June 6, 2007

EGYPT: When is an Islamist Not an Islamist?

Neither the United States nor Egypt are square on how to treat the Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamic group with terrorist origins that also happens to be Egypt’s most powerful opposition party.

The government of Hosni Mubarak arrested 87 party members in May and detained 52 more last week just ahead of the June 11 elections.

New constitutional amendments give Egypt the power to ban any political activity based on religion, but the U.S.-based Human Rights Watch says it’s censoring free speech instead.

This includes the repeated jailing and torture of Abd al-Menim Mahmoud, a young blogger for the Muslim Brotherhood.

Harper’s editor Ken Silverstein argues that the party is misunderstood by both Egypt and the U.S.

The Brotherhood may be Islamic, but it “renounced violence decades ago and has pledged to support democracy,” he says.

Egypt, meanwhile, is angry over what it calls a double standard in U.S. policy towards Islamist groups.

Although Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice refused to meet with Muslim Brotherhood members when visiting Egypt, a bipartisan Congressional delegation on a Middle East tour met with the banned group’s leader last week.

Egypt said the meeting undermined its national interests, and blasted the U.S as hypocritical because the delegation refused to meet with Hamas, the Islamist leaders of the Palestinian Authority with links with the Muslim Brotherhood.

Sources:

“Egypt arrests 52 Muslim Brotherhood members”
Agence France-Presse, June 2, 2007

“Egypt lays into U.S. delegation for Brotherhood meeting”
The Daily Star Egypt, June 1, 2007

“Blogger of the Brotherhood”
Harper’s, May 31, 2007

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