The right-wing media have seized on the appointment of former Egyptian judge and intellectual Tareq El-Bishri to the Egyptian constitutional council as an opportunity to continue fearmongering about a Muslim Brotherhood takeover of the government. In fact, El-Bishri is a political and religious moderate who is not associated with the Muslim Brotherhood, but with an offshoot, Hizb al-Wasat, an unofficial political party which promotes equality and democracy.
Right-Wing Media Use El-Bishri's Appointment To Continue Muslim Brotherhood Fearmongering
Beck Cites El-Bishri As An Example Of "Egyptian Politicians Outwardly Expressing Islamic Extremist Rhetoric." On the February 16 edition of Fox News' Glenn Beck, Beck purported to "judge" the Egyptian revolution based on a series of criteria. He asked, "Do we see Egyptian politicians outwardly expressing Islamic extremist rhetoric?" Beck then cited El-Bishri as an example of the Muslim Brotherhood "gaining power":
BECK: Do we see Egyptian politicians outwardly expressing Islamic extremist rhetoric? Well, let's look at the people from the groups like the Muslim Brotherhood, are they gaining power? Well, let's see -- the judge who is heading up the commission to write the new Egyptian constitution, you bet he's -- I mean, he's practically Thomas Jefferson. He's an outspoken Muslim Brotherhood politician. [Fox News, Glenn Beck, 2/16/11, accessed via Nexis]
Hot Air: "The Head Of The Committee To Draft Egypt's New Constitution Is A Judge Affiliated With An Offshoot Of The Muslim Brotherhood." In a February 15 post on Hot Air, Allahpundit wrote: "In other good news, the head of the committee to draft Egypt's new constitution is a judge affiliated with an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood. Even more wonderful. I sure hope Obama wises up on entitlement reform and makes a deal with the GOP soon, because given the way things are going in Egypt, he might not have much time over the next two years for domestic priorities." [Hot Air, 2/15/11]
Geller: El-Bishri's Appointment Shows The Revolution "Deliver[ed] The Country To the Muslim Brotherhood." In a February 16 post on Atlas Shrugs, Pamela Geller wrote:
Egypt's new ruling military council has appointed a fundamentalist Islamic judge to head the committee drawing up a new constitution, validating the warnings of those of us who argued that last week's revolution would deliver the country to the Muslim Brotherhood.
While media quislings rejoice over the advent of the worst of times, the "secular" (whatever the hell that ever meant) landscape of Egypt rapidly disintegrates. [Atlas Shrugs, 2/16/11]
Hoft: "Islamist Leads Egyptian Constitutional Panel." In a February 15 Gateway Pundit post titled, "Islamist Leads Egyptian Constitutional Panel," Jim Hoft wrote that the council "does include several members of the Muslim Brotherhood group" and concluded, "An Islamist judge is leading the panel." [Gateway Pundit, 2/15/11]
In fact, El-Bishri Is A Moderate Who Has Been Described As A "Bridge" Between Secular And Religious Movements
Beck's Own Website Described El-Bishri As "One of Egypt's Top Legal Minds ... A Bridge Between [Secular And Religious] Movements." A February 15 article on Beck's website, The Blaze, described El-Bishri as "one of Egypt's top legal minds. A former judge, he was once a secular leftist but became a prominent thinker in the 'moderate Islamic' political trend. He is respected on both sides as a bridge between the movements." [The Blaze, 2/15/11]
NYT: El-Bishri Represents "A Moderate Brand Of Islamism." A February 16 New York Times article described El-Bishri as representing a "moderate brand of Islamism, making him a bridge figure between the two wings of the Egyptian opposition." From The New York Times:
The chief of the panel is Tareq el-Bishri, a retired senior judge, prominent intellectual and author of a book-length critique of the Mubarak government titled "Egypt: Between Disobedience and Decay." Mr. Bishri leaned left in his youth and later gravitated toward a moderate brand of Islamism, making him a bridge figure between the two wings of the Egyptian opposition. And he later became a legal adviser to a major opposition movement, Kefaya, or Enough.
