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Egyptian Islamists In A Changing World

Over at Pajamas Media, Michael J. Totten has a fascinating report about the state of the Muslim Brotherhood in post-Mubarak Egypt. The subject of the Brotherhood’s role in January’s regime-ending protests, as well as the demonstrations against the current government has long been controversial. Totten thinks the confusion may be due to ineptitude and incoherence from the organization’s leadership:

The leadership tried to talk him into staying, but another problem he had was its refusal to take a clear position on just about anything. I’ve had the same experience with the Brothers myself. My recent interview with El-Erian wasn’t my first. I spoke to him in 2005, as well, and he was slipperier than a buttered-up eel. He refused to provide a clear answer to a single one of my questions. Would the Muslim Brotherhood like to ban alcohol? Force women to wear headscarves? He wouldn’t say yes and he wouldn’t say no.

Could be.  Leaders who answer questions ambiguously aren’t, of course, necessarily stupid.  President Eisenhower used to give answers like this at press conferences.

Totten’s report is based on his interviews with multiple high-ranking Brotherhood members who left the organization following its response to the protests in Tahrir Square.  Among their complaints were the ideological rigidity of the Brotherhood and the inability of its leadership to stake out a clear position or have discussions with more liberal Muslims:

“Not that [Hamas is] liberal,” he said, “but they have members who are. They have a liberal Islamist element. The Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood has chosen to expel its liberal Islamists. The Brotherhood thinks dealing with anyone who is a former member, someone who was expelled or who resigned, or someone from other movements and parties, is like dealing with an infidel.”

Good thing to know the Brotherhood isn’t getting all squishy and moderate on us like those softies at Hamas.

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  • Corlyss

    John Batchelor has a caution about interviews with journalists in Muslim countries: if the interviewee speaks reasonably good English, you can bet they have some connection with untrustworthy forces. The Russians caught on decades ago to the value of natives who speak English in influencing the American political opinion. They are the obvious targets of English-speaking journalists. So to the extent that any Muslim Brotherhood official speaks with an English speaking journalist, you can assume you’re listening to carefully crafted propaganda aimed at the American audience.

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