US Reaching out to Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt

The Obama administration has decided to open direct contacts with the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood. The Brotherhood long ago gave up violence and has been a responsible parliamentary actor for many years, though it largely promotes right-wing policies. People who believe in democracy should welcome the incorporation into the parliamentary process of all major political blocs, and the Brotherhood is among Egypt’s largest. Of course, that welcome depends on the party’s willingness to play by parliamentary rules– to seek to win political arguments by persuasion, to avoid violence, and to contest elections in a transparent way and to go home if you lose. So far there is no evidence that the Brotherhood’s party would not play by those rules, and its party functionaries insist that of course they will. More on the Brotherhood can be found at MERIP.

I called for a more straightforward relationship between the US and the Brotherhood in my book, Engaging the Muslim World (which apparently George W. Bush and his administration would not have wanted you to read.)

The Brotherhood has blown hot and cold on Egypt’s peace treaty with Israel, which most Egyptians critique as a separate peace that allowed Israel to attack Lebanon at will and to expropriate the Palestinians on a vast scale. Still, a just-released poll shows that 2/3s of Egyptians want to keep the treaty intact. Egyptians of an older generation remember the hardships of the Arab-Israeli Wars, and have told the youngsters about the meatless days and bad economic times, apparently to some effect. A founder of the Freedom and Justice Party, Usama Gado, has said that past treaties signed by Egypt that benefit the people should be retained. Freedom and Justice is the Brotherhood’s new political party (or at least one of them; the young people may go in a different direction). Some other Muslim Brotherhood members sympathize with Hamas and want the treaty abrogated.

But the US has diplomatic relations with many countries that do not recognize Israel and have no peace treaty with it. It is not clear why its diplomats should treat the Brotherhood differently.

Personally, I don’t like most of the Brotherhood’s policies and wouldn’t vote for them, but then I feel the same way about many evangelical-Republican positions in South Carolina. It is better to have them in the system where we can argue with them publicly.

The French ambassador on Thursday met with the leader of the Justice and Development Party, the political wing of the Muslim Brotherhood, which is contesting for seats in about half of Egypt’s parliamentary constituencies.

Posted in Egypt | 8 Responses | Print |

8 Responses

  1. sigh — thanks for bringing up the evangelical-Republicans in South Carolina. they are no different than Michele Bachmann. ;-(

    • Turkish Justice and Development party is far more free market, socially liberal, secular [respectful of muslim minorities, other faiths, atheists, Jews], smaller government, pro business than the Muslim Brotherhood.

      They without apology support the Libyan intervention by NATO. They are talking about military action in Syria to help the Syrian people. They are talking about increasing their contribution in Afghanistan. The Turkish have no exit strategy in Afghanistan and will stay as long as the GIRoA and ANSF want their help against the Taliban.

      The American equivalent [not that there is one] might be Mitt Romney.

      The Justica and Development Party and Turkish exceptionalism have helped make liberal free market pro business policies hip and cool around the world.

      They were also one of the first major countries to bet on Government of Iraq and Iraqi Security Force victory in Iraq and offer the Iraqis serious help against the foreign backed “Iraqi resistance.” Turkey has a remarkable amount of goodwill and influence among Iraqis at the moment, even in Kurdistan [especially compared to anytime over the past century.]

      Despite being very close to Israel the Justice and Development Party is extremely pro Palestinian. They have done more to benefit the Palestinian cause than almost any non Palestinian.

      • Of course,just because Justice and Development party is far more socially liberal than is the MB, that shouldn’t lead anyone to think of them as anything like what US citizens would consider liberal.

        The Turkish party in power are certainly not champions of freedom of speech or of the press and have frequently shown themselves ready, willing and able to intimidate, shut down or jail reporters.

        They would certainly find not a damn thing wrong with gathering info to use against a guy like Professor Cole if Cole was a Turkish citizen/blogger critical of their policies. They would probably laugh at our idea that the Bush admin idea of smearing the Professor was violative and deserves to be investigated.

  2. ot but important

    Live contact with the US to Gaza boat “the Audacity of Hope” at the Mondoweiss site. Direct tweets. The boat took off from port and now the Greek Coast Guard is trying to make them turn back.

    Live updates
    Update: Greek Coast Guard stops US Boat to Gaza as it sets sail to join Freedom Flotilla; Coast Guard: ‘you are forbidden to leave Athens. return to port now’
    link to

    5 minutes ago
    The coast guard is threatening to board the ship now in the middle of the sea
    6 minutes ago
    Coast Guard “you are forbidden to leave Athens. return to port now”
    7 minutes ago
    The coast guard is demanding that we return to port. “we are forbidden to leave” passengers are chanting and screaming at them
    9 minutes ago
    Blast!!! Didn’t get far (but still may). Greeks just intercepted us. Thank you for supporting, I’ll try to keep everyone up-to-date…
    9 minutes ago
    The other ship left. There is only one coast guard ship in front of the US boat right now.
    10 minutes ago
    The boat is dead in the water. Passengers are protesting with signs and singing.
    11 minutes ago
    Captain is talking to them. Coast guard is close and about to board the ship
    11 minutes ago
    Captain is talking to them. Coast guard is close and about to board the ship
    14 minutes ago
    engine cut, surrounded by greek coast guard boats @MaanNewsAgency #freedomflotilla2 they are blocking the us boat to gaza
    14 minutes ago
    The boat is now stopped. The coast guard is blocking us
    July 1, 2011 – 10:36 am

  3. (weird thread. guys, let’s stick to the post.) and juan offers what, imho, is a very sensible idea for the state dept. i, too, hold no brief for their ideology, which i find reactionary and altogether unattractive for life in a modern, multi-ethnic society such as ours. but if a substantial percentage of Egyptian voters want to support the ikwahn, then why shouldn’t we recognize that fact? makes little sense to hide our heads in the sand, hold our breath until we turn blue and pretend that the muslim brotherhood doesn’t exist. better that they participate in the political system than driving them underground.

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