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April 24. 2013 2:09AM

Muslim Brotherhood subject of lecture at St. Anselm

GOFFSTOWN - When Professor Joseph Spoerl delivers his talk Wednesday night at Saint Anselm College on the Muslim Brotherhood, he'll be describing a voice of radical Islam that has become a global movement. And for that reason, he said, it demands the attention of western democracies.

It's an ideology which he describes as "antithetical to basic civil liberties," and one which champions anti-semitism of a sort "that is openly genocidal toward Jews."

The Muslim Brotherhood, founded in Egypt in 1928, has won important elections in that country since the overthrow of former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak in February of 2011, a situation that presents a dilemma for the Obama administration, Spoerl said.

"I'm not sure if the United States realized what was going to fill the vacuum after Mubarak fell," explained Spoerl. "What has come in place of Mubarak is even worse, much like what came in place of the Shah (of Iran)." Making matters more difficult for the U.S., he said, is that numerous American administrations had previously looked to Mubarak as an ally.

Spoerl, a professor in the philosophy department at Saint Anselm College, will give his talk in Room 4 of Gadbois Hall at 7 p.m. The points to be raised in his lecture are backed by 10 years of research into the Muslim Brotherhood. "There's actually now a good, reliable body of knowledge" on the organization, said Spoerl. "It's now possible even for someone who's not an expert or who doesn't speak Arabic to learn a great deal" about the movement and what drives its ideology.

The Muslim Brotherhood's more radical ideology can be traced back to the Arab nationalism and Islamic pride that surfaced during the British Mandate of Palestine in 1922, and which later fueled Arab and Islamic resentments toward the west - resentments that included deep-seated hatred toward the newly formed state of Israel in 1948.

Arab nations, said Spoerl, never wanted to be dominated by "foreign imperial powers, and who can blame them." But because they had been for so many years, "the tendency is to lump all western countries together." Specifically, among radical Islamists, "there's a sense that there's a global conspiracy led by Jews to destroy Islam," Spoerl said.

In addition to winning elections in Egypt, Spoerl said the Muslim Brotherhood has expanded its influence to the Gaza Strip, where Hamas, the Palestinian faction of the Muslim Brotherhood, is active, as well as in Syria and Kuwait, where it has a strong political party. The Muslim Brotherhood can also be found in Europe and in the United States and Canada, he said.

For western observers, the most important lesson to be learned about the Muslim Brotherhood, said Spoerl, "is what they themselves say - to not write it off as rhetoric," especially when it comes to statements about Israel. "I'm concerned about the situation facing Israel," said Spoerl. "These are issues of war and peace, and open incitement to genocide deserves our attention."

Spoerl also cautions against the group's tendency to sound reasonable to western audiences, adding that those who listen should be "skeptical" about their pronouncements.

hmetz@newstote.com


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