Obama submits to Brotherhood, asks for suppression of anti-Islam video

Neil Munro White House Correspondent
Font Size:

President Barack Obama has bowed to the Muslim Brotherhood’s demand that the federal government suppress a satirical video of Islam’s prophet, Muhammad.

But Youtube denied the request late Sept. 14.

Tommy Vietor, a spokesman for the National Security Council, told the Washington Post midday that the White House has “reached out to YouTube to call the video to their attention and ask them to review whether it violates their terms of use.”

Youtube’s executives shut down videos that they deem “hate speech.” A YouTube spokesperson said Sept. 12 that the video “is clearly within our guidelines and so will stay on YouTube,” and repeated that message late Sept. 14, so rejecting Obama’s unprecedented request.

Obama’s request complied with the Sept. 13 demand and threat by the brotherhood, which now governs the Arab world’s largest country, Egypt.

“Hurting the feelings of one and a half billion Muslims cannot be tolerated, and… we demand that all those involved in such crimes be urgently brought to trial,” according to an English-language statement on the brotherhood’s website.

The brotherhood’s demand included a threat of additional violence during Obama’s re-election campaign.

“The people’s anger and fury for their Faith is invariably predictable, often unstoppable,” said the website.

Brotherhood-organized violence throughout the Middle East could deeply damage Obama’s election chances, just as similar Islamist violence in Iran sank President Jimmy Carter’s re-election effort in 1979.

The brotherhood’s demands were pushed Sept. 13 by Egypt’s new Islamist president, Mohamad Morsi, a brotherhood member who Obama helped put in power. (WATCH: The anti-Muhammad video cited as cause of unrest)

The video-makers “are not accepted, not by people in Egypt nor other Arab and Islamic countries, nor by their own people,” Morsi declared at a televised event in Brussels, Belgium.

“I affirm that the American people reject this and I’ve called on them to declare their rejection of them, at the same time with our rejection of those bad practices that bring harm and not benefit,” he claimed to his audience in Egypt, Europe and Washington.

Obama’s re-election campaign is being held hostage by Morsi, said Michael Rubin, an expert on Islamist parties at the American Enterprise Institute.

In response, Obama should repeatedly declare the First Amendment bars U.S. government action against Islam’s critics, and should also threaten to cut off much-needed financial aid to Egypt, Rubin said. (EXPERT: ‘Obama is hostage to Morsi’)

Obama and his aides, including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, have begun to say that their hands are tied by the First Amendment, but they also continue to denounce the video as “disgusting.”

The federal denunciation of the video bolsters Morsi’s effort to focus domestic unrest on America, rather than on the performance of his government.

Morsi depends on aid from the United States and other Arab countries, because the country’s 82 million people are wracked by unemployment, poor education, food shortages and corruption.

In contrast to Obama’s request, Gov. Mitt Romney defended the video-maker’s First Amendment rights.

“The idea of using something that some people consider sacred and then parading that out a negative way is simply inappropriate and wrong… Of course, we have a First Amendment,” he said Sept. 14 during an ABC interview. “Under the First Amendment, people are allowed to do what they feel they want to do,” he said.

The White House’s submission came two days after Obama told CBS that free speech “is one of the hallmarks of our Constitution that I’m sworn to uphold, and so we are always going to uphold the rights for individuals to speak their mind,”

It was announced shortly after White House spokesman Jay Carney publicly disavowed any plans to curb free speech. “We cannot and will not squelch freedom of expression in this country — it is a foundational principle,” he told reporters at a 11:15 a.m. press conference in the White House.

Follow Neil on Twitter