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Salon: Why we shouldn't fear the Muslim Brotherhood


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The Muslim Brotherhood has been a great talking point for the anti democratic forces in our nation and in Egypt.

I think a lot of people need to understand who they are, rather then try and prop up a dictator because a minority group in Egypt might have some political representation for the first time in 30 years.


Why we shouldn't fear the Muslim Brotherhood

"In many ways this is a very conservative movement"

If you were watching Fox on Monday, you'd be forgiven for thinking that Egypt was on the verge of being taken over by a pack of terrorists. Anchor Steve Doocy characterized the Muslim Brotherhood this morning as "the godfather of al-Qaida."

And several potential Republican presidential hopefuls have cited worries about the Muslim Brotherhood as a reason for the United States to continue to support the authoritarian regime of Hosni Mubarak.

To get some hard facts and context about the controversial Islamic movement, we spoke with Nathan Brown, a political science professor at George Washington University and director of its Institute for Middle East Studies, who has written extensively on the Muslim Brotherhood. What follows is a transcript of our conversation, edited for length and clarity.

Can you give a rundown of the history of the group and where it came from?

The group was founded in 1928. It was a broad movement aiming at increasing religious knowledge among Egyptians, doing good works, and making society more Islamic. It gradually got more and more into politics. It was suppressed in the late 1940s and it never really fully regained legal status after that. In the 1940s, they did form sort of a paramilitary wing to combat the British troops who were still in Egypt and volunteer for the war over the creation of Israel in 1948.

Then in the 1950s and 1960s, when the Gamal Nasser regime tried to crush them, some members of the Brotherhood developed ideas that essentially legitimated armed rebellion against the government. Some leaders were executed and so on. In the 1970s, they were allowed to reemerge, but they were never given legal status. Since that time they've disavowed violence. They've said that they're willing to work within the rules of the game, that they're a reform movement, not a revolutionary one. They have found a variety of ways to run candidates for parliament and to take an active role in Egyptian public life.

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All political movements have a side of good, bad, and ugly. Some just are able to hide the ugly side or pretend it doesn't exist.

We've got a big headache in Egypt. The regime in its current form is toast. Our regional policy has been based on a very close working relationship with the Egyptian government since 1974, so we've got fundamental rethinking to do. The Brotherhood is part of that headache. It's not the biggest part. Is there cause for concern? Yes. Is there cause for fearful reaction? Absolutely not.
He does admit the Muslim Brotherhood is a challenge to our interests. From the article it sounds like they won't be as pro-American. However, I think my philosophy more towards "favor democracy" rather than "favor someone who likes us". As hard as that is to swallow. I don't think most Americans take that view however (unfortunately).
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