christians and one Muslim. In February 2001, a criminal court acquitted 92 of 96 defendants, Muslims and Christians, suspected of crimes committed while participating in that violence. None of the four convicted, all Muslim, was convicted of murder. Coptic religious leaders and families of the victims criticized the verdict and the General Prosecution quickly lodged an appeal. In July 2001, the Court of Cassation ordered a retrial of all the defendants, which opened in November 2001. In February 2003, the Sohag Court again acquitted 92 of the 96 defendants arrested in connection with the Al-Kosheh killings. Of the other four who were convicted, one was sentenced to 15 years for the killing of the sole Muslim victim, while the other three men, all Muslims, received either one or two year sentences. According to the State Department, in March 2003 the public prosecutor appealed the verdict, citing â€œmisapplication of the law and inadequate justification of the verdict.” The case is ongoing. (Annual Report of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, [May 2004], p. 73; emphasis added)
Not surprisingly, Muslim Brotherhood Supreme Guide Mehdi Akef denounced the findings of the USCIRF Report, claiming US interference in Egyptian “domestic affairs.” (“Akef Attacks the Report of the American Freedoms Commission,” [August 12, 2004], www.ikhwanonline.com) But Leiken and Brooke ignore the findings of this USCIRF report altogether — a seemingly regular occurrence in their supposed “careful research.”
This testimony of Muslim Brotherhood involvement in anti-Coptic violence has been repeated recently in a comprehensive report of violent attacks issued by the Coptic community itself:
A coordinated action plan appears to exist between the extremist Egyptian media’s terrorist-supporting motives, Egypt’s radical clerics, and the Muslim Brotherhood, Egyptâ€™s largest and oldest terrorist organization and a group that has, in the past several months, achieved a level of government tolerance. (US Copts Association, Alexandriaâ€™s Native Christians under Siege, November 10, 2005)
Maybe the Copts just haven’t heard from Leiken and Brooke how much the Muslim Brotherhood is doing on their behalf?
The Muslim Brotherhood was implicated in a well-publicized incident in Alexandria in 2005, where a Coptic church was accused of selling a CD of a performance of play that was deemed an insult to Islam. Three Copts were murdered, and one brave warrior of jihad stabbed a nun in the chest.
Subsequent media reports on this incident noted that the Brotherhood was behind the violence, which they hoped to use for political advantage in the upcoming parliamentary elections:
Security officials are suggesting that Islamist fundamentalists distributed the CDs to stoke up sectarian tension as a way of tipping the balance in the upcoming electoral contest between Coptic nominee Maher Khellah and the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohamed El-Badrashini, both of whom are running for a seat in the same Ghorbal district in Alexandria where the tension erupted. The Brotherhood’s intention was to sully Khellah’s reputation, they said. (Jailan Halawi, “Tip of the Iceberg” Al-Ahram Weekly No. 766 [October 27-November 2, 2005])
That same Al-Ahram article quotes another Egyptian media figure, Adel Hammouda, chief editor of the Al-Fajr newspaper, attributing the violence to the Brotherhood:
Hammouda also blames the Muslim Brotherhood, along with other clandestine organisations and political groups seeking to make gains as the elections near. These groups, he said, “fanned the flames of the strife sparked by the Copts, turning it into a blaze by manipulating Muslims into believing they should rise up in defense of their faith against the Coptic enemy seeking to defame it.” (ibid.)
Another example of the Brotherhood’s role inciting Muslim mobs to violence against Copts during the 2005 parliamentary elections is found in this report published by the Free Copts organization:
In a small village called Kafr Salama near Menya El Kamh’ in the governorate of Sharkeya (north east of Cairo) some Muslims, mainly young men belonging to the Muslim Brotherhood group , attacked the houses, shops and properties of Christians. This took place after a fight between a Christian and a Muslim in the village, during which the father of the latter dropped dead after going into a diabetic coma when he watched the fight. Things quickly escalated after the rumor spread that “Christians killed Muslims.” The naive Christians, knowing the tension was only the result of a normal fight, did not believe things would get any worse.
