Egypt: The Muslim Brotherhood and America–Friends? Foes? Fanatics?

An article in Al Ahram suggests that the US may be softening their stance towards the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. Some recent reports say that the US and Europe have extensive budgets planned for developing new intelligence on the group, which have been officially banned since 1954.

James Traub writes a fascinating and revealing article in the New York Times Magazine about the Muslim Brotherhood and the significant role they play in Egyptian society and politics…and the potential for a new and quickly expanding role.

Just this past week, the MB have announced they will enter 20 candidates in the June elections for the upper house of parliament, according to
The Muslim Weekly.

So, what is the Muslim Brotherhood”s aim and what role will the United States play in all of this? The US gives Egypt over 2 billion dollars in aid a year, only second to Israel and claim they do not “engage” with the Muslim Brotherhood. However,
Traub writes in his article:

“In June 2005, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice delivered a landmark address at the American University in Cairo…Asked after the speech about the Muslim Brotherhood, Rice said flatly, “We have not engaged the Muslim Brotherhood and . . . we won’t.”

Traub says that American diplomats had been in contact with Brotherhood officials over the past few years.

“Rice’s spokesman, Sean McCormack, told me, “We do not meet with the Muslim Brotherhood per se, as we don’t want to get entangled in complexities surrounding its legality as a political party.” He added, however, “Consistent with our practice elsewhere, we will nonetheless meet with any duly elected member of the parliamentary opposition.”

reported that American officials met with the Muslim Brotherhood recently in Cairo. Steny Hoyer, the Democratic majority leader of the House first met with Mohamed Saad El-Katatni, a Brotherhood member during a visit by a congressional group and then later the same day at a cocktail party held at the residence of US Ambassador to Cairo Francis Ricciardone.

It seems that whether the U.S. decides to engage with the Muslim Brotherhood or not, they remain a contentious part of Egypt”s political scene and according to
some people”s calculations may end up “turning Egypt into a mix between Palestine and Iran.” — whatever that means.

[pdf] The moderate Muslim Brotherhood Robert Leiken and research associate Steven Brooke