By Barry Rubin
Muhammad ElBaradei blatantly lied to CNN. Naturally, the reporter neither called him on it or followed up to ascertain the truth.
ELBARADEI: “This is a myth that was sold by the Mubarak regime, that it’s either us, the ruthless dictators, or above them the al-Qaida types.
“You know, the Muslim Brotherhood has nothing to do with the Iranian model, has nothing to do with extremism, as we have seen it in Afghanistan and other places. The Muslim Brotherhood is a religiously conservative group. They are a minority in Egypt. They are not a majority of the Egyptian people, but they have a lot of credibility because all the other liberal parties have been smothered for 30 years.
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“They are in favor of a federalist state. They are in favor of a wording on the base of constitution that has red lines that every Egyptian has the same rights, same obligation, that the state in no way will be a state based on religion. And I have been reaching out to them. We need to include them. They are part of the Egyptian society, as much as the Marxist party here. I think this myth that has been perpetuated and sold by the regime has no – has no iota of reality.”
Let’s count the lies–and Elbaradei knew he was lying, though he used tricky arguments to circle around the blue whale in the room, his Muslim Brotherhood ally:
1. The Muslim Brotherhood has nothing to do with the Iranian model, has nothing to do with extremism, as we have seen it in Afghanistan and other places.
Obviously, the Brotherhood is not a clone of the Taliban or Ayatollah Khomeini but it has a great deal to do with extremism. Of course, the Brotherhood is distinctively Egyptian, but it is a distinctively Egyptian Sunni form of extremism.
“I’ve worked with Iranians, I’ve worked here. There is 100 percent difference between the two societies.”
Precisely. But the Brotherhood is still a group that wants to set up an Islamist society to govern every aspect of life under Islamic law as interpreted by the Brotherhood. Germany and Japan are more different than Egypt and Iran but both had fascist regimes. The USSR and China are more different than Egypt abd Iran but both had Communist regimes.
2. “The Muslim Brotherhood is a religiously conservative group.”
False. Mainstream Egyptian clerics are religiously conservative. To be religiously conservative is to want to maintain the status quo. The Brotherhood is quite unhappy with Egyptian society and wants to change it drastically. That is why it is a revolutionary group even though it has been patient and careful about pushing the revolution.
And the claim that the Brotherhood is non-violent is also quite tricky. It dissolved its terrorist wing only because of government pressure and has advocated terrorism against Americans and Israelis. It applauded and incited the assassinations of secular activists and Egypt’s leading novelist. As I’ve pointed out in previous articles, its rhetoric sounds quite like al-Qaida (though it is not at all friendly toward al-Qaida as an organization).
3. “They are a minority in Egypt. They are not a majority of the Egyptian people, but they have a lot of credibility because all the other liberal parties have been smothered for 30 years.”
Well, they are less than 50 percent. But in a situation of severe repression and harassment they received 20 percent of the vote. Thus, it is reasonable to think they have more support than that. Polls show very hardline religious views among the majority of Egyptians. And no other group has anywhere near the level of support that the Brotherhood does. Once given a real chance it may grow quickly as has happened in other countries, like Iran.
Incidentally, the Brotherhood has been more smothered than have liberal parties yet remained far stronger than liberal parties. That tells you something about relative levels of support, toughness, and organization.
4. Here is the biggest lie of all by far:
“They are in favor of a federalist state. They are in favor of a wording on the base of constitution that has red lines that every Egyptian has the same rights, same obligation, that the state in no way will be a state based on religion.”
This is so ridiculous that it can only be told to those who know nothing about the Muslim Brotherhood. According to its platform, the Brotherhood favors greater rights for Muslims; fewer rights for women, and a strong unitary state based on religion. ElBaradei knows he is conceal the group’s true nature.
5. “And I have been reaching out to them. We need to include them.”
Actually, since launching his candidacy for president, ElBaradei has been dependent on the Brotherhood, which has furnished most of the support for his political career. He is not merely including them, he must give them a big slice of power. And they are far stronger than he is, than any liberal democratic movement is in Egypt.
So is it a “myth” that the only alternative is either the Mubarak regime (or what might be called the Nasser-Sadat-Mubarak regime)? We are going to find out. But in judging that issue ElBaradei is lying to us. If he spoke the truth, he might have a better chance of disproving this “myth.” But his lies make me suspicious that–even if a better alternative is possible–ElBaradei is going to prove Mubarak’s myth to be accurate.
Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His latest books are Lebanon: Liberation, Conflict, and Crisis (Palgrave Macmillan), Conflict and Insurgency in the Contemporary Middle Eastand editor of the (seventh edition) (Viking-Penguin), The Israel-Arab Reader the paperback edition of The Truth About Syria(Palgrave-Macmillan), A Chronological History of Terrorism (Sharpe), and The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley).