American Islamist Groups Shape Arab Revolutions

David J. Rusin is a research fellow at Islamist Watch, a project of the Middle East Forum.


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As the above individuals — and probably others affiliated with American Islamist groups — toil on the front lines of Middle Eastern conflicts, the organizations themselves are working domestically to legitimize and bolster the ascendant radicals of the Arab world. From one revolution to the next, they have demanded and cheered the overthrow of secular autocrats, cried out for Islamists to be included in the subsequent political processes, and celebrated when those Islamists have attained some degree of power.

Take Egypt. While CAIR-Chicago’s Ahmed Rehab was in Tahrir Square last year protesting for the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak, CAIR executive director Nihad Awad was on Iranian-controlled television calling for the same. Once Mubarak fell, American Islamist groups hailed his departure with talk of liberty. Yet as a statement from another Islamist organization, the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA), made clear, “freedom” apparently would require the participation of the Muslim Brotherhood — whose dream of ruling by Shari‘a is the antithesis of freedom. “We urge President Obama and his administration to facilitate and support a representative government with full representation of key opposition groups,” ICNA declared. “As Mohamed ElBaradei notes, this representation must extend to the Muslim Brotherhood.” When Islamist Mohamed Morsi was named the winner of Egypt’s recent presidential election, CAIR could hardly contain its glee. “We congratulate the Egyptian people and their new president on this great achievement in Egypt’s struggle for freedom,” Awad said, while CAIR-New York board member Lamis Deek lauded what she sees as the country’s liberation from America’s “proxy-imperialist (colonialist) wrath.”

Islamist groups also have rolled out the red carpet for Arab radicals during their frequent propaganda trips to the U.S. Rachid Ghannouchi, the ideological brain of the Ennahda Party that was victorious in Tunisia’s post-revolutionary October election, has been especially well feted. The Islamists of the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) hosted a dinner for Ghannouchi in Washington last November, advertising him as “one of the most important figures in modern Islamic political thought and theory.” According to an MPAC account, he “discussed the beauty of democratic principles being able to uplift and promote religious freedom and practice for all.” Of course, there was no mention of his previous comments blessing the mothers of suicide bombers, predicting Israel’s demise, and referring to Hamas-led Gaza as “the model of freedom today.” Next up for Ghannouchi: speaking at ISNA’s convention this summer.

Other Islamists have enjoyed comparable treatment. CSID held a debate involving Hamadi Jebali, Ennahda’s secretary general and now Tunisia’s prime minister, in May 2011. Following the election, Jebali proclaimed, “We are in the sixth caliphate, God willing,” and promised the conquest of Jerusalem. Undeterred, IIIT and CSID collaborated on a panel discussion with Tunisian Islamist leaders in May 2012. MPAC had planned a similar dialogue with an FJP delegation this past April, but it was canceled.

By championing Arab Islamists as legitimate voices and partners, these supposedly “moderate” Muslim organizations strive to make them palatable to Washington and the public at large. Simultaneously, in the words of Essam Abdallah, they are “waging … political and media wars on the liberal Arabs and Middle Eastern figures and groups in America,” so as to marginalize competing viewpoints. Given the Obama administration’s increasingly enthusiastic engagement with Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood and the recent report that an Egyptian parliamentarian visited the White House despite his membership in al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya, a terrorist entity, Islamists must be glowing with satisfaction. Policies match their objectives to such a degree that five congressmen have asked for investigations into the influence of suspected Brotherhood sympathizers inside the federal government — a perfectly reasonable request, considering the stakes.

The Muslim Brotherhood directly or indirectly gave life to many of the Islamist groups spearheading the “grand jihad” to reshape America. Thus, it is natural to see those organizations aiding the Brotherhood and its ideological allies in the effort to build a new Middle East — based not on freedom, but on the tyranny of radical Islam. Nor should their officials’ emergence as leaders in Arab revolutionary movements be surprising. Just as violent Islamists flock to the sites of military jihad worldwide, nonviolent Islamists gravitate to political crisis zones where more subtle skills can contribute to the victory of Shari‘a.

Unfortunately, the rise of Middle Eastern Islamists will only embolden their brethren in the U.S., particularly if CAIR, ISNA, and others play a role in Arab developments. There is, however, a potential silver lining. Past experience demonstrates that when Islamists take the reins of a nation, it inevitably succumbs to political, economic, and social decay that is impossible to conceal. If America’s Islamists wish to stamp their names on these approaching Arab calamities, so be it. The disasters will open more eyes to the ultimate trajectory of their plans for the United States, thus improving our chances of defeating them.

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  • John_Kelly

    It is always amusing to see how Islamic leaders and organizations in America operate like an infestation of cockroaches.

    As soon as someone shines the light of truth on them they scurry off into the nearest dark corner.

    Islam is without any doubt the most vile, demented and twisted ideology in 6000 years of recorded history and any Muslim who ever steps back a few paces to look at Islam logically and rationally must surely see the absolute insanity and depravity of this political cult disguised as a religion.

  • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nLNn2YflwNs Roger

    I bet if Obama bothered to read this, he would cheer.

  • katharina40

    The Nazi Saudi/Qatar-sponsored Muslim Brotherhood (/MB) which actually created al-Qaeda, Taleban, Salafist, Boko Haram, Al-Shabaab, Abu Sayyaf (in Mindanao) and so on, is the most dangerous Islamic terrorist group right now. We have been duped all along -Osama was just a small fish after all; that´s why now, he and all the top leaders from all these groups are targeted for drones or execution-style killings right now, to bury the real important top secret of the real top leadership, all the way to the Saudi/Qatar royals/govt, Obama & the MB. All OIL/MINERAL (like gold in Mali) non-Arab Islamic-ruled countries/regions have been targeted through Nazi psychological propaganda through brainwashing Muslim intellectuals who will become leaders and civil service top management in the govt such as Anwar Ibrahim of Malaysia who went on to become Deputy PM of Malaysia and now Opposition leader, strenghtening or creating Arabic-Sharia laws/institutions and forcing/brainwashing Muslim girls/women to wear the sexually enslaving Saudi-Arabic veil, in order to create Muslim Sisterhood women/girls that will produce and nurture future Jihadists including intellectuals. But Obama had a bigger dream – to conquer the US on behalf of his beloved Saudi king (whom he bowed deeply when first got elected); but first he msut use the naive Atheists, especially hard Socialists, to destroy the great Judeo-Christain foundation and heritage of the US/West!

    • Roy

      The Taliban was not created by the Muslim Brotherhood. That Islamic school of fundamentalist thought began in the 19th century in what was then the British Raj in India (current India, Pakistan, Bangladesh).

  • melvin polatnick

    There are those that are born to slay, many take the law into their own hands and are sent to prison for murder. But the fight against cruel dictators gives born killers an opportunity to wreak legalized vengeance. Along with thousands of likeminded buddies they march to Libya and Syria hoping to kick ass. Some will never return but they will quickly be replaced by other mujahedeen. Those killing in the name of Islam might be hated but are needed in the war against evil doers.