Pro-Islamist Advocacy Campaign Hits the Wall Street Journal

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by MAGDI KHALIL:

The Wall Street Journal is a respected newspaper, and many of its writers are reputable researchers. However, a piece titled “Egypt’s Islamists Will Rise Again” has been described by an observer as “a strike coming from a minority of intellectuals on the conservative side who do not understand the Middle East, though they claim they do, and produce more disorientation among the U.S. public than those apologists on the left,” and that “pieces that undermine the will of Egyptians to resist the Islamists and undermine the will of Americans to stand by them are, willingly or not, part of the Muslim Brotherhood effort to reach their strategic goals.”

The opinion piece authored by Reuel Marc Gerecht, a former CIA analyst serving as a senior fellow with the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD), suffers not only from wrong assumptions, but is also filled with factual mistakes.

Gerecht laments, “Egyptian liberals since the coup d’état against Mohammed Morsi, have an impression that the Muslim Brotherhood’s ‘moment’ in Egypt lasted 12 months-after a long prelude that began in the 1920s.” This impression is wrong if one would listen to the leaders of the liberal, secular, and democratic movement in Egypt. If Mr. Gerecht had listened carefully to Egypt’s vast Arabic language network on free TV and immersed himself in bloggers’ analyses, he would have avoided writing his piece in the prestigious Wall Street Journal. Most Egyptian analysts who were part of the revolution- not the coup, as the former CIA member keeps calling it- know all too well that the Islamists were not uprooted from Egypt, even though their regime was dismantled. Gerecht’s warnings are in vain, for most Egyptians are alert and are bracing for the counter revolution.

The FDD fellow claims: “Conventional wisdom says that the Brotherhood was founded in opposition to British imperialism and Westernizing secular dictators.” This is the wrong interpretation of history. The Ikhwan were launched after the Ottoman Caliphate was destroyed by secular Turks. British occupation of Egypt started circa 1888, and the Brotherhood was founded in the mid-1920s, forty years later, with the desire to bring back the Caliphate. Removing the British from Egypt was not just a goal of the Ikhwan, but of most Egyptians. The Wafd party was the first secular patriotic movement to demand an end to British colonialism, a la the American Revolution. Geretch espouses the argument of the Brotherhood to explain why popular discontent grew against the regime: “The Brotherhood immolated itself after just a year of grossly incompetent government.” However, most Egyptians rose against the Islamists because of the suppression of basic freedoms. Read the signs held by thirty million demonstrators on June 30 and July 26; it was not about bread and jobs, it was about fascism and oppression.

The author admits that “countless Egyptians who had voted for Brotherhood candidates and its constitution turned against the Islamist group in massive demonstrations” and that “there is also little doubt that many in the Muslim Brotherhood were shocked by the size of these rallies.” However, he denies that the Brotherhood “has been routed by marches that we now know were planned by the tamarrud (rebellion) movement and the military.” In his neo-Orientalist view of Egypt and the Arabic tradition in U.S. bureaucracies, he sees Egypt’s poor “in the vast slums of Cairo” as only able to find a sense of community under the mosques. Geretch and a whole generation of failed Middle East studies in the United States are unable to make the basic distinction that Islam and Islamism are two different concepts. The poor may go to the mosque, but everything depends on who is in the pulpit, a Salafist or a Sufi.

Gerecht slams Egypt’s young liberals as he slammed Iran’s youth in 2009. He writes, “This is not Facebook Cairo, where alienated, deplorably educated, unskilled youth express their anger online and show their own kind of community by staging street protests.” The former intelligence officer dismisses the online kids because he thinks that “local clerics, let alone the cultish, secretive godfathers of the Brotherhood” have more influence among the poor and the lower middle class. On June 30 and July 26, Gerecht and his intellectual companions were proven utterly wrong. The masses listened to their youth inasmuch as they listened to the preachers. Islamologues in the West missed the coach on this one.

Gerecht claims that:

“In these precincts the poor, the Egyptian army, the security services, and the police-all unreformed since the fall of Hosni Mubarak-are viewed suspiciously, if not with hostility. The newfound love affair between the army and Egypt’s secular liberals, who in a year’s time came to the conclusion that they needed the military to check Islamist power, will likely do nothing to diminish the skepticism that Egypt’s devout have for army officers and their associates.”

The analytical mistake goes deeper, as many researchers have parroted the assertions of the Edward Saids and John Espositos of America, in that by nature the poor  are drawn to religious figures and thus even more to the fundamentalist ones. In the mind of Western apologia, Arab and Egyptian poor have no judgment of their own, and perhaps no instincts. In the reality lived on the ground in Egypt, ordinary people make a clear distinction between regimes and armies. The poor are the army. Moreover, in his assessment, Gerecht, like most Western admirers of the Islamists, dismisses 30 million Egyptian citizens who protested the Ikhwan. The country’s liberals do not appear to outnumber the Islamists, but this silent majority of Egypt is the greatest of all forces in the nation. Once it moved against the Brotherhood, the latter shrunk to their real size.

