Michele Bachman, Steve King and Louie Gohmert’s visit to Egypt has been an interesting turn for the three Congress members. During their visit to Cairo they met the interim Egyptian president, General al Sisi, the Coptic Pope and a number of other officials and following these meetings held a press conference to express their support for the Egyptian people. Their visit to Egypt and the subsequent press conference provoked a strong reaction, not only in the Middle East but across Europe and America. Three notorious islamophobic American politicians praising the coup and the army’s subsequent violence was unlikely to go down well anywhere.
During the press conference Michele Bachman welcomed the removal of former president Morsi and the installation of the coup government. For the congresswoman from Minnesota she felt that the new regime and her interests seemed to tie up. She used the press conference to continue her anti-Muslim Brotherhood vendetta and spoke about the need for America to partner with Egypt in their fight against the war on terrorism. Seeming to link the Muslim Brotherhood to terrorism, as the Egyptian army have tried to do in recent weeks, she spoke of how she understood the “threat of terror”, indeed the “threat of the Muslim Brotherhood” because she remembered 9/11. Perhaps ignoring the reality of the events of that day some 12 years ago, she sought to imply that the Muslim Brotherhood were the perpetrators that had carried out the attacks. However, none of this would come as surprise to any observer of American politics.
Over the last few years Bachman has carved out a niche for herself in the right wing of the Republican Tea Party movement and gone on the attack in the United States. Her fight against all things Muslim has focused largely on her belief that the Muslim Brotherhood are infiltrating US politics. In June this year she sent letters to federal agencies asking for investigations to be opened into what she termed “Muslim Brotherhood influence operations” and perhaps more worryingly, also called for an investigation into Huma Abedin, an aide to Hilary Clinton. Bachman’s campaign against Huma Abedin has gained increasing media attention as Bachman claims that Abedin should not be in such a position of influence given that she is Muslim, previously worked for a Muslim organisation and labelled her a member of the “Muslim Sisterhood” (what she thinks is the women’s branch of the Muslim Brotherhood). The witch hunt against the Abedin has been fuelled by Michele Bachman’s belief that the Muslim Brotherhood are working for “America’s demise.”
Alongside this Bachman has led public campaigns against ‘radical Islam’. Supported by the right wing conservative media in the US, Bachman has complained that Islam (in all its forms) is increasing its influence on American life. During her presidential nomination campaign critics labelled her a “Muslim hater”, though she claimed to oppose this, she has in fact done little to dispel this notion. Spurred on by this Bachman continues to call for investigations into the links between federal departments and the Muslim Brotherhood.
Steve King of Iowa is certainly from the same mould as Michele Bachman. King used the press conference to assert that the Egyptian army had mounted a coup in defence of “30 million Egyptian people” who did not want the Muslim Brotherhood in power. Kings figures were unattributed, but his lack of numerical accuracy is the least of concerns. During his speech he claimed that the American people did not support the Muslim Brotherhood because they did not support terrorism, following the same line as Bachman he echoed the Egyptian army’s rhetoric from recent weeks. He went on to explain that his concern for Egypt and what he called the reclaiming of the Arab Spring, came from the shared military bond of the American and Egyptian people (the American military train alongside the Egyptian army in the Sinai).
The congressman’s support for the military coup in Egypt was unsurprising given his belief that the new Egyptian regime will be the security bearers of a civilised, democratic, and most importantly secular movement. King claimed that the country was “taken back” from the people who were going to deny the freedom of the people. Kings anti-Muslim Brotherhood rhetoric is almost certainly borne out of his islamophobic prejudice. In 2010, Steve King was lobbied by the Council on American –Islamic Relations to not participate in a Republican Tea Party event. CAIR raised their concerns after it emerged that Pamela Geller, a notorious islamophobic activist who has been linked to the English Defence League, was due to speak at the same event. Despite the lobbying attempts, King refused to disassociate himself from the event and claimed that Geller was in fact a “credible spokesperson on these issues.”
King added to further controversy when he was held to task over comments about President Obamas true religion. Following an interview with Obama on Fox news, 40% of a Republican focus group in Iowa reported that they believed that the president was Muslim. When King was interviewed following the focus group, King replied that the problem lay in the fact that President Obama understood Muslim cultures and had a Muslim middle name. The congressman seemed to ignore the fact that being Muslim would not in fact negate a person’s suitability for the presidency.
Louie Gohmet from Texas was equally supportive of the coups regime in the press conference. Describing the Muslim Brotherhood as blood thirsty, he claimed that the Brotherhood wanted to extend their caliphate and were responsible for terrorism and bombings in Egypt. Gohmet said that he welcomed the new regime in Egypt because they did not want radical Islam, that they were moderate Muslims who would bring stability to the country.
Gohmet was not singing from the same hymn sheet as Bachman for the first time. Back in America, he had supported her campaign on the Muslim Brotherhood and echoed her beliefs that the MB had infiltrated American politics. Focusing on Huma Abedin, Gohmet also claimed that she was a member of the Muslim Brotherhood and that her links to the then Secretary of State, Hilary Clinton should be looked into, “it appears to be the objective truth and I think we should look at those relationships especially when someone’s that closely related to the Secretary of State it becomes a critical issue.”
More recently, Gohmet claimed that President Obama was relying on “pro-Muslim” confidants. He claimed that some of the president’s advisers were supportive of the Muslim Brotherhood, giving him advice in line with that and “steer(ing) him in the wrong direction.” Gohmet added further ammunition to his case when he claimed, in a speech in Washington, that the FBI were aiding the Muslim Brotherhood and that Islamic Society on North America, as well as CAIR, were regularly at the President’s disposal.
The litany of Islamophobic incidents that the three congress members have been involved in does little to suggest that their support for the Egyptian coup is little more than a strategic diversion. They have all suggested that they feel the Muslim Brotherhood is behind the growing influence of Islam in America and now, with the new Egyptian coup threatening to, effectively, destroy the MB the Egyptian military provide an answer to their problems. Their support for the Egyptian coup does not lie in support for democracy or the will of the Egyptian people; it is in fact based on an historic ethos of politics, wherever it occurs, “my enemy’s enemy is my ally.” Their enemy in this case is Islam.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.