The United States should not fear engaging Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood as it is crucial to support people’s choices in the Islamic world, opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim said. Anwar, who has written extensively about democracy in Islamic societies, said on a visit to Washington that engaging Islamic-oriented groups has proven successful in Indonesia, Turkey and Malaysia. Anwar said that Egypt presented a special “opportunity” due to the country’s outsized influence across the Arab and Islamic worlds. “Engagement works in meaningful ways. They will have to engage on every single issue,” Anwar said late today at the New America Foundation think-tank. While many Egyptians may disagree with the Muslim Brotherhood, the group represents a significant part of the population and “the only other option is to wage war against them,” Anwar said. “We can only succeed in Muslim societies if you are seen to be respectful of the choice made by Muslims, or Egyptians in this case,” Anwar said. He added that engagement must come only after strict constitutional guarantees for freedom of expression, freedom of religion, the rule of law and “economic justice.” The Muslim Brotherhood was founded in 1928 and is Egypt’s most powerful organized opposition, although it has taken a back seat in the mass demonstrations against strongman President Hosni Mubarak.
Dr. Ibrahim has many known ties to the global U.S Muslim Brotherhood including helping to found the International Institute of Islamic Thought (IIIT) where he currently serves as a director, representing Asian youth and serving as a trustee for the World Assembly of Muslim Youth (WAMY) during the 1970’s and early 1980’s, and appearances at numerous Brotherhood-linked conferences. As a previous post has noted, Ibrahim was scheduled to speak in December 2007 at a conference in Istanbul that featured a large number of prominent speakers with ties to the global Brotherhood. Another post also discussed Ibrahim’s appearance at a Saudi economic forum. Western media coverage on Ibrahim tends to ignore this history which may be explained by a recent article from the Malaysian media on how Ibrahim has reinvented himself:
DATUK Seri Anwar Ibrahim, who started as a firebrand Islamic student activist, reinvented himself as a Malay nationalist after joining Umno in 1982 while continuing to promote and defend Islam. In 1999 after he was sacked, jailed and desperately fighting to save his political career, he had a difficult and momentous choice to make between forming a Malay-only nationalist party or a multi-racial party as his future political vehicle. Considering the need to show a united, strong political face – both to Malaysians and his legions of foreign supporters, Anwar chose a multi-racial platform. It was a “politically correct” decision and successfully piled the pressure to free him and return him to the political mainstream. But in the process Anwar lost the two main planks he had rode to come within a whisker of becoming Prime Minister – as champion of Malay nationalism and promoter and defender of Islam. Now, as a leader of a multi-racial party, he cannot speak exclusively about Malay nationalism or about Islam but has to present himself as a Malaysian leader and stand on a platform of equality, justice and fairness for all Malaysian races.