The makeover of Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi has begun. Some in the media are "debunking" the frightening “myths” about the Muslim Brotherhood, and others argue that he’s a potential ally. The Obama administration continues to infer that critics of the Brotherhood are simply alarmed by the word “Muslim” in the group’s name.
“We judge individuals and parties that are elected in a democratic process by their actions, not by their religious affiliations,” said White House Press Secretary Jay Carney when asked about the Muslim Brotherhood.
This is very similar language to that of William Taylor, the State Department’s Special Coordinator for the Office of Middle East Transitions. He oversees the spending of American taxpayer money in Egypt, Tunisia and Libya. He said, “What we need to do is judge people and parties and movements on what they do, not what they’re called.”
National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor defended meetings between U.S. and Brotherhood officials with, “We believe that it is in the interest of the United States to engage with all parties that are committed to democratic principles, especially nonviolence.” Most famously, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper portrayed the Brotherhood in a positive light to Congress, embarrassingly stating that it is a “secular” group. He continues to tout the Brotherhood as a “moderate Islamist” group that can counter Al-Qaeda.
The Taliban and Hamas were joyful over Morsi’s victory in Egypt’s presidential election. They would laugh at suggestions that Morsi could be a U.S. ally. His first order of business with the U.S. is demanding the release of the “Blind Sheikh,” Omar Abdel-Rahman, who is in prison for his role in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and other terrorist plots. Of all of the things he could discuss with the U.S., his first priority is the release of a convicted terrorist.
The foreign policy of Morsi will be pro-jihad. A member of the Muslim Brotherhood’s foreign relations committee was upset on French television that he wasn’t informed that he’d be on the program alongside an Israeli journalist. He refused to communicate with him. On June 14, the Brotherhood Supreme Guide preached that jihad against Israel is a religious obligation. Muslims are required to engage in “Jihad of self and money” towards the goal of “freeing it [Jerusalem] from the filth of the Zionists and imposing Muslim rule throughout beloved Palestine.”
Thomas Joscelyn points to how, in 2011, Elliot Spitzer asked Morsi about his views on terrorism and recognizing Israel’s right to exist on CNN. Morsi avoided giving a clear answer on Israel, saying, “This is a heavy question. It’s out of faith. It’s ridiculous to ask about the future.” He emphasized, “We are against Zionism,” but not Jews as a whole. When asked about his stance on terrorist attacks against Israel, he said, “We do not use violence against anyone. What’s going on [in] the Palestinian land is resistance.” He is very conscious of what semantics to use when speaking to a Western audience.
During the campaign, a hardline cleric named Safwat Hegazy spoke at one of Morsi’s campaign rally. He declared, “We are seeing the dream of the Islamic Caliphate come true at the hands of Mohammed Morsi” and “the capital of the Caliphate and the United Arab States is Jerusalem.” Morsi nodded his head, only feet away. At the same rally, a speaker performed a song that told Muslims to “brandish your weapons, say your prayers.” He sang, “Come on, you lovers of martyrdom, banish the sleep from the eyes of all Jews. Come on, you lovers of martyrdom, you are all Hamas. Indeed, all the lovers of martyrdom are Hamas.”
Morsi is a known 9-11 conspiracy theorist. On CNN in 2011, he said that he condemned Al-Qaeda and that the Muslim Brotherhood would stand against the perpetrators of 9/11 “if you can prove who really did this.” In 2007, he called for a “scientific conference” on the attacks because the U.S. “has never presented any evidences on the identity of those who committed that incident.”
Morsi never has denied that he seeks Sharia-based governance. Video has surfaced of a May 13 speech Morsi gave where he passionately recited the pledge of the Muslim Brotherhood, including the parts, “Jihad is our path. And death for the sake of Allah is our most lofty aspiration.” He reaffirmed, “The Koran was and will continue to be our constitution.”
“The Sharia, then the Sharia and finally, the Sharia,” Morsi shouted. “I take an oath before Allah and before you all that regardless of the actual text [of the constitution]…Allah willing, the text will truly reflect [Sharia], as will be agreed upon by the Egyptian people, by the Islamic scholars, and by legal and constitutional experts,” he said.
Morsi has always been known as one of the hardliners within the Brotherhood leadership. The previous Brotherhood presidential candidate, Khairat el-Shater, was his close ally. Shater was open about how he wanted Egypt to have a government based on Sharia law. On April 21, 2011, he said that he seeks the “instituting of the religion of God” and “every aspect of life is to be Islamicized.” He told the Salafists that he’d have a council of clerics review legislation.
Younger members of the Brotherhood see him as an adversary. His assistant reprimanded them for holding protests on their own and when they requested that someone else replace Morsi as their liaison with the top leaders, he and his allies smeared them. Eventually, his younger opponents were expelled from the organization.
The White House expressed satisfaction that Morsi intends to pick a woman and a Coptic Christian as Vice Presidents. However, he was one of the authors of the Brotherhood’s 2007 party platform that stated that women and Christians should be forbidden from the presidency. When Jeffrey Goldberg asked him about this last year, he refused to give a clear answer, ridiculing his “nonsense question[s]” because no women or Christians were currently running for president. The platform also confirmed that Islamic clerics should have a role in approving legislation.
As a member of parliament, Morsi fought for regulation of culture in compliance with Sharia. He was outraged that the Mubarak regime allowed the airing of music videos and publication of magazines that he felt were immoral. He ridiculed the Miss Egypt contest for violating “social norms, Islamic Sharia and the constitution.”
The West shouldn’t invest much hope that the Supreme Armed Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) will prevent Morsi and the Brotherhood from implementing policies. The two sides have reportedly already made several deals. One of Morsi’s aides says SCAF will control the budget and internal affairs. The Defense, Interior and Justice Ministries will be run by the generals. In return, the Brotherhood gets the Finance and Foreign Affairs Ministries. SCAF has reportedly agreed not to veto the constitution drawn up by the constitutional assembly as long as 10 Islamists are chosen by the military. This means that the Brotherhood will direct Egypt’s foreign policy and play a leading role in crafting the next constitution.
Perhaps recognizing the truth about the Brotherhood is a pill too hard to swallow for the U.S. government and some in the media. The influence of Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated groups and individuals in the Obama Administration must also be part of the reason why the U.S. is misreading the group. Whatever the thought-process is, the U.S. has chosen to pull the wool over its own eyes.
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