Egypt's "moderate" and "largely secular" Muslim Brotherhood sides with Bin Laden

Another bonus to the killing of Osama bin Laden is that it helps tell Americans who their friends are. That group does not include Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, which may dominate the nation’s next parliament:

Most of yesterday’s headlines proclaiming the death of Osama bin Laden used epithets like “terror mastermind” or “bastard” to refer to the internationally feared mass murderer. (That latter headline is from the New York Post.) But in its first public statement on the killing of bin Laden, Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood used the honorific term “sheikh” to refer to the al-Qaeda leader. It also accused Western governments of linking Islam and terrorism, and defended “resistance” against the U.S. presence in Iraq and Afghanistan as “legitimate.”

The Muslim Brotherhood’s response to bin Laden’s death may finally end the mythology — espoused frequently in the U.S. — that the organization is moderate or, at the very least, could moderate once in power.

The Atlantic has highlights from the statement:

“The whole world, and especially the Muslims, have lived with a fierce media campaign to brand Islam as terrorism and describe the Muslims as violent by blaming the September 11th incident on al-Qaeda.” It then notes that “Sheikh Osama bin Laden” was assassinated alongside “a woman and one of his sons and with a number of his companions,” going on to issue a rejection of violence and assassinations. It goes on to ominously declare that the Muslim Brotherhood supports “legitimate resistance against foreign occupation for any country, which is the legitimate right guaranteed by divine laws and international agreements,” and demands that the U.S., the European Union, and NATO quickly “end the occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq, and recognize the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people.” It closes by demanding that the U.S. “stop its intelligence operations against those who differ with it, and cease its interference in the internal affairs of any Arab or Muslim country.”

Read the whole thing to catch the obligatory references to “The Jews and the Zionist lobby” being responsible for 9/11. These sorts of statements don’t jibe with Obama Director of National Intelligence James Clapper’s description of the group as “largely secular,” do they? Clapper walked back that gaffe, but not his claim that the Brotherhood has no violent agenda internationally.

These oh-so-moderate supporters of bin Laden have launched a political party that will contest half of the seats in Egypt’s parliamentary elections in September, and is widely expected to win at least a third of the vote. Combined with the more overtly radical Salafist parties and a few fringe Islamist groups, the Brotherhood could well lead Egypt’s next parliament. The violent Salafists may or may not be doing the “dirty work” of the Brotherhood, but the results will be the same either way.

Bin Laden’s death ends a chapter in our post-9/11 history and Pres. Obama deserves his share of the credit for helping write it, primarily in choosing a method that would confirm that death. But with Egypt, Obama has tended to play a bad hand badly. Iran, Libya and Syria remain very much open chapters. Afghanistan grinds on and with Pakistan, Obama is stuck with the choice between a regime that to all appearances harbored bin Laden and possibly destabilizing it in favor of even more radical elements who would like to get their hands on the nation’s nukes. The conventional wisdom at the moment seems to be that killing bin Laden takes national security off the table as an issue in 2012. But the conventional wisdom last month would not have bet that bin Laden would be dead today.

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David Strom 9:21 PM on March 24, 2023