Motley Moose – Archive

Since 2008 – Progress Through Politics

Muslim Brotherhood Takeover? It's just not that simple.

The coverage on Egypt has often been frustratingly simplistic. Many of us don’t know much about Egypt other than the usual familiarity with it’s famous characters of antiquity and their monuments. All the talk of a power vacuum is often followed by talk of the possible rise of the Muslim Brotherhood. Of course, Fox has been screeching, deeply involved in their own nightmares, providing comic relief and giving conservatives another reason to lock their doors and hide their women.

In spite of wall to wall coverage, most news only really scratches the surface of Egyptian politics. Last evening, on CNN’s Parker/Spitzer, Eliot interviewed MOHAMED MORSY, spokesman for the Muslim Brotherhood. (link to transcript of the program) He gave answers that you would expect from a media savvy spokesman, but when Eliot asked about the peace with Israel, Morsy made a few statements that some could find ominous. Here’s a snippet from Eliot’s next guest

Fouad Ajami, Johns Hopkins University:

“… You have the autocrats on one side, the theocrats on the other, and you have this — the people of Egypt in between.

And in fact this is the game that Mubarak plays, and plays it to perfection.”

Mubarak has always used the Brotherhood as boogey men, with himself the hero, protecting the rest of Egypt from theocracy. This simplistic view of good vs evil makes good slogans for Mubarak and has worked quite well for him. What about the Brotherhood and Al Queda?

“SPITZER: He says the right words. He says of course we believe in the rules of pluralism. Freedom of religion, freedom of speech. Does he, in fact, believe in that?

AJAMI: No, he doesn’t. I mean there is one thing I think he said which was truthful. Are they — what about the line, the dividing line between the Muslim Brotherhood and al Qaeda?

In fact, al Qaeda really wages war against the Muslim Brotherhood. They believe that these are domesticated Islamists and Ayman al-Zawahiri, who’s Egyptian, really he comes in the highest reaches of Cairo society, has nothing but contempt for the Muslim Brotherhood. He thinks that they have basically accommodated themselves to the world and Cairo and they have cut a deal with the ruler that they sat in the parliament.

So the truth of the matter is that The Muslim Brotherhood is actually quite moderate when compared to the extremist Al Queda. The hatred between these two groups runs deep and long according to the next guest, Fareed Zakaria. Will Egypt look to Iran as a shining example of governing?

ZAKARIA: Well, the first thing to understand is that the fears of a kind of Iranian theocracy are vastly overdone. I mean, Iran is a Shia country with a Persian history. The Shia clergy always played a very powerful political role in Iran. SPITZER: Right.

ZAKARIA: Egypt as a Sunni country doesn’t have that same clergy, doesn’t have that same history, and also Iran has been a negative model for a large part of the world so Egyptians look at Iran not with admiration, but with a sense of, OK, we don’t like Mubarak, we don’t like Iran. What’s left?

Egypt has some of the seeds of democracy. Look, it’s going to be tough. It’s a poor country. There’s a lot of very religious feeling in there but they do have elements that would — that will make it succeed.

So who would fill the void? Zakaria says that egypt is a military dictatorship and power flows from the military. Mubarak himself was a general and most of his immediate appointments are also military. That same military has been coming to America to our military schools, by the hundreds, maybe by the thousands over the last 30 years. We have a lot of personal ties and thus channels of communication with Egypt’s military.

Regarding Morsy’s comments on the peace with Isreal, when you realize that it’s the Egyptian military who honor and keep that peace, the situation is less dire because the military isn’t going anywhere.  

So the most recent suggestion floated by the US has been a coalition consisting of the military, opposition representation (like El Baradei) and the current vice president, Sulieman until elections can be planned and executed, with inclusion of all Egypt’s varied factions.

So there is a way forward. Even if the Muslim Brotherhood dominates parliament in the beginning of a new Egypt, chances are that eventually, as people find their voices, that situation may change. Throughout the middle east in any given dictatorship or autocracy they mostly shut down all opposition voices, except those coming from within Islamic groups. They can not easily move against Islam.

Eventually, given an open democratic system, people may find that opinion need not be couched in religious terms any more. There is hope for a secular, democratic Egypt.

If you have the time, read the entire transcript of Spitzer’s show; I found it fascinating and informative. This gave me reason to dare to be more optimistic of Egypt’s chances to come through this with a fledgling democracy.

This is my first diary here at the Motley Moose, and I’m thinking that the Moose just may be my new blogging home.  


  1. This is my first diary here at the Motley Moose, and I’m thinking that the Moose just may be my new blogging home.

    What’s with the ‘I’m thinking?’ nonsense? You’re a Moose now. Fully fledged with a first diary. You’re not going to get out of it now.

