Remembering Some of Those Who Said the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt Wasn't a Threat to Democracy

November 30th, 2012 10:54 PM

Reviewing several dispatches from the past couple of days, the latest news out of Egypt is that Egyptian "President" Mohammed Morsi "is not backing down in the showdown over decrees granting him near-absolute powers," that "clashes between the two camps (Morsi's Islamist supporters and secular opponents) ... left two dead and hundreds injured," and that the country's Muslim Brotherhood-dominated assembly "pushed through the 234-article draft (constitution) in just 21 hours from Thursday into Friday ... (after) Coptic Christians and liberals earlier had walked out."

The draft constitution includes several articles "that rights activists, liberals and Christians fear will lead to restrictions on the rights of women and minorities," and omits "bans on slavery or promises to adhere to international rights treaties." Oh, and I almost forgot: "The Obama administration is declining to criticize Egypt's draft constitution." It's worth identifying at this point several (but by no means all; what follows is surely a small sample) of those who in 2011 reassured the world that Egyptians had nothing to fear if the Brotherhood and Islamists became dominant.

At NewsBusters on February 4, 2011 ("David Gregory: Muslim Brotherhood 'Matured,' 'Sophisticated,' Egypt Not Comparable to Iran"), the NBC "Meet the Press" host said that "They don't want to turn it into an Islamist state. They have matured politically in that sense and are rather sophisticated."

At Reuters on January 29, 2011, Security Correspondent William Maclean relayed the insistence of Kamel El-Helbawy, "an influential cleric in the international Islamist ideological movement," that those who feared the Brotherhood were in essence engaging in paranoia: "The West is always afraid that if the Brotherhood came to power it would end freedoms or do something (negative) with Israel. But I stress that the Brotherhood are among the people who defend democracy in full, and like to see democracy prevailing, because democracy gives them some of their rights."

As reported at the Blaze on January 30. 2011, secular opposition leader Mohamed ElBaradei was either among the duped or has been in on a power-grabbing conspiracy all along (current Brotherhood opponents had better hope it was the former, because ElBaradei is also currently leading the current political opposition), telling CNN: "You know, the Muslim Brotherhood has nothing to do with the Iranian model, has nothing to do with extremism ... The Muslim Brotherhood is a religiously conservative group. They are a minority in Egypt. They are not a majority of the Egyptian people, but they have a lot of credibility because all the other liberal parties have been smothered for 30 years. They are in favor of a federalist state. They are in favor of a wording on the base of constitution that has red lines that every Egyptian has the same rights, same obligation, that the state in no way will be a state based on religion. And I have been reaching out to them. We need to include them."

Tariq Ramadan, professor of contemporary Islamic studies at Oxford and "the grandson of Hassan al-Banna, who founded the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt in 1928," wrote a column for the Christian Science Monitor on February 8, 2011 with the following headline and subhead: "Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood is a democratic partner, not Islamist threat. The West's fearful stereotypes of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood are based on myth and misunderstanding. Today's Muslim Brotherhood rejects violence and must be a full partner in the process of change – and it will be, if a minimally democratic state can be established in Egypt."

At the Brookings Institution on January 28, 2011, Senior Fellow Bruce Reidel, in an item which apparently also appeared at the Daily Beast ("Don't Fear Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood"), wrote that Western leaders like Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton "should not be afraid of the Muslim Brotherhood. Living with it won’t be easy but it should not be seen as inevitably our enemy. We need not demonize it nor endorse it."

Reidel needn't have worried about Obama, who told Fox News's Bill O"Reilly the following in early February 2011:

“The Muslim Brotherhood is one faction in Egypt. They don’t have majority support in Egypt, but they are well organized and there are strains of their ideology that are against the U.S., there’s no doubt about it,” Obama said. “But here’s the thing that we have to understand, there are a whole bunch of secular folks in Egypt, there are a whole bunch of educators and civil society in Egypt that wants to come to the fore as well. So it’s important for us not to say that our own only two options are either the Muslim Brotherhood or a suppressed people.”

To avoid such scenarios, Obama said that the U.S. must make sure “that we get all the groups together in Egypt for an orderly transition and the one that is a meaningful transition."

So who else in the media will remember these and other people, including many of their own, who either naively or deceptively reassured us that democratic forces in Egypt had nothing to fear from radical Islam or the Muslim Brotherhood?

Cross-posted at