In my morning peregrinations across the radio dial I spent some time at NPR and at John Gambling's show listening to learned commentary about the situation in Egypt. On both shows, commentators referred to as "experts" on the Middle East made the almost identical comment to the effect that we should not be too worried about the Muslim Brotherhood because they do not support terror; further there were multiple comments extolling the moderation of "Nobel Prize" winner Mohamed el Baredi.
Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me; (try to) fool me a thousand times, something is seriously amiss.
The New York Times, the go-to site for conventional wisdom, describes the situation in similar terms: [All Emphases added and my comments in italics]
(Benjamin Netanyahu commented), “I remind you that the peace between Israel and Egypt has endured for over three decades and our goal is to ensure that these relations continue,” he said on Sunday as Egypt’s powerful Muslim Brotherhood and the secular opposition banded together around a prominent government critic to negotiate for forces seeking the fall of Mr. Mubarak.
The announcement that the critic, Mohamed ElBaradei, would represent a loosely unified opposition reconfigured the struggle between Mr. Mubarak’s government and a six-day-old uprising bent on driving him and his party from power.
Though lacking deep support on his own, Dr. ElBaradei, a Nobel laureate and diplomat, could serve as a consensus figure [ie, a figure head] for a movement that has struggled to articulate a program for a potential transition. It suggested, too, that the opposition was aware of the uprising’s image abroad, [the opposition is un-organized, except for the Muslim Brotherhood, so who decided they needed a moderate for a front man? Hint: it wasn't the democratic secular opposition, most of whom are Arabic nationalists and not Jeffersonian democrats, in any event.] putting forth a candidate who might be more acceptable to the West than beloved in Egypt.
In scenes as tumultuous as any since the uprising began, Dr. ElBaradei defied a government curfew on Sunday night and joined thousands of protesters in Liberation Square, which has become the epicenter of the uprising and a platform, writ small, for the frustrations, ambitions and resurgent pride of a generation claiming the country’s mantle.
“Today we are proud of Egyptians,” Dr. ElBaradei told throngs who surged toward him in a square festooned with banners calling for Mr. Mubarak’s fall. “We have restored our rights, restored our freedom, and what we have begun cannot be reversed.”
The reports of the Muslim Brotherhood and secular opposition banding together should be a cause for great concern; we have seen this before:
I would like to remind people that after the 1979 revolution in Iran, the secularists and the various religious groups united to form a coalition government. Within a year, the Islamic Republic party (two of the members of which were Rafsanjani and Khamenei) completely took control and turned Iran into a totalitarian state in the guise of a so-called “Islamic” republic that took away many of the hard-earned rights that Iranians had gained in the last century. This regime is still in power in Iran today, executing opposition members and Iranian citizens who dare oppose them.
I would like to remind people that when Khomeini came to Iran he promised freedom, democracy and human rights. As we are seeing today — with people telling us not to worry about the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt — in Iran in the early days of the revolution people said the same about Khomeini and his minions. Western media and even western leaders, including former U.S. President, Jimmy Carter, tried to deal with the government of Khomeini, only to see radical so-called “students” who called themselves “Followers of the Imam’s Line” occupy the U.S. embassy in Tehran and take its employees hostage for 444 days, only to release them on the day that Ronald Reagan was sworn in as President, humiliating Carter and releasing a new meme–the idea that Islamic revolution could spread throughout the world. Radical Islam has been with us since.
In fact, one of the members of the Muslim Brotherhood, involved in the assassination of former liberal Egyptian President Anwar Saddat, is Ayman Al-Zawahiri, one of the leaders of Al Qaeda. Remember them?
Barry Rubin supplies some useful quotes that you will not see in the MSM delimiting the "moderation" of the Muslim Brotherhood:
And for those of you who think that the Muslim Brotherhood is really a moderate group, here is one example of its rhetoric from Rajab Hilal Hamida, a member of the Brotherhood in Egypt’s parliament, who proves that you don’t have to be moderate to run in elections:
“From my point of view, Bin Ladin, al-Zawahiri and al-Zarqawi [the leaders of al-Qaida who staged the September 11 attacks and massive killings in Iraq] are not terrorists in the sense accepted by some. I support all their activities, since they are a thorn in the side of the Americans and the Zionists.…[On the other hand,] he who kills Muslim citizens is neither a jihad fighter nor a terrorist, but a criminal murderer. We must call things by their proper names!”
And here's Muhammad Badi, the Brotherhood's leader:
"Resistance is the only solution….[Today the United States] is withdrawing from Iraq, defeated and wounded, and it is also on the verge of withdrawing from Afghanistan. [All] its warplanes, missiles and modern military technology were defeated by the will of the peoples, as long as [these peoples] insisted on resistance–and the wars of Lebanon and Gaza, which were not so long ago, [are proof of this].”
The Muslim Brotherhood is an Islamist, Sharia supporting organization. It demurred on terror as a tactical ply and has never abandoned the philosophy which supports terror, in the form of strict Sharia, as a political philosophy. If they have not used terror within Egypt in the last 20 years it is only because of their fear of the Egyptian internal security (which we have used to extract information from Islamists and which does not worry about he tender sensibilities of those who quake at making their enemies uncomfortable) and their recognition that terror would lead to their destruction.
Worse, for the future of the Middle East, the Egyptian people are not democrats waiting for a chance to build a consensual democracy; Barry Rubin has the numbers:
In Egypt, 30 percent like Hizballah (66 percent don’t). 49 percent are favorable toward Hamas (48 percent are negative); and 20 percent smile (72 percent frown) at al-Qaida. Roughly speaking, one-fifth of Egyptians applaud the most extreme Islamist terrorist group, while around one-third back revolutionary Islamists abroad. This doesn’t tell us what proportion of Egyptians want an Islamist government at home, but it is an indicator.
In Egypt, 82 percent want stoning for those who commit adultery; 77 percent would like to see whippings and hands cut off for robbery; and 84 percent favor the death penalty for any Muslim who changes his religion.
Asked if they supported “modernizers” or “Islamists” only 27 percent of Egyptians said they favored the modernizers while 59 percent said they backed the Islamists.
In general, if you are a pessimist about the ability of rational behavior to trump the irrational in the Middle East, you will be right much more often than those who minimize the import of the irrational. The best case scenario in Egypt is another dictator who is willing to begin the process of constructing a more free, more democratic society; the worst case scenario is the triumph of Thanatos, in the person of the Sunni Islamists.
Someday historians will look back at our time and wonder how our most prestigious news organizations could have been so gullible and complicit in our failures to understand the world we live in.