Is Hillary Clinton a closet Islamist? (Spoiler: No.)

Word on the street here in Cairo is that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has become an Islamist overnight.

It's not a joke. Clinton was greeted by protests upon visiting Egypt this weekend -- but this time it wasn't just Islamists who were denouncing the United States. Rather, opponents of the Muslim Brotherhood rallied to object to what they saw as Clinton's support for President Mohamed Morsy, who hails from the Islamist movement's ranks. Tawfiq Okasha, a staunch supporter of Egypt's military establishment, led a protest outside the Four Seasons hotel, where Clinton was staying. In the city of Alexandria, protesters taunted Clinton with chants of "Monica, Monica" -- a reference to Monica Lewinsky -- and threw tomatoes and shoes at her motorcade.

The dissatisfaction can't be dismissed as the work of a few rabble-rousers. Leading members of Egypt's Coptic Christian community refused to meet with Clinton due to the U.S. government's "support for Islamism over other political and civil forces." The meeting with Coptic leaders who did show up apparently did not go any more smoothly: According to human rights campaigner Hossam Bahgat, one speaker accused the White House of being infiltrated by Islamists -- and pointed to Clinton's deputy chief of staff, Huma Abedine, as evidence.

If Hillary Clinton is indeed a covert Islamist, she's not doing a very good job eliminating the tensions between the Muslim Brotherhood and the U.S. government. The list of potential issues goes on and on: The Brotherhood's uncertain guarantees of equal rights to Copts and women, its shaky commitment to inclusive democracy, and its antagonism toward Israel are just a few of the subjects that could trip up relations with the United States. Decades of built-up antagonism and suspicion can sabotage even the most basic cooperation: Just this month, a spokesman for the Brotherhood's political party accused the American NGO workers who were arrested under the former military government of being involved in "intelligence work." (start at 34:40)

As Clinton said at the presidential palace in Cairo on Saturday, being forced to choose between Egypt's diverse political forces is exactly what the United States doesn't want to do.  "President Morsy made clear that he understands the success of his presidency -- and indeed, of Egypt's democratic transition -- depends on building consensus across the Egyptian political spectrum," she told the assembled media. Only such a coalition, she said, will allow him "to assert the full authority of the presidency."

Egypt's leaders, however, have shown little sign that they are willing to accommodate Clinton's ecumenical approach. Supreme Council of the Armed Forces chief Mohamed Hussein Tantawi seized the opportunity following his meeting with Clinton to say that the military would prevent Egypt from falling under the control of a "certain group" -- a reference to the Brotherhood. If the conflict does reach a crisis point, we may finally see how far Clinton's sympathy for the Muslim Brotherhood goes.

Pete Souza/The White House via Getty Images


A ceasefire in El Salvador

There's some rare promising news out of El Salvador, which with 7 killings per 10,000 inhabitants per year, has one of the world's highest death rates due to armed violence. Ever since Msgr. Fabio Colindres, a  Catholic bishop in the capital city of San Salvador, negotiated peace between the city's most violent gangs -- the Mara Salvatrucha gang  (MS-13) and Barrio 18 -- last March, crime has been  more than cut in half, dropping from 15 deaths per day in March to only 6 deaths per day in June. According to government reports, an estimated 800 lives have been saved as a result of the peace and communities feel significantly safer.

Insisting that the drop in violence was "el proceso de paz" (the process of peace) and not simply a "tregua" (truce), Colindres met with Organization of American States Secretary General Jose Miguel Insulza at La Esperanza Prison yesterday. Meeting with gang leaders who had been transferred there from maximum security prisons just before the peace agreement, Insulza commended the inmates:

Thanks to your courage in opening yourselves to understanding and to conversations, and for understanding that the good that comes of this will be a lesson that could be applied in other countries that suffer from criminal violence."

In seeking to explain why and how the gangs agreed to peace, former gang member and current director of Homies Unidos, an international crime-prevention group in Los Angeles, Alex Sanchez explained:

Gang members in the neighborhoods don't really want to be doing the things that they're doing, but there really - there is no resources, no outlet for these kids to address the issues that they're involved in. So, once there is a space - once something is created for them to kind of think about the things that they're doing and there is some activity around the issue as an alternative, they break down."

Over 150 days since the brokered ceasefire, Colindres reminded the community that (my translation), "one can only achieve peace believing that it is possible... It's a process that involves-and should involve-the entire nation."

Jose CABEZAS/AFP/GettyImages