Washington, USA - For three years, Barack Obama’s engagement policy with Islamists, most notably in Iran, has proven dangerous. The Iranian regime exploited Obama’s show of weakness by moving ahead aggressively with its nuclear weapon program. Now the Obama administration is doubling down on its disastrous engagement policy. It is serving as the midwife to the takeover of Egypt by the Muslim Brotherhood and of Afghanistan by the Taliban. And there is a distressing link between the two.
A front page article in the New York Times on January 5th reported what has been obvious since Obama took office. The administration has sought to “forge close ties” with the Muslim Brotherhood – “an organization once viewed as irreconcilably opposed to United States interests.”
Senator John Kerry, the Massachusetts Democrat who is chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee and recently joined with the ambassador to Egypt, Anne W. Patterson, for a meeting with top leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood's political party, compared the Obama administration's outreach to President Ronald Reagan's arms negotiations with the Soviet Union. "The United States needs to deal with the new reality," Senator Kerry said. "And it needs to step up its game."
That is a ridiculous analogy. Reagan negotiated with the Soviet Union, but never waivered from his belief that the Soviet Union was an evil empire whose ideology must be defeated. The Obama administration’s outreach to the Muslim Brotherhood is based on its mistaken belief that it has reformed in a way that brings it much closer to the Western model of a pluralistic party committed to individual freedoms.
To the contrary, when push comes to shove, the Muslim Brotherhood’s dominance of the civil government in Egypt, by virtue of its parliamentary election victories, will mean the imposition of sharia law and jihad against infidels. Nothing the Obama administration is trying to do through its aggressive overtures, including recent high-level meetings with Muslim Brotherhood officials, will change that fact. Jihad is embedded in its history, as evidenced by the violent Islamic jihadist organizations such as Hamas that it spawned. And let’s not forget that it was the Muslim Brotherhood that gave Osama bin Laden’s former deputy and current leader of al Qaeda, Ayman al-Zawahiri, his start.
Jihad remains in the Muslim Brotherhood’s DNA. Its motto includes the words: “Jihad is our way. Dying in the way of Allah is our highest hope.” The Brotherhood’s new offices are emblazoned with its emblem of crossed swords.
The Obama administration’s ostensible rationale for engaging with the Muslim Brotherhood is that it is simply bowing to political reality. Based on the results of Egyptian parliamentary elections so far, the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party looks set to play a dominant role in Egypt’s new parliament and in the civil government to which Obama administration officials are pressing Egypt’s military to hand over the reins of power. But, in fact, the Obama administration is not simply being reactive. It helped bring about what is now unfolding in Egypt by throwing Egyptian president Mubarak under the bus and lending its hand to legitimize the false image of the Muslim Brotherhood as some sort of alternative moderate advocate of peace, pluralistic democracy and freedom for all Egyptians.
At the same time, in order to find a face-saving way out of the quagmire in Afghanistan in which the Obama administration finds itself after escalating the war there while simultaneously announcing a timetable for withdrawal, the administration is pursuing talks with the Taliban. It is using an untrustworthy Muslim Brotherhood connection to do so.
According to a report appearing in the Indian newspaper Hindu, diplomatic sources have said that Yusuf al-Qaradawi, who is regarded as the spiritual leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, has emerged as a key mediator in secret talks between the U.S. and the Taliban:
Mr. al-Qaradawi helped draw a road map for a deal between the Taliban and the United States, aimed at giving the superpower a face-saving political settlement ahead of its planned withdrawal from Afghanistan which is due to begin in 2014.
In return for the release of prisoners still held by the United States at Guantanamo Bay, the lifting of United Nations sanctions on its leadership and its recognition as a legitimate political group, the Taliban was expected to agree to sever its links to transnational organisations like al-Qaeda, end violence and eventually share power with the Afghan government.
