Moral Equivalency Gone Wild

, Malcolm A. Kline, Leave a comment

Two academics writing in The Chronicle Review offer a more clear-eyed assessment of the Muslim Brotherhood than most intellectuals have offered. Unfortunately, they go on to equate it with the Catholic Church.

“That the true intentions of a religious organization, the Muslim Brotherhood, would become the most hotly debated issue surrounding the overthrow of Egypt’s president, Hosni Mubarak, would have garnered guffaws among Western intellectuals only four decades ago,” Monica Duffy Toft, Daniel Philpott and Timothy Samuel Shah write in the April 22, 2011 issue of The Chronicle Review. “At that time, virtually all of them—all of us—were in the grip of secularization theory: the belief that religion was a dying supernova, enjoying its final glow before disappearing from history.”

“America’s foreign-policy establishment is still under the theory’s spell.” Indeed it is.

To their credit, Toft, Philpott and Shah go on to note that “close attention to the Muslim Brotherhood’s deeply rooted political theology reveals that it has extremist strands that threaten Egypt’s women and minorities as well as regional peace.”

Yet and still, in cataloguing examples of religion’s influence around the world, the authors juxtapose the 9/11 attacks with “the dissolution of the USSR and its East European satellites, in part resulting from the efforts of John Paul II, a Polish pope who exposed the soullessness, illegitimacy, and corruption of those regimes.”

Moreover, their assessments of the Muslim Brotherhood’s future provides a textbook example of hope triumphing over experience, particularly given the sexual assault of a CBS reporter during the Egyptian demonstrations. “But a nuanced understanding of the Brotherhood’s historical trajectory and relationship with the Egyptian state suggests that it is a complex organization that has renounced violence, strives to renew religious faith among Egyptians, and seeks to do so democratically insofar as it is afforded space to participate in politics.”

Toft is an associate professor at Harvard. Philpott is an associate professor at Notre Dame.

Shah is an associate director at the Berkeley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs at Georgetown. The three of them co-authored the book, God’s Century: Resurgent Religion and Global Politics.

Malcolm A. Kline is the Executive Director of Accuracy in Academia.

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