Thursday, February 3, 2011

Who's Afraid of the Muslim Brotherhood? Answer: Sensible People

Cartoon by Martin Berman-Gorvine ( for Rubin Reports

By Barry Rubin

I guess we need a new word. Suppose you have no problem with Islam but are afraid of the Muslim Brotherhood. Soon we will be hearing that you and I have Ikhwanophobia (Ikhwan being the Arabic word often used for that group.)

But (un)fortunately the Western media is deluged with a wave of unmerited Ikhwanophilia. Some of this is beyond belief. Such is a New York Times article, "As Islamist Group Rises, Its Intentions Are Unclear." Of course, everyone interviewed in the article thinks that it isn't so bad.

Who isn't quoted? Why the Brotherhood's own leaders and publications! How about quoting the speeches in which the group's leader calls for Jihad against the United States? The usual whitewash is done on the Brotherhood's history, its support for American-killing terrorists in Iraq is left out as is its collaboration with the Nazis, and so on.

Here, for example, is the call by Brotherhood representative Muhammad Ghaneim to prepare for war with Israel.

Some of this material in the Times article is really funny:

“The Brotherhood hates Al Qaeda and Al Qaeda hates the Brotherhood,” said Shadi Hamid, director of research at the Brookings Doha Center in Qatar. “So if we’re talking about counterterrorism, engaging with the Brotherhood will advance our interests in the region.”

I mean, what can you say? The Brotherhood hates al-Qaida and loves Hamas. It loves the terrorist Iraqi insurgents who kill Americans. It loves terrorists in Egypt who murder domestic secularists. Incidentally, if this is the kind of person who directs the Brookings Institution research in the Middle East what do the "non-moderates" think?

Naturally, Hamid's statement is left unchallenged by the reporter. But this one, from the author himself, is the real prize:

"As the Roman Catholic Church encompasses leftist liberation theology and conservative anti-abortion advocacy, so the Brotherhood includes both practical reformers and firebrand ideologues."

OK. I'm speechless.

And of course it wouldn't have been enough to publish only one article whitewashing the Brotherhood. Oh, no! So the Times also had an op-ed on what a bumbling, silly group they are. This one is full of laughs but the basic message is that the Brotherhood is not a menace because it hasn't already transformed Egypt into an Islamist state. Of course, someone writing a few years ago about Khomeini, Hamas, Hizballah, or the Taliban could have made similar claims. Critiquing it could have been a lot of fun.

But then I was given an interesting challenge by a reader. What should he say to a liberal friend who says the Brotherhood is not going to be any problem because it will sell-out to get U.S. aid.

One might say that as a liberal he might disapprove of a group that wants to treat women like property, kill gays, tear up free speech, and a whole raft of what we used to call anti-liberal measures. How would he like to live in such a society?

Also, that is precisely what they said about Iran. And Ayatollah Khomeini replied: "This revolution isn't about the price of watermelons." Not everyone can be bought off. Some people really believe in their ideas.

Creatively, I suggested the following line of explanation:

Ask him how he would feel if the Tea Party gets 30-40 percent of the vote and then is the main partner in the government coalition. Now imagine they want to attack Canada, wipe it off the map, and kill all of its people, starting wars in which millions died. Then imagine that they have a long record of assassinations, suspend the Bill of Rights, indoctrinate all the children, and institute religious courts ruling along the lines of their strict interpretations.

No doubt he already thinks the Tea Party is horrible, so what should he think about the Muslim Brotherhood which might be even more horrible than he thinks Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck are?

By the way, the BBC’s Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen wrote:

"Unlike the jihadis, [the Muslim Brotherhood] does not believe it is at war with the West. It is conservative, moderate and non-violent. But it is highly critical of Western policy in the Middle East."

Funny, why then does the group's supreme leader--translation by MEMRI, which deserves your financial support--talk in these terms:

--Arab and Muslim regimes are betraying their people by failing to confront the Muslim’s real enemies, not only Israel but also the United States. Waging jihad against both of these infidels is a commandment of Allah that cannot be disregarded. Governments have no right to stop their people from fighting the United States. “They are disregarding Allah's commandment to wage jihad for His sake with [their] money and [their] lives, so that Allah's word will reign supreme” over all non-Muslims.

--All Muslims are required by their religion to fight: "They crucially need to understand that the improvement and change that the [Muslim] nation seeks can only be attained through jihad and sacrifice and by raising a jihadi generation that pursues death just as the enemies pursue life." Notice that jihad here is not interpreted as so often happens by liars, apologists, and the merely ignorant in the West as spiritual striving. The clear meaning is one of armed struggle.

--The United States is immoral, doomed to collapse, and "experiencing the beginning of its end and is heading towards its demise."

--Palestinians should back Hamas in overthrowing the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank and unite in waging war on Israel.

Later, Bowen's article was amended to remove the word "moderate." Maybe the BBC and New York Times should be amended to remove all of the apologists for the Muslim Brotherhood.

Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley), and The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan). The GLORIA Center site is and of his blog, Rubin Reports,

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