U.S. State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki told reporters that there was no problem with the government’s meeting with a Muslim Brotherhood delegation this week. She also explicitly affirmed the State Department had no issue with the photographs taken by a member of the delegation displaying the Islamist "Rabia" hand sign inside the State Department after the meeting.
The Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shokry expressed shock at the State Department’s decision, saying that other countries should respect Egyptian law. The foreign minister was referring to the fact that Egypt as declared the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization. (The Brotherhood has also been designated as a terrorist group by Russia, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates as well.) Shokry added that he doesn’t understand why the U.S. would be communicating with “sides that are involved in terrorist acts in Egypt.”
Psaki clarified that the event was organized by the Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy (CSID), rather than by Georgetown, which she had claimed earlier. When asked by a reporter whether the State Department intends to continue its relationship with CSID she answered that they would have no problem with it.
According to the Muslim Brotherhood’s official statement on the meetings, the delegation was comprised of Dr. Maha Azzam, Judge Walid Al-Sharabi (secretary-general of the Egyptian Revolutionary Council and a spokesman for Judges for Egypt, a group reported to have close connections to the Brotherhood), Dr. Gamal Heshmat (a top Brotherhood member) and Dr. Abdul-Mawgood Dardery (a Brotherhood member who served in the parliament).
They claim that the delegation, sent under the banner of the ‘”Egyptian Revolutionary Council,” had meetings with “representatives from the White House, US State Department, members of the US Congress, and a number of American research centers.”
This week, a few days after the meeting, the Muslim Brotherhood expressed their intentions to open “a new phase” of “long, unrelenting jihad” on their Arabic website. The article exhorted followers to undertake strenuous efforts for the cause and concluded:
“For everyone must be aware that we are in the process of a new phase in which we summon what of our power is latent within us, and we call to mind the meaning of Jihad, and prepare ourselves and our children, wives and daughters, and whoever marches on our path for a long, unrelenting Jihad. We ask in it the abodes of the martyrs.”
However, at the same time on their English website the Brotherhood released an article proclaiming their supposed long standing commitment to non-violence. This brazen disparity between the group's English statements and their Arabic ones has been long noted by Egyptian commentators such as Mohamed Salmawi who noted "In English, the Muslim Brotherhood says one thing and in Arabic something completely different."
Case in point: While Heshmat was in Washington discussing matters with the U.S. State Department, his son, Khaled Gamal Heshmat, also a Brotherhood supporter, posted on Twitter an incendiary message glamorizing and glorifying the terrorist attack on Egyptian army bases in the Sinai Peninsula that killed at least 35 people last Thursday.
Although Islamic State affiliate Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis claimed responsibility for the attack, Egypt blamed the Muslim Brotherhood and its efforts to depose President Sisi for the massacre.
The Brotherhood's official 10-point statement on the meetings asserted that “The Egyptian Revolution is non-violent. Recent events and entities that began to be formed to respond to the military crimes are a reaction to the absence of justice and neutral judiciary in Egypt…”
Although it claims that the revolution is non-violent, it is immediately followed by a reference to the attacks by terrorists in the Sinai justifying them by saying that they are a reaction to “military crimes” and “the absence of justice.” The statement justified the jihadists by terming them a “reaction,” with no criticism of armed struggle.
This dovetails with the group’s Arabic post declaring the onset of a new phase of jihad.
Although the statement mentions that, “The only legitimacy belongs with the Egyptian people” it neglects to mention that 15 to 30 million Egyptian people came out onto the streets demanding the resignation of Muslim Brotherhood President Muhammed Morsi after only one year of his rule.
Instead, the statement by the Muslim Brotherhood group on the meetings in Washington concludes by saying that “the Revolution is the only strategic option to break the military coup.”
Given that the statement also says that further follow-up meetings will take place, why are U.S. government officials meeting with a group openly devoted to the overthrow of the government of an important strategic ally and the replacement of that government with a caliphate governed by sharia law?
Elliot Friedland is a research fellow at Clarion Project.