However, members of the Muslim Brotherhood began sending messages to neighboring villages asking for their assistance. Subsequently hundreds of Muslims gathered from different villages, attacking the houses, shops and belongings of Christians. So far, seven houses and one farm have been completely burned, and many houses have been destroyed. The Christian young man who was involved in the initial fight was massacred by the mob of Muslims. Furthermore, the numerous police vans that rushed into the village have been so far unsuccessful in protecting the Christians, most of whom have fled the village. The few Christian families that remain are currently stranded in their houses, awaiting attack by the Muslims, unless protection arrives in due time. Hundreds of Muslims from neighboring villages, screaming “Islam is the solution,” are still flooding Kafr Salama and threatening to burn and kill whatever crosses their way.
Yes, those friendly, peace-loving, well-intentioned Muslim Brotherhood rampaging mobs. Of course, Leiken and Brooke are sure to blame the Copts for their skepticism and not accepting the Brotherhood’s multiple demonstrations of friendship.
(For more information on the fears of the Coptic community concerning the Muslim Brotherhood, including the long-stated policy of treating Copts as dhimmis in any Muslim Brotherhood-led government, consult Magdi Khalil, “The Muslim Brotherhood and the Copts” Threatswatch.org [April 2006]; also see Samir Morcos, “Citizens of One State,” Al-Ahram Weekly No. 792 [April 27-May 3, 2006].)
Jihadis on Parade; or, Everybody was Kung-Fu Fighting!
“Poole charges that the Brotherhood’s December 10th 2006 demonstration at al Azhar University signified “a return by the group to the era of ‘secret cells’…capable of military action,” and was furthermore a kind of coded message to awaken “sleeper cells.” It is true that some Brotherhood members dressed themselves in ninja-style outfits and performed martial arts demonstrations and military-style exercises. But this was to protest the Egyptian dictatorship’s expulsion of Brotherhood students from their dorms and its intervention in student council elections. It was a stupid, disturbing display, but without violence, despite the hyperventilating of the state-controlled press and the government’s desire to provoke a confrontation. The Brotherhood leadership condemned the demonstrations, apologized (as Poole notes) and rebuked the students, who also apologized for their actions. The Brotherhood’s peaceful response to an increasingly brutal crackdown actually offers evidence of its non-violent character and not of “sleeper cells” or “military action.”
Actually, the quotes they attribute to me (“a return by the group to the era of ‘secret cells’…capable of military action,”) were actually made by an Egyptian commentator who apparently isn’t convinced by Leiken and Brooke’s apologetics on behalf of the Brotherhood. And the pair apparently hasn’t heard of the literary device called “block quotes,” which seems odd for such seasoned members of the Beltway intelligentsia.
This is what I wrote in my original article:
At present in Egypt many of the organization’s leaders are in jail following an incident this past December where student cadres of the Brotherhood engaged in a military-style demonstration at Al-Ahzar University, which prompted the Mubarak regime’s current crackdown on the Brotherhood. One observer, Jameel Theyabi, described the scene and its possible message in an op-ed for Dar Al-Hayat:
The military parade, the wearing of uniforms, displaying the phrase, ‘We Will be Steadfast’, and the drills involving combative sports, betray the group’s intent to plan for the creation of militia structures, and a return by the group to the era of ‘secret cells’…this development comes as a clear Brotherhood announcement that the group is capable of acting and reacting to developments, and by these demonstrations, it is seeking to deliver a news flash that says: “The group is still out there, and is capable of military action, recruitment of new elements, military training and mobilization…I believe that the group’s public power display represents a kind of coded message to awaken sleeper cells within Egypt and abroad.
There was no denying that this was an organized Muslim Brotherhood event; the Brotherhood leaders, however, did not anticipate the strong reaction from both the regime and the media. But since the Brotherhood apologized, we’re not allowed to mention it or draw any negative inferences from it. In fact, according to Leiken and Brooke, the military demonstration is supposed to convince us of the Brotherhood’s peaceful intentions and methods!
The Brotherhood’s peaceful response to an increasingly brutal crackdown actually offers evidence of its non-violent character and not of “sleeper cells” or “military action.”
Here they confuse cause and effect: the current brutal crackdown was caused by their al-Qaeda-style military demonstration, not the result of it.
While the incident is easy to over-simplify and can be attributed to a number of factors, to pretend that the incident didn’t happen and that it in no way contradicts Leiken and Brooke’s claim of a “moderate,” peaceful Muslim Brotherhood, is to ignore the evidence staring us in the face, which is essentially what they are asking us to do. These trained military cadres did not materialize out of the thin air, nor was there any claim that this was staged by the regime.
