Reuters is reporting that U.S. President Obama has begun “reaching out” to Pakistani Islamist parties including the Jamaat-e-Islami, known to be close to the global Muslim Brotherhood. According to the report:
U.S. President Barack Obama has started reaching out to some of Pakistan’s most fervent Islamist and anti-American parties, including one that helped give rise to the Taliban, trying to improve Washington’s image in the nuclear-armed state. Obama’s special envoy, Richard Holbrooke, is initiating dialogue between the United States and religious parties previous administrations had largely shunned, both sides said. “The purpose is to broaden the base of American relations in Pakistan beyond the relatively narrow circle of leaders Washington has previously dealt with,” explained Vali Nasr, senior adviser to Holbrooke…At one of this week’s sessions, Liaqat Baloch, a top member of the religious, right-wing Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) party, told Holbrooke he welcomed the new administration’s public change in tone towards Muslims around the world. But Baloch said he was disturbed to see “no change in practice” in Pakistan and Afghanistan, where Obama has stepped up military operations against the Taliban on both sides of the border. Holbrooke invited Jamaat-e-Islami, whom some U.S. officials compare to the banned Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, to visit the heavily guarded American embassy compound in Islamabad, seeking to dispel long-running rumours that thousands of U.S. Marines would be based there. Holbrooke rejected the party’s complaints about a Western “assault” on Islam, saying “that could not be further from the truth” with Obama, who has roots in the religion, now in the White House. ….Holbrooke, who has been meeting mainly Pakistan’s political and military establishment, called his nearly hour-long session with Baloch’s Jamaat-e-Islami “the most intellectually sustained debate I’ve ever had in this country”. But immediately after their meeting, Baloch and his delegation took to the streets, leading a protest against U.S. policy in Pakistan and the region.
The JEI was founded in 1941 and is Pakistan’s oldest religious party. The party had it’s origins in the thoughts of Maulana Sayyid Abul A’la Maududi (1903-79), the most important Islamist intellectual in the history of Southeast Asia. Maududi was also a major influence on the global Muslim Brotherhood with whom the JEI has long enjoyed close relations. In the United States, the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA) is generally considered to represent the JEI. A previous post discussed a 3-day Islamic conference held in late October 2008 in Lahore that brought together leaders of the JEI with leaders in the global Muslim Brotherhood. Previous posts have discussed various anti-American, anti-Indian, anti-Israeli, and anti-Semitic comments made by JEI leaders.