The Project on Middle East Democracy (POMED) has summarized a new policy briefing by Shadi Hamid, director of research at the Brookings Doha Center, which argues that the US should “substantively engage” with the Muslim Brotherhood. According to the POMED summary:
Shadi Hamid, director of research at the Brookings Doha Center, argues in a new policy briefing that the U.S. must reassess its policy toward moderate Islamist groups in the Middle East, or potentially see a trend of radicalization emerge. According to Hamid, major Islamist parties– in particular, the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and Jordan’s Islamic Action Front (IAF), which operate within countries that are key U.S. allies and leading recipients of U.S. aid –find themselves in “a state of crisis” as they face both increased repression from the current regimes and internal party divisions. Under these circumstances, he points out, moderate groups are reconsidering their positions on a number of issues, including participation in and validation of crucial upcoming national elections in both countries. To support these groups and prevent the rise of more radical elements in their place, Hamid says that the Obama administration should take two important steps. First, it should “publicly affirm the right of all opposition actors, including Islamists, to participate in upcoming elections,” and back up this affirmation with “a consistent American policy of opposing not just the arrests of secular activists but Islamist ones as well.” Second, the administration must “empower U.S. embassies to begin substantive engagement with Islamist groups.” In Hamid’s estimation, though “the Obama administration has emphasized its belief in engaging a diverse range of actors,” thus far “it has failed to reach out to many of the largest, most influential groups in the region”– a situation that must be remedied.
An online biography indicates that Dr. Hamid received his B.S. and M.A. from Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service and a doctoral degree in politics at Oxford University, writing his dissertation on Islamist political behavior in Egypt, Jordan, and Morocco. Before his post at Brookings, Dr. Hamid was the director of research at POMED and before that was a research fellow at the American Center for Oriental Research in Amman, where he conducted research on the evolving relationship between the Muslim Brotherhood and the Jordanian regime. Previously, Hamid served as a program specialist on public diplomacy at the State Department and a Legislative Fellow at the Office of Senator Dianne Feinstein. During 2004-5, he was a Fulbright Fellow in Jordan, researching Islamist participation in the democratic process. Another biography reports that Dr. Hamid was worked on Middle East policy for Senator Feinstein and was also co-founder of Muslims for John Kerry, consulting with the Kerry campaign on issues of importance to the American Muslim community.
However apparently omitted from these biographies is Dr. Hamid’s background as an activist for the Muslim Student Association (MSA). According to an educational journal, in 2002 he was a member of the MSA at Georgetown where he participated in a weeklong anti-Israel protest which attempted to disrupt a conference held by a pro-Israel lobbying group. The Fall 2003 MSA publication known as MSALink refers to Hamid as an “accomplished activist” who was “working for change within an Islamic framework” and who was called upon to training new leaders for the MSA in a program called the “DC Workers Training Program.” (See Note 1)
According to a Hudson Institute report, the Muslim Student Association was the earliest known public front organization of what would later become the US Muslim Brotherhood and many USMB leaders were active in the early days of MSA. The MSA is now a “constituent organization” of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), itself a major part of the USMB. Previous posts have discussed important individuals close to the USMB who have emerged from an MSA background such as Mazen Asbahi who then candidate Obama appointed as his campaign Muslim outreach advisor. Asbahi was a former MSA leader who resigned his position after less than two weeks on the job when the GMBDW detailed his ties to the USMB. The Investigative Project has compiled a report on the history and extremism of the MSA.
For Dr, Hamid’s full report, go here.
(Note 1 MSALink Volume 21 Fall 2003)