RECOMMENDED READING: Symposium: The "Moderate" Muslim Brotherhood?


FrontPage Magazine, generally regarded as a conservative internet publication, recently held a Symposium entitled The “Moderate” Muslim Brotherhood? Participating were former Washington Post journalist Douglas Farah, Jeff Breinholt, a terrorism expert and former prosecutor at the Justice Department, and Patrick Poole, a researcher who has written and lectured on the Muslim Brotherhood.The discussion can be described as uniformly negative on the concept of tthe Muslim Brotherhood as moderate organization. One of the more interesting threads of the conversation was taken up by Jeff Breinholt who presented some reasons why the Brotherhood should be denied official legitimacy. For example, he points out the “jihad” is part of the groups foundation:

The more interesting question is why there is such a debate about a group whose manifesto describes its goal as “jihad.” One would think that, after 9/11, such groups would be radioactive within the U.S., and that Americans who argue that the we should consider going into business with them would be laughed out of polite company. Why is that not happening? I want to offer a diagnosis and a remedy.

He goes on with this theme:

There still exists little problem for the Brotherhood’s U.S. supporters: what’s the deal with this “jihad” business? If the Brotherhood is not really serious about conquest through violence, why is that term in their manifesto? Of course, some of my conservatives colleagues have suggested that “jihad” does not really mean violence, but that’s a little hard to accept when the Brotherhood manifesto also talks about “dying in the cause of Allah” and it highest glory. If you accept that the Hamas is one of the components of the Brotherhood, it has plenty of American blood on its hands since 1994. I challenge Robert Leikin and others to meet with Stephen Flatow and other surviving victims of Palestinian terrorism, as I have, and to try to maintain their warm feeling towards the Brotherhood.

Breinholt then takes up another theme which is usually not discussed in connection with the Brotherhood- their lack of transparency:

If this is the cause of the recent willingness to embrace of the Brotherhood, what is the remedy? It is to insist that the Brotherhood operate transparently, under our laws. Surely, no one can seriously object to this suggestion. After all, this is what we require of American political candidates, and U.S. charities, in order to assure that voters and donors are not sold a bill of goods. It’s what we require of companies traded on the New York stock exchange. If the Brotherhood within the U.S. is a legitimate, democracy-loving political movement, let’s have it send a list of its members to FPM to publish. Why have they circulated documents describing the need to practice tradecraft to conceal their true membership and goals? Americans have been convicted of felonies for making illegal political campaign contributions, and for such things as lying to the government. Ask George Steinbrenner, or Martha Stewart Whether the Brotherhood has violent goals within the U.S. is rather beside the point. That’s never been an element of white-collar fraud, let alone choosing international partners. If our criteria in deciding whether to embrace the Brotherhood is that they are not as bad as Al Qaeda, it would seem that there has been a serious dumbing down of deviancy.

He continues later in the same vein:

Transparency is a virtue. In foreign policy, it determines which developing countries are eligible for foreign aid. In the U.S., we have chosen to practice what we preach, through legal regimes to assure transparent operations in important public functions. It is why we have campaign finance rules – to make sure that those who are trying to influence our leaders are out in the open. It is why, since the Cold War, we have required persons in the U.S. who are lobbying on behalf of foreign powers to register themselves. It is also the rationale for rules requiring banks to know their customers and report suspicious activity to the government, so as to deprive the unscrupulous of access to the financial system. It’s why we have the SEC. Transparency is designed to minimize the prospect of backroom deals, hidden agendas, and front groups who argue for certain actions while concealing their true intentions and the identity of their financial backers. Accountability is good, and the best way to assure it is through the shining of sunlight on who is doing what, and who is paying them for it. Is the Muslim Brotherhood within the U.S. acting transparently? Not by a long shot. That’s why it should be disqualified for the benefits of official outreach, unless and until they decide to get with the program. This conclusion does not require us to reach the conclusion that its members are violent.

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