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Leadership in a vacuum

"Leadership in a vacuum" Continued...

Issue: "After the revolution," Feb. 26, 2011

Blind analysis: What's the West missing about the Muslim Brotherhood?

Muslim Brotherhood defenders in the United States (which include The New York Times) don't seem to argue about the group's radical nature, said Leslie Gelb, a former Times correspondent himself and now Council on Foreign Relations president emeritus-"they seem to dismiss it as not important or something we can live with." But as Gelb lists off, the Muslim Brotherhood "supports Hamas and other terrorist groups, makes friendly noises to Iranian dictators and torturers, would be uncertain landlords of the critical Suez Canal, and opposes the Egyptian-Israeli agreement of 1979, widely regarded as the foundation of peace in the Mideast. Above all, the Muslim Brotherhood would endanger counterterrorism efforts in the region and worldwide. That is a very big deal."

The Brotherhood at one time held 88 seats in Egypt's 454-seat parliament-or about a 20 percent share-before Mubarak outlawed the group running for parliamentary elections last year. Its views on terrorism may vary, but on Israel it's consistent: The Brotherhood advocates ending Egypt's peace treaty with Israel.

"The ideological position of the Brotherhood, which has been maintained despite intense opposition and persecution going back decades, is that the state must be ruled according to the sharia [Islamic law], and jihad must be pursued against Israel and the United States," said Anglican theologian and human-rights activist Mark Durie. "It is truly incredible that U.S. leaders could be so foolish as to seek to embrace an organization which holds such an agenda."

Durie, author of two books on Islam, traces the departure in longstanding U.S. policy to the Brotherhood's success in infiltrating U.S. institutions, including the White House. An "Explanatory Memorandum on the general strategic goal for the group (the Brotherhood) in North America" declares that the function of the Brotherhood in North America is to "lead" the "Islamic Movement," that is, to direct and coordinate all "Muslim's efforts" across the continent. Groups with ties to the Brotherhood have lobbied successfully for the White House and others to hold public dinners marking the end of Ramadan, not to mention other activities, as a way to elevate the role of Islam in American life. What many Western analysts like to gloss over is the religious ideology at the heart of the movement, said Durie, and "to de-emphasize the Muslim Brotherhood's religious character renders analysis blind."


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