Monday, February 26, 2007

From an article in Foreign Affairs by Robert S. Leiken and Steven Brooke

Foreign Affairs - The Moderate Muslim Brotherhood - Robert S. Leiken and Steven Brooke: "Born as an anti-imperialist as much as an Islamic revivalist movement, the Brotherhood, like the United States, will follow its own star. If individual branches resist the intercession of fellow organizations, how much less likely is it that they will embrace U.S. tutelage? But cooperation in specific areas of mutual interest -- such as opposition to al Qaeda, the encouragement of democracy, and resistance to expanding Iranian influence -- could well be feasible.

"One place to start would be with representatives of the Brotherhood's reformist wing, especially those already living in the West. The United States lost an opportunity to hear from one of these reformers last October when Helbawi -- the imam whom we heard deliver a sermon extolling a Jew -- was forced off a flight en route to a conference at New York University. This treatment of a figure known for his brave stand against radical Islam and for his public advocacy of dialogue with the United States constitutes yet another bewildering act by the Department of Homeland Security, which provided no explanation. This London-based admirer of Shakespeare and the Brontës appears to be exactly the sort of interlocutor who could help bridge civilizations. Instead, his public humiliation was a gift for the radicals, a bracing serving of "we told you so" on the subject of engaging Americans.

"U.S. policy toward the Brotherhood is contested between those who view the Brotherhood and its affiliates as a vital component of the global jihadist network and those who argue that the Brotherhood's popular support in key Muslim countries and moderating potential require some degree of engagement. The former view seems ascendant and explains an increase in U.S. efforts to isolate the Brotherhood -- such as preventing Helbawi and other reformist members of the Brotherhood from entering the United States or prohibiting U.S. government personnel from engaging with the Brotherhood.

"But if the United States is to cope with the Muslim revival while advancing key national interests, policymakers must recognize its almost infinite variety of political (and apolitical) orientations. When it comes to the Muslim Brotherhood, the beginning of wisdom lies in differentiating it from radical Islam and recognizing the significant differences between national Brotherhood organizations. That diversity suggests Washington should adopt a case-by-case approach, letting the situation in each individual country determine when talking with -- or even working with -- the Brotherhood is feasible and appropriate. In the United States' often futile search for "moderate Muslims" with active community support -- and at a moment when, isolated and suspect, Washington should be taking stock of its interests and capabilities in the Muslim world -- a conversation with the Muslim Brotherhood makes strong strategic sense."

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