Manpads And The Muslim Brotherhood

By EWI EXCLUSIVE | by K.D.M. Jense
Tuesday, December 13th, 2011 @ 4:27AM

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Before beginning my commentary, I need to draw your attention to a recent Christian Science Monitor piece by my colleague Rachel Ehrenfeld. Since 2002, the Israeli’s have been concerned with the threat of shoulder-fired missiles to its civilian aircraft—concerned enough to consider providing those aircraft with electronic countermeasures.  In November, the news went out that this project has now been speeded up.  Dr. Ehrenfeld raises the issue of the danger of MANPADS to U.S. civil aviation.  The disintegration of Libya and other unrest in the Middle East and North Africa, suggest that we may well be seeing MANPADS come West and into the United States.  Dr. Ehrenfeld points out that American carriers hardly seem interested in this topic.

Today’s issue of the EWI Digest focuses on the Muslim Brotherhood, in Egypt mainly but, also, beyond.  As with other Middle East topics, the discussion goes in circles. There are two basic positions: 1) that the Muslim Brotherhood is a charitable institution, the professions of which regarding “moderation,” “justice,” and “freedom” ought to be believed and Western support for it should be forthcoming; and 2) that the Brotherhood is being deceptive and, wherever it may be, has as its ultimate goal the building of a totalitarian caliphate under shari’a law.  There is, of course, a third position (actually no position at all), variations of which are “we don’t know yet,” “we should be wary but not hostile,” “let’s support anyone who calls himself a democrat,” “democracy is their business, not ours,” etc.

Today’s Digest contains some recent examples of second and third of these positions.  (No need for the first: Arab Spring and “moderate” Islamist enthusiasts seemingly dominate our government and the media.) Examples of the third position include The Economist (in a particularly annoying, almost amateurish, “this but, on the other hand, that” sort of piece); and Nicholas Kristof of the Times.  Kristof visits Ismailia, finds testimony to the Brotherhood’s charitable presence, and concludes (after many interviews) that “People don’t vote for Islamic parties because they seek Saudi- or Iranian-style religious repression. Rather, they vote for Islamic parties for the same reason Germans support Christian Democrats or Southerners favor conservative Christians: pious candidates are perceived as reflecting traditional values.”  Kristof finishes up with “My take is that it’s reasonable to worry, but let’s not overdo it.”

There are several other pieces of this sort below, including a Guardian UK piece quoting Chatham House Fellow Maha Azzam that makes the argument that the Arab Spring has guaranteed that Islamist extremism is being marginalized.  It doesn’t seem to have occurred to her that all ideological revolutions tend to the extreme as the more moderate and civil fail to satisfy the masses.

Exponents of the second view described above are better represented here, as they are more diverse in their takes on things.  Bob Reilly,author of The Closing of the Muslim Mind, offers a comparison between the Arab Spring and the Weimar years. Citing Bernard Lewis, he points out that early elections inevitably play into the hands of extremists.  I wish that Reilly had given a full set of examples as to how European politicians and intellectuals whitewashed the threat of Hitler and the Nazis.  The similarities to those of our own time are almost uncanny.

There’s one 1930s apology I didn’t know about until just the other day.  In The Idea of a Christian, published in 1939, T.S. Eliot said, “. . . totalitarianism can retain the terms ‘freedom’ and ‘democracy’ and give them its own meaning: and its right to them is not so easily disproved as minds inflamed by passion suppose.”  Would Eliot have found the Brotherhood’s deputy director Essam al-Erian’s claim to cherish such terms compelling?  I would hope not.

Perhaps the most starting article in today’s collection comes from Al Arabiya.  On December 3, thanks to AFP, Jeannette Bougra, the French junior minister for youth, was reported as having told Le Parisien that legislation based on Islamic sharia law “inevitably” imposed restrictions on rights and freedoms.  Speaking as “a French woman of Arab origin” (Algerian), she claimed “I don’t know of any moderate Islam.”

“There are no half measures with sharia,” she added. “I am a lawyer and you can make all the theological, literal or fundamental interpretations of it that you like but law based on sharia is inevitably a restriction on freedom, especially freedom of conscience.”

Bougra went on to take a shot at the 30 percent of Tunisians living in France who voted for Ennahda. “I am shocked that those who have rights and freedoms here gave their votes to a religious party,” she said.

Categories: Middle East Conflicts, Muslim Brotherhood

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