The Muslim Brotherhood is in many ways the founder of modern Islamist movements, with roots extending back 84 years. Though it long ago abandoned violence as a political tactic, and was harshly repressed by ousted Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and his predecessors, it remains a highly controversial organization. In US political circles, it's hardly uncommon to hear to the organization mentioned in the same breath as terrorist groups like Al Qaeda. More reasonably, many Egyptians fear the organization will seek to replace Egypt's civil code with Islamic law. After all, the group's primary slogan is "Islam is the solution."
But the organization also has a history of pragmatism, and caution. Egypt is waiting for a national address from their new president any moment now, and all indications from the Brotherhood is that it will be conciliatory, with promises from Morsi to include secular-leaning Egyptians in his new government. Downtown Cairo was flooded with Morsi supporters, celebrating the stunning turn of events: A man once imprisoned for political crimes by Mr. Mubarak is now president -- Mubarak is now in jail, and will probably end his days there.
But sure as the dawn will come, some outlets in the US scarcely hesitate to turn up the volume of fear and disinformation. Shortly after Morsi's victory was announced earlier today, the Fox Nation website of Fox News put up a short unsigned blog headlined "Muslim Brotherhood Takes Egypt, Cleric Declares: 'Our Capital shall be Jerusalem, Allah Willing.'"
Embedded in the short blog is a video, which identifies the source as "Breitbart Non-syndicated" that purports to be a speech from Egypt's President Morsi. Before the speech begins, the following text appears upon the screen: "Rabbilive.com introduces... Egypt's newly elected president as declared by the Muslim Brotherhood, Mohamed Morsi, Israel's new neighbor."
Then a fiery sermon begins with a bearded man, the prayer callous on his forehead prominent: "Our capital shall not be in Cairo, Mecca or Medina," he says, according to a translation provided by the US State Department-funded Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), an organization founded by a retired Israeli colonel. "It shall be in Jerusalem, Allah willing. Our cry shall be 'millions of martyrs march towards Jerusalem.'"
Scary stuff, right? Egypt's new president, within hours of his victory, essentially promising to immediately launch war on Israel. There is of course one problem. The man in the video isn't actually Mohamed Morsi. It's the preacher Safwat al-Hegazy delivering an address in support of Morsi a few weeks ago. Morsi later distanced himself from Hegazy's remarks, saying ""Jerusalem is in our hearts and vision. But Cairo is Egypt's capital."
It says at the top of the misleading video "Brietbart non-syndicated," but Rabbilive.com appears to be the source of the misleading text. Breitbart.com is the right-wing website founded by Andrew Breitbart. Here's that website's post today on the video.
Make no mistake. The political sea-change in Egypt is going to create challenges for foreign powers and shift relationships built with the Egyptian autocracy over decades. A Morsi government will not be as reliably friendly to Israel's interests as Mubarak's was. The militant Islamist group Hamas, based in the Gaza strip, is an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood. It's worth bearing in mind that the Egyptian military has sought control over Egyptian foreign policy -- as suspicious of the Brotherhood as Israel is. And the Egyptian economy will be more reliant than ever for foreign aid in the immediate future. The US, eager for Egypt not to make any provocative moves over its peace deal with Israel, is likely to play a restraining role as well.
Misinformation serves no one, though many will be taken in. At the time of this writing, the Fox Nation blog had 6,100 recommendations from Facebook users.