The Brotherhood on US TV

I got home this evening after a day spent at NYU at a very interesting literary symposium (that I hope to blog about tomorrow). Flipping channels, I happened on a segment of the PBS series "America at a Crossroads" called "The Brotherhood." It's interesting but I can't help finding parts of it a bit tendentious and alarmist--the show's main question ("Does the Brotherhood support terrorism?") seems to be largely rhetorical. One problem is that when Brotherhood members express support for Hamas and Hezbullah, this is taken as evidence that the organization may be "terrorist." Typically, the narrators interview a Brotherhood member, saying something like "we do not support violence," and then cuts to a shot of masked Hamas members waving guns. The other problem is that the Brotherhood's goal of establishing "Islamic rule on earth" is seen as an actual practical aim (rather than an ideological statement) and as inherently troubling. The narrators show a document that mentions this goal, to a background of ominous music. Don't get me wrong, I'm not in favour of establishing any religious rule on earth, but would people be equally concerned about an organization that said its goal was to establish "Christian rule on earth"?

I didn't see the whole segment (I think I caught the last half). I do think it's an interesting topic to cover--I've always wanted to find out more about the inner workings of the Brotherhood--and that it's great that it's being covered by a serious program on US TV. But, perhaps unsurprisingly, the show left me with more questions than answers.

Ursula Lindsey

Ursula Lindsey is the managing editor of the Arabist blog. She writes about culture, education and politics in the Arab world. She lived in Cairo from 2002 to 2013 and got her start at the ground-breaking independent magazine Cairo Times. She was the culture editor of Cairo magazine in 2005-2006 and served as special projects editor at the independent news site Mada Masr in 2013-2014. She is the Chronicle of Higher Education's Middle East correspondent. She contributes to the BBC-PRI radio program The World, and has written for Newsweek, The New York Times, The New Yorker online, Bookforum and the blog of the London Review of Books.