The Problem of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood

Jeffrey Azarva

Samuel Tadros

On June 20, 2007, the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research convened ameeting ofU.S. intelligence officials to weigh the prospect of formal engagement with the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood,1known in Arabic as al-Ikhwan al-Muslimin. The session was the result of several years of discussion aboutengaging the group considered by many to be the fountainhead of Sunni fundamentalism.Although the Bush administration established a diplomatic quarantine of the Brotherhood afterSeptember 11, 2001, members of the U.S. House of Representatives held several meetings in Egyptin the spring of 2007—almost three months before the State Department meeting—with MuhammadSaad al-Katatni, an independent member of the Egyptian parliament and the head of its Brotherhoodaffiliatedbloc. On April 5, 2007, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) broke with conventionand met with Katatni at the Egyptian parliament building and at the residence ofU.S. ambassador to Egypt Francis J. Ricciardone. Then, on May 27, 2007, a four-member U.S. congressionaldelegation led by Representative David Price (D-N.C.) met with Katatni in Cairo.Following Hoyer’s visit, the U.S. Embassy in Cairo dismissed Egyptian criticism that his meetingspresaged a reversal of U.S. policy.2 In November 2007, Ricciardone also played down themeetings when he claimed that U.S. contacts with nominally independent Brotherhood members did“not imply American endorsement of the views of the individual parliamentarians or their politicalaffiliates.”3 Despite this reassurance, the meetings with Katatni are indicative of opinion leaders, bothinside and outside the U.S. government, warming inevitable. Yet while the movement, established by Hassan al-Banna in 1928, constitutes the most organizedand well-funded opposition in the country today—the byproduct of both its charitable services and da’wa (literally“call to God,” or preaching) network that operate outside state control—any examination of its rhetoricand political platforms shows U.S. outreach to be premature. Despite its professed commitment to pluralismand the rule of law, the Brotherhood continues to engage in dangerous doublespeak when it comes to the mostfundamental issues of democracy.

Filed Under: AfricaEgyptFeaturedMiddle EastMuslim BrotherhoodPalestineStudies & Researches


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