There were media reports of the revival of the Brotherhood’s “secret apparatus” months before the Al-Azhar incident, many of which noted Supreme Guide Mohammad Akef’s vow to send 10,000 Muslim Brotherhood troops to fight alongside Hezbollah against Israel (Al-Arabiya reported that, in fact, members of the Lebanese Muslim Brotherhood’s Fajr Forces were part of the fighting last summer; Hayyan Nayyouf, “Lebanese Brotherhood reveals their fight alongside Hezbollah in the South” Al-Arabiya [August 1, 2006]).
A report summarizing the discussion at an Open Forum held by the pro-democracy Ibn Khaldun Center for Development Studies in Cairo quotes Hamdi Rizk, deputy chief editor of Al-Mussawar, who warned months before the Al-Azhar incident that the Brotherhood had revived its “secret apparatus”:
“the Muslim Brotherhood has already revived its “physical education” division and the “secret organization,” a clandestine armed wing of the group. This was achieved through scouting camps. (Saad Eddin Ibrahim, “The Constitution, the Supreme Court and the Armed Forces,” Ibn Khaldun Center for Development Studies Newsletter [September 2006])
There is another piece to the puzzle that helps shed some light on the atmosphere created by the Muslim Brotherhood’s militia parade at Al-Azhar. During the public opinion firestorm after the Egyptian news media reported on the jihadist Brotherhood rally, one member of the media that had reported on the incident sent a desperate message to the Muslim Brotherhood in fear for his life, apologizing for his report and for taking photos of the event. The Brotherhood published his apology on their website:
“Since, Monday, when Al Masri Al Youm Newspaper published the news of Al-Azhar militias, I have felt sad about what will happen after; there was fear inside me but I did not know that all this would happen.”
I hope that anyone I offended to forgive me; this is because I –I swear by Allah– did not mean to offende (sic) any body. I was just doing my job honestly and I didn’t support one side against the other. (“Al Masri Al Youm Journalist Regrets Parade Photos,” Ikhwanweb.com December 18, 2006)
This reporter’s apology begs the question: why would he be in fear for his life if the Muslim Brotherhood was the peace-loving Islamist group that Leiken and Brooke represent them to be? That the Brotherhood published his letter speaks volumes.
(A full round-up of responses in Egypt to the Brotherhood’s military parade can be found in L. Azuri, “Relations Worsen Between the Egyptian Regime and the Muslim Brotherhood,” MEMRI Inquiry and Analysis No. 321 [February 2, 2007])
Is Paris Burning Yet?
The Brotherhood led organization in France, the UOIF, is moderate and collaborates with the conservative government and its Interior Minister and presidential candidate Nicolas Sarkozy.
Here we have another brazen assault on the truth by Leiken and Brooke, but don’t take the word of this wanna-be “armchair/internet intellectual”: here is a contrary assessment on the UOIF
published by Leiken and Brooke’s own organization, the Nixon Center!
Founded in 1983, the Union’s Faisal Mawlawi, sits on the European Council for Fatwa and Research with radical Muslim Brotherhood cleric Yusuf al-Qaradawi. Both Mawlawi and Qaradawi have expressed hatred for the United States and Israel, and both have praised and encouraged suicide “martyrdom” operations. The Union has hosted both at its annual convention in Le Bourget, and they have been guests of honor among the Union’s affiliate groups. The Union has also hosted Tariq Ramadan, grandson of Muslim Brotherhood founder Hassan al Banna, who has had his American visa revoked by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. In 1995, Pasqua denied Ramadan entrance into France after French authorities linked him to an Algerian terrorist group which carried out attacks in Paris. More recently, the Union asked a French television station to cancel a program critical of Ramadan, and denounced the journalist who produced it. Union officials have also systematically defended Hamas leaders such as the late Sheik Ahmed Yassin and Abdelaziz Rantissi, and have raised money for Hamas through a French organization called the Comittee de Bienfaisance et de Secours aux Palestiniens (The Committee for Palestinian Charity and Aid), which the U.S. Treasury Department has called a “primary fundraiser of Hamas.” (Glen Feder, “The Muslim Brotherhood in France,” The Nixon Center, In the National Interest [September 2005]; emphasis added; footnotes in the original)
Feder has recently repeated his charge that the UOIF is one of the forces of radicalism responsible for enflaming the Muslim immigrant youth in France, once again, in one of the Nixon Center’s own publications!
