The Muslim Brotherhood imported a terror symbol to the world whose fingerprints are etched in the agonizing memories of nearly 3000 victims of 9/11/2001 and those who survived them. Now a wanted al Qaeda leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri must be feeling proud in his hideout as a fellow “brother” has made it to the highest post in the land. Might Zawahiri even be contemplating a comeback? After all, everything is possible in this world of interests and counter-interests. Everything is possible when revolutions take hold, turn things upside down and change the course of history in unimaginable ways.
If the United States finds itself lost amid the mind-boggling events trying to make sense of it all, it would be understandable. With Mubarak cracking down on the Muslim Brotherhood for decades, the U.S. never felt the need to learn more about the “Ikhwan” as their local enumeration goes. With their open, unapologetic anti-Israel agenda -- which is not different from most Arabs, only much more extreme, more pronounced and violent -- it has always been convenient for the U.S. to keep them in the shadows and support their oppression.
Today the U.S. finds itself in the most uncomfortable position of not only having to familiarize itself with all what the Brotherhood stands for but it has to devise ways to deal with it at the highest diplomatic levels. Last time it was faced with such a possible reality was when Hamas won general elections in the Palestinian territories. The U.S. then rejected the democratic results and refused to recognize Hamas’ government.
The new realities on the ground as a result of the Arab awakening are bringing to the forefront Islamists of all variations. As much as fear mongers in the U.S. are hard at work to scare everyone of everything Muslim Brotherhood, these crucial and historic times call for sobriety and calm on all sides.
The Ikhwan will have to change in order to be accepted by Egyptians first, then neighbors and the world. Congratulations are already pouring in because Mohammed Morsi won the presidency fair and square. The results could not be more satisfying to any observer. Gone are the fictional victories with 99% of the vote. While Morsi won with a comfortable lead, it was not a landslide victory. What this tells us is that the challenge is now in President Morsi’s court to keep the same support or raise it in the future. That cannot happen with extremism. It can only be achieved with inclusive politics and openness on the world. Key rhetoric needs to be revised, goals redefined, mistakes corrected, image revamped.
The Muslim Brothers will have to prove whether they are up to the task or not.
The U.S. will have to listen less to scare experts and propagandists already focusing on the Ikhwan’s agenda to “take Jerusalem back,” and put more effort in finding ways to co-exist in a violence-free, terror-free, prosperous and sustainable world for all.
There were suggestions that the U.S. has already engaged the Muslim Brotherhood in an informal dialogue. If true, this would be a commendable move but it will be a failure if “engagement” did not include everyone. Engagement with the powerful or the winner only will lead to the same failing results as before: A one-sided view of reality that can be fatal when the winds of change blow again, because they will.