Posted by on July 19, 2012 in Blog

When US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited Egypt last weekend to check in on the progress of the country’s transition to democracy, many expected she would be greeted by protesters. After all, America is deeply unpopular in Egypt, as in much of the Arab world, because of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, American support for Hosni Mubarak, and a host of other issues. Outside her hotels in both Alexandria and Cairo, Clinton was indeed confronted by angry protesters, some throwing tomatoes and shoes.

But, as The New York Times described on Saturday, some of the protesters were there to protest Clinton’s supposed secret agenda: the promotion of the Muslim Brotherhood. Some Egyptians, especially those from groups most threatened by Islamist ascendancy (Christians and upper-class secular urbanites), have embraced the odd conspiracy theory that the US is secretly backing the Muslim Brotherhood in its power struggle with the Egyptian military. Some even claim that American officials interceded during Egypt’s elections last month to hand the presidency to the Brotherhood’s Mohamed Morsy. Egyptian politics, on all sides, is full of conspiracy theories, but this is especially implausible in light of the more than 30-year alliance between the US and the Egyptian military, a self-styled bastion of secularism against the Islamist tide.

Where would Egyptian protesters get such a strange idea? From their fellow-travelers in the American Islamophobe community, naturally. In a superb piece for the Times website published on Tuesday, Robert Mackey traces the spread of the “Obama as secret supporter of the Ikhwan” meme from ultra-right wing American bloggers to Egyptian protesters. One Egyptian-American Christian woman protesting Clinton told a correspondent for Time that she based her theory that the US is in bed with the Brothers on Rep. Michele Bachmann’s recent letters urging investigations of Brotherhood sympathizers in the federal government. An Egyptian blogger has written repeatedly that the US is funding the Muslim Brotherhood to the tune of $1.3 billion, mistaking the aid for the Brotherhood’s rivals in the military as aid to the Islamists. When pressed for her sources, she referred to a conversation on Frank Gaffney’s online radio show. Gaffney is the chief ideologue of the Islamophobe movement in the US, and he has advanced wildly unlikely theories of Islamist dominance of the American federal government. Completing the circle, right-wing blogs in the US celebrated the Egyptian protesters’ anti-Hillary demonstration. The lesson, as always, is that people with similarly prejudiced agendas will find common cause with one another, even from across the Atlantic.

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