In connection with Obama’s speech, Esquire presents an excerpt from my new book on the Muslim Brotherhood and the need to encourage it toward democratic practices and values. The presence of Muslim Brotherhood members in the audience at Cairo has been controversial among some Republican congressmen, but that’s silly. The Muslim Brotherhood has 88 members in the lower house of the Egyptian parliament and is not an extremist or a terrorist organization. I hold not brief for it, and disagree with its goals, but we want these movements included in a broadened democracy, not marginalized and driven toward violence as a result.
Roger Simon followed when the crowd in Cairo applauded and when it didn’t. I think he may be reading too much into some moments of silence, but he is absolutely correct that Obama’s even-handedness in defending Israel would not have been and was not popular. Arab publics think that Israel has been doing something criminal to the Palestinians, and they can’t understand why the international community condones it.
The big applause lines were on democracy, human rights and women’s rights and on the quotation of the Qur’an about truth-speaking and to the effect that if someone kills a single person it is as though s/he killed the whole world. That the latter was so popular suggests that silence when Obama condemned violent extremists was not an endorsement of extremist violence.
Haroon Siddiqui on Obama’s visit yesterday to Saudi Arabia as the triumph of pragmatism.
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