The New York Times And The Muslim Brotherhood


On February 9, The New York Times (NYT) published an editorial titled “All of Islam Isn’t the Enemy.” The article suggests that an order issued by the American President, Donald Trump, designating the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization, would “be seen by many Muslims as another attempt to vilify adherents of Islam.” The article then argues that the Muslim Brotherhood is not a terrorist group, and, based on this one analysis, it claims “there is no evidence that senior Brotherhood leaders ordered any violence or carried out any of the recent major terrorist attacks in Egypt.”

As a devout practicing Muslim, I find the editorial troubling, to say the least. It not only desperately defends a secretive group like the Muslim Brotherhood; it also asserts, without sound evidence, that the Brotherhood is a representative of adherents of Islam – an assertion that is fundamentally flawed. It is unfortunate that such a prestigious American publication as the New York Times has adopted this shallow and biased approach toward a very complex topic.

The parent Muslim Brotherhood group and all other movements, parties, and associations formally or informally linked to it, represent only themselves; they do not, by any stretch of the imagination, represent the billion Muslims around the globe. There are millions of pious Muslims who adhere peacefully and faithfully to the precepts of Islam, and who do not subscribe to political Islam. In fact, many consider the Brotherhood to be a secretive, cultish group that has hijacked their religion and ultimately paved the way for more radical groups such as Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State (ISIS).

It is baffling to see the New York Times, among others, defend a group that still uses two swords as part of its logo (on its Arabic sites), refuses to disown the intellectual godfather  of radical Islam, Sayed Qutb and declines to fire any of its members who flirt with violence in Arabic posts, then condemn it in English ones.

The New York Times editorial is an unfortunate example of the current polarization in American politics that is using Islam as a weapon in their infighting. While the new Trump administration opts to brand all Muslims as potential terrorists, many liberal elite blur the difference between Islam and Islamism, and falsely portray groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood as representative of pious Muslims.

Both camps are wrong. Islam is much, much bigger than a group like the Brotherhood. The New York Times’ editorial board has clearly not been following the discourse on the Brotherhood closely, particularly during the past three years. The group has lost its popularity among millions of Muslims and is divided internally into subgroups fighting among themselves about vision and an approach for the future. The analysis cited by the New York Times was written by Nathan Brown and Michele Dunne of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. I respect both authors but I disagree with their analysis, which ironically acknowledges that “there are reports that some of the small groups that have carried out attacks on Egyptian police stations and infrastructure may have young Brotherhood members among them.” Even Tunisia’s Ennahda Party has opted to distance itself from Islamism and label itself as “a Muslim Democratic movement.”

America needs a new centrist approach to terrorism that abandons the current platitudinous attitudes toward Islam and Muslims – an approach that stops glamorizing Islamism and demonizing Muslims, a realistic approach that defines and rejects the ideology that sanctions violence. Such a complex task is indeed not easy; nonetheless, defending an opaque and mercurial group like the Muslim Brotherhood is certainly not the way to achieve this.

The New York Times in its defence of the Muslim Brotherhood, could be likened to a lawyer who bases his defense on improper legal procedures rather than the client’s actual guilt. Moreover, the Times has no right to equate the Brotherhood with Islam and use the faith of millions of non-Brotherhood Muslims as a pawn in the newspaper’s battle against the Trump administration.

About nervana111

Doctor, blogger and Commentator on Middle East issues
This entry was posted in Best Read, Egypt, Islam, Middle East, Politics, Terrorism and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to The New York Times And The Muslim Brotherhood

  1. Golan says:

    I don’t reply often, but it’s always enlightening and encouraging to read your posts.

  2. Anatole Levycky says:

    “While the new Trump administration opts to brand all Muslims as potential terrorists……”

    No they don’t. Stop being sensational! They have attempted to ban the travel of individuals from 7 countries who harbour terrorists AS DID OBAMA AND CLINTON.
    However I do agree that a change of perception is required by all Americans. Harks back to McCarthyism.

  3. Donald Weingarten says:

    A feature I find puzzling in almost all of the US debate about Islam is what appears, at least to me, to be an almost complete lack of knowledge of Islamic Jurisprudence. I certainly make no claims to knowing more than a bare minimum on the subject, but the Times and such experts as John Kerry appear to know even less. As I’m guessing you very likely know better than I, there are at least 8 different streams of Islamic law, each with a rather different view of things. What’s said for, or against one of these, may or may not apply to the others.

  4. It is a propaganda piece for the benefit of those that pay and play, it has nothing to do with anything that has do with journalism and editorial policy, it is actually outrageous and I am sure Trump will not fall for this trap…and how it patronizes all those who see the MB as terrorists, oh, those poor misguided souls, the MB is really a political party like any other, give us a break! the US voter has figured it out and the New York Times has lost its power to deceive any more as in WMD. Actually, the piece is so poorly written as to look like a plant, yes, they plant editorials too, not just stories.

  5. “As a devout practicing Muslim, …”

    What is your opinion on Muhammad? Do you disagree with anything in the quran? Can a person who took another’s life, for whatever reason, proclaim herself to he a prophet? If so, is then killing sanctioned, and if so, under what circumstances?

    In the minds of an ever growing number of people the problems of islam, which are way too many, are directly related with its founder, Muhammad. By western ethics, Muhammad was not even a decent human being, to put it mildly, let alone a representative of god.

    In the end, what does a “devout pracising Muslim” really mean? I bet the answers among Muslims are at least one thousand and one. That is how confusing islam’s ethics and civics are.

    Ps. I have enormous respect for pre-islam Egyptian civilization.

  6. nedhamson says:

    Reblogged this on Ned Hamson's Second Line View of the News and commented:
    merica needs a new centrist approach to terrorism that abandons the current platitudinous attitudes toward Islam and Muslims – an approach that stops glamorizing Islamism and demonizing Muslims, a realistic approach that defines and rejects the ideology that sanctions violence. Such a complex task is indeed not easy; nonetheless, defending an opaque and mercurial group like the Muslim Brotherhood is certainly not the way to achieve this.

    The New York Times in its defence of the Muslim Brotherhood, could be likened to a lawyer who bases his defense on improper legal procedures rather than the client’s actual guilt. Moreover, the Times has no right to equate the Brotherhood with Islam and use the faith of millions of non-Brotherhood Muslims as a pawn in the newspaper’s battle against the Trump administration.

  7. ceciliawyu says:

    Trump violated the US Constitution by signing an executive order based on Religious discrimination. The Judges did their jobs by stopping it. Trump has KKK in his Cabinet. A woman who made her money from promoting Amway (a pyramid scheme) with no experience of Education, in charge of Education! ALL 7 countries banned had ZERO terrorism incidents in the USA. There are more white, uneducated people with guns killing Americans in schools and at work than any Muslims or Mexicans!

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