Beware Middle East studies professors offering advice. In the wake of the Muslim Brotherhood's (MB) ouster from Egypt's presidency, South African-born Duke University Islamic studies professor Ebrahim Moosa has joined South Africa's ambassador to the United States Ebrahim Rasool to co-author a Washington Post op-ed advising Egypt to adopt a "multi-pronged strategy" overseen by "an internationally constituted group of eminent persons" to avoid civil war.
The authors recommend that the MB and "leaders from countries trusted by the Muslim Brotherhood" be included in this "group of eminent persons," which ignores both the popular rebellion that threw the Islamist party out of office, and the anti-democratic, despotic measures that sparked its downfall. In other words, it's a recipe for the restoration and strengthening of the Brotherhood.
The proposal has been met with a resounding no from Egypt, particularly the suggestion that Nobel Peace Prize winner and Archbishop Emeritus of Cape Town Desmond Tutu be included. The Egyptian foreign ministry issued a sharply-worded statement expressing its surprise that South Africa was "trying to export its failed reconciliation process that hasn't achieved real co-existence" and noting that the nation has "some of the highest rates of crime, corruption, poverty, unemployment, and poor health in the world."
Tutu is among the most celebrated supporters of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement based on his unsubstantiated insistence that Israel, as his native South Africa once was, is an apartheid state. Along with Middle East studies scholars Hamid Dabashi of Columbia University and Lawrence Davidson of West Chester University, he is an "Honorary Advisory Board Member" for the U.S. Campaign for the Academic & Cultural Boycott of Israel, the supposedly "non-violent" campaign that has resulted in a proliferation of death threats targeting entertainers planning to perform in Israel. Tutu's allegiance to the BDS movement obviously wasn't a barrier to his inclusion for Moosa, who in 2012 encouraged the U.S. to disregard the alleged predations of the "pro-Israel lobby" and engage with the terrorist group-turned-government Hamas.
Others recommended by Moosa and Rasool include Tunisia's Ennahda Party leader Rachid Ghannouchi, who despite being falsely characterized-particularly by Georgetown University's John Esposito and Harvard University's Noah Feldman-as a "moderate Islamist" is in fact a pro-terrorist, anti-Israel radical; former Irish president Mary Robinson, who as chairwoman of the 2001 United Nations World Conference Against Racism in Durban, South Africa, oversaw an orgy of anti-Semitic, anti-Israel, and anti-American hate (and upon whom President Obama bestowed a Medal of Freedom in 2009); and the rabid anti-Semite, "reformed" holocaust denier, 9/11 conspiracy theorist, and former Malaysian prime minister Mahathir Mohamad.
It's no surprise that Moosa would promote the inclusion of Islamists in this "group of eminent persons": he has been an apologist for their ilk for many years, going so far in 2010 as to dismiss valid concerns about Saudi funding and Wahhabi influence in higher education with the ludicrous claim, "Wahabism is like the Baptists; it's kind of a denomination of sorts that started out in Saudi Arabia." He also defended Deobandism, the madrassa-based radical ideology that inspires the Taliban, at a 2011 workshop at the University of California, Berkeley. When asked about the nature of Sharia (Islamic) law during one of series of 2010 video interviews, he obfuscated, claiming nonsensically that it's "not necessarily a correct impression that in Shariah religion and state have been interwoven." After 2012 Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney selected as a special adviser on the Middle East and North Africa anti-Islamist Walid Phares, adjunct professor of jihadist global strategies at the National Defense University, Moosa objected on the baseless grounds that Phares "is hostile to Muslims."
Moosa opined in a December, 2012 Council on Foreign Relations interview that "the continued oppression of political Islam" will only lead to radicalism, while allowing such parties to participate will necessarily result in "moderation." He extended this naiveté to the terrorist groups Hamas and Hezbollah, claiming that:
The more that political Islam becomes successful in the region, à la what's happened with the AKP in Turkey, the more the pressure will be applied on more radical groups like Hamas to moderate their own ideology. . . . [T]he path for groups like Hamas and Hezbollah will be clear.
Most tellingly, when asked about the specter of Iran's 1979 Islamic revolution, Moosa concluded, "If there really is a lesson to be learned from Iran, it's not that political Islam necessarily leads to theocracy."
Moosa, whose views typify the wishful thinking and apologetics endemic to the field of Middle East studies, has demonstrated his unworthiness of the confidence bestowed upon him by policy makers, the media, students, and the general public. Fortunately, Egypt's interim government did not take Moosa's advice and rely upon the "expertise" of Islamists, Israel-haters, anti-Semites, and conspiracy theorists on how to run their country.
Cinnamon Stillwell is the west coast representative of Campus Watch, a project of the Middle East Forum.