Religion is not the prime reason for the riots, but it is one important element. The current generation of young Muslim immigrants in France no longer adheres to the pious Tabligh movement of their parents, which peaked in the 1970s and 1980s. The Tabligh movement, which was one of the most important Islamic movements by the end of the twentieth century, originated in the late 1920s in India and emphasized the strict imitation of Muhammad’s life instead of the politicization of Islam. Part of the reason for this shift is that in 1997, in an effort to strike a compromise between preserving the rights of their minority groups and protecting traditional French secularist principles, France decided to streamline powerful Islamic organizations into one unified coalition called Le Conseil FranÃ§ais du Culte Musulman (French Council for the Muslim Religion). While the French government hoped that this would create one moderate and unified voice within the Muslim community, its effort backfired.
The results of the election held amid the Muslim population for the council was the victory of a fundamentalist Islamic organization: the Muslim Brotherhood’s Union des Organisations Islamiques de France (UOIF). Through the enormously successful efforts of the Union des Organisations Islamiques de France (UOIF) and figures like Tariq Ramadan, the Muslim Brotherhood’s ideology has spread like wildfire among French youth. The Muslim Brotherhood is not simply a religious movement, but a global social movement that promotes a version of Islam that adamantly rejects secularized political and social institutions. (Glen Feder, “Paris Still Smolders,” The Nixon Center, The National Interest [December 14, 2006]; emphasis added)
Feder tells us that the efforts by the French government to reach out to the UOIF, which Leiken and Brooke tell us is evidence of the organizations so-called “moderation,” has completely backfired on the French (I will forsake snide comments on their ironic mention of the Brotherhood’s “collaboration”— a term packed with some meaning in a French context). We should remember that this is precisely the policy that they demand that the U.S. adopt. Maybe they’re eager for it to backfire on the U.S. as well!
Another recent assessment by Lorenzo Vidino, a noted and frequently-published Muslim Brotherhood expert, charges in an article published earlier this month in the Dutch weekly, Opinio, that most of the Brotherhood’s public image of non-violence (one crafted by Brotherhood enthusiasts in the West—I won’t mention any names) is nothing but a duplicitous facade intended to mask their violent rhetoric and support for terrorism:
In the West violence and confrontation are replaced by a cleverly engineered mix of penetration of the system through appeasement and simultaneous radicalization of the Muslim population. Its leaders publicly vow the group’s dedication to integration and democracy, representing themselves as mainstream, and seeking to portray themselves as the representatives of the various Western Muslim communities in the media and in dialogues with Western governments. Yet, speaking Arabic or Turkish before their fellows Muslims, they drop their facade and embrace radicalism. While Brotherhood representatives speak about interfaith dialogue and integration on television, the group’s mosques preach hate and warn worshippers about the evils of Western society. While they publicly condemn the murder of commuters in Madrid and school children in Russia, they continue to raise money for Hamas and other terrorist organizations.
