Bro! Trump Goes After The Muslim Brotherhood

The Trump administration said this week it wants to label the Muslim Brotherhood – one of the largest Islamist organizations in the world – as a terrorist group. That would outlaw financial dealings with the group and bar its members from entering the US.

No previous administration has taken this step, owing to the the group's loose organization, embrace of electoral politics, and a lack of clearly identifiable ties to militants. But Trump is for it, and his close allies in Egypt in Saudi Arabia would welcome the move. The decision would narrow the space for legitimate Islamic politics in the region.

Here's some background on what the Brotherhood is, who supports or opposes it, and why.


What is the Muslim Brotherhood? An organization of Sunni Muslims, founded in 1928 in Egypt, that wants to put Islamic law and ideals at the center of political and public life. It counts more than a million adherents in a patchwork of chapters and political parties across the Middle East.

Is it violent? Offshoots, such the Palestinian group Hamas, are considered terrorist groups by many countries, but the Muslim Brotherhood itself ostensibly foreswore violence half a century ago in favor of social work and efforts to win power through democratic means. Today, more hardcore groups like ISIS and Al-Qaeda often mock the Muslim Brotherhood for being too soft.

Parties inspired by the Brotherhood are in parliament in Tunisia and Jordan. In Egypt, the Brotherhood won nearly half the seats in parliament and the presidency in elections following the the Arab spring of 2011. But after a contentious period in power, they were ousted in a 2013 coup led by General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, who continues to rule Egypt today and has cracked down on the group ruthlessly.

Who supports or opposes it in the region? Sisi, along with the Gulf monarchies like Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and the UAE, oppose the Brotherhood, seeing its call for democracy as a direct threat to their rule.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's own AK Party, meanwhile, draws inspiration from the Brotherhood and he supports it strongly, along with Qatar.

Why does Trump want to do this? Hawks within the administration have long supported the idea as a way to pressure Islamist groups more broadly, but it was reportedly at the recent urging of Mr. Sisi that the White House decided to revive earlier efforts to designate the Brotherhood as a terrorist organization. Riyadh would love the move, as would Moscow, which outlawed the group in 2003 over concerns about its influence on Russia's sizable Muslim population.

What would the consequences be? Justice, Pentagon, and State department officials worry both about the legality of the move and its effect on US allies in the region where the Brotherhood is involved in politics.

At the same time, marking the Brotherhood as a terrorist group could also dissuade Islamists from pursuing peaceful means to power, giving fodder to groups like ISIS, which say violent struggle is the only way forward for true believers.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article said that parties "affiliated" with the Brotherhood were in power in Tunisia and Jordan -- we have changed that to "inspired by."

Technology has played a big role in accelerating globalization. While it's our business to advance technology, we also believe that technology should respect and even help protect the world's timeless values. That conviction has led us to announce a new and fourth pillar to Microsoft's AI for Good portfolio – our $125 million, five-year commitment to use artificial intelligence to tackle some of society's biggest challenges. This new pillar will focus on AI for Cultural Heritage. Read more at Microsoft On The Issues.

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This Saturday, July 20, will mark the 50-year anniversary of the day a human being first stepped onto another world. A moment born out of Cold War political pressures, it's easy to forget a half century later how much bitter controversy the project provoked at home and the intensity of the worldwide fanfare that followed its success.

The moon mission's primary purpose was to defeat the Soviet Union. By the time John Kennedy became president in 1961, the Soviet Union had advanced far ahead of the United States in the race for achievement in space. In October 1957, the Soviets launched Sputnik, the world's first satellite. A month later, a dog named Laika became the first living creature to travel beyond Earth's atmosphere. In April 1961, Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin orbited the Earth, the first human to do so.

In early May, Alan Shepard became the first American in space, spurring Kennedy to announce a far more ambitious plan. On May 25, Kennedy famously pledged that by the end of the decade Americans would go to the moon and return safely to the Earth.

Kennedy was assassinated in November 1963, but new President Lyndon Johnson quickly signaled his intention to see the promise kept. The Soviets held their space lead through 1965, by landing an unmanned craft on the Moon.

The moon mission stoked controversy in the United States. A review of polls reveals that only in 1969 did a majority of Americans support the project. Many people argued that the billions spent on a moonshot should go toward the war in Vietnam or to fight poverty in America's inner cities. "No hot water, no toilets, no lights. But Whitey's on the moon," sang musician and activist Gil Scott Heron. It didn't help when a fire during the Apollo 1 mission killed three astronauts and destroyed their space module.

But when Neil Armstrong became the first person to step onto the moon on July 20, 1969, the event took on a life of its own. It was a decade framed by two images of respected TV anchorman Walter Cronkite—shaken to the core on air by the 1963 murder of President Kennedy and then speechless with awe as Americans bounded across the surface of the moon.

A decade that included confrontation with the Soviets in Cuba, the assassinations of John Kennedy, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, and Robert Kennedy, a failing war in Vietnam, race riots in American cities, and violent chaos at the 1968 Democratic Party convention ended with an accomplishment a quarter million miles away, that was watched live by 94 percent of Americans who owned a TV.

Americans weren't the only ones watching. About 650 million people around the world watched the moon landing live on TV, making the event the first truly global televised event. Nine weeks later, astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins began a world tour.

Concerns that planting an American flag on the moon's surface would seem an act of obnoxious nationalism faded as the three men were greeted by overflow crowds in 27 cities in 24 countries over 39 days. An estimated one million people greeted them in Dhaka (then Pakistan) and some 1.5 million turned out in Mumbai (then Bombay).

Fifty years later, moon missions are still a mark of national prestige. Russia, China, India, the EU, Japan, and Israel have all sent probes to orbit the Moon or landed vehicles on its surface. But none of them matches that first "giant leap for mankind."

Next up: Mars? For thoughts on the next space race, click here.

Bonus fact: An iPhone has more than 100,000 times the processing power of the computer that landed Apollo 11 on the moon.