Tuesday,21 May, 2019
Current issue | Issue 1328, (19 - 25 January 2017)
Tuesday,21 May, 2019
Issue 1328, (19 - 25 January 2017)

Ahram Weekly

Lobbying against the Brotherhood

A delegation of Egyptian lawmakers and civil society representatives will be going to Washington this weekend to lobby the new US administration against the Muslim Brotherhood, reports Gamal Essam El-Din

A 15-member Egyptian delegation will visit the United States next Saturday, one day after Donald Trump takes office as the country’s new president, in order to discuss issues related to Political Islam, terrorism, human rights and democratisation in Egypt with the new US administration.

Tarek Radwan, deputy chairman of the parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee, told reporters this week that the visit would last one week from 21 to 28 January. “The delegation will include Egyptian MPs and civil society representatives,” Radwan said.

He said the delegation would include MP Dahlia Youssef, chairwoman of the Egyptian-British Parliamentary Friendship Association, MP Tarek Al-Khouli, head of the parliament’s human rights committee and a leading official of the liberal Free Egyptians Party, Alaa Abed, a businessman, MP Mohamed Al-Sallab, and independent MP Rasha Ramadan.

The delegation will also include civil society activists, among them Dahlia Ziada, Dawlet Swailem, Ibrahim Negm, Mona Omar, Basma Wahba and Coptic priest Radi Iskandar.

Radwan told reporters on Wednesday that the schedule of the visit had been drawn up by the Foreign Ministry. “As far as I know the delegation will meet with US Congress members and officials affiliated with the new administration of President-elect Donald Trump,” he said.

He said the visit came on the heels of Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukri’s US visit last month. “The Foreign Ministry wants us to open contacts with a new US Congress and a new administration which is completely different, in terms of being hostile to the Muslim Brotherhood and other Political Islam movements,” Radwan said.

The Foreign Ministry would arrange meetings with Trump’s Middle East Affairs Advisor Walid Phares and Republican Party congressmen who have said they are in support of designating the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organisation on the US state department’s list of foreign terrorist organisations (FTO), Radwan said.

“We are in a war against this group and other radical Political Islam movements, so it is important to exploit the new anti-radical Islam atmosphere in America to achieve our goals,” he said, adding that the parliament’s moves against Political Islam had gained momentum in recent weeks.

“Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee issued a very important report on the dangers of Political Islam in November, and a parliamentary delegation visited London in December to ring alarm bells on this issue,” Radwan said.

According to a report published by CNSNews.com on 13 January, the Muslim Brotherhood is already facing assaults on several fronts in the US, where lawmakers have introduced legislation seeking its designation as a foreign terrorist organisation and Trump’s secretary of state nominee has lumped it with Al-Qaeda as an “agent of radical Islam”.

The unveiling of the Egyptian delegation’s visit to the US came just one day after president-elect Trump’s pick for secretary of state, former ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson, told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that the US needed to be “honest about radical Islam.”

Using a term which the former Obama administration had avoided, Tillerson said that “radical Islam poses a grave risk to the stability of nations and the well-being of their citizens.”

Tillerson said the defeat of the Islamic State (IS) group – “the most urgent step in thwarting radical Islam” – would allow the US to focus on “disrupting the capabilities of other groups and individuals committed to striking our homeland and our allies.”

“The demise of IS will also allow us to increase our attention to other agents of radical Islam like Al-Qaeda, the Muslim Brotherhood, and certain elements within Iran,” he said.

Tillerson added that he would “ensure the state department does its part in supporting Muslims around the world who reject radical Islam in all its forms.”

A day before Tillerson’s confirmation hearing, high-profile Texas senator and former Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz and member of the House of Representatives Mario Diaz-Balart introduced legislation calling on the state department to designate the Muslim Brotherhood an FTO.

According to CNSNews.com, Cruz’s bill was co-sponsored by Republican senators Orrin Hatch, James Inhofe, and Pat Roberts, while Diaz-Balart’s legislation had 20 co-sponsors, all Republicans.

