CNN is reporting on an Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood delegation currently visiting New York as part of the group’s first delegation to the U.S. The report begins by profiling Sondos Asem, a 24 year old graduate student at the American University in Cairo:
Sondos Asem has butterflies, formulating answers to questions she expects to be asked and practicing her diction with the devotion of a high school debate champion. The gentle 24-year-old graduate student at the American University in Cairo is in a hotel room in downtown New York, figuring out what to wear on national television. (“This blazer would look good, right?” “Should I wear more color?”) Like many young Egyptians, she’s been tweeting the fallout after the 2011 uprising that brought down former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. The stakes are higher than 140-character dispatches might suggest. Asem has emerged as an unlikely unofficial spokeswoman for the Muslim Brotherhood, helping to run its English-language Twitter feed, @Ikhwanweb, and in turn revamp the group’s image in the West. In no more than three lines, often using abbreviations and hyperlinks, she hashes out the views of the Brotherhood, the 83-year-old fountainhead of political Islam in the region and one of the most powerful organizations in Egypt. The Brotherhood’s newly established political arm, the Freedom and Justice Party, has won just under half of the seats in the country’s new parliament — more than any other group — and will have a major hand in rewriting the country’s constitution. This week, Asem and five members of the Brotherhood are in New York as part of the group’s first delegation in the United States, the face the Brotherhood thinks perhaps would be well received in the West. Asem is part of a worldly, urban generation. She shops at Egypt’s flashy mega-malls. She brushes her eyelids with a modest dash of sparkly eye shadow and wears designer head-scarves. She has an affinity for cosmopolitan cities and uses American teen parlance like “You rock” and “Yeaaah, girl.” She seems very unlike the kind of person who has historically been loyal to the Brotherhood.
In December of last year, NYT journalist Nicholas Kristoff wrote a rather fawning report of his dinner with Ms. Asem.
The report goes on later to say that the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood delegation is being hosted by the Council on Foreign Relations and is meeting with the Carnegie Endowment and the Brookings Institution:
The delegation that Asem is part of is meeting with Pulitzer-prize-winning journalists and the editorial boards of prestigious papers. The Council on Foreign Relations is hosting them in New York for a talk and they’re meeting with the Carnegie Endowment and the Brookings Institution in Washington, with a lot of coffee-talk in between. The goal: to alleviate the fears of a still-suspicious American establishment. The delegation is really part of an international charm offensive, analysts and critics say, that is strategically unrepresentative of the deeply hierarchal Brotherhood. The image the group is trying to portray to the West belies its oppressive views of women and religious minorities, these experts say. And politically that could be a concern to the West, because the Brotherhood has historically been hostile to Israel.
The CNN report fails to report on the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood long-standing involvement in virulent anti-Semitism which the GMBDW has been documenting since our first post in 2007.
The report does cite George Washington University professor George Lynch who said “it would be foolish to shun the delegation”:
On the other hand, it would be foolish to shun the delegation, and the least the West should do is continue to engage the group to understand its strategic influence in the new Egypt, say Marc Lynch, director of the Institute for Middle East Studies at George Washington University. Lynch says the recent meeting of former Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain with al-Shater in Cairo was perhaps the most eye-catching moment in this new engagement. Sen. Lindsey Graham, who was traveling with McCain, reportedly said of the trip: “I was very apprehensive when I heard the election results. But after visiting and talking with the Muslim Brotherhood, I am hopeful that … we can have a relationship with Egypt where the Muslim Brotherhood is a strong political voice.”But at same time, there is going to be mutual suspicion on both the U.S. and Brotherhood sides, Lynch predicts. The Brotherhood will likely realize that whatever sympathy it got from America for being oppressed by Mubarak won’t continue unless the Brotherhood brings democracy to Egypt.
We described Dr. Lynch’s relationship with the Egyptian Brotherhood in a post from 2007:
Following the October visit of Professor Marc Lynch with Muslim Brotherhood leaders in Egypt, Dr. Lynch has been promoted heavily on the official website of the Egyptian Brotherhood. On October 23, Ikhwanweb.com carried a series of responses to Dr. Lynch’s generally supportive article on the Brotherhood featured in Foreign Policy giving him an opportunity to respond to his critics. At the top of the article was a “photo-op” of Dr. Lynch shaking hands with a Supreme Guide Mohammed Mahdi Akef. About ten days later, the website published a posting entitled “Lynch’s Meeting Agenda” which detailed his upcoming speaking appearances for November. This posting also feature a flattering photograph of Dr. Lynch. Dr. Lynch (aka Abu Aardvark) is an Associate Professor of Political Science and International Affairs and George Washington University and writes and blogs frequently about the Arab media and Arab public opinion. Although Dr. Lynch professed to be “shocked” by a recent draft of the Brotherhood’s party platform which would bar women and Christians from becoming president and establish a board of Muslim clerics to oversee the government, it appears that the leadership views him as a sympathetic voice which can be helpful in their efforts to achieve legitimacy.
Two months later, we noted:
Both another essay and postings on Dr. Lynch’s blog reveal him to be sympathetic toward the Brotherhood, a position that is consistent with State Department policy in recent months. This raises the question of whether or not Dr. Lynch’s trip was in someway endorsed by the State Department although he has denied acting as a “channel.” Yet, there would appear to be sufficient reason to be cautious about Dr. Lynch’s role given the State Department’s push to engage with the Egyptian Brotherhood.