Tuesday,21 May, 2019
Current issue | Issue 1442, (9 - 15 May 2019)
Tuesday,21 May, 2019
Issue 1442, (9 - 15 May 2019)

Ahram Weekly

US moves against the MB

Attempts in Washington to designate the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organisation are being applauded in Egypt’s parliamentary and political circles, writes Gamal Essam El-Din

Press reports that the administration of US President Donald Trump is weighing whether or not to designate the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organisationwere welcomedby MPs.

According to White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders,“the president has consulted with his national security team and leaders in the region who share his concern and this designation is working its way through the internal process.”

MPs believe a terrorist designation will be a major advance in thebattle against Islamist movements.

Independent MP Mai Al-Batran, a former head of parliament’s Telecommunications and Information Technology Committee, said on Saturday that if the Trump administration does decide to brand the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist group it will constitute “a serious step in the war against political Islam and terrorist organisations and a victory for Egyptian diplomacy which has lobbied long and hard for such an outcome”.

The New York Timesreported that President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi asked Trump to make the designation on 9 April, during his visit to Washington.

Abdel-Rehim Ali, an independent MP and expert on Islamist movements, told Al-Ahram Weekly that he doubted that a private talk with Al-Sisi on 9 April was the main factor in Trump contemplating the designation.

“Before he became president Trump used every opportunity during the 2016presidential campaign to attack political Islam movements,” says Ali.

Ali believes a terrorist designation from Washington could push other European countries, most notable France,to follow suit.

“French President Emanuel Macron has hinted that Parismay be prepared to move against political Islamist movements,”he said.

In a statement issued in the wake of Trump’svictory in the US presidential election in November 2016the Muslim Brotherhood described the result as“a disaster for the Arab and Muslim world”.

Mamdouh Mounir, a leading member of the Brotherhood’s now dissolved Freedom and Justice Party, said “it is a catastrophe that a racist has ascended to the White House.”

Walid Phares, the Lebanese-born Trump advisor during the presidential election campaign, toldSadaAl-Baladsatellite channel on 30 April that “from the very beginning of his presidential campaign Trump viewed the Brotherhood as a radical terrorist organisation.”

He cast doubt on the New York Times report, saying“America’s liberal and leftist media — particularly the New York Times, Washington Post and CNN,as well as the British Guardian— are supportive of the Brotherhood, always describing it as a peaceful political movement that aims to challenge autocratic rulers, and every time the White House unveils intentions to designate it a terrorist movement they rush to polish the group’s image while doing their best to intimidate Trump at the same time.”

Ali believes the Brotherhood, flush with money from Qatar and Turkey, has managed to buy influence in the US media.

“This often comes in the form of articles claiming the designation could have destabilising consequences and cause rifts in relations with Turkey and Qatar. The pro-political Islam media also claim that the group does not meet the legal standards required for a terrorist designation in the US.”

In a statement issued on its websiteon 30 April, the Brotherhood said:“We will remain... steadfast in our work in accordance with our moderate and peaceful thinking.”

Political analyst and independent MP Samir Ghattaspoints out that the Trump administration first considered the designation following Trump’s inauguration in 2017.

“In the face of a hostile media campaign in defence of the group it seems that Trump decided to postpone any decision. Now the issue is once again being viewed as a matter of some urgency,” says Ghattas.

“If the administration now goes ahead with the designation it will notbet because Al-Sisi recommended the step in a very private meeting with Trump. As the While House press secretary indicated, Trump consulted with his national security team and other leaders in the region.”

Ghattas believes thata terrorist designation would have disastrous consequences for the Muslim Brotherhood.

“Other countries, particularly in Europe, could follow suit and the group would face worldwide restrictions and sanctions on its huge funds. The designation would degrade the financial and organisational capacities of a terrorist organisationthat has caused a great deal of harm in the Arab world by spreading a radical code of Islam, attacking Christians and forming underground militant groupssuch as Hasm [Decisiveness] and Liwaa Al-Thawra [Revolutionary Brigade] in Egypt. Brotherhood-affiliated TV channels broadcasting from Turkey will also suffer as they face accusations of inciting violence and terror.”

Tarek Al-Khouli, deputy head of parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee, says the Muslim Brotherhood’s involvement in terrorist activities is well-documented.

“The group has been heavily involved in spreading terror since 2011. Even before this date it had worked to form underground armed militias,” says Al-Khouli.

“When Morsi was ousted in July 2013 these militias came out of the woodwork and began to attack security and other targets in Egypt, staging violent terrorist attacks, some of them in coordination withAnsar Beit Al-Maqdis— an offshoot of the Islamic State in Sinai.”

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