    Since you came from Kos, part of me wanted to begin my comment with the header “Bullshit” just to make you feel at home 🙂

    I think the role of the Islamic Brotherhood in this is vital. They have been used as Mubarak’s excuse to repress, imprison and torture ever since the assassination of Anwar Sadat. Thing is… that hasn’t worked particularly well. We all know that Al Qaeda had senior Egyptian members, and Bin Laden’s second in command was tortured in Egyptian prison.

    The Islamic Brotherhood, with the right encouragement, could be more like the Islamic movement in Turkey. Feared in opposition, conservative and militant – once they gained power they were compromised, mollified and modernised by participation in democracy.

    Can I just say what a great alternative image this provides of the Arab world to those who (confusing Arabs with Islam) want to ban Mosques, headscarves, or generally feed fear about the 1 billion adherents of an incredibly diverse and variegated faith.

    10 years after 9/11, isn’t it great to have a different model of Arab reaction to repression?

    Great first diary, Nag. And another double welcome to the Moose.  

  2. spacemanspiff

    … I can’t unsee it when I read or hear the name. lol!

    Hello Nag! Thank you fro writing this diary and for posting it here. :~)

    I would like to add more to the conversation but that’s not what I came in this diary to do (at this moment). If you haven’t heard by now I’m the sexy and mysterious spacemanspiff. Always ready for a Fierce and a Rec to help peeps get in the moosey mood.  It’s been said the comments here are better than diaries in most other places. Not that I’m biased or anything. Again, very happy to have you here and I hope you stick around!

  3. We have the boogey man of the crazed Jihadists, but what folks tend to forget is that Jihadists have killed a lot more of their fellow countrymen and other Muslims than Christians or foreigners.

    The idea that there is some vast and unified sort of singular sort of Islam is a figment of fevered minds that prefer to think of things in simplistic terms.

    Like Fatwa. There are those in the West who think that Fatwa means “death sentence.” And to be fair, there have been famous Fatwa issued by Mufti to declare someone an enemy of the faith. But in the end, Fatwa is merely a religious opinion on Islam law. While a lot of folks look to the many Fatwa regarding what is meet and proper for good Muslims, they sometimes forget that there have been many Fatwa issued against the Jihadists and their targeting of civilians. Against violence in general. Against violence against Muslims and those of other faiths.

    That doesn’t fit with a simplistic portrayal that Islam is a monolithic structure that is chock full of hate on for the West. Except for the House of Saud. Except for Jordan. Except for Dubai. Except for whoever happens to be friendly to Western interests, but even then, it is often with a sort of grudging, “Well, these guys aren’t so bad, and if they weren’t Muslims, they’d be alright…”

    Even the Jihadists aren’t all that unified. There is a lot push and pull and rivalry between even those groups. If anything, their fractured nature is what makes them so dangerous–there isn’t a single person or body to appeal to, but a ton of tiny groups that share information and resources, but who all look to their own leadership, and their own interpretations of Islamic law–and often forms that are rejected by the clergy at large, and against what many Islamic scholars support–to give themselves some sort of credibility.

    Until the public understands this, and our policy reflects that, then we’re pretty much boned for neutralizing these networks. Using the rivalries, using their own differences, that is the key to breaking through. Understanding these movements is very much the key, and making peace with some, so that we can make inroads to the people who follow them, or are at least sympathetic is the only way to make any sort of headway.

  4. White People. Black People. Muslims. Christians. Americans.

    Sure, these are valid ways to grossly divide humanity. But what use are they? Do they help us understand anybody? If so, you should be able to answer simple questions like:

    “What are white people like?”

    “How do black people behave in a given situation?”

    “What do Muslims think about a topic?”

    Those don’t work. You have to get down to a pretty granular level before you end up with any practical data. “What do black men under the age of 25 living in East St. Louis think about health care reform?” Even then the net you cast is going to capture viewpoints that will be opposed to your one-liner summary.

    Fear of Islam is like fear of Christianity. Easy to understand in extremely general terms depending on your starting point, but you can’t infect me with it unless it is based on an amount of detail that I don’t expect to be produced.

    Nice to meet you, Nag, and welcome to the zoo! ;~)

  5. Kysen

    I think that the ‘knee jerk’ reaction of some (perhaps even ‘most’) Americans when it comes to Muslims or the thought of an Islamic ruling party is frustrating to no end. It is born of pure ignorance and/or a willful misunderstanding of a HUGE swath of humanity. The near complete lack of knowledge/understanding of a people and a faith saddens me. Politics aside, it is a GAPING hole in our education. I know that what ‘I’ know of Islam I did not learn in school. Over the years I have been lucky enough to be well traveled, and to have a VERY eclectic range of friends…to have learned of the faith AND the people through experience.

