Egyptians flock to White House petition to designate Muslim Brotherhood a ‘terrorist group’


A screenshot of the "We the People" petition to declare the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist group. It had more than 174,000 signatures at noon Aug. 5. (Whitehouse.gov)

A WhiteHouse.gov petition asking President Obama to declare the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization will far exceed the minimum number of signatures required to prompt an official response when it closes Tuesday. The catch? Many of the 174,000-plus signatures appear to come from Egyptians, not Americans.

This shouldn’t be too surprising, considering both the ease of registering for a WhiteHouse.gov account and the growing unpopularity of the Brotherhood among many Egyptians, exacerbated by a state media campaign since the military's takeover branding the Islamist group as terrorists.

While the petition itself does not appear to have been originally authored by an Egyptian — the creator’s current town is listed as “La Mesa, California” — many of the signees seem to be. The first person to send the link out on Twitter was an Egyptian dentist whose profile declares him as a "liberal." That was followed up by dozens of tweets from prominent Egyptians, including the celebrity news anchor (and former presidential candidate) Bothaina Kamel.

Notably, while the WhiteHouse.gov petition platform “We the People” bills itself as a site for Americans, it doesn’t actually require that petitioners be U.S. citizens. That has made it a popular destination for foreign causes, though the Obama administration rarely takes action in response to such petitions. A petition asking the government to support Catalonia’s independence referendum, for instance, earned a terse statement on the “internal Spanish matter.” And a response to an entreaty on Palestine rehashed the administration’s support for a two-state solution negotiated by “the Israelis and the Palestinians — not us.”

Most likely, the administration will respond to this latest petition with a statement reaffirming its wish for democracy in Egypt and respect for protesters on both sides of the conflict, a position it has taken before. But don’t expect that to satisfy Egypt’s liberals, who are vocal in their condemnation of the country’s oldest Islamist party.

“The Muslim Brotherhood has shown in the past few days that it is willing to engage in violence and killing of innocent civilians in order to invoke fear in the hearts of its opponents. This is terrorism,” the petition reads. “We ask the U.S. government to declare MB as a terrorist group for a safer future for all of us.”

Caitlin Dewey runs The Intersect blog, writing about digital and Internet culture. Before joining the Post, she was an associate online editor at Kiplinger’s Personal Finance.
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Max Fisher · August 5, 2013