Dangerously Underestimating the Muslim Brotherhood

Thursday's Editorial   —   Posted on February 10, 2011

NOTE: Islamism is an ideology (Islam is a religion). Islamists support Shariah (Islamic) law, and wish to have it implemented in as many countries as possible; preferably throughout the entire world. A few Islamists may advocate such radical change via peaceful means, but most seem to advocate the change using violence.

(by David Horovitz, JPost.com) – The Islamist [Muslim Brotherhood’s] tactical absence from the protests [in Egypt] has been widely misread as proof of their lack of ambition and marginality.

The precedents are [vivid] and obvious. Yet the U.S. government seems intent on ignoring them.

In Iran in 1979, leftist and other secular forces, central to the rising pressure that ousted the Shah, were duped and then outflanked by Islamist supporters of Ayatollah Khomeini, who took power and have cemented it for 32 years since. The Islamists achieved this despite having constituted only the most marginal of forces just a couple of years earlier.

In the Palestinian territories in 2006, the US insisted on pressing ahead with elections that, in part because of Fatah’s corruption and disorganization, saw the underestimated Islamist Hamas terror group gain a parliamentary majority, which it then exploited to violently take over the Gaza Strip a year later.

In Lebanon over the past few weeks, the Iranian-inspired, controlled and financed Hizbullah out-maneuvered the hapless prime minister Sa’ad Hariri, to complete what amounts to a gradual, highly sophisticated takeover of the country.

In Turkey in recent years, confidence that such secular bulwarks as the army and the judiciary would prevent growing Islamic domination of the national agenda has proved increasingly misplaced…. Turkey, champion of Hamas, nemesis [enemy] of Israel, is now drifting inexorably [without being able to stop it] out of the western orbit.

Washington’s apparent disinclination…to internalize [accept] the dangers highlighted by the Iran, Gaza, Lebanon and Turkey disasters, and thus do everything in its power to prevent the Muslim Brotherhood presiding over a similar process in Egypt, is incomprehensible.

And it could prove immensely threatening for Israel.

For all President Barack Obama’s declared intent to usher in a new partnership between the U.S. and the Muslim world, what he termed “a new beginning” in his 2009 speech in Cairo, his diplomats did not deliver significant diplomatic pressure on Mubarak to reform his regime in the past two years. This was most starkly confirmed by December’s vigorously fraudulent parliamentary elections, which featured mass arrests of opposition supporters and the firm muzzling of critical media, and in which the Muslim Brotherhood’s 88-seat share of the previous 454-member parliament descended to zero because of the regime’s machinations [schemes].

Washington evidently failed to foresee that embittered Egyptians might then resort to the massed protests of the past two weeks, and it abandoned Mubarak…as it scrambled to avoid being caught on the wrong side of a largely spontaneous people’s push for freedom and democracy.

But however one gauges the realpolitik [practical rather than ethical politics] involved in that dramatic recoil from a 30-year ally, the White House’s subsequent reported moves to [legitimize] Egypt’s Islamists – whose outlook conflicts utterly with the democratic agenda – make no sense, and suggest a frighteningly superficial understanding of the Muslim Brotherhood’s intentions and potential achievements.

Far from learning the lessons of the Islamists’ skilled subversion of other pro-democracy movements…and making publicly plain that there will be no ongoing American alliance with an Egypt in which an unreformed Islamist movement has even a marginal role in government, the White House seems to be actively encouraging a transitional outreach to the Muslim Brotherhood.

National Security Council official Dan Shapiro told Jewish leaders on a conference call Wednesday that the administration would not deal with the Brotherhood. But White House spokesman Robert Gibbs had two days earlier urged the inclusion of “important non-secular actors” in a more democratic Egypt – a statement that was widely seen as relating to the Muslim Brotherhood. And the Administration’s proposal for the immediate transfer of power calls for the transitional government to include the Muslim Brotherhood, the New York Times reported [on Feb. 4th].

As things stand, of course, the longer Mubarak hangs on, the greater the instability and the anger, and the more for the Islamists to build upon.

But why would the U.S. assist them? The administration may in part be motivated by the president’s seeming conviction, as David Ignatius wrote in the Washington Post last week, “that change is a matter for Egyptians, not Americans, and that too heavy an American hand would be counterproductive.”

In addition, numerous “experts” in [the U.S.] media over the past week have been [unanimously] representing the Muslim Brotherhood as benign, hapless, not particularly popular, or all three of the above.

Far from benign, the Brotherhood is committed to death-cult jihad in the cause of widened Islamist rule, was the progenitor of Hamas and central to Islamist radicalization among the Palestinians. And its popularity was evident in that impressive 2005 parliamentary performance, achieved, it should be stressed, despite the Mubarak-orchestrated unfavorable circumstances.

Yet readers of the New York Times on Thursday, for instance, were treated to a page-leading op-ed article headlined “Egypt’s Bumbling Brotherhood,” which depicted the Islamists as a veritable Keystone Cops rabble of incompetents who have “botched every opportunity” for 83 years to revive Islamic power. Their purported 20-30 percent support, according to author Scott Atran, “is less a matter of true attachment than an accident of circumstances.”

[Former British Prime Minister] Tony Blair’s warning that the Islamists could take the unfolding Egyptian revolution in the wrong direction was blithely dismissed by the author [Scott Atran]…….

Some commentators made much of the fact that the Brotherhood kept a low profile early in the uprising, interpreting this as evidence of disorganization and/or a lack of ambition. But the restraints have come off since then: Islamist rhetoric has become more prominent, and Brotherhood spokesmen are now ubiquitous in the media.

Experiences elsewhere have demonstrated the patience that Islamist organizations can exercise, building and gaining power and influence over years, over decades. Yet the absence of the Brotherhood from the protest frontlines for a matter of mere days – an astute tactic to ensure the watching world was not alienated and to maximize domestic support for the uprising – was apparently widely misread as proof of its irrelevance.


Mohamed Morsy [a Muslim Brotherhood spokesman from Cairo], who in the course of [an interview on CNN on Feb. 3rd] refused to commit his movement to maintenance of the Israel-Egypt peace treaty or to recognition of Israel, and stressed its opposition to Zionism, insisted that the Muslim Brotherhood opposed the use of violence. Without missing a beat, however, he went on to say that what was going on in Palestine was “resistance.” And “resistance,” he said, “is acceptable by all mankind. It is the right of people to resist imperialism.”

In the New York Times “Bumbling Brotherhood” op-ed, another such spokesman, Dr. Essam el-Erian, was quoted as saying, “Israel must know that it is not welcome by the people in this region.” And writer Atran acknowledged that the Brotherhood “wants power,” and allowed that “its positions, notably its stance against Israel, are problematic for American interests.”

The current regional uprising has reemphasized Israel’s unique centrality to America as the region’s only truly dependable ally, because the partnership is not tactical or even strategic, but a function of shared interests and values that genuinely resonate throughout society. Why, then, Israel’s leaders must surely be asking their American counterparts in their current frantic consultations, would the US government help [legitimize], … a bleak, benighted movement that can be guaranteed to use any influence it [acquires] to undermine those shared interests and values?

This article was first published at JPost.com on February 6, 2011.  Reprinted here February 10, 2011 for educational purposes only.  May not be reproduced on other websites without permission from the Jerusalem Post.


Students: This is a challenging commentary, but well worth reading. Read through it two times before answering the questions. If you get a general understanding, you’ll know more than most adults on the subjet

1. What is the main idea of Mr. Horovitz’s commentary?

2. Define benign, hapless, progenitor and ubiquitous as used in para. 16-17 and 20.

3. Why/how does Mr. Horovitz refute the portrayal of the Muslim Brotherhood by the U.S. media? (from para. 16-20)

4. Do you think the U.S. government should oppose an Egyptian government run by the Muslim Brotherhood? Explain your answer.



