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09/05/2013

The Muslim Brotherhood

Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, as part of an editorial on intervening in Syria for the London Times, referenced in my 8/31/13 “Week in Review” column, had the following thoughts on the Muslim Brotherhood.

“To many in the West, it is clear: the Egyptian military have aborted a democratically elected Government and are now repressing a legitimate political party, killing its supporters and imprisoning its leaders. So we are on a steady track to ostracizing the new Government. In doing so, we think we’re upholding our values. I completely understand why this view would be taken. But it is a grave strategic error.

“The fallacy with this approach lies in the nature of the Muslim Brotherhood. We think of it as a normal political party. It isn’t. If you want to join the UK Conservative Party or the German Christian Democrats or the US Democrats, you can do so with ease and they will welcome you with open arms. And in all these countries, the basic democratic freedoms are respected by all parties. The Muslim Brotherhood simply isn’t like that. To become a member even at the lowest level is a seven-year process of induction and indoctrination. It is run by a hierarchy that is more akin to the old Bolshevik party system.

“This is a movement. Read their speeches – not the ones they put out for Western ears, but the ones they actually believe, for their own ears. What they were doing in Egypt was not ‘governing badly.’ If you elect a bad government, then tough – you live with it. What they were doing was systematically changing the constitution, taking control of the commanding heights of the State in order to subvert them and to make it impossible for their rule to be challenged. And they were doing so in pursuit of values that contradict everything we stand for.

“So you can rightly criticize actions or overreactions of the new military Government but it is quite hard to criticize the intervention that brought it into being. Now all the choices that Egypt faces are ugly. The bloodshed is horrible and will shock all Egyptians. There are large numbers of soldiers and police among the casualties as well as civilians and, partly as a by-product of the fall of Gaddafi, Egypt is awash with weapons. But simply condemning the military will not get us any nearer to a return to democracy.

“Egypt is not a creation of 19th or 20th-century global power games. It is an ancient civilization stretching back thousands of years and is imbued with a fierce national pride. The army has a special place in its society. The people do want democracy, but they will be disdainful of Western critics whom they will see as utterly naïve in the face of the threat to democracy that the Muslim Brotherhood posed.

“We should support the new Government in stabilizing the country, urge everyone, including the Muslim Brotherhood, to get off the streets, and let a proper and short process to an election be put in place with independent observers. A new constitution should be drafted that protects minority rights and the basic ethos of the country, and all political parties should operate according to rules that ensure transparency and commitment to the democratic process.

“This is the only realistic way to help those – and they’re probably a majority – who want genuine democracy, not an election as a route to domination.”

Hot Spots will return in a few weeks.

Brian Trumbore



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Hot Spots

09/05/2013

The Muslim Brotherhood

Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, as part of an editorial on intervening in Syria for the London Times, referenced in my 8/31/13 “Week in Review” column, had the following thoughts on the Muslim Brotherhood.

“To many in the West, it is clear: the Egyptian military have aborted a democratically elected Government and are now repressing a legitimate political party, killing its supporters and imprisoning its leaders. So we are on a steady track to ostracizing the new Government. In doing so, we think we’re upholding our values. I completely understand why this view would be taken. But it is a grave strategic error.

“The fallacy with this approach lies in the nature of the Muslim Brotherhood. We think of it as a normal political party. It isn’t. If you want to join the UK Conservative Party or the German Christian Democrats or the US Democrats, you can do so with ease and they will welcome you with open arms. And in all these countries, the basic democratic freedoms are respected by all parties. The Muslim Brotherhood simply isn’t like that. To become a member even at the lowest level is a seven-year process of induction and indoctrination. It is run by a hierarchy that is more akin to the old Bolshevik party system.

“This is a movement. Read their speeches – not the ones they put out for Western ears, but the ones they actually believe, for their own ears. What they were doing in Egypt was not ‘governing badly.’ If you elect a bad government, then tough – you live with it. What they were doing was systematically changing the constitution, taking control of the commanding heights of the State in order to subvert them and to make it impossible for their rule to be challenged. And they were doing so in pursuit of values that contradict everything we stand for.

“So you can rightly criticize actions or overreactions of the new military Government but it is quite hard to criticize the intervention that brought it into being. Now all the choices that Egypt faces are ugly. The bloodshed is horrible and will shock all Egyptians. There are large numbers of soldiers and police among the casualties as well as civilians and, partly as a by-product of the fall of Gaddafi, Egypt is awash with weapons. But simply condemning the military will not get us any nearer to a return to democracy.

“Egypt is not a creation of 19th or 20th-century global power games. It is an ancient civilization stretching back thousands of years and is imbued with a fierce national pride. The army has a special place in its society. The people do want democracy, but they will be disdainful of Western critics whom they will see as utterly naïve in the face of the threat to democracy that the Muslim Brotherhood posed.

“We should support the new Government in stabilizing the country, urge everyone, including the Muslim Brotherhood, to get off the streets, and let a proper and short process to an election be put in place with independent observers. A new constitution should be drafted that protects minority rights and the basic ethos of the country, and all political parties should operate according to rules that ensure transparency and commitment to the democratic process.

“This is the only realistic way to help those – and they’re probably a majority – who want genuine democracy, not an election as a route to domination.”

Hot Spots will return in a few weeks.

Brian Trumbore