A problem like Keith Ellison

The question is not whether a U.S. political party should be led by a Muslim man, but by this Muslim man. We are not talking about Namık Kemal or Robert Crane.

Keith Ellison is one representative. In the short term, the focus will be on the man — but in the long term, it will be on the movement.

Specifically, Congress has considered, and may revive, legislation supported by Senator Ted Cruz (R., Texas) that would designate the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization, as the Egyptians and the Saudi-led Gulf Cooperation Council insist it is. The case is not too terribly difficult to make, and the main defense of the Muslim Brotherhood offered by critics such as Marc Lynch is that the organization is not what it used to be, that it is no longer the same group that founded Hamas and cultivated generations of Islamic radicals but is instead broken, scattered, and less significant. Perhaps it is so, but if it is so, this is precisely the sort of organization that you want to kick while it is down.

The real problem is that the Muslim Brotherhood’s fingers are in practically every Islamic pie in the United States and much of the rest of the world, and turning over that rock almost certainly will expose any number of queasy reminders that the distance between the Islamic mainstream and Islamic extremism is not so great as we sometimes imagine. A great many media-friendly Muslims and so-called moderates will be put in a very difficult position — and we should welcome that. We have for too long made it too easy for the so-called respectable Islamist organizations in the West to play both sides of the fence.