It may not have been what U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was expecting on her first visit to Cairo since Egyptians voted in their first democratic presidential election in the country’s history last month. But for a portion of her two-day visit to the Arab world’s largest country, Clinton found herself confronting the ultimate reversal of Arab-world conspiracy theories. According to some of the civil-society leaders and activists she met with — as well as some who refused to meet with her at all — the U.S., once allegedly the backer of Hosni Mubarak’s authoritarian regime, is now a supporter of the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood. One Egyptian-American Christian who attended a meeting with the Secretary of State on Sunday even cited the Republican Congresswoman Michele Bachman’s recent assertion that the Obama Administration is pursuing a closeted pro-Muslim agenda.
“They had their concerns, and were even angry with the situation on the part of the American Administration, which has implied in the past few weeks that it is blessing the rise of political Islam in Egypt,” explained Youssef Sidhom, a prominent Christian activist and newspaper editor, who was present at Clinton’s Sunday meeting with Egyptian-Christian leaders. Egypt’s Christian minority, and indeed many secularists, have grown increasingly vocal about their fears of an Islamist rise since the election of Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohamed Morsy as President in June. Sidhom said that Clinton convincingly reassured the meeting on Sunday that the U.S. has not and will not side with any political party.
But the confrontation underscores the increasingly murky political waters that the U.S. Administration has sought to navigate in the 18 months since a popular uprising ended the 30-year reign of longtime U.S. ally Mubarak. Last month’s presidential vote propelled Morsy, an official from the once banned Muslim Brotherhood, into the country’s highest seat of power. And the power struggle that has since ensued between Morsy and the unelected military generals, who took power when Mubarak stepped down and have proven unwilling to fully let go, has only deepened the political swamp.