The recent White House meeting between President Trump and Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi brought an endless stream of editorials by the American foreign policy establishment explaining how awful Egypt is and how the U.S. should sever ties with its long-time ally — the largest Arab country in the world.
But for virtually the entire foreign policy elite, Egypt’s original sin has been our outright rejection of the Muslim Brotherhood.
You’ll hear a lot about human rights and democracy, but these same Western experts shrugged as the Muslim Brotherhood tortured its citizens, crushed dissent, and continually rewrote the political rules of the game in their favor under the Mohamed Morsi regime. I recall the Western analysts who defended these abusive practices as the cost of bringing “democracy” to the Middle East.
Those of us who are actually in countries where the Muslim Brotherhood has come to power live in fear as we try to contain its extremism, and hope that it will not survive and strengthen in Western safe havens.
We don’t forget that many of the leaders in the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas were educated and radicalized at American universities. Mohamed Morsi himself was recruited into the Muslim Brotherhood at the University of Southern California, not in Egypt.
As America’s Middle East allies take action against the Muslim Brotherhood, the American foreign policy establishment just can’t abandon their fantasy that the godfather of Islamist terrorism will bring “democracy” to the region.
Admittedly, there has been an incredible investment in time and effort in Washington to prop up this delusion.
In fact, the whole narrative of a “moderate” Muslim Brotherhood was launched in America based on a couple of gullible Nixon Center academics meeting with Brotherhood leaders and activists who told them how much they love democracy and human rights.
A few well-placed articles and speeches later, and the “moderate” Muslim Brotherhood myth quickly became the consensus in Washington, D.C. circles.
I remember the shock and unbelief I felt when I heard your Director of National Intelligence James Clapper make the completely unhinged claim that the Muslim Brotherhood was “largely secular” in the early days of the “Arab Spring.”
Yet this myth fueled much of the reckless and contradictory foreign policy in the Middle East under the Obama administration.
For all of hypocritical talk about human rights and democracy, we Egyptians watched as Hillary Clinton and other senior Obama officials explained away all of the worst abuses and extremism of the Morsi regime.
When Morsi issued his November 2012 declaration that he was above the law and the courts, there were no calls by the now-usual suspects in Congress to cut military aid to Egypt. Instead, the State Department later approved more tear gas and crowd control technology sales to the Morsi regime.
When the Muslim Brotherhood laid siege to the Coptic cathedral in Cairo during a funeral as Morsi’s forces stood down in approval, there were few congressional complaints about the rise of anti-Christian rhetoric.
One of the mobilizing incidents for the June 30 “Tamarod” protests in 2013 was Morsi’s appointment of an actual Gamaa Islamiya terrorist leader as governor of Luxor, where his group had committed a massacre of foreign tourists years before.
And yet days before the protests, Obama’s U.S. Ambassador Anne Patterson gave a speech in Cairo discouraging the Tamarod movement.
Your own Declaration of Independence enshrines the inalienable right of the people to alter or abolish a government. Tens of millions of Egyptians took to the streets on June 30 and the weeks that followed to throw off the tyranny and terrorism of the Muslim Brotherhood.
If there was a coup, it wasn’t by the Egyptian military — it was by the Egyptian people. And the American foreign policy establishment will apparently never forgive us for rejecting the Muslim Brotherhood.
In the interests of improving the U.S.-Egypt strategic relationship, it’s time for Washington to abandon the “moderate” Muslim Brotherhood myth, and to acknowledge the reality that we in Egypt have moved on and have no intention of ever going back.
Maii Magdi is executive director of the Cairo-based Center for North Africa and Near East Security Studies, a Cairo-based NGO specializing in regional political and national security.