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October 09, 2007


AbdelRahman Ayyash

Really I don't know what to say Prof. Marc.
thanks very much for your visit
We Are all learn from you
I Promise you that I will do my best to deliver your msg to all members I know in MB, to learn them too how to talk to America, the west and the whole world
thank you again

Abdulrahman Mansour

Marc With Akef!

Nice to meet u ya Prof. Mark


This is exactly the sort of thing that the American government should be fostering: informed and good-faith dialog! There is room for understanding and compromise between the US and groups like the MB if both sides are willing to give and take. If this sort of thing flowers, the prospect of greater MB power in Egypt can be shown to not be such a danger that the US feels it must continue slavish support for Mubarak's vampire government.

The very existence of a debate about the draft platform is extremely encouraging, as is the seeming sensitivity to outside feelings on the matter. Also, that they are willing to talk to the US if the US admits mistakes gives credence to my long-held hope that the Bush administration has not(despite it's best efforts) permanently poisoned relations with MENA societies and that a strong push from a new administration could rebuild bridges remarkably quickly if it set out to do so.

I am curious though Prof Lynch, did you have much trouble with any mukhabarat goons? They must have taken an interest an American meeting with so many MB members.


Yohan, there's a reason that I didn't announce I was doing all this in advance...

Dan M

I think Marc was smart not to preannounce. However, i doubt he would have been harrassed if he had. Foreigners are still by and large being left alone by the government.


My car from the hotel actually was stopped at one of the airport checkpoints and searched and there was some tension... but it turned out to just be the routinely random security harrassment which is one of the charming characteristics of the Egyptian state and not directed at me personally, thankfully.

Guardian reading liberal

I don't see the point of advising the Muslim Brotherhood on their PR - an organisation that consistently attacks Mubarak for being too liberal (a feat in itself).

Anyway, the MB's main problem isn't one of PR as they've already mastered the double talk: saying one thing in English and something completely different in Arabic (usually on the subject of punishments or women). They know how to play the game, and given that some academic goons were recently trying to sell them as an Islamic version of Germany's Christian Democrats it seems they've got a ready audience.

Khaled Salam

Gaurdian, there is no double talk by the MB. What you and many others don’t realize quite yet that within the MB there is a new, progressive and proactive trend that is more pragmatic and is trying to make its voice heard. Ikhwanweb just happened to be more representative of that trend than other Arabic websites since our mission is to reconcile the MB difference with the West. I can reassure you that the MB's moderate English voice is genuine and not tactical. I am sure Marc can elaborate further on that. I encourage you to continue to follow our website and interact with our members and find out yourself.
Khaled Salam
Ikhwanweb co-editor, NY


Great to hear about this trip, Prof!
While you were away (or maybe you were here?), DC was buzzing with events about the MB and other Islamists (not unusual for this city of course), but more so about US engagement with them. Mona Yacoubian at USIP did a briefing about her new paper, and there was a discussion hosted by POMED at SAIS that also touched on the topic. With the events you listed in your other post, there's just too much going on here for a busy grad student like myself to keep up with! Don't you just love DC? :)


But moi, does anyone who can make a difference in the U.S. government actually attend these lectures of which there are so many lately? It's great that they're close to where they work, but are they going? :-(

And guardian reading liberal, it's funny that you should mention your concern about a difference between the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood's statements in English and its statements in Arabic. Professor Lynch just addressed that in a blog post recently! I'll have to comb back through the archives...but if you want to, I know it's no more than 3 months back.

Anyway, I'll admit that he did not compare their statements about women in English to their statements about women in Arabic. What he compared (and said matched up) were their statements about political strategies they considered appropriate and what they thought of the use of violence in English and Arabic.

So yeah, that's not exactly what you mentioned, but it's within the same subject realm. Hope that introduces a ray of sunshine into your thoughts as you mull over what it would be like for the West to interact with the MB.


