The Difficulty of Definitions

The Difficulty of Definitions

Writing in the CT Blog, Jeffrey Imm argues that “any blueprint strategy for national security must define Jihad, must address it within the national security threat, and must also define a national policy on the ideology of political Islamism.” But, Imm says, we have no such definition, and Islamist organizations like the Muslim Brotherhood fall into what he views as a dangerous grey area. He describes the case of Major Stephen Coughlin, who was apparently fired from a Pentagon job for taking too hard a line toward Muslim groups linked to the Brotherhood.

This is yet another example of the difficulty of drawing clear contrasts in our conflict with Islamist terrorism. Though the Muslim Brotherhood is an Islamist group that is an ideological progenitor of al Qaeda, it also says it supports democractic principles, which the U.S. is keen to support in the Middle East. Writing last year in Foreign Affairs, Leiken and Brooke point out that , “Even as Western commentators condemn the Muslim Brotherhood for its Islamism, radicals in the Middle East condemn it for rejecting jihad and embracing democracy.” McDonald and Derk, writing in this blog, concluded that the Brotherhood’s web site “is instrumental for decision makers to track issues of import within the Islamic world and provides another avenue to awareness of those hostile to, as well as sympathetic, to our policy goals in the region and around the world.”

The Brotherhood is hard to classify because of its ambiguous position, supporting Islamist principles but rejecting its violent methods, and giving voice to those for and against U.S. policy in the Middle East. Some critics like Robert Spencer argue that this ambiguity itself is a strategy designed to confuse the West about the true intent of Islamists. But in this postmodern world, how is it possible to understand the “true” intent of groups like the Brotherhood? Perhaps they do not themselves know what their true intent is.


Comment By MB Executive Bureau member Mahmoud Ghozlan :

In a statement to Ikhwanweb, MB Executive Bureau member Mahmoud Ghozlan said that the Brotherhood’s commitment to peaceful reform is what indicates its true intents.

This statement comes as a reaction to frequent concerns voiced by multiple western media about the true intent of the MB, and whether it embraces non-violence as a means to deceive the west.

Ghozlan cited what he thinks is evidence to the movement’s unshakable adherence to moderate political mechanisms saying, “The MB has experienced unbearable repression by subsequent governments over the past 80 years, but it has never renounced its peaceful ideals. We are still keen on security, stability, and public interests and we call for pluralism and respecting Egypt’s constitution. The Muslim Brotherhood’s message is simply social and political reform without resorting to any sort of violence or terrorism to change the status quo.”

Dr. Ghozlan added that impartial think-tanks can easily conclude the huge discrepancies between the MB as a moderate Islamist organization and other radical groups such as Al Qaeda. Moreover, western policy makers are aware of this truth, but some of them insist on twisting it to spread fear among their people on false grounds. He also said that the disastrous 9-11th attacks resulted in a negative stereotyping of Muslims around the globe, which necessitates a clear-cut distinction between extremists and moderates, just as Muslims should differentiate between western peoples and the catastrophic policies of some western governments.”

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The Difficulty of Definitions

by Steven R. Corman 
Writing in the CT Blog, Jeffrey Imm argues that “any blueprint strategy for national security must define Jihad, must address it within the national security threat

The Muslim Brotherhood and

Rhetoric based on the spread of an idea rather than material success powerfully illustrates the self-definition, and close engagement with on-going controversies highlighted by