Al Jazeera’s blog posted a story Monday featuring tweets from the Director of Research at the Brookings Center in Doha, Qatar, who reported that an Egyptian newspaper’s front page story claimed President Barack Obama is a member of the Muslim Brotherhood.
“Newspaper also claims that son of MB leader threatened Obama w- release of ‘papers’ revealing his MB membership,” writes Shadi Hamid of Brookings.
One could hardly come up with a more explosive allegation about a U.S. president than secret membership in an Islamist group. And if that weren’t enough, the newspaper also claims that President Obama’s half-brother Malik is allegedly an Al Qaeda activist.
Jonathan Spyer, senior research fellow at the Global Research in International Affairs Center and an Arabic speaker, tells TheBlaze that the newspaper — Al-Wafd — specifically accuses Obama of being a member of the international organization of the Muslim Brotherhood.
The article goes on to say that Obama originally embraced the thought of the Brotherhood while living in Indonesia, per Spyer, and further alleges that the son of Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood leader Khairat al-Shater had threatened to expose a document revealing the secret membership.
But Syper says such allegations are the result of an angry Egyptian populace expressing frustration.
According to him, the publication of this kind of conspiracy is rooted in the ongoing dissatisfaction on the Egyptian street with the Obama administration’s policy which some have viewed as pro-Muslim Brotherhood.
This was seen clearly during the summer demonstrations calling for then-President Mohammed Morsi to step down. Among the crowds, signs were held deriding President Obama and then U.S. Ambassador to Egypt Anne Patterson. They expressed frustration at what those Egyptians perceived to be Obama’s failure to articulate clear criticism of Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood.
“The forces that overthrew Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood – namely the Egyptian army and the large civilian demonstrations that supported it — regard the current U.S. administration as a supporter of the deposed Morsi. They offer U.S. delays in arms deliveries and pressure to release Morsi as evidence of this,” Spyer tells TheBlaze.
“There is some degree of justification in their accusations. There is also a large degree of paranoid anti-American and anti-western sentiment in Egypt. As a result, the anger against the Administration has rapidly and predictably turned into conspiracy theories according to which Obama’s admittedly astonishingly naive and misguided attitude toward the Muslim Brotherhood can in fact be explained by the claim that he is a secret member of it,” Spyer explains.
Eric Trager, an Egypt scholar at The Washington Institute for Near East Policy tells TheBlaze, “This sort of conspiracy theorizing is sadly common within the Egyptian media. It reflects Egyptians’ inability to take responsibility for the choices that they’ve made in the past few years – specifically, their choice to elect the Muslim Brotherhood’s candidate in the June 2012 presidential election.”
“Many Egyptians blame the United States for allegedly supporting the Brotherhood, when in fact we simply worked with the government that they elected, and some in the Egyptian media have repeated ugly conspiracy theories about President Obama to depict American policy as subversive,” he says.
“It is also a sign that fascistic tendencies are hardening in Egyptian politics, since fascists always need an external enemy to justify their support for, or execution of, repressive policies,” Trager adds.
“Newspapers have run more and more bizarre and farcical stories over the last few months, but this one indeed seems to be the oddest story to have yet been printed,” writes Middle East Monitor. “The American president could indeed be accused of many things, but being a secret member of the Muslim Brotherhood would be the least probable accusation one could level at him.”
It adds that the media have “planted rounds of false stories in the press to tarnish the image of, not only the Brotherhood, but also their supporters or even those who may not be supporters, but are simply calling for a return to democratic legitimacy. And it seems that the media will go to any lengths to smear those who do not fall in line with them.”
The Al-Wafd newspaper is in fact affiliated with the liberal party bearing the same name.
Brookings’ Hamid quipped, “The sheer, unbridled creativity of Egyptian media knows no bounds. This sort of outside-the-box thinking bodes well for #Egypt’s transition.”
Despite dissatisfaction with American policy voiced in secularist corners, the Muslim Brotherhood could also complain about some of the Obama administration’s actions, including the White House’s refusal to label the ousting of President Morsi a coup.
We will discussed this story extensively on Tuesday’s BlazeCast with Editor-in-Chief Scott Baker: