Undersecretary of State Karen Hughes’ Dhimmi Tour 2005 has gotten off to a resounding start with her visit to Al-Azhar University to see Sheikh Muhammad Sayyid Tantawi, the Grand Sheikh. You’ll get no hint of it from this Washington Post article, “Hughes Reaches Out Warily in Cairo,” but Tantawi is a master of talking out of both sides of his mouth. I’ll put an example below the article excerpt. Note also Hughes’ uncertainty about whether or not she was scheduled to meet with the jihad terrorists of the Muslim Brotherhood.
CAIRO, Sept. 25 — Karen Hughes, the new public diplomacy czar charged with improving the U.S. image, began her maiden diplomatic voyage Sunday, meeting in picturesque settings with Egyptian students who have benefited from American largess….
Hughes betrayed some nervousness in her first diplomatic foray, which will also take her to Saudi Arabia and Turkey. This is her first visit to any of the countries, and as she spoke to reporters she clutched briefing papers that appeared to be the diplomatic equivalent of Cliffs Notes. Turkey was a “democratic state,” and Egypt was the “most populous” country in the region, the document said.
It’s reassuring that Bush has sent an experienced hand to the region.
Asked if she was meeting in Cairo with members of the Muslim Brotherhood, Hughes turned to an aide and indicated she was not sure of the answer. The aide whispered back, and Hughes replied, “We are respectful of Egypt’s laws.”
Tiny minority of extremists update:
The activities of the Muslim Brotherhood are officially banned, but it is regarded as the country’s largest opposition party and has pressed for a more open political system in Egypt, the stated goal of U.S. policy. Nor does Hughes have plans to meet with representatives of Kifaya, an umbrella opposition group….
Hughes traveled first to the 1,000-year-old al-Azhar University for a meeting with Mohammed Sayed Tantawi, a Sunni Muslim leader who is close to the government and has spoken out against extremism. A recent fatwa , or decree, by Tantawi — saying normalization of ties with Israel was theologically acceptable — has generated controversy and anger in Egypt. Local media speculated that the cleric issued it because the Egyptian government recently deployed troops to guard the southern part of Gaza after Israel’s withdrawal.
At Bab Zuwayla, Hughes climbed a tower to gaze over the city skyline. “It’s magical,” the former television reporter said. “A thousand minarets — and satellite dishes.”
Magical indeed. Magical that she would meet with Tantawi, given his approval of a fatwa calling for jihad against Americans in Iraq: “in accordance with reason and with Islamic religious law, if the enemy raids the land of the Muslims, Jihad becomes a personal imperative binding on every Muslim man and woman, because our Muslim nation will be subject to a new Crusader invasion targeting land, honor, belief, and homeland.” Note, at the MEMRI link, the studied ambiguity and self-contradiction of Tantawi’s many statements.
Tantawi has also endorsed suicide bombing. He “emphasized that every martyrdom operation against any Israeli, including children, women, and teenagers, is a legitimate act according to [Islamic] religious law, and an Islamic commandment, until the people of Palestine regain their land and cause the cruel Israeli aggression to retreat”¦”
And then there’s this: in 1998, Tantawi defends himself against Muslim criticism after meeting with a rabbi:
By doing what I did I followed the way of the Prophet [Muhammad] who met with the Jews and held a dialogue with them. So when I am telling you about the Prophet, don’t talk to me about ‘so-and-so”. The Prophet’s stance, which is my own stance as well, was that anyone who avoids meeting with the enemies in order to counter their dubious claims and stick fingers into their eyes, is a coward. My stance stems from Allah’s book [the Koran], more than one-third of which deals with the Jews. You should know that you are interviewing a person who wrote a dissertation dealing with them [the Jews], all their false claims and their punishment by Allah. I still believe in everything written in that dissertation.
Was it in that spirit that he met Hughes also?