Ed Husain

The Arab Street

Husain examines politics, society, and radicalism in the greater Middle East.

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Washington’s Love Affair With Islamists

by Ed Husain
April 4, 2012

Mohamed Mursi, the head of the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party, talks during a news conference in Cairo in April 2011 (Mohamed Abd El Ghany/Courtesy Reuters). Mohamed Mursi, the head of the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party, talks during a news conference in Cairo in April 2011 (Mohamed Abd El Ghany/Courtesy Reuters).

The Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamists from Tunisia, Morocco, Jordan, and Libya are in Washington, DC, this week. Having advocated for over a year for issues-based engagement with the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, I was delighted to host a delegation from their Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) for meetings at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York and Washington.

It’s vitally important for Egyptian and American national interests and for regional security that the democratically elected FJP and the U.S. government continue to communicate with a view to helping create a pluralist and prosperous example of democracy in Egypt. FJP officials have, rightly, met with senior officials inside the Obama administration.

There’s glee in Washington that traditional American foes are now friends. I understand and support that sentiment. But it’s too early for resting on laurels. Anti-American sentiment remains worryingly high across most of the Middle East—and we remain, as always, hostage to events.

While the U.S. Embassy in Cairo has been busy courting the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s liberals and non-Islamist political forces have looked on bewildered. To avoid repeating the mistakes of the past, where successive U.S. administrations supported former president Mubarak’s National Democratic Party (NDP), it is essential that the Obama administration continues its interaction with the Muslim Brotherhood while also maintaining relations and support for opposition groups and other political players inside Egypt. The Muslim Brotherhood cannot become the new NDP.

In Washington’s fascination with the exotic Muslim Brotherhood, it risks fueling a new anti-Americanism of the secular and liberal forces of Egypt. The people that mobilized in Tahrir Square in January 2011 can rally again. They were not anti-American in their rhetoric previously, but they can become so in the future. To avoid that possibility, the Obama administration ought to hold public and well-publicized meetings at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo with all democratic participants in Egyptian politics.

The U.S. government is more than capable of engaging with multiple political forces in Egypt.

2 Comments

  • Posted by Henry

    Those who believe that there can be TRUTHFUL, GENUINE AND LONGTERM rapproachment between the WEST and any Muslim entity in the world are naive. Muslim minds are driven by their religion. Lying to a non-Muslim or killing a non-Muslim is an acceptable act as written in their book. There just cannot be any LONG TERM mutually acceptable issues between the WEST and any Muslim country whose people may accept peace with their mouths but the desire to destroy WESTERN non-Muslim civilization will forever remain in their hearts as their book tells them to do. What OBAMA is doing is just buying time for his own self-interest. A President who has TRUE AND GENUINE concern for his people in this and the many generations to come will submit himself to the WORDS of the GOD of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in all his words and deeds.

  • Posted by Babak

    After reading the comments of ‘ Henry’ , as posted in the readers’ comments, I cannot but believe that he is completely ignorant of Islam , the Islamic heritage, and the Divine teachings of Islam. Muslims , as a whole , are believers in the Divine religions of Abraham, Moses , and Jesus as well as other past Prophets of God. Their attitudes towards other nations of different beliefs are much more tolerant than what is practiced and preached by Zionist Rabbies and extremist Christian pastors. Islam views all mankind as God Almighty’s people , and preaches kindness and tolerance towards everyone except an aggressor or tyrant.