Leaked Cables: Egyptian Government Stokes Fears of Muslim Brotherhood

The Muslim Brotherhood, a key opposition group in Egypt’s anti-Mubarak protests, has long argued that the Egyptian government exaggerates the Muslim Brotherhood’s positions and its likelihood of attaining power in democratic elections. As it turns out, American diplomats agree.

“The Egyptians have a long history of threatening us with the MB bogeyman,” wrote Ambassador Francis Ricciardone to FBI Director Robert Mueller in 2005, in a newly released U.S. embassy cable obtained by WikiLeaks. Another cable from 2006 stated:

We do not accept the proposition that Egypt’s only choices are a slow-to-reform authoritarian regime or an Islamist extremist one; nor do we see greater democracy in Egypt as leading necessarily to a government under the MB.

A third cable describes Omar Suleiman, then Egypt’s intelligence chief, slamming the Muslim Brotherhood as a “dangerous” movement that has spawned “11 different Islamist extremist organizations.”

Suleiman—in his new position as Mubarak’s vice president—held a meeting yesterday with opposition groups, including the Muslim Brotherhood. Following that meeting, a Muslim Brotherhood official reiterated to ABC News that the group is not seeking a religious revolution or the presidency, and supports maintaining Egypt’s peace treaty with Israel, which he called “of value to the people of Egypt.”

The official, Dr. Khalil el-Gazar, also spoke of his astonishment at widespread Islamophobia in the Western world. “We have good feelings towards the Western countries,” he said.

Marian WangSlate also reported last week that the Muslim Brotherhood, which was technically banned by Mubarak’s government, would likely prioritize freedom to expand its social and educational activities.

The group has already backed Mohamed ElBaradei as a lead spokesman for the opposition. ElBaradei, a Nobel Peace Prize winner and former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, is known for his secular sensibilities.

Marian Wang

Republished with permission from ProPublica.

About Marian Wang -- Pro Publica

Marian Wang is ProPublica's first reporter-blogger. She previously worked for Mother Jones, where she spearheaded the magazine's social media strategy. Since graduating with honors from Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism in 2007, she worked in Chicago as a freelance investigative reporter and blogger for The Chicago Reporter, Chi-Town Daily News, and ChicagoNow. She now lives in New York. She likes it a lot.

Find Marian on Twitter: @mariancw

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