Al-Qaeda does its enemy a favor with its honesty. The Muslim Brotherhood does not make the same mistake. It is more politically savvy and aware of how it can manipulate the minds of Westerners with soft language. The Islamist group is trying to clean up its image, most recently by deleting its objectives from its English-language website.
The Investigative Project on Terrorism discovered that the English version of the Muslim Brotherhood’s official website no longer includes its bylaws and it makes sense why. One of them is “the need to work on establishing the Islamic State, which seeks to effectively implement the provisions of Islam and its teachings” and “defend the [Islamic] nation against its internal enemies.” Another is to “insist to liberate the Islamic nation from the yoke of foreign rule, help safeguard the rights of Muslims everywhere and unite Muslims around the world.”
“The sincere support for a global cooperation in accordance with the provisions of the Islamic Sharia, which would safeguard the personal rights, freedom of speech for active and constructive participation towards building a new basis of human civilization as is ensured by the overall teachings of Islam,” another one reads.
There are other telling differences between the Arabic and English websites as well. The home page of the English site mentions “freedom.” The home page of the Arabic site has the official Muslim Brotherhood logo of two crossed swords and a Quran and an Arabic word that means “make ready.” Christine Brim writes that this phrase is taken from Quran 8:60 that states, “Make ready for an encounter against them, all the forces and well-readied horses you can muster, that you may overawe the enemies of Allah and your own enemies and others besides them of whom you are unaware but of whom Allah is aware.”
“By scrubbing its English-language site, the Brotherhood aims to make it as easy as possible for those Westerners predisposed to willful blindness—a trait rather common in the Obama White House—to continue fooling themselves about the Brotherhood’s ultimate intentions,” he said.
The Muslim Brotherhood will finally have an opportunity to be a part of the Egyptian government and is pulling out all the stops to cast itself as a democratic voice of moderation that should be of no concern. It is registering in Egypt under the name, “Freedom and Justice Party” and says it does not intend to control the government. Even though the Brotherhood announced the party’s creation, its new chairman, Mohammed Katatni says it is separate, even though he is a top Brotherhood operative who led the parliamentary bloc as independents.
“The Muslim Brotherhood are not seeking power. We want to participate, not to dominate,” a member of the group’s media office says. This calming statement is almost meaningless. The Brotherhood knows it is unlikely that it will attain a majority in the next government all on its own and therefore “dominate.” Like Hezbollah in Lebanon, it will win enough seats to be a decisive voice in parliament. It is quite conceivable that the Brotherhood could be part of a parliamentary majority if it forms a bloc with other parties. It will then be in a position to decide the government’s agenda without overtly controlling it.
The Brotherhood is trying to prove it does not want to “dominate” by not running a candidate for president. This is a shrewd political calculation. Polls indicate the Brotherhood candidate would lose by a landslide in a presidential race that includes Secretary-General of the Arab League Amr Moussa, who seems certain to run. The Brotherhood also doesn’t need to have its own candidate because it has Mohammed el-Baradei working on its behalf as a secular democrat.
The Brotherhood does not hide the reason why it has come behind el-Baradei. “The Brotherhood realizes the sensitivities, especially in the West, towards the Islamists, and we’re not keen to be at the forefront,” said one of the group’s officials. El-Baradei has vigorously defended the Brotherhood, comparing them to evangelical Christians and Orthodox Jews. He says they are “no way extremist” and shares their hostility towards Israel, saying the “Israeli occupation only understands violence.”
The Brotherhood has told its protesters to refrain from using religious language during demonstrations. One official told a protester to hide his Quran and instead hoist up an Egyptian flag. “Open it [the Quran]…but not for the media,” he instructed. The editor of the Brotherhood’s English website says that the group rejects Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei’s claims that it is an Islamic revolution and that is not religious in nature.
The group is even trying to cover-up its long history for fighting for the destruction of Israel. “We will respect the peace treaty with Israel as long as Israel shows real progress on improving the lot of the Palestinians,” said deputy head Mahmoud Ezzat, inserting careful language that leaves room for the Islamists to find a pretext to end the treaty. Mohammed Katatni said “If the parliament approved the treaty that Sadat signed, it is still valid and will still be.”
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