- By David KennerDavid Kenner is the Middle East editor at Foreign Policy. He is based in Beirut, Lebanon, and has been with FP since 2009 (a long time, he knows). He worked for FP previously in Cairo, where he covered the early days of the Arab Spring, and before that in Washington. He has attended Georgetown University and the American University of Beirut and has reported from Libya, Egypt, Gaza, Turkey, Lebanon, and Iraq.
A common criticism of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood has always been that it delivers one message in English to an international audience, and another message entirely in Arabic to its domestic audience. If anyone is ever looking for an example of this, they need to look no further than the Islamist organization’s reaction to the bombing of the Boston Marathon.
In English, the Brotherhood’s political party released a statement "categorically reject[ing] as intolerable the bombings committed in the U.S. city of Boston," and "offer[ing] heartfelt sympathies and solemn condolences to the American people and the families of the victims."
In Arabic, senior Brotherhood leader and the vice chairman of the group’s political party Essam el-Erian took a different tack. In a post on his Facebook page, he condemned the Boston attack — but also linked it to the French war in Mali, the destruction in Syria and Iraq, and faltering rapprochement between the Turkish government and Kurdish rebels.
El-Erian is making the case that all of these setbacks — from Boston to Baghdad — are somehow connected. "Who disturbed democratic transformations, despite the difficult transition from despotism, corruption, poverty, hatred, and intolerance to freedom, justice tolerance, development, human dignity, and social justice?" he asked. "Who planted Islamophobia through research, the press, and the media? Who funded the violence?"
El-Erian just poses those questions — he doesn’t accuse any specific group of masterminding the Boston Marathon attack or the unrest across the Middle East. But while Brotherhood leaders feel free to indulge in such conspiracy-mongering in Arabic, these claims are notably absent from the group’s English-language media.