White House Hosts Muslim Brotherhood During Holy Week: MB Khairat el-Shater Need Muslim Clerics Support
Who knew? The Muslim Brotherhood is committed to “non-violence, and “democratic principles.” Actually, they are “especially” committed to “non-violence.” The Washington Post said the Brotherhood began “a week long charm offensive in Washington.” If Obama doesn’t need charming, who does? No one in his administration, that’s for sure. During the so-called Arab Spring, when young, fresh, Western-freedom yearning Egyptian twenty-thirty-somethings, saw a chance to end their oppression – a freedom some had given their lives for, the Muslim Brotherhood promised not to vie for public office, but it was all a lie. That’s the problem with being young in a Muslim country. They haven’t yet grasped the brutal truth of being Muslim and Free.
White House and other U.S. officials met with representatives of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood movement in Washington earlier this week, U.S. National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor said.
Tuesday’s meeting with working-level National Security Council officials was just one in a series of meeting between U.S. officials, senators and members of the Muslim Brotherhood designed to broaden the United States’ engagement with Egypt’s new and emerging political parties, Vietor told journalists on Wednesday.
“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,” he said. “In all our conversations with these groups, we emphasize the importance of respect for minority rights, the full inclusion of women, and our regional security concerns.”
The Islamist group has been banned in Egypt for decades before being legalized following the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak in last year’s popular uprising, and has since emerged as a powerful political force. Its Freedom and Justice Party is set to control almost half of the seats in Egypt’s new parliament.
Vietor’s announcement came just days after the Muslim Brotherhood said it would put forward its main financier Khairat al-Shatir to run in next month’s presidential elections, reversing its previous pledge not to take part in the vote.
The current wave of democratic uprisings in the Middle East is a welcome development. But it will almost certainly empower long-suppressed political parties inspired by the Muslim Brotherhood. That movement—whose slogan reads, in part, “Koran is our law; Jihad is our way”—presents several urgent challenges for American policymakers: How can political parties that seek Islamic law through holy struggle be cajoled and pressured to respect the rules of democratic politics? Is political Islam even compatible with open, civil societies? And under what circumstances should Washington engage with such movements?
As it happens, a number of individuals in the U.S. government have grappled with these very questions in recent decades. Over the last few weeks, I spoke to some of them to find out what they had learned.
(Join Eli Lake and Richard Just for a Livestream discussion of what the Middle East revolts mean for political Islam at 4 p.m. EST this Thursday.)
America’s efforts to reach out to Islamists began in earnest after the 1979 Iranian revolution. By all accounts, Washington was caught flat-footed by the revolt. Part of the reason was that Iran’s dictator had urged the U.S. Embassy in Tehran to have no contact with Ayatollah Khomeini’s supporters in Qom—the birthplace of his movement. David Mack, who was stationed at the time next-door in Iraq, recalls, “I was one of the people who felt very strongly after the Iranian revolution of 1979 that it had been basically diplomatic malpractice for our embassy in Tehran to go along with the Shah’s prohibition on contacts with the mullahs in Qom.” He added, “We were told not to do it. The Savak”—the Shah’s internal security service—“would report this if we did.”
Following the Iranian revolution, some individual diplomats and experts within the government began to meet with members of Islamist parties. When Mack was posted as the deputy chief of mission to the U.S. Embassy in Tunis, he pushed to set up meetings with the local Islamist party, then known as the Islamic Current. “Our ambassador was Steve Bosworth. He asked me, ‘What do you think we should do about it? We were blindsided in Tehran. We could miss it.’” Mack replied, “There is this pretty tame Islamist group. … It’s disliked by the Tunisian establishment, but it’s legal and we should have contact with it.”
By Sara Sorcher
Updated: April 4, 2012 | 6:54 p.m.
The Obama administration is petitioning Interpol to deny Egypt’s request for the arrest of American and other nongovernmental workers accused of illegally operating democracy programs and stirring unrest, in a push to prevent further escalation of the planned prosecution that sparked the worst crisis in U.S.-Egypt relations in three decades.
According to people familiar with the case, State Department counsel Harold Koh and Justice Department Deputy Assistant Attorney General Bruce Swartz are trying to convince Interpol to dismiss as “politically motivated” Egypt’s request for worldwide notices seeking the arrest of some personnel from several nongovernmental organizations that receive U.S. funding.
Cairo’s continued plans to prosecute the NGO workers is a sharp rebuke to the U.S., which has been pressing Egypt to drop the criminal charges against 43 nongovernmental workers—17 of them Americans—from the Washington-based National Democratic Institute, International Republican Institute, Freedom House, and International Center for Journalists.
Shortly after Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton signed off on military aid to Cairo, Egypt asked Interpol to issue so-called red notices for other nongovernmental workers who were not in Egypt at the time, or in some cases, who never worked there at all. As many as 10 of them are Americans. Among them are prominent figures in Washington, like Freedom House’s Charles Dunne, a former U.S. diplomat who also served on the National Security Council under President George W. Bush.
If convicted, they could face a hefty financial penalty and up to five years in an Egyptian prison.