Sophistry And Defining The Muslim Brotherhood

by Conor Friedersdorf

In an interview yesterday, National Review's Andrew McCarthy displayed a bad habit that is characteristic of his commentary:

I’ve heard people, Hugh, over the weekend, talking about how Hamas seems to be now working with the Muslim Brotherhood. And I’ve had to remind them that no, Hamas is the Muslim Brotherhood. If you look at Hamas’ charter, it says that it is the Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood. So if you want to get a load of what Egypt will look like after a democracy ushers in the Muslim Brotherhood, have a look at Hamas. It’s not like we don’t have an example right in front of us.

See the trick? The Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt is itself an entity with moderate and radical factions. Here McCarthy treats it as an organization that can be spoken about coherently as a whole. Okay, fair enough. So there's The Muslim Brotherhood – and then there's this different entity, Hamas. There's a relationship between them. But delving into it would be to subtle for McCarthy. And he knows that Hamas carries strong negative associations among lots of people who've never heard of the Muslim Brotherhood. So he just conflates the two in a clever little talking point he's constructed:

"Hamas is the Muslim Brotherhood."

Well, no. They're actually different. Yes, Hamas was founded as an offshoot of The Muslim Brotherhood back in 1987. And Slate was founded as an offshoot of Microsoft in 1996. Now imagine someone coming along to tell, "Slate is Microsoft." You'd understand the flawed logic. A shared point in origin doesn't itself make entities identical. So what else has he got in making the case that "Hamas is the Muslim Brotherhood"?

Don’t take my word for it (although I covered the topic in some detail in The Grand Jihad). Don’t even take the word of the Justice Department, which amply demonstrated during the Holy Land Foundation terrorism financing prosecution that the Muslim Brotherhood’s top project in the U.S. has been to drum up support for Hamas. Look, instead, at some relevant sections of Hamas’s 1988 charter (“The Charter of Allah: The Platform of the Islamic Resistance Movement”), announcing the terrorist organization’s existence.

And he quotes a brief excerpt from the charter here.

Observe what's going on here. Any analysis of the actual behavior of Hamas and The Muslim Brotherhood over the last couple decades shows that they're different organizations run by different personnel in different countries where they've made different things their main focus and evolved in unique ways, as is inevitable when taking an active role in the civic and political life of particular countries.

Unfortunately, Mr. McCarthy is dealing with readers understandably ignorant of Middle Eastern history over the last two decades ago. And he has a talking point he wants to advance. So rather than grappling with a complicated reality in a way that makes him worthy of his readers' trust, he makes a ludicrously simplistic assertion, offers arguments for its truth that treat decades old rhetorical assertions as if they trump real world actions, and plows ahead like a zealous prosecutor – concerned only in proving his case, no matter if his shortcuts afford his audience a misleading picture of the world. The Daily Dish understands all too well that it's more complicated than McCarthy leads us to believe because we've been struggling through this stuff in an effort to inform as best we can. The only thing of which I'm certain is that I can direct you to people with higher quality arguments as you muddle through.