U.S. media is reporting that the Center for the Study of Islamic and Democracy (CSID) hosted the Secretary-General of the Tunisian Muslim Brotherhood at a recent forum. According to a CNN report:
One of the few organized bases [in Tunisia] is al-Nahda, the largest Islamic party. Much of the nervousness is over what role Islam will play in Tunisia.Those nerves spilled over into a recent debate hosted by the Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy in Washington.The big draw was Hamadi Jebali, the secretary general of al-Nahda.Jebali spent nearly two decades in prison for being a member of al-Nahda under the old dictatorship. Al-Nahda means renaissance — and it is having one. The party is expected to emerge from Tunisia’s first elections with real power.So Tunisians in this secular society are listening very carefully to what al-Nahda’s leaders say — and what they do not say. Jebali wore wire-rim glasses, a suit, and a soft smile. His speech was filled with the lush language of democratic principles: Equality. Dignity. Diversity.”The Tunisian revolution shows a peaceful democratic way to address the needs of the country,” he told the audience of several dozen. “And that peaceful and democratic change works and gives hope to the whole region. It is possible to build development with justice, dignity, and stability without violence and without wars.”He spoke this way for 15 minutes. Big beautiful words. Few specifics.
Mahgreb Confidential (source below) reports further that Jebali also held meetings with U.S. senators and a State Department official:
Jebali managed to squeeze in discreet meetings in the Senate with senators Joe Lieberman and John McCain, as well as with John Kerry ‘s aides. He also met at the State Department with Margaret Nardi, head of the Office of Maghreb Affairs. As a result, Ennahda has become the first Islamic Arab movement to win Washington’s seal of approval at a time when the U.S. is thinking of curbing contacts between American politicians and Egypt’s Moslem Brotherhood.
Mahgreb Confidential further comments on the role of CSID leader Radwan Masmoudi in bringing the U.S. together with “moderate Islamists:
A Tunisian engineer living in the United States, Radwan Masmoiudi, is a leading architect of the rapprochement between American diplomats and Tunisia’s moderate Islamists. In 1999, he founded the Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy (CSID) and plans to shortly open an office in Tunis. Championing dialogue between the secular and Islamist worlds, the center is financed by the State Department, the National Endowment for Democracy, and the US Institute of Peace. One of its representatives in Tunis is businessman Mondher Ben Ayed, well connected at the U.S. embassy. Six years of contacts. Masmoudi organized the first meetings between U.S. diplomats and Tunisia’s Islamists as long ago as 2005. The following year an American envoy knocked on the door of Hamadi Jebali, who was under house arrest. Washington bet on the right horses. The militants at the time are now in prominent positions. Saida Akremi represents lawyers on the Haute Commission pour la Realisation des Objectifs de la Revolution ; and Slaheddine Jourchi is vice president of the Ligue Tunisienne de Droits de l’Homme.
CSID was founded in 1998 largely by the efforts of Georgetown University academic Dr. Esposito who during the 1990’s served in the State Department as a “foreign affairs analyst” and who has at least a dozen past or present affiliations with global Muslim Brotherhood/Hamas organizations. Many members of the early CSID board were associated with IIIT, the American Muslim Council, and the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC). For example, past CSID board members included Jamal Barzinji and Taha Al-Alwani, both associated with IIIT and both important leaders in the U.S. Muslim Brotherhood who helped to establish many of the most important U.S. Brotherhood organizations. Antony Sullivan, the current CSID Vice-Chair, has many ties to U.S.Brotherhood groups including the Association of Muslim Social Scientists (AMSS), the United Association for Studies and Research (USAR), and the Circle of Tradition and Progress (COTP), a group whose other founding members included Youssef Qaradawi, the most important leader of the global Muslim Brotherhood. From its inception, CSID has argued that the U.S. government should support Islamist movements in foreign countries and has received financial support from the U.S. State Department, the National Endowment for Democracy and the United States Institute of Peace. A previous post discussed the 2010 CSID annual conference describing it as representing “perhaps the largest public gathering of Global Muslim Brotherhood leaders and U.S. government officials to date.”
