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Khashoggi Part II? The Media and Left’s Reaction to Muslim Brotherhood Leader’s Death

Recent coverage of the deceased Muslim Brotherhood president suggests the media would feel comfortable re-living its hysterical coverage of Jamal Khashoggi.

Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohammed Morsi died on Monday after a heart attack in an Egyptian court.

Unsurprisingly, news of the former Muslim Brotherhood leader’s demise lit up the most committed parts of the Qatar influence network. Especially the Islamist terror groups that depend on Doha for their survival.

The Islamist regimes in Turkey, Malaysia, and Qatar were the only countries to publicly react to Morsi’s death. Warm tributes were given from Qatari emir Tamim bin Hamad al Thani, Turkish President Erdogan and Foreign Minister Saifuddin Abdullah of Malaysia.

It is clear the Brotherhood leader is undergoing beatification by Qatar’s global media mouthpiece.

Despite absurd claims that the emirate has no special relationship with the Muslim Brotherhood, Qatar’s state-run al Jazeera has been zealously covering Morsi’s career and death.

Scanning the network’s massive Twitter thread alongside their 11 news and analysis article since Monday, it is clear the Brotherhood leader is undergoing beatification by Qatar’s global media mouthpiece.

Lamenting the comparative lack of response to the death from all non-Islamist world leaders, al Jazeera complained that, “the reaction has been largely muted in many capitals.”

Anguished cries emanated from the Left after the news of Morsi’s death broke.

Twitter and the mainstream media filled with tributes to “the first democratically elected president of Egypt,” with Morsi and the Brotherhood serving their usual roles as avatars for democracy in the Islamic world.

There was fist-shaking rage at Morsi’s replacement, and Egypt’s current president, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. And throughout, there was plenty of revisionist history from left-wing Brotherhood-supporters in the press and from ‘human rights’ groups.

Some in the Arab media took note, and a few reactions from anti-Islamist Muslims in the region have been fantastically deadpan.

“Across the world,” the Cairo-based website Egyptian Streets news site reports, “reactions also came in from a number of organizations and groups including Human Rights Watch, Hamas, and the Muslim Brotherhood.”

Taking cues from Islamists, outlets and activists on the Left tell their own slanted story about the Brotherhood’s short-lived rise to power in Egypt.

Taking their cues from Islamists, outlets and activists on the Left, like Human Rights Watch, tell their own slanted story about the Brotherhood’s short-lived rise to power in Egypt.

As many of the group’s critics had predicted, Morsi would slaughter democracy in Egypt not long after he and his party assumed power.

Towards the end of his first few months in office in 2012, Morsi issued a controversial declaration effectively ending the “democracy” the Left had cheered in the election.

“The president may take the necessary actions and measures to protect the country and the goals of the revolution,” the declaration read. It also placed Morsi above the law, stating the president can “claim exception against all rules.”

For the last five years, pro-Islamist media, activist, and ‘human rights’ groups have wrongly painted Morsi’s removal from office as a “coup.”

Morsi’s thuggishness while in power—as well as the public’s disgust at the Brotherhood’s corruption and economic mismanagement—caused an estimated14 million Egyptians (in a country of 84 million) to rise up in 2013 and support the military’s removal of him and his government.

Despite negative press from Islamist supporters in the media, it’s rarely acknowledged that the massive protests that swept Morsi from power were among the most well attended anti-regime protests in modern world history.

Several Egyptians participating in the protest against President Mohamed Mursi to request his resignation light flares in Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt, on July 3, 2013. EFE / Andre Pain via Diariocritico de Venezuela, Flickr.

I’ve written at length (and appeared in a film) about the danger Qatar poses to the United States and our allies in the Middle East, mostly owing to that country’s enthusiasm for fueling Islamist groups like the Muslim Brotherhood.

That source of danger for us is, paradoxically, what draws many on the political Left into Qatar’s corner.

Based on media coverage and opinion writing over the last several years, it is increasingly clear that the left-leaning mainstream media supports the Brotherhood. These activists, journalists, and columnists seem to defend its patrons in Doha almost as an afterthought.

How could an alliance form between retrograde Islamic theocrats and social justice warriors?

