The efforts of far-right loons to convince people that President Obama is a secret Muslim is finally working. But who would have guessed that secular Egyptians, scared of actual Muslim operatives, would be the easiest to convince?
Over the weekend, activists activists who threw tomatoes at Hillary Clinton's motorcade in Alexandria while taunting "Monica! Monica!" made headlines around the world. But it turns out that the tomato-tossers and 1990s political history enthusiasts have also been following the right-wing attempts to paint President Obama as a "secret Muslim." In the U.S. the conspiracy theory hasn't spread much further than the web, talk radio, and the occasional protest sign, but it has adherents in Egypt who think Obama is spurring on the rise of the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood, despite his past support of dictator Hosni Mubarak.
Time's Abigail Hauslohner attended a meeting with Secretary of State Clinton and secular Egyptian activists, many of whom feared the Obama administration's meddling. "One Egyptian-American Christian ... even cited Republican Congresswoman Michele Bachman’s recent assertion that the Obama Administration is pursuing a closeted pro-Muslim agenda," wrote Hauslohner. Newspaper editor and activist Youssef Sihom told her that the Obama administration "is blessing the rise of political Islam in Egypt.”
It didn't stop there. Rumors have circulated that the Obama administration is giving the Muslim Brotherhood billions of dollars. Despite the best efforts of the U.S. Embassy in Cairo to combat such rumors via Twitter, as The New York Times' Robert Mackey noted last night:
.@matchbox20 Fact: US has given NO money to MB. Funds you refer to are $1.3bil in military aid and 250 mil in econ aid— US Embassy Cairo (@USEmbassyCairo) July 9, 2012
In conversations with activists, The Wall Street Journal's Cairo correspondent Matt Bradley began sourcing the rumor to U.S. figures. On Twitter, Egyptian blogger Sara Ahmed pointed him to a blog post on the conservative Canada Free Press website based on a story from Lucianne.com, a website run by U.S. conservative Lucianne Goldberg. However, the blog post was bogus. It took the real-life event, that the U.S. gave $1.3 billion in aid to the Egyptian military, and spun it into the fictional event, that Obama gave that money to the Muslim Brotherhood, which is at odds with the Egyptian military at the moment.
But wait, there's more! Another phony rumor Bradley uncovered is the idea that Clinton's deputy chief of staff, Huma Abedin, is plotting a Muslim Brotherhood scheme to "penetrate" the U.S. government, in the words of an Egyptian activist on Twitter. When he asked for proof the activist cited a conversation moderated by Frank Gaffney, who's both a former Reagan official and one of those preachers of doom regarding the imminent imposition of Sharia law in America. In the conversation, Gaffney interviewed retired American general William G. Boykin who said "there is support for the infiltration of the Muslim Brotherhood into our government” and that Abedin has successfully "penetrated our government." In case you were wondering, Boykin is the same guy who has described the war on terrorism as a "Christian battle against Satan."
Now, clearly these rumors are surfacing as a way to smeer the Muslim Brotherhood more than President Obama. As the AP's Hamza Hendawi has reported, the Egyptian media is on a campaign to define the party as an enemy of the state and will use any conspiracies to their benefit. Still, it goes to show that there are consequences to conspiracies drummed up by the far-right in the U.S. that can go beyond the borders of the U.S.