Interesting post! I am a student doing a master's degree on the subject of the Brotherhood and democracy, and I'm eager to hear more about this new platform, as the part about an ulama council seems new compared to previous statements, and this is a rather crucial question in my thesis. It seems the platform has not been publicized officially, but do you know if it is possible for me to access the "unofficial version" that is discussed above? (I read Arabic).

Dan M

Dear Khaled,

You wrote:

"...there is a new, progressive and proactive trend that is more pragmatic and is trying to make its voice heard... I can reassure you that the MB's moderate English voice is genuine and not tactical. I am sure Marc can elaborate further on that."

Here's the problem. There's an elite of more liberal (for lack of a better word) brothers in cairo that are pushing a more pluralistic vision. But the drafts of the party platform don't seem to reflect those people's views.

The current draft, as i understand it, does rule out copts and women for the presidency, and does propose a Majlis Ulama that average citizens won't have electoral control over to determine what legislation is or is not "islamic."

These provisions, if they come out in the final draft, will not only alienate egyptian copts and secularists(the mere fact that they've been included in drafts has left a bad taste in peoples' mouths already) but many of the western liberals that want to give you guys a fair shake. No doubt the MB knows this.

So why, then, are these provisions there?

My assumption is that the religiously conservative (again for lack of a better word) brothers are more powerful, perhaps because of the large number of midlevel members of the organization who don't live in cairo and are, themselves, very conservative. They, not the english speaking brothers who work so hard to communicate with the outside world, wield the real power. And they think it's morally wrong, haram in fact, for a woman to be president. ditto a copt. They want to legislate private and public morality. They are opposed to pluralism. And they appear, on the basis of the platform so far, to be winning.

I would love to be convinced otherwise.


I'm wondering why anyone thinks that the Muslim Brotherhood should develop their policy based on what will make the non-Muslims in the West happy - whether that's George Bush or Marc Lynch.

The Islamic system of government is based on shura (a council of experts), so it shouldn't be a surprise that the policy statement included this. It's not a matter of imitating the Iranians.

And the leader of an Islamic state should be a Muslim man, because the leader is above all the religious leader.

So what it comes down to is that the objections are simply that the policy is based on Islam. And the people objecting won't be satisfied until they take the "Muslim" out of the "Muslim Brotherhood".


I agree with much of Dan's analysis - but I think we should wait and see what the final platform looks like before rendering a verdict. It's clear that a lot of the reformist trend Dan and Khaled both mention are opposed to the current form of the platform, and are pushing back - and if they succeed, that says as much as does their initial policy defeat. So let's wait and see how it plays out.

Umm Abdullah - nobody says that the MB has to make me (or George Bush) happy. That isn't the point of this, or of the original Foreign Policy piece. It begins from the conditional: IF the MB wants to have better relations with the West, then these are things which might help. Nobody can tell them whether they want this or not, that's up to them. In fact, it's clear that many of the reformists that Dan and Khaled talked about do want this. If they win out in their internal struggles, it will be easier to have productive dialogue and good relations. Of course that's only one factor, and not the most important one, which will go into shaping the MB's evolution - but I think it's worth the effort.

Guardian reading liberal

Khaled, thanks for your response.

In the terms you set out your strategy looks all wrong. If your aim is to promote moderate strands within the Muslim Brotherhood, surely your priority should be to argue the case within the organisation itself rather than directing your time to showcasing the MB's marginal moderates to an English-speaking audience. Its completely lost on me what's to gained by preaching in these terms to a western audience if your priority's internal reform of the MB.

It makes perfect sense though if you've got a different primary goal...


Katie, while I attended those events, I can't be sure who is in the audience. You get an idea through those who ask questions and identify themselves. But you raise a good point, and I don't think enough policy makers are attending these events, unfortunately. They're mostly graduate students, academics, thinktank-ers, some people from USAID, NDI, IRI, but not anyone that I can tell is from State, for example.


Guardian - why do you assume that the two are mutually exclusive? It surely helps the moderates in their internal arguments if they can show some payoff to their efforts with regard to external attitudes - even if that isn't the only, or even primary, goal.