But what can the Taliban negotiators really deliver, even if it were serious in wanting to reach a peaceful settlement? There is no indication that these negotiators are in a position to turn over the Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar and his inner circle, who harbored al Qaeda when the Taliban was in control of Afghanistan. Nor will they be able to diffuse the growing power of the new generation of Taliban commanders ideologically committed to al-Qaeda's vision.
The Obama administration’s idea of negotiations is to consider releasing Taliban detainees who are likely to return to jihad against U.S. forces without even any commitment reported to date that the Taliban would return the U.S. soldier it kidnapped. The only concrete step the Taliban negotiators have reportedly agreed to undertake in the short term is to set up an office in Qatar for talks.
It’s bad enough that the Obama administration is even considering talks on such terms – a prescription for appeasement. The fact that the Obama administration is foolish enough to trust al-Qaradawi as an intermediary with the Taliban is mind-boggling. Have they not read what this jihadist has been preaching?
The Muslim Brotherhood’s spiritual leader’s call for jihad extends not only to the conquest of Israel and the killing of Jews. It includes the conquest of Europe and beyond.
In 2003 al-Qaradawi issued a fatwa declaring that
Islam will return to Europe as a victorious conqueror after having been expelled twice. This time it will not be conquest by the sword, but by preaching and spreading [Islamic] ideology […] The future belongs to Islam […] The spread of Islam until it conquers the entire world and includes both East and West marks the beginning of the return of the Islamic Caliphate [.]
A 2009 State Department cable, published by WikiLeaks, quoted a sermon by al-Qaradawi in which he condemned Jews for spreading “corruption in the land” and called for “the revenge of Allah” upon them. And he didn’t spare the United States. He condemned the United States for acting “like a god in this world” and cautioned the U.S. and the West that “according to the law of Allah, they should collapse.”
Yet this is the man in whom the Obama administration places its trust to help mediate a peace with the Taliban in Afghanistan.
Just as the Obama administration trusts al-Qaradawi, the spiritual guide for the Muslim Brotherhood, to help it escape the mess in Afghanistan, the Obama administration has come to believe in the good intentions of the Muslim Brotherhood itself in how it plans to govern in Egypt.
Interestingly, President Obama himself, during his 2011 Super Bowl Day interview with Fox News' Bill O'Reilly, wanted viewers to know he was concerned “there are strains of their [Muslim Brotherhood] ideology that are anti-U.S.” But he dodged the question whether the Muslim Brotherhood represented a threat to the U.S., saying that they were only “one faction in Egypt” that lacked majority support.
Despite that brief glimmer of Super Bowl Day reality about the Muslim Brotherhood coming from Obama himself, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said just a few days before Obama’s interview that any new Egyptian government "has to include a whole host of important non-secular actors that give Egypt a strong chance to continue to be [a] stable and reliable partner," a remark most likely directed at U.S. support for the inclusion of the Muslim Brotherhood in any future government.
In February 2011, U.S. director of National Intelligence James Clapper said during a House Intelligence Committee hearing that the Muslim Brotherhood “pursued social ends, a betterment of the political order in Egypt, et cetera….. There is no overarching agenda, particularly in pursuit of violence, at least internationally." However, his characterization of the Brotherhood as “largely secular” went a bit too far, even for the Obama administration.
In June 2011, well before the recent parliamentary elections, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton explained the Obama administration’s decision to ignore the “anti-U.S.” strains in the Muslim Brotherhood’s ideology and engage them in concert with its policy to deal with “peaceful” organizations. She said that “We welcome, therefore, dialogue with those Muslim Brotherhood members who wish to talk with us.”
Now, with the election results pointing towards a possible Muslim Brotherhood majority in the parliament, the Obama administration is throwing caution to the winds and wholeheartedly embracing the Muslim Brotherhood – “anti-U.S. strains” and all. It is willing to accept at face value assurances by Muslim Brotherhood officials that its lawmakers will reach out across the Egyptian political spectrum in order to build a modern democracy committed to the individual freedoms of all Egyptians.
