Friday, October 01, 2004

Misjudging the Muslim Brotherhood (washingtonpost.com)

Misjudging the Muslim Brotherhood (washingtonpost.com): "Misjudging the Muslim Brotherhood
Wednesday, September 22, 2004; Page A30
www.washingtonpost.com _____Letters to the Editor_____
The Muslim Brotherhood presents a dilemma for U.S. policymakers ["In Search of Friends Among the Foes," front page, Sept. 11]. Some U.S. officials see it as a group with dangerous links to terrorism, while others see its members as important potential allies in the war on terrorism.

However, the article presented the movement as a single, relatively clearly structured organization rather than a complex cluster of groups and individuals identified from time to time with the broader movement.

It also presented a flawed picture of the Brotherhood, which is based in Egypt. Readers might think that Sayyid Qutb -- described as a "Brotherhood leader" in the 1960s who "advocated militant jihad against nonbelievers" -- represented the position of the organization. In fact, the Brotherhood rejected his extremism. The general guide of the Brotherhood at the time, Hasan Hudaybi, wrote an extended refutation of Mr. Qutb's views. It is Mr. Hudaybi, not Mr. Qutb, who represented the formal Brotherhood of the 1960s.

The article portrayed the Brotherhood of the 1970s as having ties to extremists such as Ayman Zawahiri and Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman, who are described as "Egyptian Brotherhood members" who "went on to found split-off terrorist groups." The story did not say that these fanatics had to form "split-off" groups because the Brotherhood had no place for them.

During the 1970s, the position of the organization under the leadership of Umar Tilmisani was to cooperate quietly with the administration of Egypt's Anwar Sadat. The Brotherhood rejected the fanaticism of Mr. Zawahiri and others like him.

JOHN O. VOLL

Washington

JOHN L. ESPOSITO

Bethesda

The writers are, respectively, director and founder of the Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding at Georgetown University."