Muslim Brotherhood officials aim to promote moderate image in Washington visit (WASHINGTON POST) By William Wan 04/04/12)
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Members of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood began a week-long charm
offensive in Washington on Tuesday, meeting with White House
officials, policy experts and others to counter persistent fears
about the group’s emergence as the country’s most powerful political
The revolution that ousted Hosni Mubarak has rapidly transformed the
Brotherhood from an opposition group that had been formally banned
into a political juggernaut controlling nearly half the seats in
Egypt’s newly elected parliament.
With its rise, however, have come concerns from Egypt’s secularists
as well as U.S. officials that the Islamist group could remake the
country, threatening the rights of women and religious minorities.
Such fears were only exacerbated by the Brotherhood’s recent decision
to field a candidate in upcoming presidential elections, despite
previous pledges that it would not do so.
In meeting with U.S. officials, Brotherhood representatives were
expected to depict the organization as a moderate and socially
conscious movement pursuing power in the interest of Egyptians at
“We represent a moderate, centrist Muslim viewpoint. The priorities
for us are mainly economic, political — preserving the revolution
ideals of social justice, education, security for the people,” Sondos
Asem, a member of the delegation, said Tuesday in an interview with
reporters and editors of The Washington Post.
In the interview, members of the delegation defended the decision by
the group’s political wing, the Freedom and Justice Party, to field a
“We approached people outside of the Brotherhood that we respected,
like people in the judiciary, but none of them would agree to be
nominated,” said Khaled al-Qazzaz, foreign relations coordinator for
Qazzaz and others said that a candidate elected from outside the
Brotherhood could have instituted radical changes and dissolved the
But the Brotherhood’s rise has caused it to spar with liberal and
secular groups. Liberals and Coptic Christians who were chosen to be
part of the effort to draw up a new constitution recently walked out
of meetings in protest, saying the body was unbalanced, with an
overwhelming number of representatives from Islamist groups such as
“We believe there is a dire attempt to hinder efforts of the
constitutional assembly because its success would mean that we are on
the right track, that the democracy is working and government is
changing,” Asem said.
In addition to allaying American fears about their political
ambitions, the Brotherhood is hoping to mend U.S.-Egypt relations in
the aftermath of Egypt’s decision to prosecute American and Egyptian
pro-democracy advocates. Outrage over the prosecutions had prompted
lawmakers to press the Obama administration to withhold $1.3 billion
in U.S. aid to Egypt’s military.
“This mistrust is a wall that needs to come down, but it can’t just
be one side that brings it down. It has to be both sides,” said Abdul
Mawgoud R. Dardery, a lawmaker and member of the Brotherhood
It is unclear how representative the visiting delegation is and how
closely the values its members described mirror those of the core
leaders of the Brotherhood. Those sent on the trip said they were
chosen in part for their fluency in English and their familiarity and
ease with American culture. But the delegation did not include the
decision makers at the top of the Brotherhood’s leadership.
On two of the biggest questions among U.S. observers — the
Brotherhood’s relationship with Egypt’s military and its position on
U.S. aid to the military — the visiting delegation gave only vague
For months, rumors have swirled that the Brotherhood was secretly
talking with the military about sharing power in the new government,
but of late, the two sides have seemed increasingly hostile, with the
Brotherhood demanding that military leaders dissolve the interim
government they appointed.
Members of the Brotherhood delegation, who met with White House
officials Tuesday, are scheduled to meet with more U.S. officials in
coming days and attend several events at think tanks.
At those events, they are likely to be scrutinized as representatives
of Egypt’s ruling party.
“People will be looking to see how much they are really beginning to
act like a political party in power, whether they are thinking in
concrete policy terms,” said Marina Ottaway, a Middle East expert at
the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace who arranged the
delegation’s visit. “Do they have any answers to question to economic
problems? How much do they understand the world as it exists today
and the concerns of other countries?
“You have to remember, many of the people now in charge of the
Brotherhood spent the last years in jail, isolated from what was
going on,” Ottaway said. “They are only now emerging, and so there’s
a great desire among them for acceptance and legitimacy as players on
the international political scene.” (© 2010 The Washington Post
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