Tuesday, February 01, 2011

The Muslim Brotherhood - the Anti-Al Qaeda

The only reason the Right will give for propping up Hosni Mubarak is that Islamist radicalism will take over Egypt if their stooge is toppled.

Here they rely on the stupidity of their own gullible supporters not to understand that Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood is not the West Nile chapter of al Qaeda.  Yes, sure, the Muslim Brotherhood would be likely to dominate the Egyptian government if free and fair elections were held.   But, as John Feffer writes in Foreign Policy in Focus, the Muslim Brotherhood is in fact the face of  non-violent, democratic Islamism.

The “Muslim Brotherhood” conjures up images of radical Islamists turning Egypt into Iran or Afghanistan. As the ever-predictable John Bolton told Fox News, "The Muslim Brotherhood doesn't care about democracy, if they get into power you're not going to have free and fair elections either." Andrew McCarthy agrees over at The National Review, "our see-no-Islamic-evil foreign-policy establishment blathers on about the Brotherhood's purported renunciation of violence — and never you mind that, with or without violence, its commitment is…to 'conquer America' and ‘conquer Europe.'”
Since it's likely that the Muslim Brotherhood will play a key role in Egypt's post-Mubarak future, it's important to address this hysteria. The Brotherhood has moved on, even if Bolton and McCarthy have not.
The Brotherhood was founded in Egypt in 1928 by Hassan al-Banna to combine "a Salafiyya message, a Sunni way, a Sufi truth, a political organization, an athletic group, a cultural-educational union, an economic company, and a social idea." The organization did indeed embrace violence in the first part of its history. In fact, the United States was more than happy to encourage the Brotherhood's violent tendencies. As Robert Dreyfuss points out in his book Devil's Game, the Brotherhood was a useful tool to use against those nationalists who threatened U.S. interests, such as Gamal Abdel Nasser in Egypt and Mohammad Mosaddegh in Iran. In 1953,Washington even brought over Said Ramadan, al-Banna's son-in-law, for a couple confabs in the United States.
The Brotherhood is probably the most influential Islamist organization, with chapters all over the world. It has renounced its earlier support of violence and now prefers to acquire power politically. "The Brotherhood is a collection of national groups with different outlooks, and the various factions disagree about how best to advance its mission," write Robert Leiken and Steven Brooke in a 2007 Foreign Affairs article. "But all reject global jihad while embracing elections and other features of democracy. There is also a current within the Brotherhood willing to engage with the United States." The French scholar Gilles Kepel has compared the Brotherhood to the Eurocommunists of the 1970s, who broke with Soviet orthodoxy to participate in democratic elections and stake out a more neutral foreign policy.
Unsurprisingly, not everyone in the Muslim world felt warm and fuzzy about the Brotherhood's shift. "Al-Qaeda's leaders, Osama bin Laden and Ayman Zawahiri, started their political lives affiliated with the Brotherhood, but both have denounced it for decades as too soft and a cat's paw of Mubarak and America," writes former CIA officer Bruce Reidel at The Daily Beast.
That al-Qaeda despises the Brotherhood for precisely this moderation is good enough reason for even some far right-wingers to urge the United States to curry the organization's favor once again. "Many Israelis and their American supporters may rise in horror contemplating replacing peace-treaty-signing dictators with fundamentalists who may partly build a democratic consensus on anti-Zionism," writes the former American Enterprise Institute staffer Reuel Marc Gerecht in his book The Islamic Paradox. "But down this uneasy path lies an end to bin Ladenism and the specter of an American city attacked with weapons of mass destruction.”

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