Robert Spencer cannot stand that democracy is at the doorstep of the Arab world. In his latest hit piece, Spencer follows the lead of Frank Gaffney’s paranoid fearmongering by greatly exaggerating the role of the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s largest Islamist organization:
Game over: Barack Obama has endorsed a role for the Muslim Brotherhood in a new, post-Mubarak government for Egypt.
Game over! The end is neigh! The sky is falling! Why? Because President Obama’s spokesperson Robert Gibbs said that a post-Mubarak Egyptian ruling group “has to include a whole host of important non-secular actors that give Egypt a strong chance to continue to be [a] stable and reliable partner.” In other words, the Obama administration would no longer like to continue the undemocratic policies of Hosni Mubarak that outlawed peaceful democratic opposition to his pro-torture regime.
This is the nature of democracy. Everyone should be allowed to participate peacefully in a free and fair election, even candidates or parties we disagree with. For the record, the Muslim Brotherhood has officially and consistently renounced terrorism and embraced democracy. However, Islamophobes like Spencer have always been very selective and self-serving in their advocacy of freedom.
Nevertheless, Mohamed Elbaradei, the noble-prize winning nuclear watchdog and a possible key leader in the new interim government, completely rejects the arguments of those who exploit fears of the Brotherhood to stifle Egyptian democracy:
ElBaradei himself says he is willing to work with the Muslim Brotherhood, denying that they want to replicate Khomeini’s Iran.
“The Muslim Brotherhood has nothing to do with the Iranian model, has nothing to do with extremism as we have seen it in Afghanistan and other places. The Muslim Brotherhood is a religiously conservative group. They are a minority in Egypt,” he told CNN.
“I have been reaching out to them. We need to include them. They are part of the Egyptian society, as much as the Marxist party here,” he said.
He rejected the idea that Islamic fundamentalists are set to undermine Egypt.
“This is a myth that was sold by the Mubarak regime — that it’s either us, the ruthless dictators, or… the al Qaeda types,” he said.
In reality, Obama is simply putting America’s democratic rhetoric into practice. The Muslim Brotherhood has a right to peacefully participate in Egypt’s new political landscape, even if you strongly disagree with their platform. Let the voters decide. That’s democracy!
However, even if the Brotherhood is the “prototypical Islamic supremacist, pro-Sharia group of the modern age,” rather than a conservative religious group, as Spencer claims, the reality is that the organization is simply too weak to overtake the secular opposition.
Analyst Abulhimal is convinced Egyptians would not let the Muslim Brotherhood seize power — not least because the military would stand in its way.
“Neither the people nor the secular leaders would allow the Muslim Brotherhood to take it, and more importantly the army would never allow the Muslim Brotherhood to take it,” he said. “If the army said, ‘We would support the people in the street and we would have a deal with President Mubarak to have an orderly transition,’ as the Americans said yesterday — this would definitely not include the Muslim Brotherhood.”
A similar sentiment is repeated in Justin Elliot’s excellent interview at Salon with Nathan Brown, a political science professor at George Washington University and director of its Institute for Middle East Studies:
We’ve got a big headache in Egypt. The regime in its current form is toast. Our regional policy has been based on a very close working relationship with the Egyptian government since 1974, so we’ve got fundamental rethinking to do. The Brotherhood is part of that headache. It’s not the biggest part. Is there cause for concern? Yes. Is there cause for fearful reaction? Absolutely not.
So, on both theoretical and practical grounds, Spencer has misrepresented the Islamist Brotherhood boogeyman to quietly push for the dictator’s victory in Egypt. Anshel Pfeffer of Haaretz calls it like it is:
The late Arab-American scholar Edward Said appears to have been right. We’re all suffering from Orientalism, not to say racism, if the sight of an entire people throwing off the yoke of tyranny and courageously demanding free elections fills us with fear rather than uplifting us, just because they’re Arabs…
People are scaring us with talk of an Islamist takeover of our big neighbor. The Muslim Brotherhood will certainly play an important role in any political democratic structure that emerges in Egypt, and that has to be dealt with. But then, we also have religious fundamentalists in the [Israeli] government. That is the price of a parliamentary democracy. And the previous U.S. administration was intimately linked to fundamentalists, but that’s okay too, because evangelical Christians love Israel.
Of course, Spencer’s double standards concerning democracy and the presence of fundamentalists in government abound (Jewish/Christian fundamentalists good, Muslim fundamentalists bad). What about the peace treaty between Egypt and Israel? This is a legitimate concern, but it appears the worst case scenario is avoidable. Pfeffer continues:
Hundred of Egyptians who were asked about that [peace treaty] this week on the streets of Cairo said that they support continued diplomatic relations between Israel and Egypt. Even among supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood, it was difficult to find someone calling for the Israeli Embassy to get out of the country, though there were a few.
It is clear that democracy is on the march in Egypt and the Arab world, despite armies of fake democrats like Spencer who feed us specious arguments about why unelected dictators who torture are better for America’s security than a free and fair Egypt. Ultimately, whatever happens will determine what the future holds not only for Egypt, but for America and the world.
At this moment America has an important decision. As Dr. Maher Hathout expressed it in the L.A. Times:
The United States today has a clear choice. It can stand with the people or with the dictator.