The Obama administration evidently swallows the propaganda put out by the Muslim Brotherhood for the benefit of gullible Western governments and opinion leaders or does not care one way or the other whether it is true. For example, the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party head, Mohamed Mursi, said that while his Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated party uses “Islam as the basis of our party which means that our general framework is Islamic sharia,” they “don't issue religious rules in individual cases." Mursi also said that “All political forces and intellectuals in Egypt, regardless of their political and religious allegiances, will take part in writing the constitution."
These are comforting words to the Obama administration, reinforced further by the Muslim Brotherhood agreement to an 11-clause declaration of principles known as the "Al-Azhar Document around the future of Egypt." Al-Azhar is Egypt's 1,000-year-old seat of Islamic scholarship, which Obama referred to as the “beacon of Islamic learning” during the 2009 speech he delivered there to the Muslim world. Muslim Brotherhood members attended Obama’s speech, by the way, at the invitation of the Obama administration.
The Al-Azhar Document is intended to serve as a guiding framework for the constituent assembly that will be in charge of drafting Egypt’s new constitution. This document, which was read on national television on June 20, 2011 by Al-Azhar’s Grand Imam, Shaykh Ahmad al-Tayyib, purportedly commits Egypt’s intellectual, religious and civil political elite to establishing an open democratic society in Egypt that respects the right of “other divine religions’ followers to appeal to their religions in their personal issues.”
But there is a big catch. The Al-Azhar Document’s first clause stipulates that “the modern and democratic state” it has in mind would operate “in accordance with the true Islamic aspects.” It goes on to say that “Islamic jurisprudence is the main source for the legislation.”
True democracy, which respects the freedom of all its citizens, is inherently inconsistent with “Islamic jurisprudence” that is based on Islamist supremacy and sharia law. While the Al-Azhar Document pays lip service to granting some measure of freedom of expression, it does so only within the strict confines of Islamic principles and morals.
The Al-Azhar Document also envisions an expansive role for Al-Azhar itself. It is to be the institution Egyptians must refer to "in order to define the way in which the state relates to religion (ta?did 'alaqat al-dawla bi'l-din) and to clarify the foundations of the correct siyasa shar'iyya that it is necessary to pursue."
This will invest the unelected Al-Azhar Imam Shaykh Ahmad al-Tayyib with significant power, since his institution will be arbiter of “the true Islamic aspects” governing Egypt going forward. Secularist writer Salah Elissa argues that "if new laws need the consent of al-Azhar, then that immediately means we are in a religious (not civil) state." The power of the Muslim Brotherhood’s political party in the new parliament will help ensure that al-Azhar’s decisions do not stray too far from the Muslim Brotherhood’s Islamist agenda.
Where does al-Azhar Imam Tayyib stand on core democratic freedoms such as freedom of expression? As one indication, he praised Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Khamenei's landmark fatwa banning insults to early historical Islamic figures, particularly the first two Muslim caliphs and A'isha, child-wife of Prophet Muhammad.
Indeed, Tayyib admires the Iranian regime and its terrorist proxy Hezbollah. "I hope relations between Iran and the Arab countries will improve, and the good neighbor policy as well as brotherly ties on the one hand and the fight against the common threat against Muslim nations on the other hand will improve these relations," al-Tayyib said after meeting with Iranian and Hezbollah officials last July.
The Muslim Brotherhood leadership agrees with Tayyib. Kamal al-Halbavi, a senior member of the Muslim Brotherhood, expressed gratitude to the Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Khamenei for his support of the Egyptian revolution and said he hoped that Egypt would have a "good government, like the Iranian government, and a good president like Mr. Ahmadinejad, who is very brave."
The Obama administration is trying to deceive the American people into thinking that Islamism – whether the Taliban or Muslim Brotherhood flavor – is anything other than our ideological enemy. The administration may not be able to stop either the Taliban or the Muslim Brotherhood from eventually taking control of Afghanistan and Egypt, respectively. But actively helping them along, as the administration is doing, recklessly jeopardizes the security of the American people and the cause of freedom everywhere.