More dangerously in his article, Gerecht accuses the army and security services of being the origin of Mohammed Morsi’s “problems.” He goes ballistic against the enemies of the Islamists: military, police, business elite, and Mubarak era remnants, the very “enemies” identified by the Muslim Brotherhood propaganda internationally. It is awkward that the former CIA analyst uses the exact narrative of the international Ikhwan network and their friends in Western media.

Read more: Family Security Matters

Magdi Khalil, Director of the Forum for Democracy, Cairo and Washington, D.C.

Islam and the ballot box

IslamOnlyBy William J. Murray:

On January 30th the Wall Street Journal carried a column by former CIA Middle East specialist Reuel Marc Gerecht which made the preposterous assertion that Islam would become moderate in a democratic setting. Gerecht went so far as to state that Israel would eventually be accepted by its Islamist neighbors when they are all “free men voting.

The alarming nature of the column was the fact that this is the advice that has been given to presidents and Congress for many years, and the results have been disastrous, as can clearly be seen in Afghanistan, Iraq, Egypt, Libya and other Middle East nations.

I authored a very lengthy rebuttal to Mr. Gerecht which I knew would not be published by the Wall Street Journal, since their editors drink the Kool-Aid that makes them believe the ballot box will eliminate poverty and war worldwide — never mind the fact that Adolph Hitler was duly elected to office by the German people.

Because I believe it is so important to expose the thought processes of those in the establishment CIA and State Department who advise the White House and the Congress, I am reprinting my WND.com column in this edition of the Chairman’s Report. The headline of the column makes reference to the “Pickle Factory,” the insiders’ name for the Central Intelligence Agency. The name comes from code for the daily CIA briefings to the President which are called Pickles. (WND.com changed the title to The ballot box will not tame Islamism.)

Contrary to CIA specialist, democracy will not “diminish” Islamic imperatives
How a Wall Street Journal column rationalizes delusional thinking at the Pickle Factory

By William J. Murray

The Wall Street Journal used a half page of its editorial space on January 30th to publish a totally illogical, if not delusional, column (Israel’s New Islamist Neighborhood: If Western history is any guide, the growth of democracy slowly diminishes religious imperativesby former CIA Middle East specialist Reuel  Marc Gerecht regarding the future “moderation” of Islam in the Middle East. It appears the Wall Street Journal’s editors, economic conservatives who can see no wrong in the human rights abuses in wealthy Islamic nations, wanted to highlight the column to justify U.S support of the Muslim Brotherhood in the takeover of half a dozen nations in the vicinity of Israel.

Gerecht asserts that:

“Israel may one day be accepted by its Arab neighbors and by its most deadly foe, Iran—but only when Arab and Iranian Muslim identities allow for it. At best, that change is decades away. Modern Islam’s great internal tug of war, between the search for authenticity and the love of modernity, must quiet before the Israeli-Palestinian clash can end.”

The key word in this paragraph is “modernity” which brings in the assumption that Islam will move out of the 7th Century and somehow accept a Martin Luther who will “fix” Islam with a reformation that will bring about the equivalent of same-sex marriages in the Episcopal Church.

On what does Gerecht base his assumptions? Later in the column he writes:

“Yet if Western history is any guide, the growth of democracy slowly diminishes religious imperatives. Representative government demystifies politics and ethics, as the here-and-now takes precedence over abstract aspirations. It makes the mundane transcendent. It promotes healthy division because it puts competing visions, even competing fundamentalist visions, to the vote. It localizes ambitions and focuses people’s passions on the national purse.”

Western history is no more a guide for modernizing Islamic nations through democracy than Stalinist history was a model to modernize China. It took over 500 years, from the signing of the Magna Carta in 1215 until the ratification of the American Constitution in 1789, for cultural acceptance of democratic thought despite a Judeo-Christian religious base which promotes the dignity of the individual’s rights. Islam has no such history or character.

And to what “national pulse” does Gerecht refer? The Super Bowl? Europeans are less in touch than even Americans with any political pulse other than to demand even more benefits from their governments.

Reuel Marc Gerecht

Reuel Marc Gerecht

Apparently Gerecht sees a morally splintered Western society in which citizens have the power to vote themselves lavish entitlements as the model for the Middle East. His discussion of democracy shows his total lack of understanding that the words democracy and freedom have different definitions. Democracy is merely a process of selecting leaders and is in no way synonymous with freedom, as can be seen in the United Kingdom where even politicians are jailed for their Facebook comments which are deemed politically incorrect.

In that same paragraph be asserts that democracy “puts competing visions, even competing fundamentalist visions, to the vote.” When has this ever happened anywhere? Are the views of Orthodox Jews, fundamentalist Baptists, conservative Catholics or murderous mullahs put to the vote in Western democracies? This is nonsense.

Read more at Religious Freedom Coalition

William J. Murray is the chairman of the Washington, D.C.-based Religious Freedom Coalition and the author of seven books including “My Life Without God,” which chronicles his early life in the home of destructive atheist and Marxist leader Madalyn Murray O’Hair.

