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The rift between the Brotherhood delegation’s assurances of moderation and the reality of the nascent government the Brotherhood has come to dominate is now all too apparent. One of the government’s first acts, for instance, was to announce that it would prosecute 43 Germans and Americans working for pro-democracy NGOs in Egypt. Although the groups had been working in Egypt for years, the foreign workers – among them Sam LaHood, the son of U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood – were indicted by Egyptian courts for operating without a license and barred from leaving the country. The politically charged prosecutions strained U.S.-Egyptian ties and threatened the $1.6 billion in American aid that Egypt receives annually, but the Brotherhood defended them as a proper response.
Ironically, among the more outspoken defenders of the crackdown on pro-democracy groups was Abdul Mawgoud Dardery, the same Brotherhood lawmaker who is leading the Brotherhood’s PR tour this week. When the prosecutions were announced, Dardery insisted that they were justified because the pro-democracy groups were working toward “a type of democracy that will not bring Islamists to power, and this is wrong.” Dardery thus confirmed what was already obvious: The Brotherhood supports democracy only to the extent that it brings the Brotherhood to power. Abroad, of course, Daredy tells a different story.
How convincing this two-faced act has been in the U.S. is unclear. For its part, the White House has tried to downplay the significance of the Brotherhood’s visit. Still, the unprecedented access that the Brotherhood’s delegation has been afforded, including meetings with officials at the National Security Council and the State Department, can only serve to boost its domestic legitimacy. Nor did it hurt the Brotherhood’s image that the Obama administration, rather than condemning its decision to run a presidential candidate despite promising to abstain, praised the Brotherhood’s candidate as a more moderate alternative to the Salafist candidate in the race.
Yet that’s a distinction with little substantive difference. As the Brotherhood has amply demonstrated during its brief time in office – and as its latest publicity stunt cannot obscure – when it comes to their views on secular democracy and religious pluralism, the differences between the Brotherhood and its Islamist rivals are few indeed.
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