Friday,20 October, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1306, (4 - 10 August 2016)
Friday,20 October, 2017
Issue 1306, (4 - 10 August 2016)

Ahram Weekly

Muslim Brotherhood denounced

A delegation of UK MPs visiting Egypt appeared convinced the Muslim Brotherhood should be declared a terrorist organisation by the British government, Gamal Essam El-Din reports

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Al-Ahram Weekly

A five-day visit by a British parliamentary delegation to Egypt has caused a furious reaction in Muslim Brotherhood circles in Turkey, London and Europe. The delegation of five MPs, led by Gerald Howarth, said they will do what they can to persuade the British government to label the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organisation. In response Brotherhood officials in London and Europe claimed — falsely — that they had met with new Prime Minister Teresa May last week to complain about the British delegation’s visit and the formation of an Egyptian-British Parliamentary Friendship Association.

Farouk Misahel, a leading Muslim Brotherhood official in Turkey, claimed the group had asked May to pressure Egypt into showing greater respect for human rights.

“We congratulated May after she became the UK’s new prime minister and requested she step up pressure on Egypt to improve its human rights record,” said Misahel.

The British Embassy in Cairo refuted the Muslim Brotherhood’s claim that its officials had met with May. “Prime Minister Teresa May has not met with Muslim Brotherhood representatives since coming to office,” said the embassy.

A British official, speaking on condition of anonymity, noted that “UK Prime Minister Teresa May played a prominent role in drafting the review into the Muslim Brotherhood last December which voiced the government’s view that membership of, or links to, the group should be considered a possible indicator of extremism and that parts of the Muslim Brotherhood have a highly ambiguous relationship with violent extremism”.

Commenting on the group’s reaction to the British parliamentary delegation’s visit, MP Hala Abu Ali told reporters on Sunday that the Muslim Brotherhood’s response showed its leaders are concerned the delegation’s visit to Cairo might result in a curtailing of the group’s activities in England.

Abu Ali, a member of the Egyptian-British Parliamentary Friendship Association, revealed that Egyptian MPs have proposed a return visit to the British House of Commons to continue discussions about the Muslim Brotherhood. “We know that London has become a hub for the group,” said Abu Ali.

Egyptian MPs surprised many when, after their meeting with the British parliamentary delegation on 26 July, they said their visiting counterparts had agreed the Muslim Brotherhood should be designated a terrorist organisation.

Tarek Al-Khouli, a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee, told reporters that Speaker Ali Abdel-Aal and other MPs attending the meeting had expressed concern that the UK is currently giving a shelter to many Muslim Brotherhood leaders. “We told them we were worried about the presence of so many Muslim Brotherhood senior officials in England despite the British government’s report which described the group last December as harbouring possible extremists,” said Al-Khouli.

The British parliamentary delegation, he continued, agreed the Muslim Brotherhood should be deemed a terrorist organisation.

An official parliamentary statement disclosed that Abdel-Aal had requested British MPs act to prevent the Brotherhood from using the UK as a base from which to undermine the stability of Egypt.

Karim Darwish, a member of both the Foreign Relations Committee and the Egyptian-British Parliamentary Friendship Association, told reporters that Howarth had argued “the three presidents who have pushed their countries to destruction, disrupting the internal fabric and cohesion of their nations are Hitler in Germany,  Pinochet in Chile and Morsi in Egypt”.

Darwish also said Howarth insisted “all of Europe should correct its position on what has happened in Egypt since 30 June”.

According to Darwish a major task facing the newly-formed Egyptian-British Parliamentary Friendship Association is to expose the Muslim Brotherhood’s activities in England. “The Association will also act to correct Egypt’s image in England and refute false claims raised by the Muslim Brotherhood. It will be the job of the Association to refute negative views about Egypt.”

Osama Heikal, chairman of parliament’s Media, Culture and Antiquities Committee, also told MPs that Abdel-Aal had complained about the invitation issued by the chairman of the House of Commons’ Foreign Relations Committee to Ibrahim Mounir, secretary-general of International Organisation of the Muslim Brotherhood, to attend a hearing session in June.

“Abdel-Aal told the visiting British MPs that the Muslim Brotherhood was behind extremist activities in a number of countries,” said Heikal.

MP Mustafa Bakri  told Al-Ahram Weekly that “London has become the capital of the International Organisation of Muslim Brotherhood and a safe haven for Islamist extremists”.

Howarth told private satellite channel Al-Hayat that “the Egyptian-British Parliamentary Friendship Association comprises 45 MPs who will be in charge of strengthening Egyptian-British diplomatic and political relations”.

“We also hope to work with Egypt on formulating an anti-terror strategy,” said Howarth.

Abdel-Aal also raised the issue of the UK’s ban on flights to Sharm Al-Sheikh, according to Heikal.

Ahmed Al-Sigini, chairman of parliament’s Local Administration Committee, told reporters that MPs had raised the possibility of the return of British tourists to Egypt with the visiting delegation.

“Speaker Abdel-Aal stressed that Egypt has implemented all measures necessary to ensure airport security and there is no reason to maintain the ban on flights to Sharm El-Sheikh which has been in place since November,” said Al-Sigini.

The UK suspended flights to and from the Red Sea resort of Sharm El-Sheikh following a Russian plane crash in Sinai in October which killed all 224 people on board. Both the UK and Russia demanded tighter security measures be imposed before flights resume.

Speaking to Al-Hayat, Howarth said “the Friends of Egypt group in the British parliament has been working on resuming air flights to Sharm El-Sheikh for eight months”.

“As soon as we return we will seek a meeting with Prime Minister Teresa May in an attempt to ensure UK flights and tourist traffic return to Sharm El-Sheikh before winter.”

After meetings with President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi and the ministers of defence, interior, tourism and international cooperation the British parliamentary delegation left for Sharm El-Sheikh on 29 July. The delegation, accompanied by South Sinai governor Khaled Fouda, reviewed security measures at Sharm El-Sheikh Airport. In a press conference following the visit Fouda said he had stressed to the delegation that military operations against terrorists are limited to one per cent of Egypt’s total area. (see p.4)

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