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February 14, 2011

Cliff May's Open Letter to David Ignatius on the Muslim Brotherhood

Topics: Follies of the Mainstream Media, Political News and commentaries, Understanding Islam

In response to David Ignatius' column last week in which he naively wrote:

The best safeguard against Muslim terrorists, hopefully, will be the sleeping giant that is the Muslim Brotherhood. Members of this group have become sharply critical of al-Qaeda in recent years, which gives reason for hope.
Cliff May, President of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, astutely and "respectfully" writes:
[...] Can you please provide a few examples of these sharp criticisms?

Because I don't think you can. I think whatever criticisms you come up with will be related to differences in tactics and perhaps strategy -- not to ideology, theology or overall goals. I think you're confusing occasional pragmatism with sincere moderation.

For example, important members of the Muslim Brotherhood object to al-Qaeda's slaughter of innocent civilians -- if those civilians happen to be Muslims. If they happen to be Jews, Christians or Hindus -- not so much.

My colleague at FDD, Thomas Joscelyn, who is working on a research paper on the Muslim Brotherhood, today sent me the transcript of a 2008 exchange between Mohammed Mahdi 'Akeh (the Brotherhood's general guide from 2004-2010) that includes this excerpt:

Interviewer: "On the subject of resistance and jihad -- do you consider Bin Laden to be a terrorist or a jihad fighter?"

'Akef: "Without a shadow of a doubt -- a jihad fighter. I do not doubt the fact that he opposes occupation, nor that he does this in order to get closer to Allah, may He be praised and extolled."

Does that sound sharply critical, David?

It's important to get this right -- not least because the Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, appears to be so seriously confused and/or misguided.

What's more, plenty of disinformation is being propagated in the media. For example, I was on a Fox show this past Friday along with an al-Jazeera reporter who was defending the Brotherhood as a moderate organization. I asked him to repeat the Brotherhood's slogan -- I said I was sure he knew it. He did -- but he would not. It is:

Allah is our objective. The Prophet is our leader. [The] Quran is our law. Jihad is our way. Dying in the way of Allah is our highest hope.
His response? He said there also are Christians who are willing to die for their religion. I kid you not.

Another of my FDD colleagues, Reuel Marc Gerecht, notes that there is "considerable intellectual turbulence inside" the Muslim Brotherhood. I don't doubt it. But that does not make the Muslim Brothers democrats or "sharply critical" of al-Qaeda. In short, there is very little about the Muslim Brotherhood which should, as you say, give "reasons for hope."

David, if I'm wrong, I hope you will correct me. And if you're wrong, I hope you will correct yourself.



May is a bit kinder than I would have been with Mr. Ignatius, whose writing I also usually respect. While May's letter indeed makes the point, I find Ignatius' assertion that the Muslim Brotherhood is "the best safeguard against Muslim terrorists, and that members of this group have become sharply critical of al-Qaeda in recent years, which gives reason for hope" to be as outlandishly laughable and disgustingly naive as the now infamous James Clapper's comments before Congress.

Related: Islamists in their own words

Posted by Richard at February 14, 2011 9:42 AM

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