Atlantic Council Middle East Published Articles

Doublespeak beyond Boston: Revealing the Brotherhood’s Arabic Rhetoric

Essam Erian Facebook

From my new article in Egypt Source:

As the world community condemned the recent bombings in Boston, the Muslim Brotherhood’s political arm joined the chorus.

“The Freedom and Justice Party categorically rejects as intolerable the bombings committed in the US city of Boston,” reported Ikhwanweb, the official English website of the Muslim Brotherhood. “The FJP offers heartfelt sympathies and solemn condolences to the American people and the families of the victims and wishes a speedy recovery to the injured.”

But, as many have complained, in Arabic the thought was different, expressed by a prominent leader on Facebook:

Erian proceeds to establish a timeline of suspicious violence, from Mali to Syria to Somalia to Kurdistan. No further mention is made of Boston, and he is led to questioning.

“Who disturbed democratic transformations, despite the difficult transition from despotism, corruption, poverty, hatred, and intolerance to freedom, justice tolerance, development, human dignity, and social justice?

“Who planted Islamophobia through research, the press, and the media?

“Who funded the violence?”

Erian’s musings on conspiracy are nowhere to be found on the Brotherhood’s English language websites.

But the focus of the article is to highlight a new blog which is translating questionable material on Brotherhood websites, both current and from their archive. It turns up gems like this one:

For example, an FJP article described “a growing case of hatred of the majority of Copts towards Islamists in general,” and “the Coptic spirit of hatred for everything Islamic.” The article concerned anti-Brotherhood chants during the funeral, but failed to condemn the subsequent attacks on the mourners exiting the cathedral.

From the conclusion, describing the blog’s grand goals, but subtle methods:

“Part of our appeal is that we make it very neutral – not in selection, but in translation,” said Carr. “We’re challenging the Muslim Brotherhood, but in an indirect way, we want it to be subtle.”

It is both subtle and a challenge, but Dabh and Carr are committed, expecting either the best – or the worst.

“We’ll continue until the Brotherhood falls or we fall,” said Carr. With a laugh she continued, “Or get shot.”

Please click here to read the full article on Egypt Source, and here to visit the mbinenglish website.


Erian on Baradei, Now and Then

From Ahram Online, exposing how one Brotherhood leader has alternated in support and harsh opposition to Mohamed el-Baradei:

Leading Muslim Brotherhood figure Essam El-Erian on Tuesday accused opposition figure Mohamed ElBaradei, along with several world leaders, of facilitating the 2003 US invasion of Iraq and demanded their prosecution by an international court.

El-Erian, vice chairman of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party, accused former British prime minister Tony Blair, former US state secretary Colin Powell and former Italian PM Silvio Berlusconi of having been instrumental to the US invasion of Saddam Hussein’s Iraq ten years ago.

“Defendants should also include the one [ElBaradei] who covered up for the scandal… without saying one honest word that could have saved Iraq from invasion,” El-Erian asserted.

“The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and its men, including ElBaradei, who served as agency director for 12 years, should be tried,” he said.

El-Erian’s allegations were met with criticism by many commentators on online social-media networks, who accused the Islamist leader – who had earlier voiced support for ElBaradei – of “hypocrisy.”

“If Mohamed ElBaradei runs in [Egyptian] presidential elections… then we [the Muslim Brotherhood] will definitely vote for him,” El-Erian said in a 2011 interview on Egypt’s Al-Qahira Wal-Nas television channel.

In other footage dating from before Egypt’s 25 January 2011 revolution, El-Erian referred to members of the Mubarak regime who attacked and defamed ElBaradei as “a handful of saboteurs.”

“ElBaradei was director-general of the IAEA and is well-respected worldwide,” El-Erian asserts in the footage.

Perhaps Erian would have a reasonable explanation for his differing assessments, but it would be fascinating to ask him.


Muslim Brotherhood Ties Israel Peace to US Aid amidst NGO Crisis

Essam el-Erian, a senior leader in the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, called into question the Brotherhood’s commitment to the peace treaty with Israel.

Essam el-Erian

He commented on the ongoing NGO crisis embroiling the United States and Egypt. American and local NGO personnel in Egypt stand accused of fermenting chaos under the guise of democracy promotion.

