Since the beginning of the uprising in Egypt and the expected power shift in favor of the Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamic world has rallied around the Brotherhood and demanded that the West engage with them. But a crack in that unity appeared today when Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak said that the Muslim Brotherhood “shouldn’t be part of the process as long as they don’t reject violence and extremism.”
“Anyone who wants to be part of the political process should adopt values that are compatible with democracy,” Najib said in an interview in Istanbul, where he is speaking at a conference on moderation. “It’s not just about having a vote and choosing your leaders; it’s also part of imparting the right values for democracy to work, because there are failed democracies as well.”
Najib said he has “some concerns, deep concerns” about Yusuf al-Qaradawi, the Muslim Brotherhood’s spiritual leader. Those concerns center on Qaradawi’s support and justification for terrorism, which carries a great deal of weight given Qaradawi’s credibility as an Islamic scholar. It is exactly that type of Muslim leader that has led the Middle East astray, according to Najib. “We have lost a lot of ground to the extremists in the Middle East.”
He offered his own country as a model to emerging Islamic governments in the Middle East, saying that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has described Malaysia as “modern, progressive, and moderate.”
“We shouldn’t want to impose on people, but people are welcome to study our experience and how we’ve done things in Malaysia. Perhaps it could be useful in their country,” he said.
Too many leaders, Najib said, misunderstand moderation. “I think they’re not paying enough attention to the values associated with being a moderate,” he said. “Moderate doesn’t mean that you’re a wimp — far from it. It means that you’ve chosen a path because you believe that’s the only way for global harmony and peace.”
— Seth Mandel is a fellow in the Foundation for Defense of Democracies National Security Fellowship Program.