“The Muslim Brotherhood continues to support terrorist organisations that are responsible for acts of violence around the world,” Diaz-Balart said. “This bill would impose tough sanctions on a hateful group that has spread violence and spawned extremist movements throughout the Middle East.”

Cruz pointed out that the US has designated individual Brotherhood members and branches and charities, including Hamas, but not the organisation itself as a whole. He said Palestinian preacher Ahmed Yassin had founded Hamas as the Brotherhood’s Palestinian arm in 1987.

"Top Al-Qaeda terrorists with ties to the Brotherhood include its leader Ayman Al-Zawahiri, a former top member of the Brotherhood in Egypt, 9/11 architect Khalid Sheikh Mohamed, who joined the organisation in Kuwait, and the jailed World Trade Centre bombing plotter sheikh Omar Abdel-Rahman," Cruz said.

He pointed to a 1991 Muslim Brotherhood memo that has stoked controversy ever since it emerged after being admitted as an exhibit in a 2007-2008 trial that ended with leaders of the Holy Land Foundation in Texas, a US religious group, being convicted of raising money for Hamas.

An oft-cited excerpt from the document says that the Muslim Brotherhood “must understand that their work in America is a kind of grand jihad in eliminating and destroying western civilisation from within and ‘sabotaging’ its miserable house by their hands and the hands of the believers so that it is eliminated and God’s religion is made victorious over all other religions.”

Cruz said the US Congress should view the document as a blueprint for the organisation in the United States and the West in general.

He argued that the intention of his draft legislation was to enable the US government to target Islamist movements that were part of a “massive covert conspiracy to destroy the US from within.”

Tarek Al-Khouli, a leading member of parliament’s foreign relations committee, told Al-Ahram Weekly that the Egyptian delegation’s visit to the United States came at the right moment.

He said the delegation would present US Congress members and Trump administration officials with documents and videotapes that left no doubt about the Muslim Brotherhood’s long record of terrorism and violence.

"We have videotapes which feature Muslim Brotherhood leaders inciting violence after 30 June 2013 and supporting the US-designated terrorist group of Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis in Sinai," said Al-Khouli.

Al-Khouli recalled that while an Egyptian parliamentary delegation was visiting New York last September, it had received assurances from Trump’s Middle East affairs advisor Walid Phares that if elected Trump would do his best to list the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organisation.

"Now with the election of Donald Trump who has surrounded himself with anti-radical Islam theorists and with Republicans in control of the Senate and House, the proposed Cruz-drafted Muslim Brotherhood Terrorist Designation Act has a good chance of passing and being signed into law," Al-Khouli said.

Al-Khouli said the Egyptian delegation would be keen to stress that in addition to Egypt, three other major Arab countries – Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain – together with Russia had already designated the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organisation in 2014 and 2015.

 "It is very important that US officials know why three major Muslim countries and a world superpower have decided to label the Brotherhood a terrorist organisation," Al-Khouli said.

"We will also take into account that the liberal western media always likes to portray the Brotherhood as a political dissent group which faces repression from a ‘military dictatorship’ rather than a radical Islamist organisation which is responsible for laying the ideological foundation of other militant Islamist organisations like Al-Qaeda and IS,” he added.

In his presidential campaign speeches last summer, Trump described the Muslim Brotherhood as "a radical Political Islam movement." He said that if elected, he would hold an international conference on terrorism and radical Islam, with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi and King Abdallah of Jordan invited.

Radwan said the upcoming delegation would be keen to present a balanced view of human rights and the democratic transition in Egypt.

Two weeks ago, Parliamentary Speaker Ali Abdel-Aal told MPs that during its visit to the US the delegation would discuss a proposed law on church building in Egypt – the Coptic Churches Accountability Act – with Congress officials.

"US officials should know that Egypt’s new church-building law has made it much easier for Egyptian Christians to build churches and that they do not accept intervention from any foreign forces in this respect," Abdel-Aal said.

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