- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 30, 2011

The administration is reaching out to Egypt’s radical Muslim Brotherhood ahead of parliamentary elections scheduled for September. “The political landscape in Egypt has changed, and is changing,” an unnamed White House source told Politico. “It is in our interests to engage with all of the parties that are competing for parliament or the presidency.” As President Obama’s previous attempts at outreach to Islamists have failed, there is little reason to believe this effort will succeed.

Egypt’s Islamist political parties seem set to play a role in the new government. According to a poll released this month by the International Peace Institute (IPI), Islamist parties collectively attract support from 19 percent of potential voters while the secular parties have 25 percent. Most of the rest were undecided or did not respond. The secular parties obviously are a better choice from the U.S. perspective. This educated, upper- and middle-class cohort could help usher in a future of peace, prosperity and tolerance in the region. Rather than coddling Islamists, the administration ought to be working actively to strengthen Egypt’s secularist, moderate and relatively pro-Western political classes. Hedging bets by reaching out to sectarian groups that do not share U.S. values or interests only makes it harder for the more liberal parties at a time when they already face numerous handicaps. Unlike the secularists, the Islamist parties will never be in America’s corner.

The White House appears to be blind to the schizophrenic message it is broadcasting throughout the Middle East. Mr. Obama says he wants to improve relations with Islam, yet he supports policies that offend orthodox Muslim morality. Most recently, the administration heralded the United Nations Human Rights Council’s March 22 statement on “Ending Violence Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity.” Of the 85 countries that signed off on the statement, only one, Israel, is a Middle Eastern state. Strongly advocating the homosexual agenda hardly wins friends or influences people in that part of the world. While Mr. Obama strives to be true to his left-wing ideals, they are the main wedge between the United States and the Islamic political movement. The Islamists will not compromise, which means the White House pandering that undermines U.S. national interests is ultimately fruitless.

In his 2002 “Letter to the American People,” the late Osama bin Laden told U.S. citizens, “I regret to inform you that you are the worst civilization in the history of mankind.” He then listed the reasons why, some of which sound very much like Democratic National Committee talking points: support for women’s rights, homosexual rights, tolerance, diversity and choice. To the extent the United States champions Western values, such as free thought, religious pluralism and capitalism, along with various aspects of Mr. Obama’s agenda, it correspondingly alienates those for whom Islam defines political life. Mr. Obama has fewer friends in Egypt than he used to have. According to the IPI poll, his favorability in Egypt has plummeted from 25 percent in 2008 to 12 percent today, whereas confidence in bin Laden and his message increased from 18 percent to 21 percent. This is not an opportunity for outreach; this is a problem, and promoting the political fortunes of the Muslim Brotherhood will only make it worse.

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