Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood launches push to “build bridges” with U.S. leaders
With PowerPoint presentations and political promises, Egypt’s influential Muslim Brotherhood made its U.S. diplomatic debut this week hoping to persuade Washington that the Islamist group is committed to democracy and rule of law.
A delegation from the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), the political wing of the once-banned Islamist movement, has been making the Washington rounds talking to officials and think tank experts about their growing role as Egypt heads toward presidential elections.
“We are here to start building bridges of understanding with the United States,” Sondos Asem, a member of the party’s foreign relations committee and editor of its official English language website, said at a forum at Georgetown University in Washington.
“We acknowledge the very important role of the United States in the world and we would like our relations with the United States to be better than before.”
The Muslim Brotherhood, which was founded in 1928 and seeks to promote its conservative vision of Islam in society, has made dramatic gains since a popular uprising toppled President Hosni Mubarak last year and launched Egypt on an unpredictable political course.
The United States has broadened its engagement with the group but is moving cautiously amid widespread skepticism over its aims, particularly after the FJP announced it would field a candidate for presidential elections in May despite an earlier pledge to stay out of the race.
The FJP candidate, Khairat al-Shater, said in comments reported on Wednesday that introducing sharia law would be his “first and final objective,” but the FJP group in Washington sought to dismissed fears this meant they aimed to establish an Islamic theocracy.