The Magazine

O Brotherhood, What Art Thou?

Don't mistake Islamic extremists for moderates.

Apr 23, 2007, Vol. 12, No. 30 • By ZEYNO BARAN
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Indeed, Islamist organizations have flourished in the tolerant environment of the West, taking advantage of the freedom of speech to spread their hate-filled, anti-Semitic ideas without fear of reprisal. In the process, they actively and openly create a fifth column of activists who work to undermine the very systems under which Western societies operate. They are creating self-segregated societies in a process that has been called "voluntary apartheid." This tactic has been enthusiastically supported by the Muslim Brotherhood, whose unofficial spiritual leader Yusuf al-Qaradawi has repeatedly advised European Muslims to create their own "Muslim ghettos" to avoid cultural assimilation.

Islamist groups are engaged in a long-term social engineering project, by which they hope to lead Muslims to reject Western norms of pluralism, individual rights, and the rule of law. At the core of Islamist terrorism is the ideological machinery that works to promote sedition and hatred. That the tactics of the Muslim Brotherhood are nonviolent (or at least less violent) does not make the ideology behind those tactics any less antagonistic to the United States.

It may be that, when compared with al Qaeda or Hezbollah, the Muslim Brotherhood is the lesser evil. Yet engagement is worse than no engagement if it legitimizes Islamist ideology and alienates non-Islamists. Recognizing and responding to the threat posed by the Islamist ideology is an important part of the war on terror. Any American or Western engagement with Islamists should be critical in nature. Under no circumstances should we do them the favor of extolling Islamist ideologues as "moderates."

Zeyno Baran is a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute.