Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said at a House Intelligence Committee hearing on Thursday that Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood is a secular organization.
Clapper said the Egyptian opposition group, which many American commentators have expressed fears of coming to power in a post-Mubarak Egypt, is a “very heterogeneous group, largely secular.”
Clapper said that the group “has eschewed violence and has decried Al Qaeda as a perversion of Islam” and “have pursued social ends, a betterment of the political order in Egypt.”
He also said the the Muslim Brotherhood, which has branches in many Muslim countries, has “no overarching agenda, particularly in pursuit of violence, at least internationally.”
Terming the organization “largely secular” attracted immediate criticism, including from NBC News chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel, who called the statement “a wild misreading of this organization.”
Clapper previously had a major gaffe when asked in a December interview with Diane Sawyer about a London terror plot that had been disrupted earlier in the day. Clapper did not respond to the question, and later acknowledged that he had been unaware of the event.