‘New Anti-Radical Islam Atmosphere in America’: Egyptians Want Trump to Act Against Muslim Brotherhood

By Patrick Goodenough | January 13, 2017 | 4:20 AM EST

Muslim Brotherhood supporters in Tahrir Square (AP Photo, File)

(CNSNews.com) – A delegation of Egyptian lawmakers and civil society representatives plans to arrive in Washington the day after President-elect Donald Trump’s inauguration to lobby the new administration to take firm action against the Muslim Brotherhood.

“We are in a war against this group and other radical political Islam movements, so it is important to exploit the new anti-radical Islam atmosphere in America to achieve our goal,” the Al-Ahram daily quoted Tarek Radwan, deputy chairman of the Egyptian parliament's foreign affairs committee, as saying.

The Muslim Brotherhood is already facing an assault on several fronts in the U.S., where lawmakers have introduced legislation seeking its designation as a foreign terrorist organization (FTO), and Trump’s secretary of state nominee has lumped it with al-Qaeda as “agents of radical Islam.”

The Egyptian delegation’s schedule is being organized by President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi’s foreign ministry, and is expected to include meetings with new administration officials and Republican lawmakers who leading the drive for FTO designation.

“The foreign ministry wants us to open contacts with a new U.S. Congress and a new administration which is completely different, in terms of being hostile to the Muslim Brotherhood and other political Islam movements,” Radwan said.

On Wednesday, Trump’s pick for secretary of state, former ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson, told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee the U.S. needs to be “honest about radical Islam.”

Using a term which the Obama administration has deliberately avoided, he said that “radical Islam poses a grave risk to the stability of nations and the wellbeing of their citizens.”

Tillerson said the defeat of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS/ISIL) – “the most urgent step in thwarting radical Islam” – would allow the U.S. to focus on “disrupting the capabilities of other groups and individuals committed to striking our homeland and our allies.”

“The demise of ISIS will also allow us to increase our attention on other agents of radical Islam like al-Qaeda, the Muslim Brotherhood, and certain elements within Iran,” he said.

Tillerson added, however, that he would “ensure the State Department does its part in supporting Muslims around the world who reject radical Islam in all its forms.”

‘Hateful group’

A day before Tillerson’s confirmation hearing, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.) introduced legislation calling on the State Department to designate the Muslim Brotherhood as an FTO.

Cruz’s bill, S.68, was co-sponsored by Sens. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), James Inhofe (R-Okla.) and Pat Roberts (R-Kans.), while Diaz-Balart’s H.R. 377 has 20 co-sponsors, all Republicans.

“The Muslim Brotherhood continues to support terrorist organizations that are responsible for acts of violence around the world,” said Diaz-Balart. “This bill would impose tough sanctions on a hateful group that has spread violence and spawned extremist movements throughout the Middle East.”

Cruz pointed out that the U.S. has designated individual Brotherhood members and branches and charities, including Hamas and al-Qaeda, but not the organization as a whole.

(Palestinian Arab cleric Ahmed Yassin founded Hamas as the Brotherhood’s Palestinian arm in 1987. Top al-Qaeda terrorists with ties to the Brotherhood include its leader, Ayman Zawahiri, a former top member of the Brotherhood in Egypt; 9/11 architect Khalid Sheik Mohammed, who joined the organization in Kuwait; and the jailed World Trade Center bombing plotter, Egyptian sheik Omar Abdel Rahman.)

Egyptians protest what they view as support by the Obama administration for the Muslim Brotherhood (Ikhwan in Arabic), in front of the U.S. Embassy in Cairo on July 14, 2012.(AP Photo/Khalil Hamra, File)

Cruz also pointed to a 1991 Muslim Brotherhood memo that has stoked controversy ever since it emerged after being admitted as an exhibit in a 2007-2008 trial, which ended with leaders of the Holy Land Foundation in Texas being convicted of raising money for Hamas.

An often-cited excerpt from the document says that the Muslim Brotherhood “must understand that their work in America is a kind of grand Jihad in eliminating and destroying the Western civilization from within and ‘sabotaging’ its miserable house by their hands and the hands of the believers so that it is eliminated and God’s religion is made victorious over all other religions.”

Critics of radical Islam view the document as blueprint for the organization in the United States; others have dismissed it as the aspirational suggestions of an individual that were never taken seriously by the Muslim Brotherhood’s shura council, to whom the memo was addressed.

The Muslim Brotherhood governed Egypt for a year under elected President Mohammed Morsi, but the Egyptian military, then led by Sisi, ousted it in a mid-2013 coup. Morsi remains in prison, awaiting retrial after an appeal court last November overturned an earlier death sentence.

The now-outlawed group in a statement Wednesday denied reports saying it has decided to resort to violence in its ongoing campaign against the “military dictatorship.”

‘Political witch hunt’

During Morsi’s one-year tenure, many Egyptians viewed the Obama administration as pro-Muslim Brotherhood.

In a 2014 speech in Qatar, a senior State Department official – alluding to the Muslim Brotherhood, which some Gulf states have banned – urged decision makers in the region to draw a distinction between Islamists and terrorists, arguing that lumping them together was making the fight against violent extremists harder.

The new push in the U.S. against the Muslim Brotherhood could have implications for American Muslim groups which for years have fended off allegations of covert links to the group, among them the Muslim American Society, which was founded by Brotherhood members but denies any affiliation today, the Islamic Society of North America, and the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR).

Corey Saylor, director of CAIR’s “department to monitor and combat Islamophobia” on Thursday rejected what he called the “Muslim Brotherhood conspiracy theory.”

“Every Muslim organization in America has been subjected to sixteen years of extreme vetting under both the Bush and Obama administrations,” he said in an email. “Every stone has been turned over, multiple times.”

“Any actions against American Muslim groups under the Trump administration, such as pushing the already debunked Muslim Brotherhood conspiracy theory, are a political witch hunt,” Saylor added.

Patrick Goodenough
Patrick Goodenough
Spencer Journalism Fellow