Despite the Muslim Brotherhood's long history of supporting radicalism and terror, New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof suggests that concerns about its role in Egyptian society are overblown. After eating dinner recently in the home of Brotherhood activists, Kristof wrote that he was "struck by the optimism" some secular Egyptians have expressed about the group.
Regarding the Muslim Brotherhood's longstanding hostility towards Israel, Kristof quoted former Foreign Minister Amr Moussa downplaying concerns that the organization would try to scuttle Egypt's peace treaty with the Jewish State.
"Revolutions are often messy, and it took Americans seven years from their victory in the American Revolution at Yorktown to get a ratified Constitution," Kristof wrote. "So a bit of nervousness is fine, but let's not overdo the hand-wringing - or lose perspective."
What's important in Egypt today "is not so much the rise of any one party as the apparent slow emergence of democracy in the heart of the Arab world," he added.
But Eric Trager, a fellow with the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, says Kristof is "credulous" in suggesting that the Egyptian Brotherhood is behaving responsibly. During a visit to Egypt, Trager interviewed numerous members of the group who won election to Parliament.
"Far from being moderate, these future leaders share a commitment to theocratic rule, complete with a limited view of civil liberties and an unmistakable antipathy for the West," he wrote Wednesday in The New Republic.
One incoming Brotherhood parliamentarian's headquarters in Alexandria had a large banner on the wall paying tribute to a protest outside the local "Zionist consulate," which included an image of a burning Israeli flag. When Trager asked if it was a good idea to display the burning flag of a neighboring state, the man grew defensive.
"We burned [the Israeli flag] for our soldiers and for Gaza, and we will burn it again and again if they infiltrate anything in the region," he said.
Trager interviewed Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood parliamentarians who called for banning alcohol; questioned whether bikinis should be allowed on beaches; and said Christians should be barred from criticizing sharia. Newly elected MP Sobhi Saleh questioned official accounts of 9/11, and he "intends to preach 9/11 revisionism on his first trip to America," Trager wrote. "Perhaps he'll do it at a home-cooked meal hosted by Nick Kristof."
Kristof has repeatedly demonstrated extraordinary naiveté regarding jihadist terror. He has defended Palestinian Islamic Jihad operative Sami Al-Arian and lambasted Israel and the United States for working to isolate the Hamas terror organization in Gaza.
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