Does the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood Have Ties to Terrorism?

  • It’s unclear. A widespread Islamist organization founded in 1928, the Brotherhood seeks to Islamize societies from the ground up and compel governments in Muslim countries to adhere to sharia, or Islamic law.
  • At various times in its history, the group has used or supported violence and has been repeatedly banned in Egypt for attempting to overthrow Cairo’s secular government.
  • Since the 1970s, however, the Egyptian Brotherhood has disavowed violence and sought to participate in Egyptian politics. The U.S. State Department does not include the group on its list of terrorist organizations. 
  • Still, the Egyptian government mistrusts the Brotherhood’s pledge of nonviolence and continues to ban the organization.
  • One reason the Brotherhood’s commitment to nonviolence is unclear: The original Egyptian organization has spawned branches in 70 countries. These organizations bear the Brotherhood name, but their connections to the founding group vary and some of them may provide financial, logistical, or other support to terrorist organizations.
  • Some terrorist groups-including Hamas, Jamaat al-Islamiyya, and al-Qaeda-have historic and ideological affiliations with the Egyptian Brotherhood.
  • In addition, some of the world’s most dangerous terrorists were once Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood members, including Osama bin Laden’s top deputy Ayman al-Zawahiri. The organization is like “stepping stone,” says Evan Kohlmann, an international terrorism consultant. (from cfr.org/publication/9248/does_the_muslim_brotherhood_have_ties_to_terrorism.html)
  • The 1979 Egypt-Israel Peace Treaty was signed in Washington, D.C. on March 26, 1979, following the 1978 Camp David Accords, which were signed by Egyptian President Anwar El Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin, and were witnessed by U.S. President Jimmy Carter.
  • The main features of the treaty were the mutual recognition of each country by the other, the cessation of the state of war that had existed since the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, and the complete withdrawal by Israel of its armed forces and civilians from the Sinai Peninsula which Israel had captured during the Six-Day War in 1967.
  • Egypt agreed to leave the area demilitarized.
  • The agreement also provided for the free passage of Israeli ships through the Suez Canal and recognition of the Strait of Tiran, the Gulf of Aqaba and the Taba-Rafah straits as international waterways.
  • The agreement notably made Egypt the first Arab country to officially recognize Israel.
  • As part of the agreement, the U.S. began economic and military aid to Egypt, and political backing for its subsequent governments.
  • From the Camp David peace accords in 1978 until 2000, the United States has subsidized Egypt’s armed forces with over $38 billion worth of aid.
  • Egypt receives about $2 billion annually [from the U.S.] (from wikipedia)


  • The Strategic Cooperation Agreement was concluded on November 30, 1981 between the U.S. and Israel during the Reagan administration.
  • The agreement was signed by Israeli Defense Minister Ariel Sharon and American Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger and pledged specific actions from both parties to increase strategic cooperation between them.
  • The main objective was to deter Soviet threats and ‘Soviet controlled forces’ in the Middle East.
  • Israel had aimed for some time at the creation of a more formal bond which would commit the U.S. to a closer military cooperation.
  • The signing marked the beginning of close security cooperation and coordination between the American and Israeli governments.
  • The agreement took the form of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) and was an act of the executive branch not subject to Senate ratification.
  • Therefore, it was not a treaty, which requires Senate ratification. Formally, it did not constitute an official alliance.
  • Frequent references of the President and political leaders to Israel as an ally, did not carry with them the weight of a legal commitment to declare or enter a war on Israel’s side in the sense envisioned by the U.S. Constitution.
  • Politically, the strategic cooperation agreement represented a major policy shift toward Israel regarding American involvement in the Middle East.
  • Since there was no corresponding pact signed with any Arab state, the United States could no longer claim to act as an impartial mediator or arbiter in the Arab Israeli conflicts. (from wikipedia)


Read about the difference between Islam and Islamism at danielpipes.org/954/distinguishing-between-islam-and-islamism.