USA Today Forum writer Lionel Beehner (“In Egypt, ‘Islamist’ fears overblown,” February 1) discounts the threat of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood and claims it has “drifted from the fiery rhetoric” of past leaders. Apparently no one told Mohammed Mahdi Akef, recently retired head of the Brotherhood, who two years ago called for jihad in Egypt and has praised Osama bin Laden while his movement has supported the killing of Americans in Iraq.
The writer makes much of the Brotherhood’s support for former U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency head Mohammed ElBaradei, “a secular technocrat” as a transitional leader. But Brotherhood participants in Egyptian demonstrations call ElBaradei “a donkey of the revolution,” to be used and then discarded — as Ayatollah Khomeini did with Iran’s first post-Shah prime minister, the pro-democracy leader Mehdi Bazarghan.
Mr. Beehner asserts that “the Muslim Brotherhood [will] be part of a future — and, yes — democratic — Egypt.” Like Hezbollah, its private army and deadly intimidation supplementing its bloc in parliament, is part of “democratic” Lebanon or Hamas, with its “armed wing” and increasingly strict theocratic regulation of the Gaza Strip, advances Palestinian “democracy”?
Islamists whose threat Mr. Beehner discounts advocate a parallel version of totalitarian rule but will be pleased to use the democratic fig leaf he offers.
USA Today’s editorial “Anti-Mubarak protest brings moment of truth for U.S.” the day before had it right, mostly : “The Brotherhood is fiercely anti-American, has strong links to al-Qaeda, and, as the most cohesive opposition force in Egypt, would gain significant influence under democratic rule even if more secular forces retained power.” Temporarily.