The Voice of America News has reported on the 9th Annual Conference of the Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy (CSID), an organization with numerous ties to the U.S. Muslim Brotherhood. According to the report, experts at the conference urged the U.S. to talk with Islamist movements in order to encourage “democratic trends”:
The 9th Annual Conference of CSID focused on how to deal with Islamic Movements Since the terrorist attacks of 9/11, there has been growing American interest in checking the spread of radicalism in the Middle East by communicating more effectively with the region’s Islamist political groups. At the annual conference of the Washington-based Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy, several scholars urged the U.S. to seek more constructive engagements with these Islamist groups. The goal, they said, should be to encourage them to adopt more pragmatic and democratic political agendas. A recent study by the Center concluded that many secular Arab governments have used the 1979 Islamic revolution in Iran to raise fears of a radical and potentially violent political Islam. And they have used that fear to justify their own autocratic governance on national security grounds. But the study found that the more these regimes have cracked down on political Islamist groups, the more popular these movements have become. The Center estimates that Islamist groups now represent about 30 percent of the electorate in Arab countries.
As is often the case with the media, the report fails to identify CSID’s own connections with the U.S. and global Muslim Brotherhood. For example, CSID is a member of the Americans Muslims for Constructive Engagement (AMCE) , a coalition of groups whose leadership, as noted by a previous post, is a Who’s Who of the U.S. Muslim Brotherhood and which seeks to facilitate partnerships between the U.S. Brotherhood and the U.S. government. Also, the CSID current and past boards have been comprised of many prominent U.S. Brotherhood figures and or individuals with close ties to the Brotherhood. For example, past CSID board members include Jamal Barzinji and Taha Al-Alwani, both important Brotherhood leaders who are closely associated with the now defunct SAAR Foundation, still under investigation by the U.S. government. Both Barzinji and Al-Alwani helped to establish many of the most important U.S. Brotherhood organizations. The current CSID Vice-Chair, Antony Sullivan, has many ties to U.S. Brotherhood groups including the Association of Muslim Social Scientists (AMSS), the United Association for Studies and Research (USAR), and the Circle of Tradition and Progress (COTP), a group whose other founding members included Youssef Qaradawi, the most important leader of the global Muslim Brotherhood.
Also reported to have attended the CSID conference was U.S. Ambassador to Egypt who presented his view of U.S. policy on the Egyptian Brotherhood:
Ambassador Ricciardone denies that the U.S. push for democracy is backsliding. “All of the things that we were doing before, we continue to do,” said Ricciardone. “We try to do them with skill and sensitivity and judgment. And we commit major resources to them so we are not retreating from the promotion of democracy, and I do not expect the next president of the U.S. be he or she, Republican or Democrat, to retreat from the promotion of democracy and human rights.” Ambassador Ricciardone admitted, however, that the U.S. is having difficulty dealing with a trans-national Islamic movement like the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, even though some 88 members of the group were elected to the Egyptian parliament as so-called “independents” in the autumn of 2005. “We could hardly say that we would not see these members of the parliament if they wished to see us,” the former Ambassador explained. “Our political officers see members of parliaments all over the world, in Egypt and elsewhere. It does not mean we have voted for them; we did not campaign for them; we did not promote them; and we very often disagree very strongly with their points of view.” Ambassador Ricciardone said an atmosphere of mutual distrust complicates relations between the U.S. and the Muslim Brotherhood. And he noted that U.S. contacts with the group have been strictly limited to avoid antagonizing the Egyptian government, which has outlawed this Islamist organization.