by Andrew Harrod
Apologists for terrorist organizations take center stage.
“I can’t have a serious conversation with you about the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) and violence because” this author’s question “is driven by a certain ideological agenda,” declared University of Denver Middle East studies professor Nader Hashemi. His dismissal typified the ideological blindness towards the MB of a March 17 presentation by the Islamist-aligned Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy (CSID) before about thirty-five at Washington, DC’s National Press Club.
Hashemi concurred with his fellow panelists that enactment of the recently introduced Muslim Brotherhood Terrorist Designation Act will “pour oil on the raging fires that are consuming” the Middle East. Despite the act’s extensive catalogue of MB violent support for Islamic supremacy in numerous affiliates across the Middle East, he echoed the panel in rejecting an American terrorist designation for the MB’s founding Egyptian branch. He contrasted a supposedly moderate MB with extremist groups like the Islamic State in Iraq and (Greater) Syria (ISIS) and warned that when “moderate forms of political Islam are crushed and denied a public voice, radical Islam thrives.”
Citing Rachid Ghannouchi of Tunisia’s MB-affiliated, deceptively moderate-sounding Ennahda party, Hashemi stated that the “only way to defeat ISIS is to offer a better product to the millions of young people in the Muslim world . . . Muslim democracy.” He drew from the swift fall of Arab dictators in the “Arab Spring” the lesson that “dictatorial rule is fundamentally precarious” and suffers from an “absence of internal political legitimacy.” The “Arab Spring” validated for him President George W. Bush’s 2003 statement that “stability cannot be purchased at the expense of liberty,” notwithstanding his costly Iraqi regime change experiment in “Muslim democracy.”
Hashemi concluded that “it is not a coincidence that ISIS emerged and attracted new followers after the crushing of the ‘Arab Spring’” in 2013 in Egypt. He failed to explain the connection between Middle Eastern dictatorship and the many ISIS foreign fighters from Europe, nor ISIS’s drive to exterminate Christians and other minorities. Additionally, he ignored that ISIS developed not amidst dictatorial restoration, but rather the bloody Shiite-Sunni sectarian divisions destroying central rule in Iraq and Syria. ISIS has also gained ground in Libya after President Barack Obama engaged in yet another military campaign for democracy during the “Arab Spring” and overthrew Muammar Ghaddafi.
Libya remained central to the discussion that followed when former CSID panelist Esam Omeish from the Libyan American Public Affairs Council, a pro-jihadi, pro-MB lobbying organization, joined the conversation from the audience. This documented supporter of the Palestinian “jihad way” and al-Qaeda-linked Libyan groups asked the panel about “Israeli-centric politics” motivating a MB terrorist designation. Against all evidence, he asserted that the MB’s “discourse has always been nonviolent” since the organization’s 1928 founding. “Violence was born only out of circumstance” as the MB reacted to various authoritarian Egyptian regimes, he maintained.
Omeish also rejected the American terrorist designation of the MB-affiliate Hamas as a “very big mistake.” As evidence, he mentioned Hamas’s Palestinian Authority electoral victories while overlooking Hamas’s 2007 seizure of power in the Gaza Strip. Parallel to his analysis of the MB, he argued that Hamas (which is now aiding ISIS’s Sinai affiliate) “has a violent conflict with a state that is committing state violence” creating “the atmosphere for terrorist activities to happen.”
Hashemi agreed to an “Israeli-centric bias in the debate” over the MB and acquiesced in Omeish’s MB-Hamas apologia, in keeping with Hashemi’s brusqueness towards critical inquiry into the MB. As with a Daily Caller reporter in a recently reported audience exchange, Hashemi dismissed this author’s post-event question about the MB pursuing Islamic supremacy with both violent and nonviolent tactics according to circumstances. Hashemi retorted that the “whole question is rooted in a biased analysis of the topic” and that after a “clear break” following Egyptian state repression in the early 1950s, the MB “strategy was nonviolent political change.”
Hashemi claimed that Hamas “engages in its own acts of terrorism, but within a context of a struggle for national liberation.” He dismissed this reporter’s reminder of Hamas’ genocidal charter calling for Islam to destroy Israel by claiming “these are all pro-Israel talking points” amidst an “occupation of an entire people for the last fifty years.” Given “Israel’s attempts to quash the national rights of the Palestinians, if you were living in Gaza you would be sympathetic to the Muslim Brotherhood, I guarantee you. That’s the rational position,” he sputtered.
Hashemi’s biased presentation evinced no desire to inquire rigorously into the MB’s history and nature, or to entertain critical questions from audience members. He simply displayed hostility to honest research and apologias for pro-jihad, pro-Hamas, and anti-Israel propaganda. Unfortunately, these vices characterize the Middle East studies establishment’s repeated malfeasance towards the indisputable reality of Islamist dangers.
Andrew Harrod is a freelance researcher and writer who holds a PhD from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy and a JD from George Washington University Law School. He is a fellow with the Lawfare Project, an organization combating the misuse of human rights law against Western societies. You may follow Harrod on twitter at @AEHarrod.
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