RECOMMENDED READING: "Changing Course: A New Direction for U.S. Relations with the Muslim World"


A recent post discussed the release of a report issued by the Leadership Group of the U.S.-Muslim Engagement Project, an organization that includes prominent members of the Clinton administration as well as from the U.S. Muslim Brotherhood. As that posted noted, the presence of the individuals linked to the U.S. Brotherhood raised questions about that analysis titled “Changing Course: A New Direction for U.S. Relations with the Muslim World.” A closer reading of the report suggests that its recommendations, if adopted, would represent a significant advancement of the Muslim Brotherhood agenda in the U.S.

On page 27, for example, the report sets forth a pyramid to be used in analyzing Muslim political perceptions worldwide. At he base of the pyramid are “Mainstream Muslims” estimated at 90-95% of the Muslim majority countries. At the next level are the “politically activist” at 5-10% (with a higher range of up to 25% in most of the Arab countries). At the tip of the pyramid are the “active insurgents and extremists” estimated at .01%. The report defines the “politically activist” as follows:

The politically activist…place higher priority on political reform than economic opportunity and are more likely to want governance based on Islamic principles (that is, on their interpretation of Shariah). Many are so outraged by what they perceive as U.S. support for authoritarian governments, and by U.S. military and counterterrorism operations that harm Muslims in their own and other countries, that they believe insurrection and terrorist violence is justified in some cases. A fraction of the politically activist participates in radical politics.

This group is clearly meant to subsume the Muslim Brotherhood and their allies who have been rebranded as “activists.” The motivation of such activists is said to be “reform” and no role has been assigned to ideology of any kind. Such a redefinition would no doubt suit the Brotherhood who has consistently sought to present themselves as reformers rather than Islamic fundamentalists.

This passage from the report also attributes all Brotherhood support for violence and terrorism to U.S. actions alone. Such an analysis is consistent with he Brotherhood position on “Defensive Jihad” which endorses jihad where Muslims are deemed to be under attack, broadly defined to include an attack on Muslim honor. Interestingly, there is no mention of Israel and Hamas in this part of the discussion. The issue of the Muslim Brotherhood and violence is raised again on page 52 when the report complains that the U.S. has sent “mixed signals about its willingness to work with non-violent Islamist parties, notably the Muslim Brotherhood and Jordan” and repeated again on page 60:

The U.S. must also consider how and when to talk with political movements and that have substantial public support and have renounced violence, but are restricted by authoritarian governments allied to the U.S. The Muslim Brotherhood parties in Egypt and Jordan are arguably in this category.

It would appear that the Brotherhood support for Hamas, which might be referred to as the Muslim Brotherhood in Palestine, is somehow excluded when deeming the movement “non-violent” once again consistent with how the Brotherhood would like itself to be seen.

On page 77, the report goes further to recommend that the term “Islam” or “key tenets” of the Islamic religion not be linked to extremist or terrorist groups:

For example, the use of the term “jihadi” to describe extremists actually offers them a compliment in Islamic discourse, because jihad, in the sense of non-violent spiritual striving, is a sacred obligation of all Muslims. Terms like “Islamo-fascism” link the religion to a totalitarian political creed.

A previous post has discussed the role of the U.S. Muslim Brotherhood in urging U.S. government agencies to avoid using terms such as “Islamic Terrorism.” Another post analyzes the U.S. Brotherhood long-held strategy of trying to control the use of language in these contexts.

Finally, on page 88 the report recommends involving the Muslim-American community as a “bridge” to the Islamic world:

The Muslim-American community can act as a unique bridge between the U.S. and Muslim countries and people in all the areas described earlier- education, exchange, dialogue, cooperative action, and the media. There are prominent Muslim-Americans in many professions in the arts and culture, and in faith and public interest organizations. Many are concerned both about their fellow Americans’ misperceptions of islam and the global Muslim community, and about widespread misunderstands of American culture among Muslims overseas. Several ongoing efforts and groups profiled earlier seek to support Muslim-Amiercan leaders as emissaries and bridge figures within the U.S. and in Muslim countries. The Muslim-American community cold make an even more significant contribution, but needs great recognition and integration into governmental and philanthropic initiatives. Regular meetings on Muslim counties’ relations, and with members of Congress, could help to communicate their insights and make them even more effective as bridge builders.

The U.S. Muslim Brotherhood has long sought to achieve close partnerships with the U.S. government by portraying positioning themselves as “goodwill Ambassadors” to the Islamic world. The U.S. State Department has been particularly accommodating in this regard by frequently funding exchange programs involving U.S. Brotherhood leaders. However, there are strong reasons to question the use of the U.S. Brotherhood as means for improving the image of the U.S. in Muslim countries. For example, one of the Leadership Group’s member is Ahmed Younis, previously a National Director for the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC), a U.S. organization whose founders likely had origins in the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood. Founded in 1988, MPAC has acted in concert and in coalitions with the other organizations comprising the U.S. Muslim Brotherhood and has consistently portrayed the U.S. counter-terrorism effort as directed against Muslims and claimed that U.S. Muslims are the victims or organized campaigns of hate and discrimination, often identifying the U.S. Jewish community as responsible. Other U.S. Brotherhood groups have acted in a similar manner.

The above analysis reflects only the reports recommendations as far as they represent the agenda of the U.S. Muslim Brotherhood and are not meant as a substantive analysis of the entire report. However, it should be noted that the presence of prominent members of the Clinton administration on the board of the Leadership group may suggest that this organization may have a stronger role to play in contributing to U.S. counter-terrorism policy in a new administration.


  1. We should have noted that Dennis Ross has been working for the Obama administration which increases the probability that this report will contribute in someway to an Obama administration policy.