As a jurist, Mr. Bishri is specifically known for his opposition to prosecutions outside civilian courts as well as for his arguments of a balance of power between government institutions -- ideas alien to Mubarak government. In revising the Constitution, "he has a list of things he already wants to do," said Prof. Ellis Goldberg of the University of Washington, a political scientist who is studying Mr. Bishri's work. [The New York Times, 2/16/11]
Reuters: El-Bishri Is "A Respected Retired Judge Known For His independence." In a February 16 article, Reuters reported that "[t]he committee is headed by Tareq al-Bishry, a respected retired judge known for his independence." [Reuters, 2/16/11]
El-Bishri Is Not Associated With Muslim Brotherhood, But With Al-Wasat, A Moderate Faction Devoted To Equal Rights
El-Bishri Has Been Associated With Hizb Al-Wasat, Not The Muslim Brotherhood. According to the U.K. newspaper The Telegraph, El-Bishri is not associated with the Muslim Brotherhood, but with an offshoot of the group, Hizb al-Wasat (Party of the Center). The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace notes:
Al-Wasat was founded in 1996 when several young but well-respected members of the Muslim Brotherhood broke away from the organization to form their own party. Abu al-'Ala Madi took charge of the newly formed party and was assisted by fellow Brotherhood defectors Salah 'Abd al-Karim and Essam Sultan.
Although al-Wasat advocates a political system that is firmly anchored in Islamic law, it also views shari'a principles as flexible and wholly compatible with the principles of pluralism and equal citizenship rights. [Telegraph, 2/15/11; Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, accessed 2/17/11]
Carnegie: Al-Wasat Supports "Equal Citizenship Rights To All Egyptians, Regardless Of Religion, Sex, Race, Status, Or Wealth." The Carnegie Endowment further noted that among al-Wasat's ideologies are "[g]uaranteeing equal citizenship rights to all Egyptians, regardless of religion, sex, race, status or wealth"; "[e]nsuring the right to form political parties, associations and all civil society institutions"; and "[s]upporting free elections and allowing a peaceful transfer of power." [Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, accessed 2/17/11]
BBC: "Al-Wasat Offers Itself As A Moderate Alternative To ... The Outlawed Muslim Brotherhood, Which Has Condemned Its Ideas." In an October 6, 2005, BBC article, Arab affairs analyst Magdi Abdelhadi wrote that "unlike other Islamist groups, al-Wasat has invited Copts (Egyptian Christians) to join its ranks." BBC quoted "Abul Ila Madi, one of the founders and chief ideologues of the party" as saying, "[T]he majority has no right to impose its beliefs on the minority - or to ignore the rights of the minority." The BBC further reported:
Al-Wasat - which means moderate in Arabic - calls for the implementation of Islamic Sharia law - but it adopts a modern interpretation which gives women and Christians full citizenship rights and guarantees freedom of expression and belief.
Al-Wasat offers itself as a moderate alternative to the country's most powerful Islamist group, the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood, which has condemned its ideas. [BBC, 10/6/05]
Muqtedar Khan: Al-Wasat Is The "Institutional Form" Of "Islamic Modernism." In a post on The Washington Post's On Faith blog, Dr. Muqtedar Khan, an associate professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of Delaware, wrote:
Islamic modernism is an important facet of Egyptian intellectual heritage which experienced its peak during the time of Muhammed Abduh. It combines Islamic values, specially its focus on justice and personal virtue with equality. Islamic modernism seeks to find a path compatible with Islam and democracy, faith and reason, religion and science. Its institutional form in Egyptian politics is the Al Wasat party. It is a bridge between the secularist and the pro-democracy Islamists.
In a free and democratic Egypt, where the youth are aspiring for openness, for global connectivity and for opportunities to fulfill their potential; where the pious still dream of living in a virtuous republic, and the traditionalist hope to find accommodation with the modern and the postmodern, Al Wasat will thrive. It is an option that none will reject outright. The only question remains, can they deliver if given the opportunity? [Washington Post, On Faith, 1/30/11]
Berkley Center: Al-Wasat Supports "Full Rights To Women And The Coptic Christian Minority" And Respect For Civil, Political, Social, Economic, And Human Rights. Georgetown University's Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs summarized al-Wasat by noting:
Founded in 1996 as a moderate offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt's al-Wasat Party wants to see an increased status for shari'a law, but in a modern form that would grant full rights to women and the Coptic Christian minority within Egypt. In addition, al-Wasat strongly supports liberal democracy, as well as free and fair elections, the separation of powers, freedom of thought and expression, and respect for civil, political, social, economic, and human rights. Because al-Wasat is still awaiting government approval as an official party, it has not contested any elections, but it has joined with nine other opposition parties to form the National Front for Change, which opposes the rule of Hosni Mubarak. The party has a broad base of support among women, Copts, business people, and secularists across Egypt, though total support is shallow in terms of raw numbers. [Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs, 7/15/10]