Georgetown University academic John Esposito has responded to President Obama’s speech to the Muslim world in Cairo by echoing all of the major themes of the U.S Muslim Brotherhood as detailed in earlier posts. Dr. Esposito opens his statement with praise for the speech and by asserting that the speech acknowledged that the problems between the Islamic world and the West result not from a “clash of civilizations” from rather solely a a result of the U.S., identifying a lack of “respect for Islam and the value of Muslim lives” and “American foreign policy” as the problems, both of which are common complaints of the global Muslim Brotherhood:
In what has the potential to be a transformative historical moment, President Barack Obama called for “a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world; one based upon mutual interest and mutual respect.” While acknowledging the ups and downs of Muslim-West relations, periods of co-existence and cooperation as well as conflict and religious wars, he challenged both America and Muslims globally to fixate not on differences but on building a new way forward based on our common humanity, shared values and interests. Obama’s address reveals his awareness of the findings of major polls, like the Gallup World Poll (see Who Speaks for Islam? What a Billion Muslims Really Think) – that the deep differences that divide are about respect for Islam and the value of Muslim lives and about American foreign policy not religion or a clash of civilizations.
Along the same lines, Dr. Esposito lauded President Obama’s “respect for Islam and Muslims” as well as urging that more be done to “address the impact of Patriot Act and Secret Evidence on the civil liberties of Muslims”:
Equally important, the president was crystal clear in communicating his respect for Islam and Muslims, “partnership between America and Islam must be based on what Islam is, not what it isn’t. And I consider it part of my responsibility as President of the United States to fight against negative stereotypes of Islam wherever they appear.” He singled out Muslims past accomplishments as well as Islam’s place in America: “Islam has always been a part of America’s story…. And since our founding, American Muslims have enriched the United States. They have fought in our wars, served in government, stood for civil rights, started businesses, taught at our Universities, excelled in our sports arenas, won Nobel Prizes, built our tallest building, and lit the Olympic Torch.” While the president indicated an awareness of the problems of discrimination that some American Muslims have faced and still face, much more must be done to address the impact of Patriot Act and Secret Evidence on the civil liberties of Muslims and its devastating affect on families.
After devoting one sentence to the President’s criticism of the Muslim world, Dr Esposito goes on to say that President Obama identified the “heart of the problem” in the MIddle East which in his view lies almost solely on the Israeli side, also emphasizing that in his view “not only the Palestinians but also Israelis are guilty of acts of illegitimate violence and terror.”
On perhaps the most difficult issue, Palestine – Israel, Obama identified the heart of the problem: the equal and competing claims and aspirations of two peoples with very different narratives. He balanced his emphasis on America’s unbreakable bond with Israel by recognizing the tragic plight of both Muslim and Christian Palestinian the pain of dislocation from their “homeland” and “occupation” with its daily humiliations. Characterizing the Palestinian situation as intolerable, he declared: “America will not turn our backs on the legitimate Palestinian aspiration for dignity, opportunity, and a state of their own.” But the real challenge will be moving both sides forward. To do this, the U.S. administration will need to acknowledge that not only the Palestinians but also Israelis are guilty of acts of illegitimate violence and terror. Just as there cannot be real peace unless the Palestinians recognize Israel’s right to exist and be secure, there cannot be a peaceful and secure Palestine unless the current Israeli government retracts any notion of a “Greater Israel,” recognizes U.N. resolutions regarding the return to pre-1967 borders. This means not just freezing but rolling back illegal settlements. A remarkable and potentially far reaching statement missed my many, the strongest of an American president in many years, is Obama’s recognition that Jerusalem belongs to all three Abrahamic faiths: “All of us have a responsibility to work for the day when the mothers of Israelis and Palestinians can see their children grow up without fear; when when the Holy Land of three great faiths is the place of peace that God intended it to be; when Jerusalem is a secure and lasting home for Jews and Christians and Muslims.”
Dr. Esposito has espoused views consistent with Brotherhood doctrine and during the 1990’s was known for his claims that Islamic fundamentalism was, in fact, democratic and posed no threat to the U.S. Dr. Esposito has at least a dozen past or present affiliations with global Muslim Brotherhood/Hamas organizations including having served on the advisory board of the Institute of Islamic Political Thought in the U.K. headed by Azzam Tamimi, a leader in the U.K. Muslim Brotherhood and often described as a Hamas spokesman. Dr. Esposito has also served with global Muslim Brotherhood leader Youssef Qaradawi on the Steering Committee of the Circle of Tradition and Progress and enjoyed a close relationship with the United Association For Studies and Research (USAR), part of the U.S. Muslim Brotherhood’s Palestine Committee and part of the Hamas support infrastructure. . In 2005, Saudi prince Alaweed bin Talal, a financial supporter of the global Muslim Brotherhood donated $20 million to the Center for Muslim Christian Understanding at Georgetown, headed by Dr. Esposito.
Despite these many ties to the global Brotherhood, Dr. Esposito claimed significant gaps in his knowledge about the Brotherhood while testifying in the retrial of the Holy Land Foundation terrorism financing case.