The director of the Office of National Intelligence James Clapper today told a House Intelligence Committee hearing that the Egyptian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood – which seeks Egypt to become an Islamic state ruled by sharia law – is “a very heterogeneous group, largely secular, which has eschewed violence and has decried Al Qaeda as a perversion of Islam.”
The Muslim Brotherhood is quite obviously not a secular organization.
Jamie Smith, director of the office of public affairs for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence later said in a statement to ABC News: “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.”
How much the Muslim Brothergood has eschewed violence and decried al Qaeda is subject to debate. Critics of the group point to its ties with Hamas, a terrorist organization according to the US State Department, for instance.
A Council on Foreign Relations backgrounder on the Muslim Brotherhood recently stated that “like other mass social movements, Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood is hardly a monolith; it comprises hardliners, reformers, and centrists, notes terrorism expert Lydia Khalil. And some hardline leaders have voiced support for al-Qaeda or use of violent jihad. For instance, as recently as 2006, Khalil points out, a member of Brotherhood elected to parliament, Ragib Hilal Hamida, voiced support for terrorism in the face of Western occupation. Instances like these raise questions over the group's commitment to nonviolence.”
In December Clapper raised eyebrows when he couldn’t answer a question from ABC News anchor Diane Sawyer about the arrests of 12 suspected terrorists in London hours before.
After initially claiming Sawyer’s question was too “ambiguous,” the Obama administration acknowledged that the retired Air Force Lt. General had not been briefed about the arrests at the time of the interview.