The Obama administration has been talking up the Muslim Brotherhood as a necessary part of Egypt’s future. The brothers, however, are denouncing the U.S. takedown of Osama bin Laden, so the White House might want to find some better friends.
Weekend violence in Egypt between Muslims and Coptic Christians left at least a dozen dead and highlighted the growing sectarian tensions. The killings are being attributed to Salafist fundamentalists who abhor the fact that 5 percent to 10 percent of Egypt’s population is made up of Christians. They would just as soon reduce that total to zero. But Salafi tribal chiefs distanced themselves from the violence, and it was also denounced by the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, which publicly preaches peaceful change.
The Obama administration sees the brothers as a moderate Muslim alternative to the Salafists, and back in February, the White House said the next government in Cairo “has to include a whole host of important nonsecular actors that give Egypt a strong chance to continue to be [a] stable and reliable partner.” The Muslim Brotherhood took Washington’s signal and last month announced the formation of the “Freedom and Justice Party,” which its leader Mahmoud Mosri pledged is “not a religious party, not a theocratic party.” Propaganda aside, the notion that the Muslim Brotherhood is not going to actively promote Islamist policies is absurd. Party spokesman Essam al-Erian explained, “When we talk about the slogans of the revolution - freedom, social justice, equality - all of these are in the Shariah. This revolution called for what the Islamic Shariah calls for.”
The Muslim Brotherhood also tarnished its “moderate” image last week when it denounced the “assassination” of Osama bin Laden. In a statement following bin Laden’s demise, the group hailed resistance against “foreign occupation,” which they called “the legitimate right guaranteed by divine laws and international agreements,” and demanded the United States “stop its intelligence operations against those who differ with it, and cease its interference in the internal affairs of any Arab or Muslim country.” Mr. al-Erian advised that with bin Laden’s death, “it is time for Obama to pull out of Afghanistan and Iraq and end the occupation of U.S. and Western forces around the world that have for so long harmed Muslim countries.”
On Monday, the Middle East Media Research Institute released a translation of an article posted on the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood website written by Egyptian cleric Dr. Salah Al-Din Sultan. The article lauds bin Laden raising “the banner of jihad for the sake of Allah” as being “in the defense of Islam and the resistance against the occupiers, [even if it was waged] in a way that deviated to some extent from the middle path of moderation.” On the other hand, he writes, “the terrorism of the U.S. is in defense of hegemony, oppression and tyranny and [aimed at] subjugating the peoples and regimes of the world to American [uni-]polarity.” In any case, Mr. Sultan claimed, “bin Laden’s terrorism is [merely] alleged, since the accusations against him came from the media rather than from a court, whereas there is no doubt as to the terrorism of the U.S.” If these are the moderates, imagine the views of the extremists.
The Obama administration’s critical blind spot in dealing with the Middle East is failing to recognize the threat posed by all forms of Islamic extremism, whether violent or not. The White House denounces al Qaeda’s “perverted” views on Islam, yet groups like the Muslim Brotherhood advocate exactly the same thing. Apparently, Mr. Obama doesn’t think it’s a problem if they achieve Shariah by the ballot instead of the bullet. An electoral victory by the Muslim Brotherhood will herald the death of freedom in Egypt.