For many, the Left’s support for the Muslim Brotherhood is a perplexing phenomenon. How could an alliance form between retrograde Islamic theocrats and social justice warriors? Don’t their points of divergence—especially on social or sexual morality—make cooperation or support impossible?

While these questions have been asked and answered articulately at book-length by David Horowitz and Andy McCarthy, it is not precisely that simple.

This misunderstanding makes sense based on how Americans have been educated about the enemies we’ve been fighting since 9/11. Our conception of “Islamic radicals” or “radical Islamists” or “extremists” more appropriately describes the unwashed, bearded, mountain- and training camp-dwelling Taliban fighters we faced in Afghanistan. These are the most backwoods and simpleminded of Islamists.

Muslim Brothers aren’t any of those things, and never have been. Mohammed Morsi’s life is a good example. He and his wife joined and became active in the Ikhwan while he was a master’s student in the United States, at the University of Southern California.

Caricature of Mohammed Morsi

Caricature of Mohammed Morsi via DonkeyHotey, Flickr.

Morsi emerged victorious in the 2012 election that put the Brotherhood’s political arm—named, for gullible western consumption, the Freedom and Justice Party—into power.

But he wasn’t the Brotherhood’s first choice for high office in Egypt. Like many Brothers, he was a trained engineer and, by all accounts, he had the kind of personality, charisma, and feel for retail politics for which stodgy engineers are so well known.

Still, the secretive group has benefitted greatly from the massive cadre of engineers, doctors, and other professionals in its ranks. They understand how systems work.

The Brotherhood has been chiefly concerned with building infrastructure to support its vision of Islam, creating institutions to reinforce Brotherhood ideology from birth until death.

The Brotherhood has been chiefly concerned with creating institutions to reinforce Brotherhood ideology from birth until death.

They are engaged in this building process in every country in which they operate—in non-Muslim and Muslim and societies, as well. Unlike in the West, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates now recognize that the Brotherhood’s parallel institutions are a threat, not just as an engine-room of jihadist radicalization, but anti-government subversion, as well.

The most important theoretical work from the Brotherhood’s prominent ideologues and its top American think tank, the Virginia-based International Institute of Islamic Thought (IIIT), involves figuring out how to exist in the modern world while adhering to Brotherhood’s conception of Islamic principles.

These principles are totalitarian, but they’re also pragmatic: while they consider achieving an Islamic society the goal, their pragmatic awareness of Muslims’ minority status in places like the United States makes it necessary to build alliances. In America, the most fruitful alliance is with the political Left.

There’s significant overlap between the two when it comes to political outcomes. In Social Justice in Islam, the Brotherhood’s most potent ideologue, author Sayyid Qutb conceptualized how to make the massive, 20th century administrative state work for a government bureaucracy in the service of Islamic values.

More recently, Qatar-based Yusuf al-Qaradawi has devoted his considerable influence to prevent westernization and integration of Muslim minorities into the non-Muslim countries where they reside.

Leftists need an Islamist group that is “authentic” in its anti-American, anti-Zionist, and anti-Imperialist sentiments – the Brotherhood certainly fits the bill. Its ideologues have come under fire for decades (not altogether unfairly) from true Salafists for being crypto-Marxist/Leninists and cultists. In fact, there is considerable doctrinal overlap between the Muslim Brotherhood and the current incarnation of the Left, even if they’re approaching one another from different directions.

Protesters march through Cairo holding up four-fingers, a hand sign in memory of last year’s deadly crackdown on supporters of ousted President Mohamed Morsi, March 28, 2014. (Hamada Elrassam/VOA)

In reviewing the Washington Post’s recent coverage of the deceased Muslim Brotherhood president, it is inescapable to conclude that the paper would feel comfortable re-living some of the magic of its hysterical coverage of Jamal Khashoggi. So much high dudgeon, self-righteousness, and thirst for vengeance against Saudi Arabia.

The Post’s shameless promotion of Islamists on its pages deserves its own, more fulsome examination going back at least a decade. Its editorial board has written many times in opposition to a wildly popular bill from Texas Senator Ted Cruz to classify the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization. Islamists are rarely, if ever, given critical treatment in the Beltway’s hometown paper; their narratives are always embraced and amplified. They have far better press than a conservative or a Republican would get.

