Engagement with Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood is the consensus among elite opinion and certainly among the ranks of North American Middle East studies academics, the "experts" tasked with informing the public and, often, policy-makers on foreign policy in the region. Since the Egyptian revolution, these academics have whitewashed the Muslim Brotherhood, downplayed its Islamist agenda, and urged U.S. cooperation—a policy suggestion the Obama administration has clearly taken to heart.
Many have been shocked by the speed with which the Obama administration has pursued this policy of outreach. The current debate within Congress about the potential influence of the Muslim Brotherhood on Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the State Department—a deliberation that crosses party lines—demonstrates just how deeply the influence has spread.
The symbiotic relationship between the academic and political spheres came to the fore in April of this year. No sooner had representatives of the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), the political wing of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood, met with White House officials than the same delegation was taking part in a panel discussion at Georgetown University's Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding (ACMCU) on April 4, 2012 (click here to watch).
That the Saudi-funded ACMCU and its founding director John Esposito—a notorious apologist for radical Islam and the moderator of the panel discussion—would host the FJP makes perfect sense. So, too, did the FJP representatives' deceptive claims to uphold democratic rights, women's rights, religious and political pluralism, and a pro-American foreign policy, even as the Muslim Brotherhood's Islamist philosophy, stated goals, and the words of its own members—when directed towards Arabic-speaking audiences—all indicate otherwise. In reality, the Muslim Brotherhood's goal of establishing a global caliphate in which Sharia (Islamic) law reigns supreme remains unchanged. (In the U.S., as noted by Middle East Forum president Daniel Pipes, this entails replacing the "Constitution with the Koran.") The challenging question and answer period indicated that the audience at Georgetown was not entirely misled by the FJP's façade of moderation, despite the fact that they were given a platform by a prestigious institution in the field of Middle East studies.
Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the Obama administration, which seems determined to forget the lessons of the 1979 Iranian "Islamic revolution." From the halls of academe to the corridors of power, the advice of "experts" can have far-reaching consequences.