'Fears of Brotherhood threat to democracy are inflated'

"They are not seeking a religious country," general from Egypt's ruling military council insists, despite evidence to the contrary.

July 26, 2011 17:19
4 minute read.
Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood leaders [file]

Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood leaders 311 (R). (photo credit: Amr Dalsh / Reuters)


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A member of Egypt’s interim military-government said unease over the threats that the Muslim Brotherhood poses to prospects of democracy in the country are exaggerated, and that the Islamist movement has a right to partake in political life.

“They are not seeking to have a religious country,” said Maj.-Gen. Mohamed Said al- Assar, a member of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, in remarks quoted by Bloomberg News.

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“They have to have the same rights as all Egyptians.

“Day by day, the Brotherhood are changing and are getting on a more moderate track,” he said. “They have the willingness to share in the political life... they are sharing in good ways.”

Assar said the army remains committed to the 1979 peace treaty with Israel, but Cairo will have to “adjust to the changes in the region” and resolve outstanding regional disputes including the Israeli- Palestinian conflict. The comments came Monday while addressing the Washingtonbased US Institute of Peace, a US government-funded organization.

The general failed, however, to assuage his hosts’ concerns that national elections scheduled for later this year could be less than fully transparent to the outside world.

“Visitors can visit the election facilities and they can see by their own eyes, but not on a monitoring or observation basis,” he said.

Assar’s comments come amid growing public anger over the slow pace of political reform and of filing indictments against officials linked to ousted president Hosni Mubarak, as well as the army’s growing ties with the Brotherhood.

For weeks protesters have occupied a protest camp in Cairo’s central Tahrir Square, sparking counter-demonstrations of dozens of army supporters.

On Saturday more than 300 people were hurt in clashes between the two sides as protesters marched on the Defense Ministry while military police and anti-riot officers stood idly by.

Raymond Ibrahim, a widely published author on Islamist organizations, wrote Monday that the future promises to be bright for the Brotherhood, banned for decades under Egypt’s successive military rulers.

“Things are looking good for Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, the grandfather of all Islamist groups. Despite the organization’s hegemonic aspirations – which include “eliminating and destroying the Western civilization... so that it is eliminated and God’s religion is made victorious over all other religions” – the Obama administration recently announced that it ‘welcomes dialogue’ with the Brotherhood; so did the European Union,” he wrote on the website of the Hudson New York think tank.

Earlier this month US Secretary of State said Washington is “re-engaging” in “limited contacts” with the Brotherhood in a bid to promote regional democracy, and Clinton’s European counterpart, Catherine Ashton, said the EU is “open to dialogue with anyone who is interested in democracy.”

Ibrahim’s article linked to the Brotherhood’s 1991 “Explanatory Memorandum on the General Strategic Goal for the Group in North America,” publicized by the Investigative Project on Terrorism.

“The process of settlement is a ‘Civilization-Jihadist Proecess’ [sic] with all the word means. The Ikhwan [Brothers] must understand that their work in America is a kind of grand jihad in eliminating and destroying the Western civilization from within and ‘sabotaging’ its miserable house by their hands and the hands of the believers so that it is eliminated and God’s religion is made victorious over all other religions,” the memorandum said in English.

“Without this level of understanding, we are not up to this challenge and have not prepared ourselves for jihad yet. It is a Muslim’s destiny to perform jihad and work wherever he is and wherever he lands until the final hour comes.

“Unlike secular parties concerned with the temporal, it has a divine mandate – a totalitarian vision – to subdue society to Sharia,” wrote Ibrahim, a fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center and Middle East Forum.

Banned since 1952, Ibrahim wrote, the “Brotherhood learned the virtues of patience and perseverance. To play the game on the enemy’s terms–whether by rejecting violence, by going to the kafir [unbeliever] ballot box, by leading us to adopt the ‘pluralistic’ language of the West.

“Over the decades, Egyptian society has become more Islamist and more sympathetic to the Brotherhood – thanks in no small part to the organization’s grassroots efforts.

Moreover, both in Egypt and abroad, many truly believe that the Muslim Brotherhood organization has reformed, which would be worthy of note if the facts corresponded to such a wish. They don’t.

Many people also believed that Khomeini would bring democracy to Iran,” he added.

“The passage of time in the West has also helped the Brotherhood: Western politics have descended into idealism and fantasy–culminating today with Washington reaching out to Islamists. Would they have reached out to the Nazis?” Ibrahim wrote.

“When all is said and done, the Brotherhood wants the same thing all Islamists, Salafists, and jihadists want: the enforcement of Allah’s draconian anti-infidel laws to govern the earth. They are just smarter – more patient – than their impulsive counterparts in the West.”

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