The Muslim Brotherhood comes to Washington

Just days after announcing that it would back deputy leader Khairat El-Shater as a presidential candidate in Egypt's upcoming election, the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party made a pit stop at Georgetown University on Wednesday as part of a "charm offensive." FJP representatives repeatedly emphasized the Islamist party's commitment to fulfilling "the demands of the young people who revolted in Tahrir Square" through promoting democracy, justice, freedom, and human dignity, and insisted that they intend to be "as inclusive as possible."

"With the new Egypt, it doesn't matter anymore what the party wants," said businessman and FJP adviser Hussein El-Kazzaz. "Our compass is not a movement that's internally inward-looking, our compass is now with the revolution.... Our distinct belief is that the country cannot be be run by one faction."

That's why, he explained, the Muslim Brotherhood flip-flopped on its decision to field a presidential candidate:

"We didn't want to nominate someone ... because we didn't want to be monopolizing positions of power at that time..... It's a very different reality now than it was 10 months ago."

Even though the FJP holds over 47 percent of the seats in Egypt's parliament, Member of Parliament Abdul Mawgoud Dardery from Luxor acknowledges that the parliament itself hasn't exactly been smooth sailing:

"It's very tough [to negotiate].... All of a sudden now we are expected to decide ... the fate of our country through a very, very democratic process from which traditions and figureheads are and history and so on are being created as we go."

He added that the members have tried to do "traditional things," like holding meetings and using mediators, but that it's not working "100 percent."

El-Kazzaz also argued that the Freedom and Justice Party seeks to take a "middle ground" when it comes to the existential struggle between secular liberalism and traditionalism:

"We have a tradition that needs to be respected ... but we cannot ignore human civilization ... Europe has great things to offer, the United States has great things to offer, let's look at them and choose what we like, leave what we don't like."

If only it were that easy. Unfortunately for the FJP's philosophies of inclusion and finding a middle ground, it appears that Islamists are set to dominate Egypt's constitutional committee, a crisis that's already alienating the country's minority groups.



Hafiz Saeed to America: Come and get me!

It was already a bit bizarre when the United States offered a $10 million reward on Monday for information leading to the capture of Hafiz Saeed, the founder of the Pakistani militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba who is accused of orchestrating the 2008 Mumbai attacks.

After all, Saeed isn't exactly in hiding. As the New York Times reported yesterday, he lives in a well-known compound on the outskirts of Lahore and appears frequently at public rallies throughout Pakistan. (You can send my $10 million check to 1899 L St. NW., Washington D.C. 20036. Thanks!)

But things reached the level of high farce today when Saeed held a press conference essentially daring U.S. authorities to come arrest him: 

The 62-year-old former engineering and Arabic professor appeared on stage at a specially convened press conference in the Flashman Hotel, close to the headquarters of the Pakistan army in the garrison city of Rawalpindi.

“If the United States wants to contact me, I am present, they can contact me. I am also ready to face any American court, or wherever there is proof against me,” he told reporters in the hotel named after a fictional colonial hero.

“Americans seriously lack information. Don’t they know where I go and where I live and what I do?” he said. “These rewards are usually announced for people who are hiding in mountains or caves. I wish the Americans would give this reward money to me.”

There was evidently some U.S.-India diplomacy behind the oddly timed reward U.S. Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman announced the bounty during a visit to New Delhi. But it still seems a little odd to essentially highlight Washington's inability to apprehend a suspected terrorist living in plain sight in a country that's ostensibly a U.S. ally.