Wednesday,19 September, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1194, (24-30 April 2014)
Wednesday,19 September, 2018
Issue 1194, (24-30 April 2014)

Ahram Weekly

Challenging the Brotherhood

The Muslim Brotherhood could be facing further challenges in Egypt and beyond, writes Doaa El-Bey

Al-Ahram Weekly

Labeling the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organisation and banning its members from taking part in Egypt’s presidential and parliamentary elections has not been the end of the story for the group. The UK’s decision to conduct an inquiry into the activities of the Brotherhood and the Egyptian decision to present a report about its activities to the EU and other states have further challenged it on the external level.

UK Prime Minister David Cameron recently ordered an internal government review into the activities of the group. This shows that the UK is serious about making an informed decision about whether to label the Brotherhood a terrorist group, said one diplomat speaking on condition of anonymity.

“The ball is now in our court. The UK has asked interested parties to provide evidence, and we now need to provide evidence about the Brotherhood’s involvement in terrorist acts in Egypt. This will help the UK and other states to take an informed decision,” the diplomat added.

Following the British government decision earlier this month, Cameron last week commissioned an internal government review into the philosophy, activities, impact and influence on UK national interests, at home and abroad, of the Muslim Brotherhood and of UK government policy towards the organisation.

The purpose of the review is to produce a report that will help guide UK government policy towards the Muslim Brotherhood. The government has asked interested parties to submit evidence serving the purposes of the review by 30 May.

The diplomat said that the review was not politically motivated, but that Cameron had been under pressure from Gulf States like Saudi Arabia, with which it has an important business and security partnership.

“Providing enough evidence will be the core and crux of the issue. This is why Egypt’s foreign ministry has officially requested the ministry of justice to provide it with evidence of the group’s involvement in terrorist activities in Egypt,” the diplomat explained.

This week, the foreign ministry asked the ministry of justice to provide it with details of the charges against Brotherhood leaders in Egypt, in addition to evidence of Brotherhood involvement in attacking police, army personnel or tourists. These will be passed on to the EU, the US and other countries in due course.

The move was made following foreign minister Nabil Fahmi’s meeting with his Canadian counterpart, John Baird, who asked for information about the activities of the group.

Egypt’s ambassador in London, Ashraf Al-Kholi, met with members of the UK parliament’s foreign relations committee earlier this month to discuss the UK decision and the role of the committee. He welcomed the UK government’s move and said Egypt was willing to cooperate with the government and parliament in combating terrorism and extremism.

The British decision could end in different scenarios, ranging from taking no action against the group to imposing various restrictions on it to banning it outright. The last scenario is described by British officials as “possible but unlikely”. 

The Brotherhood has warned the UK government that it will resort to the courts if attempts are made to restrict the movement’s activities in London.

“Whilst the Muslim Brotherhood is prepared to engage with the British government’s review… [it] will challenge, through the British courts, any improper attempt to restrict its activities,” the group said in a statement after Cameron’s decision.

Escaping from a crackdown at home, senior Brotherhood figures have established a firm presence in London, Doha, and Istanbul since the ousting of Islamist former president Mohammed Morsi last July.

However, the UK decision, together with the latest attempt of Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries to reconcile their differences, could mean that Qatar will partially or completely abandon its support for the Brotherhood.

On the internal level, an Egyptian court has banned current and former members of the Muslim Brotherhood from taking part in the upcoming presidential and legislative elections. The court ordered the authorities last week to reject the candidacies of members of the group, which has swept all elections held since the 2011 Revolution.

The ruling was based on videos, photographs and documents showing terrorist acts carried out by members of the Muslim Brotherhood, the court saying that it would be “illogical” to allow group members to take part in the country’s elections as a result. 

The Muslim Brotherhood was listed as a terrorist group late last year in the light of the attacks against the police and the army that have taken place since the overthrow of Morsi.

The Brotherhood, founded in Egypt in 1928, was banned in Egypt until the Arab Spring revolutions, which saw the overthrow of former president Hosni Mubarak.

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