The Muslim Brotherhood Goes to Washington (GateStone Institute) by Irfan Al-Alawi 04/11/12)
GateStone Institute Articles-Index-Top
Like the Turkish AKP, the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood will be exposed
not a new period of civil power in Muslim society, but as a party
working toward the installation of permanent clerical authority.
Representatives of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood (MB) arrived in
Washington DC on April 3, an event that was predictable after the pan-
Islamic movement won pluralities in the recent elections in Tunisia,
Morocco, and Egypt. The aim of their journey to the Potomac was to
improve the organization´s image as a leading force in radical Islam.
Members of the MB delegation hoped to convince American lawmakers,
media, and experts that they represent a "moderate" variety of
Islamist doctrine. According to the Voice of America, they were "one
of five Middle Eastern Islamist political parties taking part in
meetings with U.S. officials in Washington as well as a conference
organized by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace." In
reality, all five parties at the Carnegie conference were branches of
the MB: from Morocco, Egypt, Jordan, Tunisia, and Libya.
The MB acolytes were also favored by meetings with officials of the
U.S. National Security Agency. As noted in The Washington Post, the
MB visitors to the American capital were subordinate figures in the
movement, 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
The MB public-relations campaign evidently borrowed tactics from
similar efforts by the so-called Justice and Development Party
(AKPartisi) of Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan: Playing
on the (correct) assumption that Westerners know little of Islam and
the Muslim lands, the Egyptian MB delegation repeated the catch-
phrases they are convinced will win them friends in the U.S. and
Europe: "The priorities for us are mainly economic, political ó
preserving the revolution [sic] ideals of social justice, education,
security for the people," Sondos Asem, a member of the delegation,
As Erdogan and the AKP have emphasized Turkey´s economic boom, its
commitment to entrepreneurship, and its middle-class support, the
Egyptian MB likewise claimed to value practical economic and social
improvements for the country´s masses over the Brotherhood´s
traditional vision of an "Islamic state."
Since the fall of Hosni Mubarak a year ago, however, the Brotherhood
has already alienated Egypt´s non-Islamist citizens by its devious
behavior: during the Egyptian Revolution and in the period preceding
the election cycle, the Brotherhood promised it would not run its own
candidate for the national presidency, but it now has such a standard-
bearer: business magnate and Brotherhood ideologue Khairat al-Shater.
Additionally, ever since the MB expelled Abdel-Moneim Abul-Futouh, a
physician and party stalwart who announced his run for the presidency
last year, the Brotherhood´s constituency has been divided. Many
Brotherhood supporters consider Abul-Futouh a better-known and more
credible candidate for the position.
Both Al-Shater and Abul-Futouh could benefit from the
disqualification in the Egyptian presidential race of the radical
fundamentalist television preacher, Sheikh Hazem Salah Abu Ismael.
Sheikh Abu Ismael, an independent Wahhabi (so-called "Salafi," the
extreme form of Islam imposed on Saudi Arabia), wants to remake Egypt
in the image of Saudi Arabia and Iran. It is likely, however, that he
will be removed from the electoral list on the grounds that his
mother acquired American citizenship.
Brotherhood intrigues have provoked concern among both Egyptian
liberals and Coptic Christians. Both recently walked out of
discussions on a new constitution, charging that the MB and other
Islamists dominated the proceedings.
Notwithstanding its apparent self-confidence and its supine welcome
by gullible Westerners, the Egyptian MB enjoys no certainty in its
fight for the presidency. Former Arab League general secretary Amr
Moussa possesses the highest level of name recognition and an
international profile that is lacking among the rest of the Egyptian
contestants. Although he was a political ally of Mubarak, Moussa
managed to extricate himself from his association with the former
dictator and his circle.
If, as is most probable, the elected Islamists of the Egyptian MB
follow the pattern developed by Erdogan and the AKP in Turkey, they
will endeavor to employ economic privatization and "moderate"
positions on regional conflicts to cover their more central agenda.
In Turkey, this has meant an energetic penetration of neighbouring
countries´ markets, plus the disapproval of the bloodthirsty regime
of Bashar Al-Assad in Syria. At the same time and at home,
nevertheless, Erdogan and the AKP pursue discriminatory policies
against the large, heterodox Alevi Muslim minority; disregard the
interests and rights of Christians, and seek to downgrade women´s
education, while enhancing the status of official training for Sunni
Like Turkey, Egypt has a substantial history of military rule,
although the Cairo government was never as thoroughly committed to
secularism as its peers in Ankara. According to sources, the Egyptian
MB gained 37.5% of the post-Mubarak parliamentary ballots with the
approval, if not the direct connivance, of the military. In Turkey,
however, the AKP under Erdogan has attacked the military power
sharply, with the encouragement of Western liberals and other
observers, who apparently believe a civilian Islamist administration
is a preferable alternative to a garrison-led secular state.
The Egyptian MB has drawn away from the Egyptian army in protest
against the assumption of power by the Supreme Council of the Armed
Forces (SCAF) after the fall of Mubarak. It is doubtful, nonetheless,
that the Egyptian MB will choose to confront the Egyptian military in
the manner Erdogan adopted against the Turkish armed forces: by a
series of political show-trials during which he accused members of
the military of having planned a coup against his rule, and now by a
retrospective trial of officers involved in the military takeover of
Turkey in 1980.
Turkey had previously undergone years of debate over the limits of
military power. The AKP and other Islamists had constructed a
widespread network of religious groups able to pose as a civic force.
For Egypt, a complete MB break with the army would be a sudden and
unsettling move; and, notwithstanding the undeniable success of the
MB in organizing an oppositional Islamist subculture in Egypt, it has
not achieved the extent or sophistication of the Turkish AKP and its
Although members of the AKP came West during the first decade of the
21st century reiterating their attachment to transparency,
accountability, and even secularism in government, as well as
frequenting free-market think-tanks and cultivating conservative
opinion, the actions of the AKP in power have proven such rhetoric
and intrigue hollow.
The Muslim Brotherhood has passed through various phases: a
revolutionary party, a political partner of the Egyptian army, and an
important component of the global alliance of Islamist
fundamentalists. These included the predecessors of Ayatollah
Khomeini (whom it inspired), the Saudi Wahhabis, and the South Asian
jihadists. The MB has now reached the summit of its influence as a
faction able to hypnotize Western leaders with its "moderate" idiom.
But regardless of its honeyed words and the slick, updated,
Westernized vocabulary of its travelling exponents, the Egyptian MB
cannot, in its middle sectors, its base, and its fundamental outlook,
change. It is a thoroughly Islamist party with a profoundly
retrograde vision of a state based on religious dictates. As in
Turkey, sooner or later, as soon as the Egyptian MB thinks it is
strong enough to prevail, the mask will fall, and the promises it
made in Washington and elsewhere in the West will be shrugged aside.
Like the Turkish AKP, The Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood will be exposed
not as a new period of civil power in Muslim society, but as a party
working toward the installation of permanent clerical authority.
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