MB welcomes dialogue with the West without preconditions
The Muslim Brotherhood is open to talking with Western governments, without preconditions, especially after French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe asserted his country’s readiness for an open dialogue with Islamist movements in the Arab world if they embraced democracy and renounced violence. Explaining the policy shift, Juppe said France had been duped by leaders who demonised Muslim movements and used them as a scarecrow to consolidate its grip on power.
It reveals a strong indication that the statement marked a radical shift in the West’s policy on the Islamists after they failed to exclude them. The policy change — which breaks with a precedent of supporting Western-friendly Arab leaders as a bulwark against Islamic extremism suggests they want to form early ties with political groups that could take up power in some Middle East states once the dust settles from political upheaval.
Dr. Essam Al-Erian, a member of the MB Executive bureau and the media spokesman of the MB, has ascertained that Western countries have long held an apprehensive view of popular Islamic movements partly as a result of warnings by government leaders in countries where those movements have taken root. He explained that Western governments are in need of a new approach toward the region as a whole, and they must adopt a different policy.
In a comment to the daily “Al-Mesryoon”, Al-Arian hailed the French minister’s invitation for initiating talks, saying Islam calls for and the Brothers welcome it without preconditions.
Prominent Muslim Brotherhood figure Kamal el-Helbawy has expressed his happiness on the Western’s discarding of false accusations of the Muslim movements, especially France, which used to speak about Islamophobia, describing it as a good initiative.
MB leader Hamdy Hassan has stressed that the MB encourages open dialogue with all forces, both at home and abroad. The Western countries have long backed authoritarian regimes, he said, considering that the invitation to open the door for dialogue is a welcome effort to repair dire policies. He also stressed that the situation after the January 25 revolution has dramatically changed and the dialogue should not be negotiating in order to gain favour with the West, through making concessions if Islamists come to power. The dialogue should be an attempt for a mutual understanding among the parties towards certain issues.
Hassan denied the Brothers seek to get recognition of Western elites and gain their trust as the MB derives its legitimacy form the people stressing the group has become the biggest opposition force in Egypt and takes a stand position on minorities and women known to all and will not change its position.
France was long seen as a friend to Arab peoples due to its criticism of Israeli policy under the late President Charles de Gaulle, the sheltering of late Palestine Liberation Organization leader Yasser Arafat and opposition to the 2003 invasion of Iraq. France has since dispensed with this image.
The current President Sarkozy has been an open supporter of Israel and took a so-called “pragmatic” position with regard to autocratic Arab leaders like deposed Tunisian president Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, who was often described in France as a moderate reformer. France’s new diplomatic tone suggests Sarkozy is favouring democratic aspirations — and the hope of forming ties with a new generation of Arab leaders — over stability.
“The fact we favoured stability brought by authoritarian regimes turned out not to be a good option because in the end, the stability disappeared,” a French diplomat said, speaking on the condition of anonymity.
“Alain Juppe is indeed trying to rebuild a positive image of France in the Arab world and in the hearts and minds of Arabs everywhere,” said Pascal Boniface, a researcher at the Institute of International and Strategic Relations.
We are willing to talk to everyone,” Juppe told a group of journalists in Paris. “Let us speak to everyone, let us speak to the Muslim Brotherhood.”
Western countries including France have long held a suspicious view of popular Islamic movements like the Muslim Brotherhood, which traces its roots to Islamist ideology born in Egypt — partly as a result of warnings by government leaders in countries where those movements have taken root.
“We believed them and now we can see the result,” Juppe said, referring to the slowness of France’s reaction to budding popular revolts in Tunisia and Egypt.