Sunday, February 13, 2011

James Clapper and the Secular Muslim Brotherhood

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper raised eyebrows all over the place the other day when he stated before a House Intelligence Committee that the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood was a "largely secular organization".

The Arabic word for secular is Almani, and  secularism is Almaniyah. This is anathema to a committed serious Muslim. For a Muslim Brotherhood leader to describe himself as Almani would be like the Pope announcing he was agnostic. Had I been at that Senate hearing, I would have loved to ask Mr. Clapper to name one Muslim Brotherhood leader who has ever publicly stated that he was secular.

As could be expected, conservative columnists are already calling for the DNI to resign. But I think the issue is much broader than one official minimizing the religious element of the Muslim Brotherhood. It is a failure across the board throughout our government - Republicans as well as Democrats - to understand the religious motivation of organizations such as the Brotherhood. To interpret the fact that they build schools and stock clinics as meaning they are "secular" is to miss the point completely.

Not many of our government officials are sitting in church Sunday morning. That's not a problem to me; what I find difficult is their conclusion that because religion is not very important to them as secular people, it must not be that important to everyone else. Because they are not religious, they find it difficult to understand the significance religion plays in the lives of others. And that includes every single member of the Muslim Brotherhood. There is a reason it's not called the Egyptian Secular Brotherhood.

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