A coalition which includes a number of significant individuals tied to the global Muslim Brotherhood has written a letter to President Obama encouraging him to support democracy in the Arab and Muslim world. According to a press release:
More than 80 scholars and experts-including Egyptian democracy activist Saad Eddin Ibrahim and former deputy prime minister of Malaysia Anwar Ibrahim -are urging President Obama to adopt a consistent and credible policy that supports democracy in the Arab and Muslim world. The group will formally issue an open letter to the president at a news conference Tuesday, March 10, at 2:30 p.m. at the National Press Club in Washington. “For decades, the United States and Europe have been coddling and supporting dictators in the Arab world, and this has been disastrous for the region and for U.S.-Islamic relations,” said Radwan Masmoudi, president of the Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy and a co-convener of the letter. The letter states that for decades the United States has “supported repressive regimes that routinely violate human rights, and that torture and imprison those who dare criticize them.” The signatories call on the administration to make supporting democracy and its proponents in the Middle East a top foreign policy priority, even in countries that are U.S. allies such as Egypt, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia. The authors call on the United States to “use its considerable economic and diplomatic leverage to put pressure on its allies in the region when they fail to meet basic standards of human rights.”…. The letter lauds the President’s initial efforts to reach out to the Arab and Muslim world, but cautions that the U.S. must demonstrate its commitment to democratic reform through actual policy changes.
It should be noted that although the letter is focused on the support of democracy, the following passage appears to support the inclusion of groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood in the democratic process:
In many countries, including Turkey, Indonesia, and Morocco, the right to participate in reasonably credible and open elections has moderated Islamist parties and enhanced their commitment to democratic norms. We may not agree with what they have to say, but if we wish to both preach and practice democracy, it is simply impossible to exclude the largest opposition groups in the region from the democratic process. At the same time, to reduce the future of the region to a contest between Islamists and authoritarian regimes would be a mistake. Promoting democratic openings in the region will give liberal and secular parties a chance to establish themselves and communicate their ideas to the populace after decades of repression which left them weak and marginalized. More competition between parties of diverse ideological backgrounds would be healthy for political development in the region.
Many of the individuals signing the letter are or have been associated with the Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy (CSID), a group who is serving as a contact point for the coalition and which itself is tied to the global Muslim Brotherhood. Some of the individuals are also associated or have been associated with the International Institute of Islamic Thought (IIIT), another part of the global Brotherhood:
- John L. Esposito (CSID founder)
- Tamara Sonn (CSID)
- Aly R. Abuzaakouk (CSID)
- Louay Safi (CSID)
- John P. Entelis (CSID)
- Charles Butterworth (CSID)
- Robert D. Crane (IIIT)
- Jamal Barzinji (CSID, IIIT)
- Anwar Ibrahim (IIIT)
- Asma Afsaruddin (CSID)
- Abubaker al Shingieti (IIIT)
- Antony T. Sullivan (CSID, IIIT)
- Joseph Montville (CSID)
- Obaida Fares (CSID)
- Muna AbuSulayman (likely related to IIIT leader)
CSID was created in 1999 and enjoys a particularly close relationship with the U.S. Department of State which has sent officials to its conferences, promoted its events and publications, and at times provided financing. Its initial board included a number of important U.S. Muslim Brotherhood leaders such as Jamal Barzinji as well as John Esposito, a Georgetown academic who has long supported the Brotherhood and served as a State Department analyst.
IIIT was founded in the U.S. in 1980 by important members of the Global Muslim Brotherhood who wished to promote the “Islamization of Knowledge.” IIIT was associated with the now defunct SAAR Foundation, a network of Islamic organizations located in Northern Virginia that was raided by the Federal government in 2003 in connection with the financing of terrorism. The organization appeared to have withdrawn from public view following the 2003 raids and although a report in the Washington Post from June 2007 indicated that IIIT and the SAAR Foundation were still under investigation by the Justice Department, IIIT seems to be enjoying a renaissance of late. Previous posts have discussed other visits by foreign Muslims to IIIT sponsored by the U.S. State Department.
Other signatories associated with the U.S. Muslim Brotherhood include:
- Salam Al-Marayati (Muslim Public Affairs Council)
- Imad-ad-Dean Ahmad (Minaret of Freedom)
- Arsalan Iftikhar (formerly Council on American Islamic Relations)
- Sulayman S. Nyang
Other signatories of note include:
- Francis Fukuyama (The Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies)
- Robert Kagan (Carnegie Endowment for Int. Peace)
- Graham E. Fuller (Simon Fraser University, Vancouver BC./former U.S intelligence officer)
- Rabbi Michael Lerner (Network of Spiritual Progressives)