(CNSNews.com) – The Obama administration’s engagement with the Muslim Brotherhood is a reflection of the changed political landscape in Egypt, White House press secretary Jay Carney said after meetings this week between National Security Council officials and the Islamist group.
No readout of Tuesday’s meeting was provided but Carney told reporters Thursday that the U.S. always expresses the expectation to all political players in Egypt that the country must respect human rights and democratic principles.
“It’s a fact that Egypt’s political landscape has changed, the actors have become more diverse, and our engagement reflects that,” he said. “The point is that we will judge Egypt’s political actors by how they act, not by their religious affiliation.”
The veteran Egyptian organization, which spawned the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas in 1987, promotes the application of Islamic law (shari’a). An influential cleric long regarded as the Brotherhood’s spiritual leader, Yusuf al-Qaradawi, has drawn criticism over comments about Palestinian suicide bombings.
The Brotherhood was banned under the presidency of Hosni Mubarak, ousted early last year in a pro-democracy uprising. Through its political arm, the Freedom and Justice Party, the organization controls a large segment of both chambers of parliament as well as an assembly tasked to draft a new constitution. It is also fielding a candidate for president in elections scheduled for May.
Carney said engaging the organization reflects the current political reality in Egypt, and pointed out that Republican Sens. John McCain (Ariz.) and Lindsay Graham (S.C.) also met with Brotherhood representatives when they traveled to Egypt.
“We’re engaged with Egypt’s new actors to try to engage with them during this historic transformation, post revolution, and encourage them both to pursue democracy in its fullest sense as well as pursue the kind of – and maintain the kind of international obligations they’ve maintained in the past,” he said.
One reporter asked whether the administration was addressing the organization’s controversial stance toward Christians, Jews and women.
“Again, I don’t have readouts on that,” Carney replied, “but we are very candid on all of our discussions with actors on the political scene in Egypt and elsewhere on what we consider to be appropriate democratic conduct in a society that has gone through a revolution and a democratic revolution and that aspires to be a full democracy.”