Thursday, June 17, 2010

Ian Johnson: "We continue to make the same mistake..."

The author of A Mosque in Munich: Nazis, the CIA, and the Rise of the Muslim Brotherhood in the West  was recently interviewed about US support for Islamists on NPR's KPCC-FM:
RAZ: How was the Munich mosque tied to the attacks of September 11, 2001?

Mr. JOHNSON: There's no direct ties. However, a couple of people who were closely linked to several attacks were active at the mosque. For example, in 1998, one of the Al-Qaida financiers was arrested while visiting people who frequented the mosque and he was extradited to the United States.
RAZ: You write that both the Bush administration and the Obama administration supported some efforts to work with and cultivate Islamist groups. How so?
Mr. JOHNSON: Shortly after 9/11, there was this desire to cut all ties with Islamist groups like the Muslim Brotherhood and even to prosecute them. The fundamental problem with that effort was that it tried to link them directly to terrorism, which is really not so much what the Muslim Brotherhood does. The Muslim Brotherhood creates the worldview that can lead to terrorism, the milieu where that can flourish.
So after these prosecutions failed, the Muslim Brotherhood reestablished itself, and by the second term of the Bush administration, there were already very clear efforts where brotherhood groups in Europe are being clearly cultivated for U.S. foreign policy aims.
So much of the rhetoric that you hear today is similar to what we were saying in the 1950s: that Islam is essentially a tool that we can use for foreign policy purposes. I think this is kind of - this is a fundamental problem in how we look at this religion. It's come back to haunt us again and again, but we continue to make the same mistake.