The Muslim Brotherhood comes to Washington

The Muslim Brotherhood comes to Washington

Just days after announcing that it would back deputy leader Khairat El-Shater as a presidential candidate in Egypt’s upcoming election, the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party made a pit stop at Georgetown University on Wednesday as part of a "charm offensive." FJP representatives repeatedly emphasized the Islamist party’s commitment to fulfilling "the demands of the young people who revolted in Tahrir Square" through promoting democracy, justice, freedom, and human dignity, and insisted that they intend to be "as inclusive as possible."

"With the new Egypt, it doesn’t matter anymore what the party wants," said businessman and FJP adviser Hussein El-Kazzaz. "Our compass is not a movement that’s internally inward-looking, our compass is now with the revolution…. Our distinct belief is that the country cannot be be run by one faction."

That’s why, he explained, the Muslim Brotherhood flip-flopped on its decision to field a presidential candidate:

"We didn’t want to nominate someone … because we didn’t want to be monopolizing positions of power at that time….. It’s a very different reality now than it was 10 months ago."

Even though the FJP holds over 47 percent of the seats in Egypt’s parliament, Member of Parliament Abdul Mawgoud Dardery from Luxor acknowledges that the parliament itself hasn’t exactly been smooth sailing:

"It’s very tough [to negotiate]…. All of a sudden now we are expected to decide … the fate of our country through a very, very democratic process from which traditions and figureheads are and history and so on are being created as we go."

He added that the members have tried to do "traditional things," like holding meetings and using mediators, but that it’s not working "100 percent."

El-Kazzaz also argued that the Freedom and Justice Party seeks to take a "middle ground" when it comes to the existential struggle between secular liberalism and traditionalism:

"We have a tradition that needs to be respected … but we cannot ignore human civilization … Europe has great things to offer, the United States has great things to offer, let’s look at them and choose what we like, leave what we don’t like."

If only it were that easy. Unfortunately for the FJP’s philosophies of inclusion and finding a middle ground, it appears that Islamists are set to dominate Egypt’s constitutional committee, a crisis that’s already alienating the country’s minority groups.