Thousands of Egyptians continue to take to the streets in protest of President Hosani Mubarak’s 30-year-long authoritarian regime. But while the Obama Administration inches towards public support for the Egyptian people, many Republican hardliners are throwing up roadblocks to U.S. endorsement of democratic reform. Their delusion-du-jour? The threat of the Muslim Brotherhood.
Those who subscribe to Rep. Thaddeus McCotter’s (R-MI) and Amb. John Bolton’s fear-mongering warn that the inevitable result of this pro-democracy movement will be the enfranchisement of the Muslim Brotherhood and other anti-American “jihadist nutjobs.”
Today on CNN’s Fareed Zakaria GPS, former International Atomic Energy Agency director, Egyptian activist, and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei blasted the delusion as a “myth” lacking “one iota of reality.” Intimately familiar with both Iranian and Egyptian politics, ElBaradei pointed out that the Muslim Brotherhood is not actually an extremist group and the idea that extremists would takeover the government is just a myth “perpetuated and sold” by the Mubarak regime:
ZAKARIA: One of the visions that haunts Americans is of the Iranian Revolution where a dictator was replaced by an even worse regime that was more anti-American and more threatening to the region. People worry about the Muslim Brotherhood. Are you confident that a post-Mubarak Egypt will not give rise to some kind of Islamic fundamentalist force that will undermine the democracy of Egypt?
ELBARADEI: I’m quite confident of that, Fareed. This is a myth that was sold by the Mabarak regime, that it’s either us — the ruthless dictators — or a Muslim al-Qaeda type. The Muslim Brotherhood has nothing to do with the Iranian movement, has nothing to do with extremism as we have seen it in Afghanistan and other places. The Muslim Brotherhood is a religiously conservative group. They are a minority in Egypt. They are not a majority of the Egyptian people, but they have a lot of credibility because of liberal parties have been a struggle for thirty years. They are in favor of a secular state. they are of — they are in favor of an institution that have bread lines, they are in favor that every Egyptian have the same rights, that the state is in no way a state based on religion. And I have been reaching out to them. We need to include them. They are as much a part of society as the markets that started here. I think this is a myth that has been perpetuated and sold by the regime and has no iota of reality. You know Fareed, I worked with Iranians, I’ve worked here. It’s 100 percent difference between the two societies.
While the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood had supported violence at one time, the conservative group is “Egypt’s largest opposition group” and “has disavowed violence and sought to participate in Egyptian politics” legitimately since the 1970s. Now allied with legal Egyptian political groups and tied to Egyptian professional unions, university campuses, and social welfare programs, the Brotherhood is a “peaceful” group that “could draw moderate Muslims who identify with [its] ideology to participate in electoral politics, thereby isolating violent jihadis.” Indeed, the Brotherhood denounced a recent terrorist attack in Egypt as a “cowardly act” and is not on the U.S. State Department’s terrorist list.
Though banned by Mubarak’s regime from participating in parliamentary elections, the Brotherhood has 17 supportive representatives in the Egyptian Parliament and is supporting ElBaradei’s leadership role in forming a new government without Mubarak. ElBaradei, who is now in Cairo to join the protests, called on Mubarak to resign “today” to allow for a “smooth transition to a national unity government to be followed by all the measures set in place for a free and fair election.” While avoiding support of his ouster, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton endorsed the idea of fair elections today.