    It never ceases to amaze me how little most Americans actually know of faiths beyond Christianity (MOST Americans don’t know any more about Judaism than they do about Islam). In the minds of far far too many Americans Muslim = Terrorist, and the exceptions to that ‘equation’ are in the minority. The expectation that ALL Muslims are responsible when an act of terror is committed by a proclaimed Muslim, that they must all accept responsibility and atone….yet, when a Christian commits an act of terror, the entire Christian faith is OBVIOUSLY not blame…drives me batshit (ie: 9/11 vs. abortion clinic killings).

    Here are a couple images that ought be seared into the minds of Americans. Islam is one of the primary faiths on this silly blue marble and we need to get comfortable with that fact cuz it ain’t goin away. We need to learn to accept each other and work TOGETHER…cuz the numbers are only going to grow. If the U.S. wants to move forward as a world power in future generations…we need to better educate ourselves on the rest of the world. Else we will become obsolete as the rest of world progresses.



    Lastly, but certainly not leastly (new word?), I want to welcome you to the Moose, Nag. 🙂

    Quite the entrance, madame!

    Make yourself at home…I am looking forward to seeing more from ya!


  6. Excellent diary.

    As you point out in the diary, there are several misconceptions being pushed by Western media, led by Faux News.

    1) The Muslim Brotherhood is not the dominant political power in Egypt. It is large, but only one of many factions.

    2) It is obvious that the Brotherhood is not dedicated to violence. If they were, given their size, Egypt would have been wracked with worse violence than we see in Iraq.

    3) Comparing Egypt to Iran is like comparing apples and oranges. Yes, both are Muslim countries, but that’s pretty much their only similarity. They are two ancient countries with completely different histories and cultures. It’s like equating France and England.

  7. sricki

    have not already said better than I could. And my brain is a little broken of late (maybe since always?).

    Since we’re introducing ourselves (thanks Spiff), I’m sricki. Sometimes I lurk for weeks on end, only to make a spectacular reappearance with thrilling comments like “Hiya Blasky!” or “STFU Kysen!” Every now and then I try to write something current and topical, in which cases I bore myself (and my readers), and no one comments. Like many moose, I am an self-exiled MyDDer. And like all moose, I loooooooooooooove new Mooselims. 😉

    Excellent first diary. I wish I had something insightful to add, but I’m about to enter a crazy week of studying — don’t want to think too hard tonight before I HAVE to. 🙂

    Welcome to our little purple paradise!

  8. DeniseVelez

    Thank you for the discussion of the Muslim Brotherhood.

    Islam as a whole is a topic foreign to most here in the States, and woefully misrepresented/distorted in the Media.  Also conflating “Arab” with Islam is the norm.

    We tend to play fast and loose with those terms as if they are interchangeable, when the reality is that only about 12% of the worlds Muslims are Arabs.


    Glad to have you with us and look forward to more of your diaries.

  9. Strummerson

    As I habitually point out to Islamophobes (and I encounter several regularly given certain commitments, to my dismay) if even 10% of Muslims were committed to their destruction above all else, they wouldn’t be here, Israel wouldn’t exist, and America would be in ashes…

    Think about it, if 150,000,000 people were the kind of apocalyptic fanatic bogeymen bent on a trans-global war to convert everyone by the sword and establish a Caliphate that FOX and AIPAC try to terrify us with on a regular basis, at the least we would face global instability.

    Regarding the MB, I heard an interview on NPR (I commute between Ann Arbor and Lansing twice a week these days) with an Political Scientist who himself identifies as both Arab and Muslim (BE VERY VERY AFRAID!) from Georgetown (forgot his name, regretfully) who made an extremely helpful distinction between extremism of ends and an extremism of means.  The MB indeed holds a utopian goal that most of us, including this scholar, would find extreme and would oppose.  But they renounced political violence decades ago and he believes that, with 20-30% support of the potential Egyptian electorate, they would largely be peaceful and pragmatic participants in a democratic government.  Joe Pitts and his ilk seem to me no less invested in a utopian vision that I would seek to prevent, something in his case resembling Atwood’s “Handmaid’s Tale.”  He, too, is an extremist in ends but not in means.  (I, too, have been known at times to be an extremist of ‘ends,’ but lets keep this PG for the moment.)  My point is that I don’t fear that Pitts will blow up congress and subject us to an apocalyptic protestant regime.  He’ll continue to dream dreams that are contrary to mine and to propose blatantly misogynist legislation.  No need to repress, imprison, and torture this extremist.  Let him voice his extremist vision on the floor of the House so that we can confront it.  And if there are issues on which our stances converge, lets move on those specifics together.

    Sorry I can’t link and cite on this one.  I’m no good at taking notes while driving.  And I haven’t the time to search the NPR site at present…


    Thanks for a helpful 1st offering.  I look forward to many more.

Comments are closed.