Obama and the Muslim Brotherhood

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Interesting phraseology in the Washington Post today:

President Obama was aware that the Muslim Brotherhood and others were in the audience when he spoke of “a new beginning” in a 2009 speech in Cairo that was directed at the Islamic world, the [White House] official said. He cited a passage in the speech in which Obama said that “no system of government can or should be imposed by one nation on any other” and that “America respects the right of all peaceful and law-abiding voices to be heard around the world, even if we disagree with them.” [emphasis mine]

One would assume that Obama was aware–after all, he had invited the Muslim Brothers in the audience. Not that this should tell you anything nefarious about the president, despite what certain right-wing commentators might have you believe. This was part of Obama’s (rather token) effort to demonstrate that he was not fully endorsing Mubarak’s repressive autocracy. But if the White House is choosing its words very carefully right now it’s probably because alleged sympathy to scary Islamists is emerging as a conservative line of attack against Obama.

As it happens, the Muslim Brotherhood–as we have known them over the past several years–are not particularly scary. I actually visited with an MB representative just before Obama’s speech. (As I recall, a Fox News camera crew was on its way out as I walked in.). Here’s a sample of what he had to say:

Habib explained his skepticism about Obama’s speech here on Thursday. “If there is no radical change in American policies, I don’t think it matters what he says,” Habib told me through a translator. “I pity Obama because I know he is not on his own. He is surrounded by different forces–business congolmerates and the Zionist lobby.” Nor did Habib care much for the prevailing debate in the US about how much emphasis to place on democracy promotion. “Understand that democracy in the Bush administration was not a goal itself but a curtain to hide the atrocities in Iraq and Afghanistan.” When it comes to Egypt’s internal affairs, all the Muslim Brothers ask, Habib said, was that the US end its support for Hosni Mubarak’s regime. “We don’t want anything from the U.S. but to back off from supporting existing dictatorships. That’s it,” he said.