Has anyone stopped to ask where the headlines "Muslim Brotherhood wins Egypt's presidential election!" originated? They came, of course, straight from the Muslim Brotherhood and its allies, particularly the Qatari Islamist propaganda machine, Al Jazeera, and were then helpfully perpetuated by the mainstream media and talking-heads.
That allegation might sound suspiciously like a "conspiracy theory" were it not for the countless statements by the non-Islamist Egyptian media that were left unquoted by the western media, as well as many analysts who had a different tale to tell: The election was actually won by the secular candidate, Ahmed Shafiq.
What does the Muslim Brotherhood have to benefit by claiming victory now, if it might be proven otherwise three days from now, on June 21, when the results will be officially announced? Simple: they will be able to scream foul play—and gain the world's sympathy. For days the world will have been inundated with news that the Brotherhood won; when and if it hears that Shafiq won, it will naturally conclude that there has been electoral fraud -- as serves the Islamists' interests.
Mahmoud Baraka, a Shafiq campaign spokesman, maintains that "their candidate won the presidency, with 52% of the votes"—precisely the same number the Brotherhood is claiming—adding that the Brotherhood's claims to victory "are bizarre and unacceptable," a "big act."
Similarly, talk show host Tawfik Okasha appeared, emphatically saying that the Brotherhood's claims are "all lies," that most polls indicate their candidate, Muhammad Morsi "failed," and that the Islamist group's motive is simply to sow "discord and dissension." He then provided several examples of how the Brotherhood's claims are incongruous with reality.
Why believe Shafiq's spokesman and staunch secularist Okasha? Good question. Here's a better question: Why believe the Muslim Brotherhood?
Knowing the Brotherhood's deceptive tactics—"War is deceit" as their prophet said—there is good reason to think that they may have planned a propaganda victory well before the elections. They could claim victory, won fair and square; they could have their Islamist and Western media supporters trumpet it; they could embed it in everyone's mind for over three days before the results were formally announced— all to set the playing field to their advantage. If Shafiq wins, everyone—from militant Islamists in Egypt to a grandstanding US Secretary of State—will shout, "foul play!", thereby exonerating the long promised civil war Egypt's Islamists vowed to wage if the election did not go their way. So much for democracy. The rebellion they have threatened to stage would then be portrayed in the West as the result of a of a "grievance."
At this moment, no one knows which candidate won. The race is close. In the meantime, even though it is naturally the business of every news bureau to "break the news" and not be left behind, it is counterproductive for the West to eat straight out of the Brotherhood's hands and unquestioningly disseminate its unsubstantiated information, as the Islamists would like: It works to their advantage.
Raymond Ibrahim is a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center and an Associate Fellow at the Middle East Forum