In October 2010, on the eve of the Islamic revolution that the media fancies as “the Arab Spring,” the Supreme Guide of the Muslim Brotherhood called for jihad against the United States.
You might think that this all but unnoticed bombshell would be of some importance to policymakers in Washington. It was not. It is not. This week, the Obama administration quietly released $1.5 billion in foreign aid to the new Egyptian government, now dominated by a Brotherhood-led coalition in parliament — soon to be joined by an Ikhwan (i.e., Brotherhood) luminary as president.
It is not easy to find the announcement. With the legacy media having joined the Obama reelection campaign, we must turn for such news to outlets like the Kuwait News Agency. There, we learn that, having dug our nation into a $16 trillion debt hole, President Obama has nevertheless decided to borrow more money from unfriendly powers like China so he can give it to an outfit that views the United States as an enemy to be destroyed.
This pot of gold for Islamic supremacists is the spoils of a Brotherhood charm offensive. Given the organization’s unabashed goals and hostility towards the West, it was U.S. policy, until recently, to avoid formal contacts with the Brotherhood — although agents of the intelligence community and the State Department have long engaged in off-line communications with individual MB members. By contrast, the Obama administration from its first days has embraced the Ikhwan — both the mothership, whose leaders were invited to attend Obama’s 2009 speech in Cairo despite its then-status as a banned organization under Egyptian law, and the Brotherhood’s American satellites, which have been invited to advise administration policymakers despite their notorious record of championing violent jihadists and repressive sharia.
Obama has overlooked the MB’s intimate ties to Hamas, which self-identifies as the Ikhwan’s Palestinian branch and is formally designated a terrorist organization under American law. Administration officials have absurdly portrayed the Brothers as “secular” and “moderate,” although the organization, from its founding in the 1920s, has never retreated an inch from its professed mission to establish Islam’s global hegemony.
The administration further hailed the Brotherhood’s triumph in post-Mubarak legislative elections and made a point of abandoning the policy against formal MB contacts — though, in now-familiar Obama fashion, it simultaneously claimed that this “outreach” broke no new ground. And this week, the White House hosted a Brotherhood delegation to “broaden our engagement” with Egypt’s new political actors, as an administration spokesman put it. In this, Obama officials were quick to exploit the cover they’ve gotten from the transnational-progressive wing of the Republican party: The administration spokesman stressed that “Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham and others have met with members of the MB during their visits to Egypt.”
The useful-idiot brigade also includes the “House Democracy Partnership,” a bipartisan cadre of congressmen that traipsed over to Egypt on its recent tour of the “Arab Spring” countries. On the agenda was a confab with Khairat el-Shater, the Brotherhood’s newly announced presidential candidate.
Shater is Washington’s new darling. That much is clear from an unintentionally hilarious dispatch from the New York Times’ David Kirkpatrick, who portrays the Brotherhood as America’s “indispensable ally against Egypt’s ultraconservatives.” Sure, they may be the world’s leading exemplar of what Kirkpatrick gently calls “political Islam,” but our policy geniuses reckon the Brothers are much to be preferred over the “Salafis” — reputedly, the more hardcore Islamic supremacists. As the Times elaborates, the Obama administration is alarmed by the rise of a charismatic Salafist, Hazem Salah Abu Ismail, who has shot to second place in the polls. Shater, the theory goes, could overtake Ismail and lead Egypt in the Brotherhood’s more “pragmatic direction.”
What the Times neglects to tell you is that Ismail, the extremist, is actually an Ikhwan guy. His father was a popular Islamist and he has already run for office twice as a Brotherhood candidate. These impeccable Islamist credentials make him broadly appealing not only to Salafists but to Brotherhood enthusiasts, as the Hudson Institute’s Samuel Tadros details in the best report to date on state of the Brotherhood in the aftermath of the revolution. (It is found in the latest edition of the essential series, Current Trends in Islamist Ideology.) There is little substantive daylight between Ismail and Shater — the Brotherhood and Salafists disagree mainly on the pace of change, not the direction.