“[T]he Brotherhood’s renunciation of violence seems more opportunistic than genuine, considering that its European members use fiery rhetoric to endorse terrorist operations in the Middle East. While they are quick to condemn violence in the West to avoid becoming political pariahs, they do not refrain from approving of it elsewhere, notably in Palestine and Iraq, because they believe they can get away with it. It is not unreasonable to assume, therefore, that should it become convenient for them to do so, the ever-flexible Brotherhood would embrace violent tactics in the West as well. (Lorenzo Vidino, “The Muslim Brotherhood in Holland,” Opinio; reprinted in English at Counterterrorism Blog [April 6, 2007])
This two-faced nature of the Muslim Brotherhood organizations in Europe and North America is a reflection of the mother Muslim Brotherhood organization in Egypt, to which the former head of the Security Intelligence Service of the DGSE (the French Secret Service), Alain Chouet, one of the leading experts on the Islamist movement in the Western intelligence community, attests:
The “democratic conversion” of Mohammad Mehdi Akef, grand master of the Brotherhood in Egypt, the vituperative comments by Ayman Zawahiri on the Egyptian and Jordanian Brothers and their support for the democratic process, the apparent moderated discourse of Tariq Ramadan towards the European institutions should not fool anyone. Like every fascist movement on the trail of power, the Brotherhood has achieved perfect fluency in double-speak. They are able to command all the possible means of accession to the control of the masses, and to power. (Alain Chouet, “The Association of Muslim Brothers: Chronicle of a Barbarism Foretold,” European Strategic Intelligence and Security Center Background Analysis [June 4, 2006]; emphasis added)
One of the consequences of Western governments embracing the Muslim Brotherhood is that it has crowded out truly moderate Muslim organizations and denied them the legitimacy they should be granted. Because of the legitimacy that the Western governments bestow on the Muslim Brotherhood-backed groups, these organizations are relieved of any responsibility to encourage assimilation, and instead, promote radicalism:
At present, the French government’s efforts to encourage moderation and Muslim toleration of non-Muslims have backfired. Instead, the Conseil Francaise du Culte Musluman has marginalized more moderate institutions like the Mosque de Paris in favor of Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated groups. These new groups have cast aside the goals of integration and adherence to French values, and instead are implementing an outside agenda. As Zuhair Mahmood said, “We are pursuing two goals. The first is an authentic Islam, authentic Muslims. The second is to be in conformity with the rules of society, with the laws of the Republic. It is not easy. It is not always possible.” This is partly because their brand of Islam is global in its aspirations, and supports terrorist groups like Hamas as a means of spreading it. Lhaj Thami Breze, president of the Union des Organisations Islamiques de France, summed up their stance on religious accommodation within a secular state when he said, “The Qur’an is our constitution,” a saying that is also a motto of the Muslim Brotherhood. (Feder, “The Muslim Brotherhood in France”; emphasis added)
Lorenzo Vidino adds that not only does the acceptance of the Muslim Brotherhood groups in the West push out the moderates and encourages radicalization; it actually has the effect of speeding up the process:
What most European politicians fail to understand is that by meeting with radical organizations, they empower them and grant the Muslim Brotherhood legitimacy. There is an implied endorsement to any meeting, especially when the same politicians ignore moderate voices that do not have access to generous Saudi funding. This creates a self-perpetuating cycle of radicalization because the greater the political legitimacy of the Muslim Brotherhood, the more opportunity it and its proxy groups will have to influence and radicalize various European Muslim communities. The ultimate irony is that Muslim Brotherhood founder Hassan al-Banna dreamed of spreading Islamism throughout Egypt and the Muslim world. He would have never dreamed that his vision might also become a reality in Europe. (Lorenzo Vidino, “The Muslim Brotherhood’s Conquest of Europe,” Middle East Quarterly 12:1 [Winter 2005])
Nixon Center national security analysts fail to understand it as well, it seems.
(For more on the radicalism of the Brotherhood’s organizations in France, Germany and England, see Lorenzo Vidino, “Aims and Methods of Europe’s Muslim Brotherhood” Hudson Institute Center on Islam, Democracy and the Future of the Muslim World, Current Trends in Islamist Ideology Vol. 4 [November 2006], pp. 22-44; also, “Glorifying the Radicals,” Wall Street Journal (Europe), July 18, 2005, p. A8)
In the two months since their Foreign Affairs article first appeared, Leiken and Brooke have had a number of critics offer a counsel of caution in their bid to mainstream the Muslim Brotherhood — counsel they have decidedly rejected.
Given all of the qualifications that Leiken and Brooke have been forced to make to their thesis since their Foreign Affairs piece first appeared, it would be fair to ask the pair exactly what they now think is “moderate” about the Muslim Brotherhood at all?
Much like street hustlers selling Rolex watches for $100, Leiken and Brooke are peddling goods quite different from what they claim. After assurances from Leiken and Brooke that the Muslim Brotherhood “embraces democracy,” we find that by “democracy” the Brotherhood have something very different in mind from what the West understands the concept to be. There is no expectation that the Muslim Brotherhood will honor human rights any more than the Mubarak regime currently does, and evidence in hand to believe that their behavior would be worse; there are no assurances that minorities, such as the Copts or women, will be recognized as full citizens in Egypt; there is no expectation that elections would be any more free or fair; and after hearing their claim that the reformists are surging within the Brotherhood, we discover that most of the moderates have left the Muslim Brotherhood already, frustrated by the institutional and ideological obstinacy of its leadership — the very leaders whom Leiken and Brooke argue the US should embrace. Lastly, we find that the very “moderates” within the Brotherhood that they identify openly support terrorism and identify America as their enemy. That last discovery is perhaps the most damning of them all with regards to the arguments made by the Brotherhood’s enthusiasts in Washington DC.
