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The BBC and the Muslim Brotherhood

12:44 PM, Mar 11, 2011 • By MICHAEL WEISS
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BBC radio, too, has better scrutinized the Brotherhood by asking probing questions of its representatives. On the BBC World Service program, “World Have Your Say,” aired on February 14, moderator Mark Sandell put questions phoned-in by global listeners directly to Dr. Ahmed Fahmi, the U.K. spokesman for the Brotherhood, and Mohammed Morsi, a member of its executive council. One question came from an American attorney whose client was an Egyptian Christian that had been forced by the Brotherhood to sign a declaration stating that he had converted to Islam, after which their coercers persecuted both him and his family. Morsi termed this incident an “accident” three times on the air. Fahmi, for his part, disavowed that the Brotherhood was a political organization at all by way of parrying a question about whether he recognized Israel’s right to exist. In fact, Sandell collectively asked Fahmi and Morsi this question a total of seven times during the broadcast, never receiving an answer. And when Sandell confronted them with the Brotherhood’s draft manifesto from 2007, which prohibits women and Coptics from holding the Egyptian presidency, Morsi acknowledged this as “our platform,” nevertheless affirming the Brotherhood’s pledge to gender equality.

A March 3 broadcast of BBC Newsnight also carried a segment on the Muslim Brotherhood, and while its overall tendency was to suggest that the group was not nearly so powerful or extremist as Western commentators have said it is, narrator Tim Whewell interviewed some provocative figures. One included Doha, a young female law student member of the Brotherhood, who strongly advocated the implementation of sharia in Egypt:

Egypt follows French law, and we do not want that, because when someone steals for example, he spends a month in jail and then he’s released to do the same again. But under Sharia law he gets his hand cut off and that’s better.

As to whether or not Egypt ought to maintain its peace treaty with Israel, Doha was similarly adamant:

The first thing to do is to sever all ties with Israel because it is the cause of our ruin. And Mubarak was their agent… In my opinion America is exactly the same as Israel, as long as it harbors bad intentions towards us. We don’t want aid from anyone, we just want other nations not to interfere with us, and we can manage.

Whewell also inquired of Egyptian lawyer Sobhi Saleh, who represented the Muslim Brotherhood on the committee to change the Egyptian constitution, about his view that women and Christians ought not serve as president of Egypt:

They should not occupy the highest post of the presidency. It’s the same policy as in Greece, Spain and in England. We are the majority. We represent 95 percent of the population.

When countered by Whewell that no such laws exist in any of those European countries and that women constitute half the Egyptian population, Saleh replied that the Egyptian president would be tasked with leading the people in prayer. “Islam gives women all the rights except the right to do that, which is one single post among 82 million. How can a woman lead the people in prayer?” 

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