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What is the Muslim Brotherhood?

Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohammad Badie meets with Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh

Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohammad Badie meets with Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh
Photo Credit: Mohammed El- Ostaz/POOL/ Flash90

Since the launch of Arab Spring, Obama’s administration has been supportive of the Arabs’ call for freedom and democracy. Such a graceful stance, nonetheless, has been hindered by the administration’s apparent tolerance of the succession of Islamists into power at the expense of emerging Arab democracies.

Apparently President Obama sees a point in accepting, and even welcoming, the arrival of Muslim Brotherhood members into power. Such a position will possibly soon prove a fatal one — and an example of the Islamists outwitting the US through the ballot box after failing with bombs and explosives.

President Obama’s original view of the Arab Spring was somewhat logical: if the Arabs wanted a change towards democracy, there was no point in stopping them or supporting the ailing regimes against which they were protesting.

Obama was not alone in his support; Senator John McCain shared the same view. In his speech before the World Economic Forum in Jordan, he said: “For decades, we in the United States were fed the belief that the so-called Arab Street was hostile to our interests and ideals. But now we are seeing that the opposite is true: The Arab Street wants political freedom, economic opportunity, equal justice and rights, and the chance to change their countries and their governments – not through suicide and murder, but peacefully, through politics.”

In theory, the Obama administration’s concept of supporting the Arab people’s desire for peaceful change toward democracy is valid. The consequences that have emerged, however, have been alarming. The Islamists, and particularly the Muslim Brotherhood, have dominated the parliamentary seats in Tunisia; the Muslim Brotherhood and the Islamist Salafis accrued 72 percent of the parliamentary seats in Egypt; and the King of Morocco’s well-intentioned reforms have brought an Islamist government into power.

Some might argue that the Islamists’ domination of emerging Arab democracies is not Obama’s fault, but rather the free will of the Arabs who chose to vote for the Islamists. The problem is that there is evidence that the Administration has gone beyond tolerating the Arab people’s support for Islamists.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the US was willing to sit down with the Muslim Brotherhood of Egypt. She said: “It is in the interests of the United States to engage with all parties that are peaceful and committed to nonviolence that intend to compete for the parliament and the presidency,” and she confirmed that contact with members of the Muslim Brotherhood is nothing new. She said the policy consisted of “continuing the approach of limited contacts with the Muslim Brotherhood that has existed on and off for about five or six years” — meaning that contacts had begun during the Bush administration.

The New York Times confirmed that the Obama Administration was — among other things — holding high-level meetings with the Muslim Brotherhood: “The Obama administration has begun to reverse decades of mistrust and hostility as it seeks to forge closer ties with an organization once viewed as irreconcilably opposed to United States interests.”

When the protests were still raging in Egypt, I suggested that the US administration should usher democratic-secular parties to come to power in Egypt rather than leaving them in the cold, and that “The challenge would be in nursing the fledgling democracies not to have them hijacked by radicals the way Lenin hijacked the Russian Revolution from Trotsky and Kerensky. Well-funded.”

Nevertheless, Obama’s current confidence in the Muslim Brotherhood must be weighed by facts, mainly – What is the Muslim Brotherhood and who does it represent?

For a start, the Muslim Brotherhood’s logo exhibits a Qur’an, with two swords underneath; below that, the word “Aedou,” which means “prepare” — from Quranic verse 8:60: “Prepare against them [the enemy] whatever you are able of power and horses by which you may strike terror into the [hearts of] the enemy, of Allah, and your enemy and others besides them whom you do not know [but] whom Allah knows.” Thus, the logo itself, usually sanitized and toned down in English translations, promotes terrorism as a virtue.

Similarly, the Brotherhood’s motto, now totally sanitized off its English language website, is: “Allah is our objective; the Quran is our law, the Prophet is our leader; Jihad is our way; and death in the way of Allah is our highest objective.”

Ever since the brotherhood landed itself a majority in the Egyptian Parliament, it has also been hard at work against Israel, first by announcing it would consider putting Egypt’s peace treaty with Israel to a referendum, while confirming that the Brotherhood will not recognize Israel. Moreover, the Muslim Brotherhood has not only turned its back on Obama but also on the very people who launched the Egyptian revolution. For example, Egypt’s ruling generals have been stating that they will try members of non-Islamist private organization on claims of suspicious foreign funding. When the US noted that the military government’s actions might affect US aid to Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood went to the media “warning” that cutting US aid might impose Egypt’s peace treaty with Israel — which suggests members of the Muslim Brotherhood were pleased to see competing private organizations and charities shut down.

About the Author: Mudar Zahran is a Palestinian writer and academic from Jordan, who now resides in the UK as a political refugee.


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