Thursday, February 17, 2011

Let's get real about the Muslim Brotherhood


People need to start getting real about the Muslim Brotherhood's clearly anti-American, anti-Israel agenda. (No Peter this is not another attack on the liberal media. WSJ just likes to bash NYT whenever it can.) Now I should probably stop posting and get back to work on the budget.

4 comments:

Ryan Karerat said...

Half of that argument was simply, "Well, the New York Times was wrong about Iran 30 years ago, so they're OBVIOUSLY wrong about Egypt, too!" Lazy comparison is lazy. Throw in a couple of requisite anti-Israel quotes, and you have every foreign policy column in the Wall Street Journal over the past several years. Muslims are the boogeymen, the left are appeasing bastards who don't realize the threat, yada yada yada. Rinse and repeat.

Let's be clear about a couple of things: The Muslim Brotherhood is not the Mubarak regime in terms of their feelings on Israel. That much is not deniable, and that much is a legitimate concern. However, taking the next step and issuing all sorts of doomsday predictions is misguided at this stage. Anti-american/anti-Israel rhetoric is as much political posturing as it is an indicator of legitimate policy, and you can't go running too fast with selective quotes as a way of trying to predict how things are going to go.

The fact that the founder of the Brotherhood 50 years ago was an admirer of fascism has zero relevance for what is going on today. The organization has evolved and fractured since then, leadership and philosophy has changed, etc. And then he goes on to grab another quote from the guy decades ago who imagined the spread of Islamic domination? Is that supposed to be relevant to what's going on today? Get out of here with this Glenn Beck-like caliphate alarmism nonsense. Even Papa Bear O'Reilly thinks it's stupid. Give me 10 minutes on Google and I'd be able to come back with some scary scary quotes from scary scary Christians saying scary scary things about what they want to do with the world. Relevant? No.
The truth is that nobody really knows what is going to unfold in Egypt, so right wingers speculating on the Brotherhood's supposedly sinister ulterior agenda are jumping the gun in the exact same way as certain left wingers that are considering the situation in Egypt completely benign.

What DO we know? The Brotherhood is not going to run a candidate in the next elections. The military will maintain a good amount of autonomy, and through that the US will have an opportunity to closely monitor/influence the situation. Ultimately whoever rules Egypt next knows that this revolution was borne out of economic frustration, and to stabilize the country and keep power for themselves, their biggest priority will have to be providing some hope for all the young, educated, pissed off unemployed people. You don't do that by coming into power and trying to start World War III.

Ian Thresher said...

Megan,
I could not help but to comment on this post as I think there is a lot of misinformation about the Muslim Brotherhood. I think that Bret Stephens, the author of the WSJ article you posted, makes some good arguments but he dramatically overstates the threat posed by the MB. For example, the Muslim Brotherhood was initially founded as an organization that attempted to establish a global caliphate and they did use violence in their early years, but the MB shifted its policy over thirty years ago and routinely denounces violence (including the 9/11 terrorist attacks). Stephens quotes Muhammad Badie in his article. Well, here is another Badie quote: “We believe in gradual reform that can only be achieved through a peaceful and constitutional struggle based on persuasion and dialogue.” Here is another one, by the MB’s Editor: “We do not believe Islam requires a theocracy, Democracy is the only way.’’ Still, indulging in back and forth quotes is hardly meaningful. What is important is that the MB is not a single monolithic institution. There are a lot of different voices within it. Badie is a very old member of the MB and he is far more conservative than most of the younger leaders so his words do not at all reflect the opinions of every member in the MB.
Additionally, the MB is more of a charity organization than a political one. MB may secretly harbor political aspirations in Egypt but Stephens is wrong to compare the MB to the Iranian Ayatollahs. For one thing, the MB is Sunni, whereas the theocracy in Iran is ruled by the Shiite sect of Islam. Sunni’s do not venerate their religious leaders nearly as much as Shiite’s do. Egypt’s Sunni Muslims would look to them as spiritual guides, not as policy leaders. Even if the MB did become a powerful party in Egypt, something that is almost impossible as it routinely polls around 20%, the Military would not permit it to enforce Sharia (strict Islamic) law, nor would the military go to war with Israel simply because the MB pressured it to.
I recognize there are big conflicts of interest between the U.S. and the MB. I also realize that the MB does not recognize Israel. These are big ideological gaps, but just because someone disagrees with you does not make them some sort of grave impending threat. The MB has been around for 60 years and their positions are nothing new. People are “getting real” about the MB by opening a dialogue with them, not by saber-rattling and holding them to an ideological standard they espoused a half-century ago.

Ian Thresher said...

I did not see Ryan's post, so there is some overlap. I agree with his points though, especially about what leaders of Christian sects have said. MB has ideological differences but they are no where near the threat so many people make them out to be.

Megan said...

The mission statement of the Muslim Brotherhood:

- Allah is our objective.
- The Prophet is our leader.
- Qur'an is our law.
- Jihad is our way.
- Dying in the way of Allah is our highest hope.

Sounds secular and progressive.

What happened with Hamas, even if it should not convince us that the Muslim Brotherhood is an enemy SHOULD at least make us be a little suspicious. The Muslim Brotherhood's support of violence in Iraq should make us more than a little suspicious. You seem to make the assumption that because Republicans are distrustful of one extreme Muslim group they must be racist and distrustful of all Muslims.

Even if the group is factioned and some of the younger generation DO support democracy, there is evidence to suggest that there is a significant portion of extremists in the group who want theocracy. Those interested in creating Islamist states are not necessarily worried about stabilizing the country they are more interested in their "duty" of imposing the sharia on the state. That's not to say that an Islamist state couldn't come to be by someone who first attempts to stabilize the country and keep the people happy and eventually moves towards a more Islamist regime.

Also, a pledge for nonviolence does not provide any argument that the Brotherhood does not wish to create a theocracy nor does their dispute with Al-Queda.

Christian groups in the U.S. who wish to impose their beliefs on people through political power (not sure if a group like this exists, but lets suppose it does) would never be able to accomplish that goal because of our checks on power and our protections of basic human rights. There are Muslim extremist groups in the U.S. who are left alone as long as they do not take any violent action.

What I am saying is we should be watchful and suspicious. In my opinion there is MUCH more evidence that portrays the Muslim Brotherhood as an extremist group than as a Western, progressive, "charity organization" (the only evidence we have of them not being extremist is them telling us they are not extremist. Sorry, I'm not ready to take their word for it).

If Egypt does make a transition to democracy it is important that the U.S. makes sure that this democracy includes checks on power and protections of human rights. We would also need to make sure we had enough confidence that this democracy would actually hold up. Those on the left would argue that this is intervening too much and imposing our American values on the Egyptian people, but it would be the only way to protect the Egyptian people, Israel, and ourselves not just in the short term, but in the long term as well.