Also, with only one exception (Ibrahim Howeydi) every single one of my interviews was entirely in Arabic. There was no showcasing of English-speaking moderates - that's just factually inaccurate. Sorry if that wasn't clear from the post.


There would be far less paranoia in the west if it were more widely understood that militant fundamentalism has appeared at about the same time in the development of Islam as it did in Christianity (Protestant Reformation) - taking about 15/16 centuries in both instances. Fundamentalism seems to have been a necessary stage in the progress to democracy.

The Islamic transition is likely to be much shorter as it is residing within an already democratised, capitalised world, especially with globalisation and information technology. The Muslim Brotherhood internal debate seems very healthy to me - it doesn't happen with the Wahhabis!


bb, can you explain what you mean by the "militant fundamentalism" that you see now, which didn't exist for the last 14 centuries in Islam?

(And if, by Wahhabi, you mean Salafi, they've almost destroyed themselves by their constantly ripping apart each other in internal debates.)


I mean the emergence of states and movements imposing or seeking to impose "purist" versions of religous law, restrictions on public and private behaviour and strictly enforcing them and then attempting to export the "revolution" to their co-religionists in neighbouring or other countries. For eg: the Calvinist "revolution" in Geneva in the 16th century and the Iranian revolution in the 20th.

Wahhabis have destroyed themselves in "internal debates"? Where? I am happy to be corrected!

(By Wahhabi I mean - from the quick Wiki reference - "Wahhabi theology treats the Qur'an and Hadith as fundamental texts, interpreted upon the understanding of the first three generations of Islam and further explained by many various commentaries including that of Muhammad ibn Abd-al-Wahhab. His book Kitab al-Tawhid ("Book of Monotheism"), and the works of the earlier scholar Ibn Taymiyya are fundamental to Wahabism.

Ibn Abdul-Wahhab went so far as to declare jihad against all other Muslims who practiced so-called acts of polytheism. Ibn Abdul-Wahhab's views were opposed to those of the mainstream Muslim scholars of Mecca and Medina of that time. For example, he called intermediation of Muhammad an act of polytheism.

Wahhabis see their role as restoring Islam from what they perceive to be polytheism, innovation, superstition, deviance, heresy and idolatry.") My understanding is that wahhabiism is the driving ideology of the Taleban, Al Qaeda and AlQ in Iraq?


The problem with talking about "Wahhabis" is that there's no group that actually calls itself that. What people usually mean are "Salafis", and "Wahhabi" is normally used as a derogatory term for a group of mostly Saudi scholars and their followers. The Taleban come out of a different school of thought, though: the Deobandi, from the Indian subcontinent. (And the Muslim Brotherhood is not associated with either of these schools of thought.)

As for Islamic societies that strictly enforced purist versions of Islamic law and restricted public and private behavior, you could start with the first Islamic societies under the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and the Caliphs Abu Bakr, Umar, Uthman and Ali.


Labels are a distraction from the matters of real importance. What matters are beliefs of the people involved and what they are willing to learn from each other, not the label or mislabel of those beliefs. Parallels to the Christian Reformation are not helpful and are not relevant.

And besides, the MB of Sayyid Qutb is not the MB of today just as the Ariel Sharon of 1982 was not the Ariel Sharon of 2005 and the US government of 2009 will be very different from the US government of today. Americans need to get past the scary connotations that the MB name has and look at the people who are the MB of today.


The early Christian church also had a pervasive "purism" about it. Then after fifteen centuries of development purism was falling to the economic imperatives of modernisation and secularisation which led to the fundamentalist revival and "reformation" backlash. Fifteen centuries after the birth of Islam the same thing is happening in the Muslim world for the same reasons. If this were better understood by western policy makers there would be far less xenophobia and better policies.


Maybe I'm being boorish and naive - but the muslim Brother is dedicated to the establishment of Islamic law. Even if they amend their platform to the point where it passes a liberal "smell test," their goals will not change - and they will find a way to achieve them irrespective of any show platform they may put forward in order to satisfy their western supporters.

Sorry, but it seems to me hopelessly foolish to believe otherwise . . .



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