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Friday, October 27, 2006

The Nation: Give terrorists a chance

Occasionally I make a quick foray to the Left and get really, really scared.

In an article just posted at The Nation, Stephen Glain waxes poetic about the wonderful Muslim Brotherhood:
Kemal Helbawy is a founding member of the Muslim Association of Britain and a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, the Egyptian-based Islamist movement with chapters throughout the Islamic world, including Hamas in the Palestinian territories. It comprises the largest opposition bloc in the Egyptian parliament, with eighty-eight seats, and it administers a network of social services that is far more efficient and responsive than those provided by the state. Brotherhood leaders have been at the vanguard of Egypt's grassroots push for political reform, consistent with the Bush Administration's policy of democratizing the Middle East.

But on October 18, Helbawy found out what all that hard work and credibility is worth, at least as far as the White House is concerned. The London-based religious scholar was tightly buckled into his aisle seat on an American Airlines flight bound for New York, where he was to be the lead speaker at a conference on the Muslim Brotherhood. Within minutes after leaving the gate, the flight captain announced a departure delay and the aircraft was towed back. Helbaway was asked to come forward, where he was met by an official of the US Department of Homeland Security and informed he had been rendered inadmissible for entry to the United States without a visa issued by the US embassy in London.

It didn't matter to the agent that, as a British citizen, the 80-year-old Helbawy did not require a visa, nor that Helbawy had traveled frequently to the United States a decade ago as part of a university lecture series. Orders were orders, and Helbawy was escorted off the plane.

Now, what reason could the evil Bush administration possibly have for not wanting a member of this social-services organization to visit the US?
The State Department would not say why Helbawy was barred from the United States. Increasingly, however, the Bush Administration is using broad interpretation of the USA Patriot Act to keep out foreign scholars critical of White House policies. According to State Department documents obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, the act's "ideological exclusion" provision may apply to anyone who "endorses or espouses" terrorism or who voices "irresponsible expressions of opinions."

Of course - it is because the Bush administration is fascist and does not allow people like Glain to make their opinions known!

Nothing to do with the fact that every major terror group is descended from the Muslim Brotherhood. Nothing to do with the fact that the "moderation" that Glain imagines the Brotherhood espouses is only in relation to people who explicitly call for genocide of Jews, while the Brotherhood is only implicit. Nothing to do with the fact that these Islamists want to establish a world under Shari'a law where Glaim's wife will be forced to cover up, where Christians and Jews pay a poll tax and where Israel will not exist.
In taking on the Muslim Brotherhood, the Bush Administration has aligned itself against the most powerful and authentic political movement in the Arab world. Established in 1928 in opposition to foreign occupation and Zionism, the Brotherhood is the closest thing to an established, centrist party in an Arab world that over the years has shifted rightward on a riptide of outrage. Egyptians are drawn in by the group's message of moderation and tolerance and by their contempt for US Middle East policy, which includes support of Hosni Mubarak, the country's brutal, secular president. The group renounced violence decades ago and has condemned Osama bin Laden and his acolytes as apostates. It is not on the US list of terrorist organizations and gets high praise from many Egyptians--secular as well as religious, Christian as well as Muslim--for its civic-mindedness.
No one is arguing that the Egyptian government is not corrupt, but to pretend that the Brotherhood is truly interested in democracy is absurd - shari'a is not compatible with democracy as we know it, but for Islamists to use it as a means to gain power is fine with them.

Hamas, Hezbollah and Al Qaeda are all ideological descendents of the Brotherhood, and to willfully ignore that in order to pretend that the MB is a progressive, democratic movement is shortsighted and dangerous. It is also a little hypocritical to argue for "realpolitik" in dealing with the Brotherhood but to toss off the actual current leader of Egypt Mubarak as an evil despot that should not be spoken to. And the naivete involved in believing the MB when they say they are moderate is breathtaking.

To think that the mainstream Left in the US has these beliefs is more than frightening.