As far as Al-Nahda (aka Nahda, Ennnahda) representing “moderate Islamists”, an Egyptian news report has identified Rashid Ghannouchi (many spelling variations) as a leader of the Muslim Brotherhood “abroad.” Ghannouchi is the leader of Al-Nahda and can best be described as an independent Islamist power center who is tied to the global Muslim Brotherhood though his membership in the European Council for Fatwa and Research (ECFR) and his important position in the International Union of Muslim Scholars (IUMS), both organizations led by Global Muslim Brotherhood Youssef Qaradawi. Ghannouchi is also one of the founding members of the World Assembly of Muslim Youth (WAMY), a Saudi organization closely linked to the Muslim Brotherhood and dedicated to the propagation of “Wahabist” Islam throughout the world. Ghannouchi is known for his thinking on the issue of Islam and citizenship rights.
In 1994, scholar Martin Kramer had reported on the extremist background of Mr. Ghannouchi. According to that report:
Assuming a valid distinction can be made between Islamists who are “extremist” and “reformist,” Ghannouchi clearly belongs to the first category. Since his last visit to the United States, he has openly threatened U.S. interests, supported Iraq against the United States and campaigned against the Arab-Israeli peace process. Indeed, Ghannouchi in exile has personified the rejection of U.S. policies, even as he dispatches missives to the State Department.
Kramer notes the following statement by Mr. Ghannouchi in which he alleges that Jews are behind a “worldwide campaign against Islam”:
The Jews everywhere are behind a worldwide campaign against Islam. Islam and the West could reach an accommodation, he says, were it not for the worldwide machinations of the Jews, who fan the fires of mistrust. Beware the Jews, he admonishes the West: “We Islamists hope that the West is not carried away by the Jewish strategy of linking the future of its relationship with the Islamic world with a war against Islam.
In an article posted on an Islamic website, Mr. Ghannouchi wrote:
Zionism can be seen as hostile to every element rooted in ethical and religious principles (excepting those remnants, which can be exploited as slogans and national myths). It both represents and serves the new existential ethos which transforms the human race into ‘marketing’ and ‘geopolitical’ units which can be deployed, rewarded or punished by the powers that be, who are accountable to no-one save themselves. Zionism, then, nurtured by and in turn nurturing this global pseudo-civilization, represents a secular onslaught on the heart of our Islamic nation. The Islamic project, by contrast, is its polar opposite, representing the hope that human civilization can be rescued from this new worship of the golden calf. To speak of saving Palestine from the Zionists is to speak simultaneously of one’s hope for a global liberation. The ‘Palestinian cause’ does not signify the simple reconquest of a patch of territory occupied by aggressors. It is not even about peace and war; Its implications go much further. For to strike at Zionism in Palestine is to strike at the enemy in its new citadel, which it has constructed at the centre of the world, in the very heart of our Muslim nation, in a land which has always been of unlimited strategic and spiritual fecundity. The West, as a civilization, seems set to extend its influence to the heartland of the Old World, the better to destroy the surviving traces of spiritual resistance which have remained intact there, and finally to obliterate mans remaining hopes for the rebirth of a civilization which is qualitative and humane, rather than quantitative and secular.”
Mr. Ghannouchi has a long history of association with extremism and Palestinian terrorism. From 1988-92, the Islamic Committee for Palestine organized conferences and rallies in the United States that featured the leading lights of Islamic extremist movements throughout the world. One example of such a conference took place in Chicago from December 22-25, 1989 and featured Mr. Gahannouchi as a speaker. Its theme was “Palestine, Intifada, and Horizons of Islamic Renaissance” and other speakers included Abd Al-‘Aziz Al’Awda, the “spiritual leader” of Islamic Jihad and Muhammad ‘Umar of Hizb Al-Tahrir, the Islamic Liberation Party.
In 2002, Mr. Ghannouchi co-signed a statement that said “The bodies of the men and women of Palestine are shields against the Zionist agenda, which its greater target is to destroy the entire Islamic Ummah.” The statement was also signed by:
- Mustafa Mashhour, the Supreme Guide of the Muslim Brotherhood
- Esam Al Atar, leader of the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood
- Hassan Nasrallah, Secretary General for Hezbollah
- Ahmed Yassin, the late former spiritual leader of Hamas
A recent post discussed an interview with Mr. Ghannouchi in which he calls for and predicts the end of Israel.
Earlier posts reported on the return of Mr. Ghannouchi to Tunisia following his long exile in the UK.
(Source: Maghreb Confidential “Washington ready to play soft Islam card” May 26, 2011)