America's talks with the Muslim Brotherhood: A mistake?

The Obama administration will engage with Egypt's influential Islamic group. Will that help keep the movement in check, or seal its rise to power?

A member of the Muslim Brotherhood speaks at a news conference: The United States will engage in "limited contacts" with the powerful Egyptian political group.
(Image credit: REUTERS/Muhammad Hamed)

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says the U.S. will begin engaging in "limited contacts" with Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamic movement that was outlawed under Hosni Mubarak, but has emerged as a powerful political force since his downfall. Clinton said the U.S. would press Muslim Brotherhood leaders on the importance of non-violence and respect for minority and women's rights. Critics of the Obama administration say the move will only increase the power of religious extremists. Will opening ties with the Muslim Brotherhood do more harm than good? (Watch Hillary Clinton's comments.)

We are legitimizing the enemy: The Obama administration is making a terrible mistake, says Jonathan S. Tobin at Commentary. It's sending Egypt and the world the message that we have "no problem with the Brotherhood’s bid for more influence," even though it's a "militant anti-Western group" that wants to destroy our ally, Israel. The Muslim Brotherhood isn't trying to participate in the Arab Spring, but exploit it to install Islamist rule in the world's most populous Arab nation.

"U.S. recognizes Muslim Brotherhood. Will Hamas be next?"

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Simply talking does not imply an endorsement: Look, the Muslim Brotherhood is better organized than Egypt's other political parties, says Arab politics expert David Schenker, as quoted by Voice of America. So like it or not, it's poised to grab substantial power in any election. We should make it clear that "our discussions with the Brotherhood in no way suggest our endorsement," but pretending these guys don't exist will leave us sitting on the sidelines with little influence in the new Egypt.

"US to have 'limited' contacts with Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood"

We can't ignore them, but engagement is risky: "Certainly, the Muslim Brotherhood is a player in Egyptian politics," says Michael Rubin at The American. But the U.S. should recognize that although the group says it has renounced violence, its members still advocate violence against Jews and Christians. We should be doing everything in our power to limit the influence of people with such hateful views. To do that, we should be actively engaging "liberal reformers and democratic dissidents," not the Muslim Brotherhood.

"Engaging the Muslim Brotherhood?"

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