Daniel Pipes: Islamists are worse than dictators

Who is worse, President Mohammed Morsi,  the elected Islamist seeking to apply Islamic law in Egypt, or former President Hosni  Mubarak, the dictator ousted for trying to start a dynasty? More broadly,  will a liberal, democratic order be more likely to emerge under Islamist  ideologues who prevail through the ballot box or under greedy dictators with no  particular agenda beyond their own survival and power?

Mr. Morsi’s recent actions provide an  answer, establishing that Islamists are worse than dictators.

Intelligence Squared debate in New York City on Oct. 4, 2012.

Intelligence Squared debate in New York City on Oct. 4, 2012.

This issue came up in an interesting debate for Intelligence Squared U.S. in  early October when Reuel Marc Gerecht of the  Foundation for Defense of Democracies and Brian  Katulis of the Center for  American Progress argued, “Better elected Islamists than dictators,” while Zuhdi Jasser of the American Islamic Forum  for Democracy and I made the counter-argument. Well, no one really argued “for” anyone. The other team did not endorse Islamists and we certainly did not  celebrate dictators. The issue, rather, was which sort of ruler is the lesser of  two evils, and can be cudgeled toward democracy.

Mr. Katulis blamed dictatorships for  fostering “the sorts of ideologies” that led to Sept. 11, 2001, and Mr.  Gerecht insisted that military juntas, not Islamists, generally are “the  real danger.  The only way you’re going to get a more liberal order in the  Middle East is through people of faith” who vote Islamists into office. Mr.  Katulis argued that elected Islamists change and morph, becoming less  ideological and more practical. They evolve in response to the rough and tumble  of politics to focus on “basic needs” such as security and jobs.

In Iraq, Mr.  Gerecht professed to find that “a tidal wave of people who were once  hard-core Islamists  have become pretty profound democrats, if not liberals.” As  for Egypt, he noted approvingly but inaccurately  that “the Muslim Brotherhood is having  serious internal debates because they haven’t figured out how to handle [their  success]. That’s what we want. We want them to fight it out.”

Mr. Jasser and I replied to this catalog  of inaccuracies (military juntas led to Sept. 11?) and wishful thinking (true  believers will compromise on their goals? a tidal wave of Iraqi Islamists became  liberals?) by stating first that ideologues are “dictators on steroids” who  don’t moderate upon reaching power but dig themselves in, building foundations  to remain indefinitely in office. Second, ideologues neglect the very issues  that our opponents stressed — security and jobs — in favor of implementing  Islamic laws. Greedy dictators, in contrast, short on ideology, do not have a  vision of society and so can be convinced to move toward economic development,  personal freedoms, an open political process and rule of law (for example, South  Korea).

Mr. Morsi and the Muslim  Brotherhood have followed our script exactly. Since taking power in August, Mr. Morsi sidelined the military, then  focused on entrenching and expanding his supremacy, most notably by issuing a  series of orders on Nov. 22 that arrogated autocratic powers to himself, and  spreading Zionist conspiracy theories about his opponents. Then he rammed  through an Islamist-oriented constitution on Nov. 30 and called a snap  referendum on it for Dec. 15. Consumed with these two tasks, he virtually  ignored the myriad issues afflicting Egypt,  especially the looming economic crisis and the lack of funds to pay for imported  food.

Read more at the Washington Times

REILLY: Dangerous illusions about Islamism

By Robert R. Reilly, Washington Times:

Ideas have consequences, as Richard Weaver famously wrote. If one misconstrues the ideas of the Islamists who are coming to power in the Middle East, one inevitably will misjudge the consequences. Take Reuel Marc Gerecht’s recent article in the Wall Street Journal, “The Islamist Road to Democracy.” In it, Mr. Gerecht, a former CIA hand now at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, says the Islamists are winning but we shouldn’t worry. The West went through worse and came out democratic. In fact, he says, the Middle East has suffered from Western communist and socialist ideologies, which left Islam as the last refuge. So what did we expect? They will work it out on their own terms. This transition may not be pretty to watch, but in the long run, it will “evolve” organically to real democracy. In fact, Mr. Gerecht says, “[The Islamists] are the key to more democratic, liberal politics in the region.”

Come again? Mr. Gerecht admits his thinking is “counterintuitive,” but it comes closer to missing reality altogether. How do you miss a target this big? Mr. Gerecht’s misplaced optimism is based on two things: misconceptions about the West – particularly the historically unjustified view that upheaval ultimately and necessarily leads to improvement – and a profound misunderstanding of the Islamist Shariah agenda.

Mr. Gerecht thinks we in the West got so tired of killing one another in religious wars that we secularized ourselves and became democratic. The same can happen in Islam, even though “Islam hasn’t seen the sustained barbarism that plagued” Europe. This construction of history is faulty in two ways. This is not the way democracy developed in the West, and the history of Islam is not as sanitary as he implies.

As the outcome of religious wars in other civilizations has shown, alternative pathways to democracy were and are available. Secularism did not, as he suggests, bring forth liberal values – rather, liberal values produced secularism. The idea of freedom of conscience preceded secularism and was based on the very Christianity that he holds accountable for the killing. Also, the conception of a secular state is uniquely Christian.

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