A delegation from the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) made its first official visit to the United States this week, where it has spent time in New York and Washington, DC talking to think tank experts and White House officials about the Brotherhood’s growing role in Cairo.
“The purpose of the visit is to engage the American people on issues of mutual concern in international relations, reassure [the] business community of the prospects of investments and economic growth in democratic Egypt, and boost American tourism to Egypt,” the Muslim Brotherhood’s English language website reported. In other words, the FJP is trying to assuage American fears regarding its political ambitions and depict itself as a moderate group that has the interest of all Egyptians at heart.
The delegation arrived in the U.S. after ruffling feathers by fielding a candidate for president in Egypt. The FJP previously said it wouldn’t do so. That candidate, Khairat al-Shater, this week declared that introducing sharia law would be his “first and final project and objective” as president, and that he would create a special entity to assist parliament in the process. Walking back from that announcement, at an event this week at Georgetown University FJP lawmaker Abdul Mawgoud Dardery said that the party is dedicated to the objectives of sharia law rather than its specific practice. “The principles are universal: freedom, human rights, justice for all,” he said.
But Dardery just last month also said that the American non-profit groups in Egypt that made headlines after being arrested were working toward “a type of democracy that will not bring Islamists to power, and this is wrong.” And one must wonder what Dardery, or presidential candidate al-Shater for that matter, thinks on the recent jailing of a 17-year-old Christian boy in Egypt for publishing cartoons on his Facebook page that “insulted Islam and its Prophet,” according to the court. Perhaps someone should ask him while he’s in town.
Doublespeak from the FJP at this point should be expected, and hopefully the American officials and experts meeting this week with the Islamist party’s delegates are aware of that. More importantly, when it comes to U.S. policy, the party must be judged on its past, present, and future actions rather than on what its delegates may say.