The Obama administration took the rare step Thursday of correcting its own intelligence chief after the official claimed Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood is "largely secular."
Director of National Intelligence James Clapper discussed the Islamist group during a hearing on Capitol Hill earlier Thursday. He testified that the organization has "pursued social ends" and a "betterment of the political order," and downplayed its religious underpinnings.
"The term 'Muslim Brotherhood' ... is an umbrella term for a variety of movements, in the case of Egypt, a very heterogeneous group, largely secular, which has eschewed violence and has decried Al Qaeda as a perversion of Islam," Clapper said. But the DNI later issued a statement to "clarify" that claim.
"To clarify Director Clapper's point, in Egypt the Muslim Brotherhood makes efforts to work through a political system that has been, under Mubarak's rule, one that is largely secular in its orientation. He is well aware that the Muslim Brotherhood is not a secular organization," DNI spokesperson Jamie Smith said.
While the Brotherhood has renounced violence, one of its goals is to pursue the creation of an Islamic state. The CIA's own website lists the Brotherhood as a "religious-based" party.
Clapper's claim quickly drew scrutiny on Capitol Hill, even before his office walked back the statement. "I am concerned that the DNI's assessment does not agree with recent public statements by senior leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood nor does it agree with the organization's publicly stated goals," Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Ill., said in a written statement, describing the group as "radical." "They're as secular as Billy Graham and the pope are secular," former GOP presidential candidate Mike Huckabee said.
The Clapper remark came amid new developments in Egypt. Some expected President Hosni Mubarak to step down in the face of massive protests, but he instead announced that while he was transferring some authority to his vice president he would remain in power until elections in September.
Regardless, a number of U.S. officials have expressed concern about the possibility of the Muslim Brotherhood, which is officially outlawed under Mubarak, seizing political power in the state.
Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said in a statement Thursday that the United States should facilitate a "post-Mubarak transition in order to avert further violence and restore calm." As part of that, she said the United States should "guard against the use of the transition process by nefarious elements such as the Muslim Brotherhood to directly or indirectly undermine Egypt's evolution to a democratic republic."
This isn't the first time Clapper has stumbled on the public stage.
During a televised interview in December alongside other top security officials, Clapper was stumped when asked about a major set of terror arrests in Great Britain.
The White House later acknowledged that Clapper had not yet been briefed about the sweep, while defending him as "the consummate DNI."
by FOX News
What is Muslim Brotherhood?
Since its founding in 1928, the Muslim Brotherhood (Hizb al-Ikhwan al-Muslimun) has profoundly influenced the political life of the Middle East. Its motto is telling: "Allah is our objective. The Prophet is our leader. The Qur'an is our law. Jihad is our way. Dying in the way of Allah is our highest hope.
The Muslim Brotherhood applied the term jahiliyya to all societies not practicing a government ruled by Sharia, Islamic law. Accordingly, only societies governed by Sharia are recognized as true Muslim societies through their recognition of Allah’s divine Book (Quran) and their dedicated efforts to create a purified Islam polity.
The Brotherhood argued that it is every Muslim’s duty to fight for the establishment of a true Islamic State, and in doing so they accept and live by Sharia. Qutb and his followers carried the idea of jahiliyya to a more extremist level and argued that nations not governed by Sharia are open to attack from Sharia practicing Muslims. Terrorist groups, such as Osama Bin Laden’s Al-Qaeda franchise in Iraq justify their attacks on other nations (ex: suicide bombings) by preaching these ideas imbedded in the Brotherhood and Qutb’s philosophies.
Qutb thus provided an ideological frame work based in principles of Islam (jahiliyya and jihad) with which Muslims could fight an unjust government.
For Hassan al-Banna jihad represented each Muslim's duty to Allah to follow Islamic law even when it is difficult to do so. Jihad offers a manner in which Muslims can prove their loyalty to Allah by not backing away from their beliefs even when hostilely confronted about them. Al-Banna witnessed how Muslims had abandoned Jihad, a prominent practice of Islam. Therefore, al-Banna called for a return to militant jihad and he stressed its importance by switching from teaching the traditional schooling of Islam to its young members, in favor of educating them in religion and physical education in order to prepare them for a jihad: a system of training called jihadia (Hiro 61; Spears). According to the Muslim Brotherhood’s ideology, those who abstain from jihad will be dishonored and punished by Allah in death.
The Brotherhood, also, revived and reinstated the Islamic doctrine of Martyrdom. Al-Banna said that muslims should “learn the art of death” and they should “deliberately and purposefully plan how hard to make their deaths count for the cause of Islam” (Brown 215).