The Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, a decades-old Islamist opposition group that now has its former officers in the president's office and in much of the legislature, has struggled to win the trust of non-Islamists within and outside of Egypt. That's mostly due to President Mohamed Morsi's increasingly authoritarian-leaning rule, which has consolidated power for ideological allies at a time when the country is particularly fractured.
But that distrust in Morsi and the brotherhood has been helped along by a slow trickle of bizarre and offensive statements from the Islamist organization. In January, it was reported that Morsi had referred to Israelis as "blood-suckers" and "the descendants of apes and pigs" in a 2010 speech, for example.
Now some brotherhood-watching journalists in Cairo, who run a blog dedicated to translating the group's statements into English, have uncovered yet another cringe-worthy tract credited to the organization. A 2007 post at the brotherhood's official Web site, signed by someone named Iman Ismail, offered advice to to families for raising young girls. It carries the title, "Your daughter is a wife of the future -- how should you prepare her?!" At one point, though, the post took a bizarre turn:
In the evening she should clean the room as much as she can with the assistance of her mother and in accordance with the advice of the Prophet, PBUH, “wash your courtyards and don’t be like the Jews and the Christians”.
Two immediate notes on this. First, PBUH is shorthand for "peace be upon him," which is often said after naming the Prophet Muhammad. Second, a version of this line does in fact appear among the sayings attributed to the Prophet Muhammad, known as hadith, which were orally transmitted for centuries.
The hadith in question was recorded as, "Allah is Good and likes what is fragrant; he is Clean and likes cleanliness; he is Generous and likes generosity; he is Munificent and likes munificence. So clean (I think he said, your courtyards), and do not imitate the Jews." Thanks to the Wall Street Journal's Tom Gara for finding this hadith, which is somewhat obscure; it dates to the 12th century, 500 years after Muhammad is said to have said it, and is not clearly attributed.
What seems more significant than someone in the 12th century thinking the Prophet Muhammad said this is the fact that the Muslim Brotherhood's official Web site seemed to believe that "don't be like the Jews and Christians" is good advice for young girls and an appropriate way to encourage them to clean their rooms.
I wasn't able to find any information on the author, Iman Ismail, so I have no reason to believe that either she or her article necessarily reflect the views of the rest of the Muslim Brotherhood. This is just one data point in the much larger and more complicated tableau of Muslim Brotherhood ideology. Unfortunately, it is not the only hint of intolerance to emerge from the group.