As the head of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, John Kerry might be expected to be wary of bestowing legitimacy on Islamic extremists. But no such caution was in evidence last Friday, when the Senator met with three of the top officials in the's Freedom and Justice Party (FJP). What makes the meeting all the more notorious is that the three officials - FJP Vice-Chairman Essam El-Erian, FJP Secretary-General Mohamed Saad Katatni, and FJP chairman Mohamed Morsi - are outspoken Islamists who belie the Brotherhood's much-cultivated image of tolerance and moderation.
Take Mohamed Morsi. He has been quoted on the Brotherhood's website calling Israel a "Zionist usurper" that "has been created by the international terrorism and injustice." Morsi also believes that Israel, and any nation that supports it, is perpetrating "genocide" against the Palestinians. Both Essam El-Erian and Mohamed Saad Katani, meanwhile, have made it clear that they wish to see Sharia become the law of the land. "If you want to know what principles guide our party let me tell you: the principles of the Islamic Sharia law," Mohamed Saad Katani told Aljazeera in November. El-Erian has gone further, echoing Egypt's Salafists by declaring: "No one dares oppose the application of Sharia law."
If Kerry was aware of his interlocutors' views, he did not show it. Instead, he heaped praise on the recent Egyptian elections, which saw the FJP win nearly 40 percent of seats, as a model of transparency and integrity. Kerry also pledged American support for Egypt's new Islamist government and called for the U.S.-funded International Monetary Fund to shore up the government with financial support. Not only did Kerry not take the opportunity to challenge the Brotherhood's more extreme views, but he rewarded them with the promise of additional assistance.