Thus, in conclusion, when it comes to the radicalism and promotion of violence by the Muslim Brotherhood, Leiken and Brooke have closely followed the old maxim: see no evil; hear no evil; speak no evil.
It’s for this reason that when any Muslim Brotherhood leader says or does something departing from the carefully crafted script that Leiken and Brooke attempt to peddle, they must be quickly categorized as “hard-line” (Jordanian IAF MPs paying their respects to the family of the late Iraqi al-Qaeda leader, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi), “controversial” (late Brotherhood Supreme Guide Mustafa Mashour statements on democracy), or a “doddering, slightly embarrassing old uncle (current Supreme Guide Mohammad Akef’s comments on virtually any topic). Any evidence that contradicts the basic tenets of their “Moderate Muslim Brotherhood” thesis must be ignored and suppressed, and any critic willing to offer a different analysis or presenting verboten evidence is quickly the victim of their ad hominem attacks.
They take their best shot at me:
“But an armchair (or maybe internet) intellectual, happier to sound off than to act wisely, prefers to exhibit the weeds in the Muslim Brotherhood to the uninformed crowd. In this way, to switch metaphors, we lose the forest for the trees. A wise policy demands a full picture.”
But it is precisely the full picture that they are unwilling to contemplate. As I demonstrated in my first article, and have thoroughly documented in this extensive rejoinder, Leiken and Brooke must deliberately evade, downplay or explain away anything that contradicts their thesis. Whatever evidence is overwhelming to their position is simply ignored as if it didn’t exist. And if all else fails, attack the critic! Why must they sink to ad hominem? Because their whole argument is predicated on smoke and mirrors. Yes, there may be reformists all over the Middle East associated with the Muslim Brotherhood that the US can and should deal with, but that has not been their argument.
Instead, they are the purveyors of the myth of the “moderate” Muslim Brotherhood: one that “rejects global jihad,” which as we discovered is nothing more than a fictional category and a diversionary tactic intended to redefine the terrorism that the Brotherhood preaches and actively supports, and is a distinction that the Muslim Brotherhood leaders themselves are not willing to draw; and one that “embraces democracy,” which we learned bears absolutely no resemblance to democracy as we know it — equality of citizens, rule of law, separation of the secular and religious spheres, etc. With such a radical proposal contrary to all well-established facts, they would do better to argue that the Muslim Brotherhood “rejects democracy” and “embraces global jihad.”
How embarrassing it must be that an “armchair/internet intellectual” like myself is able to so easily slice and dice through their obfuscation and mendacity like a Ginsu knife! This is why they protest so loudly about my “exhibiting the Muslim Brotherhood’s weeds.”
I readily confess that I have not had my pockets stuffed with grant money to afford me the opportunity to take the Magical Muslim Brotherhood Mystery Tour, sipping tea and smoking the hookah with Muslim Brotherhood leaders from North Africa to the Arabian Gulf. But I have not prostituted myself and allowed myself to be blinded to the abundant evidence that flatly contradicts the most basic elements to their argument. If that is what being an “armchair/internet intellectual” represents, I proudly embrace it!
If anything, Robert Leiken and Steven Brooke have shown us that the Beltway foreign policy/national security intelligentsia just isn’t what it used to be.
As for wise policy, let me conclude with this thought from another skeptic who cautions us against embracing Islamist radicals as part of US foreign policy:
In essence, then, the U.S. government should promote democrats, not just democracy. Nonviolent Islamist parties, such as they are, have earned about as much claim for attention and affection as neo-Nazi parties in Europe or Jean-Marie Le Pen’s National Front in France. We should not encourage political engagement with Islamists. Instead of moderating the radicals, let us commit ourselves to the project of empowering the moderates. We can do that only if we are more discriminate in how we promote democracy in the Middle East. (Robert Satloff, “U.S. Policy towards Islamists: Engagement versus Isolation,” Washington Institute for Near East Policy, September 24, 2005)
Patrick Poole is an author and public policy researcher. He also maintains a blog, “Existential Space,” where he writes on a number of cultural, political and religious issues.
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