The US has warned $1.3 billion in annual aid is in jeopardy if the charges, denied as frivolous, are not dismissed.

Erian told Lapido Media, ‘If the US withdraws its aid it gives us the right to review our side of the agreement as well. Aid is a part of the Camp David Accords, or why else would the US be giving this money to Egypt?’

There is only one problem. Former US president Jimmy Carter, who orchestrated the accords in 1978, stated, ‘There was no commitment of any finances going to Egypt as the result of the Camp David Accords.’

Is Erian ignorant of the text of these accords, or is something else in play? According to Raymond Ibrahim of Jihad Watch, Erian’s words fit into a larger context of Islamic behavior based on ‘circumstance’.

‘All Islamists understand that the treaty with Israel is a matter of necessity (i.e., Egypt cannot at the moment defeat Israel, therefore it is in its own interest to agree to peace). Might as well get money out of it.’

Ibrahim recently highlighted a video of Yasser al-Burhami, a prominent sheikh with the Salafi Call, an ultraconservative Muslim association. Burhami comments on how Mohamed at times made peace with the Jews, and at other times, subdued them through force and imposed jizia, a payment by non-Muslims in return for protection within the Muslim community.

Burhami then generalizes, ‘The prophet’s methods of dealing with infidels are available for Muslims to replicate depending on their situation and their capabilities.’

Speaking to Lapido Media, Ibrahim gave application. ‘Islamist politics and worldview are quite clear that once capability allows, Islam must go on the offensive.’

Gamal Nassar, a leader in the Muslim Brotherhood from Giza, Cairo, reinforces the notion of circumstance while commenting on Erian’s statement. ‘Things have changed since the revolution, and the US must realize it is not the same as before.’

Sheikh Osama al-Qusi is an independent Salafi scholar often criticized in his community for distinguishing between the affairs of religion and the affairs of the world.

Osama al-Qusi

Qusi notes that Burhami is correct in terms of Mohamed adapting to his circumstances, but notes many Islamists take this as license to be Machiavellian. Even so, ‘Just because Mohamed did something politically does not mean it applies to us. No, we must leave politics to the politicians.’

Furthermore, circumstance does not change the Islamic attitude toward other communities. ‘We are peaceful with those who are peaceful with us, and we fight against those who fight against us.’

Yet for many Islamists, ‘us’ applies to all Muslims. Essam al-Sharif is a leader for the Salafi-based Authenticity Party in Warraq, a district of Cairo. ‘According to sharia law, I have the obligation to defend Muslims.

Essam al-Sharif

‘If the Camp David Accords do not allow us to help the Palestinians in Gaza it is invalid and we must fight Israel. In sharia we respect the borders of this world administratively to honor our agreements, but they do not override our duty to support Muslims.’

Sharif believes Muslims must treat non-Muslims well whether they are strong or weak regardless of their circumstances. Yet this does not preclude jizia, and Muslims must be honest about it.

‘If we say we will not collect jizia, this is hypocrisy. No, non-Muslims must pay it, even if we are too weak to collect it now.’

Sheikh Abdel Muti Bayyoumi is a member of the Azhar’s Islamic Research Academy, a pillar of the Islamic establishment in Egypt. He dismisses Burhami completely, saying he is not specialized in jurisprudence, and is not fit to issue religious rulings.

Bayyoumi agrees the Quran allows Muslims only to fight those who fight against them. Where there is a pact of peace, however, Muslims must work with non-Muslims for justice.

As this concerns Israel and the opinion of Erian, ‘There is no relation between US aid and the Camp David accords. Thus, we are still bound to the treaty so long as Israel also keeps to it and does not review it first.’

Interestingly, Carter suggests issues of justice have been neglected in the treaty.

‘There is one element of the Camp David accords that has been abandoned in the past, even in Egypt, and that is the protection of the Palestinian rights.’

Interpretations of Islam are part and parcel of post-revolutionary Egyptian attitudes toward peace with Israel. Some reflect Burhami’s attitude about ‘circumstance’, and others Bayyoumi’s attitude about justice.

With whom does Erian’s interpretation lie?


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