In March 2015, George Mason University announced that Professor Peter Mandaville had been appointed as a senior advisor to the special representative for religion and global affairs at the US Department of State. According the announcement, Dr Mandaville had served previously at the State Department as a member of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s Policy Planning Staff:
March 12, 2015 George Mason University professor Peter Mandaville has been appointed as a senior advisor to the special representative for religion and global affairs at the U.S. Department of State.Among other duties, he will help craft aspects of the U.S. diplomatic strategy for dealing with rising sectarianism in the Middle East. Working out of the Office of Religion and Global Affairs—part of Secretary of State John Kerry’s office—Mandaville will also help to build the State Department’s capacity for understanding and addressing the interface of religion and international affairs. ‘My work will focus on religious actors and religion more broadly as a societal force in the context of advancing U.S. foreign policy and diplomatic priorities,’ he says. Mandaville is a professor of government and politics at George Mason’s School of Policy, Government, and International Affairs and is co-director of Mason’s Ali Vural Ak Center for Global Islamic Studies. While he is on leave with the State Department, Mason religious studies professor Maria Dakake will assume duties as co-director of the center, along with history and art history professor Huseyin Yilmaz. ‘I’m looking forward to representing the university during this period of government service and sharing my experiences with students when I get back,’ Mandaville says, estimating his term to be about two years. This is Mandaville’s second tour of duty at the State Department. In 2011-12 he served as a member of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s Policy Planning Staff and held a portfolio focused on U.S. policy in the Middle East and South Asia.”
The GMBDW expects that in the event of a Hillary Clinton Presidential victory, Dr Mandaville will serve in yet another high-ranking position relating to US policy towards Islamists and the Muslim Brotherhood. Therefore, it is useful to consider his background in relationship to the Global Muslim Brotherhood.
The Ali Vural Ak Center for Global Islamic Studies (AVAC), headed by Dr Mandaville, was founded by a donation from Ali Vural Ak, described by the AVAC as a businessman and entrepreneur from Istanbul, Turkey. However, in 2010 the New York Times highlighted both what appear to be Mr. Ak’s Islamist sympathies as well as a connection to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, himself an ally of the Global Muslim Brotherhood:
Mr. Ak, the car leasing executive, exemplifies this new business elite of entrepreneurs. He drives a Ferrari to work, but he is also a practicing Muslim who does not drink and has no qualms in talking about his faith. He is not bound to the 20th-century secular consensus among the business, military and judicial elite that fought long and hard to keep Islam removed from public life. On the wall behind his desk is a framed passage in Arabic from the Koran, and he recently financed an Islamic studies program just outside Washington at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va., where Mr. Erdogan recently spoke.
Over the years, the GMBDW has featured Dr Mandaville in a number of reports that also suggest sympathies and/or ties to the US Muslim Brotherhood:
- In September 2008, we reported that Dr Mandaville told the US Senate that he disagreed with the characterization of the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) as a front for the Muslim Brotherhood.
- Two months later, we reported that George Mason University had received $1.5 million from the the International Institute for Islamic Thought (IIIT) for an endowed chair in Islamic studies.
- In March 2010, we reported that the Ali Vural Ak Center had co-sponsored the annual conference of the Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy (CSID) in which several leaders of the global Muslim Brotherhood including Tariq Ramadan and Anwar Ibrahim would be participating along with State Department and White House officials. (see below for more on CSID)
- In May 2012, we reported that CSID leader Abdulaziz Sachedina was appointed as the IIIT Chair in Islamic Studies at the Ali Vural Ak Center.
In his published statements, Dr Mandaville has written that “cooperation between different Muslim Brotherhood organizations remains minimal”, an astounding mischaracterization flatly contradicted in GMBDW reporting, and in 2007 advised that the US should be working with “reformers” in the Muslim Brotherhood:
Mandaville advised that the United States should work to contain the suspicious elements in the Brotherhood, since the young reformers will eventually assume leadership positions within the movement. Furthermore, the United States can take advantage of the movement’s diversity, working with it on a case-by-case and country-by-country basis.
He concluded, clearly quite wrongly in light of the events of recent years, “In U.S. dealings with the Brotherhood, time is on our side.”
Dr Mandavile’s position at the US State Department is just the latest in the long-standing influence of what might be called Muslim Brotherhood “sympathizers”, the most prominent of which is the Saudi-funded Georgetown academic Dr. John Esposito who during the 1990’s was known for his claims that Islamic fundamentalism was, in fact, democratic and posed no threat to the US. According to unpublished GMBDW research, at that time Dr Esposito served as a State Department intelligence analyst arround the same time he was associated with several organizations with ties to the Global Muslim Brotherhood and/or Hamas:
Dr. Esposito enjoyed close contacts with agencies of the US government including the United States Institute of Peace and the US State Department where he served as a “foreign affairs analyst “ with the Department’s Intelligence Bureau sometime during 1992-2000. During this time, Dr. Esposito was also associated with several organizations with ties to the Global Muslim Brotherhood and/or Hamas including as a founding member of the Circle of Tradition and Progress (COTP), an organization founded in 1999 which included leaders of the global Muslim Brotherhood such as Youssef Qaradawi and dedicated to “counteracting the excesses of modernity” At the same time Dr. Esposito was expressing support for the positions of the Global Muslim Brotherhood including criticism of “secular fundamentalism”, support for including Islamic law or Islamic activists in governments, and characterization of the “Christian Zionist”movement as “an excuse for Muslim-Bashing.” Dr. Esposito’s positions on terrorism were also in line with the Global Muslim Brotherhood and included denial of any association of Islam with terrorism, assertions that Jihad meant only “justified” self-defense, assertions that Islamic terrorism was a “reaction to deprivation and exclusion, and minimizing the threat posed to the U.S. by Islamic extremism.
Dr. Esposito’s legacy at the State Deparment can be seen in the ongoing work of the Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy (CSID), founded in 1998 in what appears to have been a cooperative effort among the Department, the US Muslim Brotherhood, and Dr Esposito. Past CSID board members have included Jamal Barzinji and Taha Al-Alwani, both associated with the International Institute of Islamic Thought (IIIT) and both important leaders in the US 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 Global Muslim Brotherhood leader Youssef Qaradawi. From its inception, CSID has argued that the US government should support Islamist movements in foreign countries and has received financial support from the US State Department, the National Endowment for Democracy and the United States Institute of Peace. As recently as January 2015, the GMBDW reported that the State Department had hosted a delegation of Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood leaders for a meeting to discuss their efforts to oppose the current government in Egypt. As noted at that time, the Brotherhood delegation also appeared at the CSID.