Ikhwanweb Covers The NYU Forum On The Muslim Brotherhood
|Monday, October 23,2006 00:00|
|By Khaled Salam, Ikhwanweb|
The Center on Law and Security at the prestigious NYU School of Law in New York City, held its widely publicized forum on the Muslim Brotherhood which invited Dr. Kamal Helbawy and Dr. Abdel Moneum Abo El fotoh, who were later denied entery to the country by US authorities. I traveled to New York to cover the forum and it was odd to listen to a debate about the Muslim Brotherhood in absence of anyone who represents it. No one was there to speak up for the Muslim Brotherhood. Unfortunately, I myself was unable to identify myself as the Ikhanweb editor, and I had to sign in using an "American name", for fear of putting my trip home in jeaopardy by irrational US authorities. So much for the freedom of expression in the Home of the Free, Land of the Braves. Although the U.S. government does not list the Muslim Brotherhood as terrorist organization, and it is certainly not, however, its members are subject to systematic harrasement and intimidations by government officials and are often denied entery to the country, which is not quietly understood.
I commend Karen Greenburg, director, and the Center on Law and Secuirty at NYU for their excellent choices of Drs. Helbawy and Abo El fotoh to speak for the Muslim Brotherhood. It would of have been a great opportunity for the American people to listen to two outstanding individuals who really represent a true voice of moderation, and maybe that is the reason Drs. Helbawy and Abo El fotoh were blocked from entery in the first place. Somone is not happy about giving a modertate Muslim political voice a chance to be heard in the U.S., especially if that voice is coming from the Muslim Brotherhood, the largest and most influential Islamic and political movement in the Middle East. Does that make sense?. Oh well, nothing makes sense nowadays in the U.S foreign policy.
Despite of all the drama surrounding the forum, I beleive it was a success. The panelists included Dr. Alexis Debat, Senior Fellow at the Nixon Center and Senior Consultant to ABC News; Former advisor to the French minister of Defense on Transatlantic Affairs, and Nick Fielding, Author of "Masterminds of Terror: the truth behind the most devastating attack the world has ever seen" and formerly senior reporter at the Sunday Times (London). There was a visible interest in the forum, which drew a large crowd including several journalists, politicians and university professors, in addition to tens of students and researchers. Among the attendees were also government officials including fomer advisor to the US embassy in Afghanistan and several others who were not announced. The Moderator was - Peter Bergen Research Fellow, Center on Law and Security, CNN analyst and author, The Osama bin Laden I Know: An Oral History of al Qaeda’s Leader. The forum was well organized and overall presented a fair assessment of the Muslim Brotherhood. It began with introductory statements, followed by open questions by the audience. Nick Fielding during his statement protested the exclusion of Dr. Helbawy and called on all those present to make a protest. The main point of his speech was to suggest very strongly that the US administration was wrong for not engaging with the MB and that the Brotherhood was the best possible partner for peace and stability in the Middle East.
2-Alleged link between the Muslim Brotherhood and terrorist groups (you can not have a discussion about MB without asking that question, huh!)
3-Financial support that the MB offers to "violent" groups and individuals, mentioning the Arab Physician Union, Islamic Relief and other charitable organizations as examples of underground channels to funnel money groups that have violent agenda.
4-The concept of the Islamic State and Caliphate according to the Muslim Brotherhood and the MB project to "conquer" the world!
5-The MB model for political activism; does the Turkish AKP (The Justice and Development Party) represent a model for the Egyptian MB to follow, and if not, what model will they follow?
6-The relationship between the MB and Hezbollah
The panelists appeared to be knowledgeable about MB stances and views and appeared to have accumulated a good deal of experience through interacting with different MB figures and institutions. The guests denied any link between the MB and terrorism in recent history although they acknowledged several historical controversial incidents, which tainted the MB with a glimpse of violence. They briefly pointed out the ideological differences between the MB and Jihadist movements. Dr. Alexis Debat appeared the most enthusiast about defending the MB although he stated clearly he does not have political agenda.
On the issue of Caliphate, Dr. Alexis emphatically stated that the MB discourse is highly pragmatic and therefore, the Caliphate “has no place” in its current political discourse. In that regard, he had also mentioned that MB does have two wings; a pragmatic and a more traditional one, without elaborating any further. Following his response on the Caliphate issue, an argument erupted between Dr. Alexis and one the free lance journalists who quoted an article by an Arab writer at Al Sharq Al wsat website accusing the MB of being the “mother of all terrorist groups” and cited literature from Ikhwanweb that talked about the goal of the MB as to create an Islamic State, reestablish the Caliphate and master the world. Dr. Alexis denied seeing such material on Ikhwanweb. Indeed what the reporter referred to was probably articles that were posted on Ikhwanweb but do not necessarily represent the MB official view. There were also articles and studies that we published by Ikhwanweb which represented a trend of thought that existed within the MB. Nick Fielding picked up on that saying the West should not panic about the ambitions by Muslims to create an Islamic state, which he thinks is also aspired by Christians and Jewish who might be striving to create a religious state as well. He sarcastically advised the reporter who frantically presented the question not to let to the Issue of Caliphate “creeps up on you”, which is probably true.
Coming to the question of the MB model for political activism, Dr. Alexis agreed that the AKP model in turkey seemed to be the most likely one that he MB would probably follow, although he clarified that the MB is still in search, studying the experiences of all political Islamic models in the region to decide which way to go.
One problematic issue that seemed unresolved was the alleged financial link between the MB and so called “violent groups and individuals”, namely Hamas. Nick Fielding agreed that financial ties of the MB need to be more scrutinized. However, he also pointed out how that most of the MB financial contributions go to charities and social work. Although Hamas is considered by several Western governments a terrorist group, however, for Muslims, Hamas is a resistance group that is fighting a brutal occupation. In no terms we can consider the MB assistance to Hamas an aid to a terrorist group no matter what the West thinks or believes. We are proud of our support of our brothers and sisters in Palestine and we will never abandon them, so help us God.
Dr. Alexis tackled the question about MB and Hezbollah. He stated that Hezbollah’s growing popularity is seen by the MB as “a big problem”, and that there is no coordination or direct contact between Hezbollah and the MB. Karen Greenberg, the executive director of New York University’s Center for Law and Security, talked about her visit to London to invite Dr. Helbawy for the forum, and praised him for his modesty, his leadership, and the warm welcoming she received by Dr. Helbawy and his associates during her visit.
Which Will It Be, Stability or Democracy?