And what about Shater? The Times dutifully reports that he embodies “the Brotherhood’s pragmatic focus on stable relations with the United States and Israel and free-market economics.” But what is most pragmatic about him and his Brothers is their understanding of Western opinion elites — gullible, biddable, and desperate to believe Middle Eastern Islam, which the Brotherhood exemplifies, is unthreatening. The Brotherhood’s actual agenda is to destabilize the United States and destroy Israel. And touching as the Times’ newfound fondness for free-market economics may be, the Brotherhood’s goal is to smash the Western model and impose sharia economics — a major component in a program whose totalitarian elements may have some allure for the Obama Left but which few Americans would regard as “free.”
Shater is the MB’s “Deputy Guide.” He is a revered figure: jailed by the Mubarak Regime for much of the past two decades and regarded as the “Iron Man” of the Brotherhood movement. Naturally, the Western press — the folks who package the Brothers as “moderates,” “pragmatists,” and even “secularists” — render Shater as a “businessman.” But he happens to be the businessman the Brotherhood has tasked to shape its comprehensive strategy for post-Mubarak Egypt. The Ikhwan refer to this as “the Nahda Project” — the Islamic Renaissance.
It turns out that a year ago in Alexandria, Shater delivered a lengthy, remarkable lecture, “Features of Nahda: Gains of the Revolution and the Horizons for Developing.” The Hudson Institute learned of the lecture, which is now available on YouTube, and this week released the first installment of a translation. Speaking in Arabic to like-minded Islamists rather than credulous Congress critters, Shater was emphatic that the Brotherhood’s fundamental principles and goals never change — only the tactics by which they are pursued. “You all know that our main and overall mission as Muslim Brothers is to empower God’s religion on earth, to organize our life and the lives of the people on the basis of Islam, to establish the Nahda [i.e., the ‘renaissance’ or ‘rise’] of the Ummah [the notional global Muslim nation] and its civilization on the basis of Islam, and to subjugate people to God on earth.” He went on to reaffirm the time-honored plan of the Brotherhood’s founder, Hassan al-Banna, stressing the need for both personal piety and internal organizational discipline in pursuing the goal of worldwide Islamic hegemony.
Moreover, even as the Times portrayed him as America’s salvation from a Salafi-controlled Egypt, Shater was cutting a deal with what the Associated Press described as “hard-line Salafi scholars and clerics.” In exchange for their support, he promised to form a “council of clerics” that would review all legislation to ensure that it complies with sharia.
No one should be remotely surprised. As Samuel Tadros outlines in his essay, the Egyptian Brotherhood’s political arm, the Freedom and Justice Party, has released a 93-page platform that proposes to put every aspect of human life under sharia-compliant state regulation. The document is unmistakably anti-Western and virulently anti-Israeli in its orientation — structuring civil society on the foundation of “Arab and Islamic unity”; making the “strengthen[ing] of Arab and Islamic identity” the “goal of education”; making treaties (including, of course, the Camp David accords, by which the secular, pro-American Sadat regime made peace with Israel) subject to approval by the population (i.e., the same people who just elected Islamists by a landslide); and describes Israel, “the Zionist entity [as] an aggressive, expansionist, racist and settler entity.”
This is the Muslim Brotherhood — the rabidly anti-American organization President Obama has courted for nearly four years and on whom he just decided to rain down a billion-and-a-half more American taxpayer dollars. It was two years into Obama’s term that Shater’s superior, MB Supreme Guide Muhammad Badi, delivered a fiery sermon — in Arabic, of course — reminding Muslims of “Allah’s commandment to wage jihad for His sake with [their] money and lives, so that Allah’s word will reign supreme and the infidels’ word will be inferior.” Applying this injunction, Badi exclaimed that jihad — which he called “resistance” — “is the only solution against the Zio-American arrogance and tyranny.” Wounded by jihadists in Iraq and Afghanistan, the United States, Badi pronounced, “is now experiencing the beginning of its end, and is heading towards its demise.”
Sounds like an indispensable ally to me.
— Andrew C. McCarthy is the author, most recently, of The Grand Jihad: How Islam and the Left Sabotage America.