Ms .45's mp3/bureaucratic/gaming blog.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Conservative infighting over the Muslim Brotherhood

This is a very interesting discussion. Conservatives have taken up the cause of Western approaches to the various Muslim Brotherhoods in different countries (including Britain and France as well as Middle Eastern countries), using Reaganite reasoning that moderates protect against radicals, and that approaching China was successful in sidelining the USSR. For instance:
European Social Democracy was our key ally in the Cold War. Without it we would have lost Europe to the Communists. Without the Muslim Brotherhood, and with Poole’s policies, we stand to lose the Middle East and the entire Muslim world. The analogy fits: the Muslim Brotherhood is to jihadism as Social Democracy was to Communism.
In that article, (linked from the MB's very good English website) the authors defend their considerable conservative credentials and reject the idea that they have been soft on the MB. More interesting is their response to Joshua Muravchik:

Josh [Muravchik] adopted the method of the pundit. He consulted one source- MEMRI (an estimable but hardly an objective, scholarly one dedicated to providing the whole picture).

This kind of polemical method took root in the West in the 1960s in the sectarian debates emanating from the universities and the left. It was followed by the gradual takeover of the university, particularly the social sciences and the humanities by those whose first aim was to politicize it, and by politicizing it they meant to radicalize it. They have succeeded beyond their wildest dreams. That pole in the partisan landscape was formed by the politically correct left in the university and much of the media, including Hollywood and the network news.

The neoconservatives arose as a reaction to this. They did not throw the first stone. More often than not they were right, especially on this issue of Communism, about which they (and I with them) have been corroborated by historical developments. Bill Bennett was right on the culture wars and that is a vast unexplored area of conservative agreement with Muslims, including many Islamists.

Aside from my disdain for his slagging of leftists, Leiken raises an interesting issue that I have often wondered about. So far, MB supporters in the West have been liberals - people like myself who would also support organisations like Helem, the Saudi Arabian Green Party, and other issues and causes that the MB is less than thrilled about. Conversely, enemies of the MB in the West have been conservatives. This causes me some degree of cognitive dissonance. Does - not - compute!

I have somewhat mixed feelings about what Leiken and Brooke's research will do to Western conservative approaches to Islamism. On the one hand, I despise sectarianism and feel that it is only correct that Western centre-right figures reach out to their counterparts in the Islamic world. The MB has already started doing this in the opposite direction, running (for instance) a positive article about Robert Satloff of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. (They lifted it in its entirety from a website called Taqrir Washington, but this is not the place to discuss the MB's enthusiastic embrace of copyleft.)

On the other hand, I am naturally cold on the notion of conservatives gaining more power. I have no love for the notion of gender apartheid, and the increasing fashionability of 'men are from mars, women are from uranus' nonsense in the West gels nicely with Islamist gender separatism. The MB doesn't seem to have a very unified position on women's rights - Abdul Monem Al-Futoh seeks to assure us that women may hold the highest political office, but the official MB line is that "The only public office which it is agreed upon that a woman cannot occupy is the presidency or head of state." Well, that's sort of good - and a great improvement over some other Middle Eastern countries - and I note that the MB has started linking to the Egyptian Centre for Women's Rights campaigns in its Women section. But my skin crawls at the idea that I might inadvertently contribute to making life more miserable for women, gays, atheists or other minorities in the Middle East via my support for the MB.

I endorse Leiken and Brooke's suggestion of engaging the MB, as I have written elsewhere. However, what I would say to the MB and what Leiken, Brooke or even Muravchik might say would probably be quite different.

Besides, it's just really fun to watch conservatives fight each other. You know you love it.

[EDIT] Now the New York Times gets in on the act with Islamic Democrats?, a look at the Egyptian MB and its practices, its need to deal with its Qutbian past, its attitude to Israel and Palestine, which comes to the conclusion that "
Even a wary acceptance of the brotherhood... would demonstrate that we take seriously the democratic preferences of Arab voters." Even better, the writer's contact in the MB asks

“I’ve heard that even George Bush’s mother thinks he’s an idiot; is that true?”

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