The U.S. is almost certain to face an Egyptian government under the influence of the Muslim Brotherhood sometime this year. The Brotherhood and its apologists have long tried to influence the White House and will try to convince the media and the Obama administration that the Islamist group is moderate. And if the administration’s relationship with the Brotherhood’s allies is any indication, they’ll succeed.
The Obama Administration has signaled its acceptance of the Brotherhood in the next Egyptian government, with the State Department spokesman saying the group is “a fact of life in Egypt.” A secret meeting between a U.S. representative and the Brotherhood has been reported, though any communication has been denied. President Obama downplayed the threat from the Muslim Brotherhood in an interview with Bill O’Reilly on Sunday.
“I think that the Muslim Brotherhood is one faction in Egypt. They don’t have majority support in Egypt, but they are well-organized and there are strains of their ideology that are anti-U.S., there is no doubt about it,” he said.
The unrest and future change in government in Egypt will require an overhaul of U.S. policy towards the country, which will be shaped by whose advice President Obama listens to. According to Steve Emerson, the executive director of the Investigative Project on Terrorism, the administration has extensive relations with groups and leaders tied to the Muslim Brotherhood.
“The Obama Administration has opened its doors to Muslim Brotherhood legacy groups such as the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the Muslim Public Affairs Council, the Islamic Society of North America and other Islamic leaders who come from Muslim Brotherhood backgrounds,” Emerson told FrontPage.
Even before Obama came into office, he was choosing advisers with relationships to Brotherhood front groups. The director of his presidential campaign’s outreach to the Muslim community, Mazen Asbahi, resigned after he was criticized for frequently speaking for groups like those mentioned by Emerson and serving on the board of a trust alongside an imam tied to the Brotherhood and Hamas. In the first month of becoming President, Obama selected Ingrid Mattson, the president of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), to take part in the inaugural prayer services. The federal government has designated ISNA as an “unindicted co-conspirator” in the Holy Land Foundation trial, and the Brotherhood’s internal documents identify it as one of its fronts.
Obama’s chief terrorism advisor, John Brennan, spoke alongside Mattson at New York University despite this designation. The senior advisor and assistant to the president, Valerie Jarrett, was the keynote speaker at ISNA’s 46th convention in July 2009.
President Obama chose Rashad Hussain to be his special envoy to the Organization of the Islamic Conference. He has long been a featured speaker at conferences by Brotherhood-tied groups in the U.S., and although he has condemned Hamas, he has called on the U.S. to build a Muslim coalition that is “not limited to those who advocate Western-style democracy, and avoid creating a dichotomy between freedom and Islamic society.” He has spoken for ISNA since being appointed, and has shared the stage with officials from the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), another Brotherhood-tied group that has been listed as an “unindicted co-conspirator” in the Holy Land Foundation trial.
One of the members of the President’s Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships is Dalia Mogahed. She has been described as the “most influential person” in crafting Obama’s speech in Cairo to the Muslim world. She is a close colleague of John Esposito, perhaps the Brotherhood’s most prestigious apologist in the U.S. He gave expert testimony on behalf of the Holy Land Foundation during its trial and is a vocal defender of CAIR, ISNA and the other organizations tied to the Brotherhood.
Mogahed and Esposito worked together at the Gallup Center for Muslim Studies, where they produced a poll alleging that only 7 percent of Muslims around the world are radicalized and that their extremism derives from feeling threatened by U.S. foreign policy. A closer look at the survey shows that about 36 percent felt the 9⁄11 attacks were fully or partially justified. Like Esposito, she has defended CAIR and ISNA, saying “there is a concerted effort to silence, you know, institution-building among Muslims. And the way to do it is [to] malign these groups. And it’s kind of a witch hunt.”
In June 2009, Secretary of State Hilary Clinton invited Esam Omeish, who describes the Brotherhood as “moderate,” to take part in a conference call following President Obama’s speech to the Muslim world in Cairo. Omeish sits on the board of directors of the extremist Dar al-Hijrah mosque, which is closely connected to the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas. Omeish used to be the president of the Muslim American Society, another Brotherhood front group. He has been recorded praising Palestinians that understand “that the jihad way is the way to liberate your land” and in 2004, he referred to the founder of Hamas as “our beloved Sheikh Ahmed Yassin.”
Officials have met with the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) on at least two dozen occasions, including Attorney General Eric Holder, the assistant director in charge of the FBI, and Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano. From January 27 to 28, 2010, leaders from ISNA, the Muslim American Society and MPAC met with Napolitano and other officials to be briefed on the agency’s counter-radicalization and counter-terrorism efforts.
MPAC has published a paper calling for the removal of Hamas, Hezbollah and Palestinian Islamic Jihad from the State Department’s list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations and its executive director, Salam al-Marayati, told the Arab press about “Islamophobia in the American government,” which is responsible for “spreading fear of Islam and distributing misleading generalizations against American Islamic organizations.”
The influence of Brotherhood groups in the government even extends to the FBI and military. An official from ISNA was asked to lecture U.S. troops at Fort Hood about Islam after the terrorist shooting took place. The FBI has also held meetings with top ISNA officials and is engaging the organization as part of its outreach to the Muslim community. Shockingly, the decision to use the ISNA came after the FBI decided to end its relationship with CAIR because of concerns over the organization’s ties to Hamas and designation as an “unindicted co-conspirator”—the same label applied to ISNA from the same trial.
A known member of the Muslim Brotherhood, Kifah Mustapha, was even given a six-week tour last year of FBI facilities including the National Counterterrorism Center and a training compound. Documents from the Holy Land trial show that he is a member of the Brotherhood’s secret “Palestine Committee” that set up organizations in the U.S. to support Hamas. A news report said he “pushed agents to fully explain everything from the bureau’s use of deadly force policy to racial and ethnic profiling.” The FBI says he had no access to sensitive information, but this incident shows how successful the Brotherhood has been in gaining access to the government.
The Muslim Brotherhood is going to work hard to pervert the West’s perception of its agenda. It will pose as a genuinely democratic group that opposes terrorism. Its opposition to U.S. foreign policy will be explained as a genuine representation of Muslim public opinion, rather than part of a long-term jihad. Their success will require having apologists in place in the government, academia and media to act as their publicists. And those publicists include some of the Obama administration’s senior officials and Muslim outreach partners.