Islamists have far better press than a conservative or a Republican would get.

This week, Wael Haddara was given space on its pages to echo its own editorial board’s condemnation of the Sisi regime and special pleading for the Muslim Brotherhood. Haddara is the former president of the Muslim Association of Canada and a veteran of several other Hamas- and Brotherhood-affiliated Islamist groups, including the Muslim Association of Canada and CAIR’s Canadian branch. In 2012, Haddara was so taken by the prospect of Brotherhood rule in Egypt, he traveled there and became a close advisor of Morsi’s, doing communications work and selling the group’s narrative to credulous westerners.

The Washington Post has even given its pages over to Islamists more openly bloodthirsty than the Muslim Brotherhood.

In November 2018, the Post published a piece by the head of the Supreme Revolutionary Committee of the Iran-sponsored Houthi insurgency in Yemen, Mohammed Ali al-Houthi, declaring that he and his terror group, “want peace for Yemen.” While Jeff Bezos’ outlet assures us that “democracy dies in darkness,” the Post’s readers are not informed about the relative sincerity of the Houthi leader’s plea, considering its slogan: “Allah is the Greatest. Death to America. Death to Israel. Curse on the Jews. Victory to Islam.”

Of course, very little of this is ever mentioned in outlets like the Washington Post. It would complicate the bold, simple colors in the painting they’re struggling to create.

The Left’s narrative-driven media coverage inevitably pushes politicians in its direction. So far, only one US politician on the Left has made a statement on Morsi and his passing.

Congresswoman Ilan Omar (D-MN) can always be counted on to support Islamists, and the Muslim Brotherhood in particular. Her lashing out at enemies of the Brotherhood on Twitter—especially Israel, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia, which draw the most intense ire—is now predictable, despite how much hearing these views from Capitol Hill still shocks most Americans.

As counterterrorism expert Patrick Poole pointed out in The Federalist, Omar has allied with Brotherhood groups in the United States. She counts on the longtime support for the Muslim American Society (MAS) which “was founded as the overt arm of the Muslim Brotherhood in America,” according to the Justice Department. This support is reciprocated by Omar’s appearance at events and closeness to the group’s leadership. MAS was in the news recently for releasing a video pageant on Facebook showing children calling for martyrdom as soldiers in the “army of Allah” and threatening to behead their enemies.

Omar’s lashing out at enemies of the Brotherhood on Twitter is now predictable, despite how much hearing these views from Capitol Hill still shocks most Americans.

This week, Omar tweeted outrage at Morsi’s death, and hinted at the possibility of a conspiracy of Egyptian (and possibly Israeli?) involvement in the Brotherhood leader’s demise. “None of this makes sense!” she exclaimed, and included a wide-eyed emoji for good measure.

The Egyptians—as Omar might know—aren’t exactly shy about killing their imprisoned Islamists.

Earlier this year, the government executed nine Brothers for the assassination of the country’s top prosecutor of Muslim Brotherhood officials in 2015. More than 100 more have been sentenced to death in the last five years. Morsi had won an appeal in 2016 with Egypt’s highest court that spared him the death penalty, but he was sentenced to life imprisonment. Morsi’s murder in public, in court no less, would serve little purpose for the Egyptian authorities. Had they felt the need to kill him, it would’ve happened at any time in the last half-decade.

Omar’s attack on Sisi’s Egypt is of a piece with her attacks on Israel, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates. All three US allies are anti-Islamist. In the case of the Islamic countries, their policies toward the Muslim Brotherhood are far more aggressive than those of any non-Muslim nation. This fact is not lost on Omar and her Brotherhood supporters.

On Monday, the Saudi Foreign Ministry didn’t acknowledge Morsi’s death, but cheekily tweeted an infographic warning of the threat of the Muslim Brotherhood. The image—dramatically splattered with blood—echoes what Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has long said about the Islamist group: it “does not represent Islam and affects the stability of societies.”

David Reaboi is Senior Vice President at Security Studies Group. His twitter is @davereaboi.

Written By

David Reaboi is Senior Vice President at Security Studies Group. He tweets at @davereaboi.

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