Despite the USA’s clear perception and experience of what terrorism is in practice it seems quite difficult to decide what constitutes a terrorist organization. The problem arises due to partisan politics and relations to foreign actors with certain religious affiliations.
In February this year, the House Judiciary Committee approved legislation requesting the State Department to designate the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt a foreign terrorist organization. This law would prevent aliens with Muslim Brotherhood links from entering the country and increase grounds for deporting immigrants with ties to the movement. Furthermore, it would make financial assistance to the Brotherhood a crime and enable the administration to block all financial transactions of the group.
Experts like the senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, Shadi Hamid, argue that the Brotherhood is in fact not a terrorist organization. There is a notable difference between terrorism and Islamism. While the former includes violence against civilians intended to cause fear for a political purpose, the latter is the belief that life should be based on Islamic values including the sphere of governance. However, Islamism is often associated with anything bad that happens in the Middle East and the word “jihad” is often misinterpreted as synonym for terrorism. John Esposito, professor of religion, international affairs and of Islamic studies at Georgetown University, claimed that the Muslim Brotherhood never responded with violence to repression under Hosni Mubarak’s regime in Egypt. Instead it functioned as a social and sometimes political organization and has renounced violence. Notwithstanding, its Islamist ideology inspired militant Islamist offshoots like Al-Jihad in Egypt or Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
Hence, labeling the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist group could endanger civil liberties as well as US national security by giving the government more options to invade individual privacy of Muslims.
The deputy leader of the Turkish Republican People’s Party (CHP), Erdogan Toprak, mentioned in his weekly report that the USA’s recognition of the Muslim Brotherhood as terrorist organization could have substantial influence on the foreign policy of Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP). It thus may lead to serious tensions between Turkey and the USA.
The report says that despite the designation of ISIS and Al-Nusra Front as terrorist organizations by the majority of the International Community, the Turkish government had not officially taken that stance at the beginning of the military operations in Syria. That only happened after attacks in Reyhanli and Suruc committed by the two groups. When Turkey announced its fight against ISIS, attacks occurred in Ankara, Istanbul and Diyarbakir. Over the past 14 years the AKP leadership has been supporting groups that are internationally recognized as terrorist organizations. Hence, it supports the Muslim Brotherhood, maintains friendly relations with Hamas and assists radical Islamists in Libya. According to the report the AKP also provides support to ISIS, Al-Nusra Front as well as Ahrar Al-Sham and the Free Syrian Army. The same government, on the other hand, accuses the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party of committing terrorism.
Toprak concludes that in the future there could be conflicts of interest in the fight against terrorism between the AKP and the US-leadership. If the USA designates the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization, the Turkish government will automatically be in the position of an accomplice of terrorists.
In the USA, the House Judiciary Committee opened its discussion of a bill requesting the State Department to consider the classification of the Muslim Brotherhood as terrorist organization. The draft of the bill includes information about the ties between the Brotherhood and terrorist groups like Al-Qaeda and Hamas.
Notwithstanding, Rep. John Conyers stated that the Brotherhood had sworn off violence and that the bill promotes Islamophobia. Meanwhile, even the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan commented on the bill. His spokesperson Ibrahim Kalin leveled criticism against the bill and denied the Brotherhood’s involvement in terrorist activity. Furthermore he stated that the West has failed with regard to its attitude towards Islam.
However, experts argue that the Brotherhood aims at the Islamization of society and that it might not agree to a Western definition of terrorism since it regards Hamas and Hezbollah as freedom fighters. The bill even includes the assessment made by then-FBI Director Robert Mueller in 2011 that elements of the Muslim Brotherhood have actively supported terrorism. Several Brotherhood-linked charities in the USA and elsewhere have been financing terrorism.
Previously, the US government also listed Hamas, the Palestinian branch of the Brotherhood, and Lajnat Al-Daawa, a social wing of the Brotherhood in Kuwait, as terrorist entities. Terrorists like Ramzi Yousef, responsible for the 1993 World Trade Center attacks, and Khalid Sheikh Muhammad, architect of 9/11, had worked for Lajnat Al-Daawa.
Now, the bill needs to be approved in the House and the Senate and finally must be signed by the US President.
Sources: https://www.algemeiner.com/2016/03/04/democrats-balk-at-findings-of-muslim-brotherhood-terror-bill/#, http://www.todayszaman.com/diplomacy_erdogans-office-criticizes-us-bill-calling-muslim-brotherhood-terrorist_413389.html
The USA’s strategy to fight terrorism is insufficient in many respects and especially due to its failure to proceed against its root, the Muslim Brotherhood. The organization is involved in almost every incident related to terrorism and supports Hamas and Al-Qaeda as well as ISIS’s ideology. However, finally there’s an initiative to outlaw the terrorism network. Some days ago, the House Judiciary Committee passed a bill to ban the Muslim Brotherhood as a designated terrorist group and freeze its assets and those of its network. If also the bill introduced in the Senate by Ted Cruz passes, the ban of the Muslim Brotherhood would be ready for a future republican president to sign into law.
The official designation of the Muslim Brotherhood as terrorist group would prevent foreign nationals with links to the organization from entering the USA. Furthermore, it would force banks to block all its financial transactions and make material support for the Brotherhood a crime. Hence, hundreds of Brotherhood front groups and mosques in the USA would be unable to continue their business and secretly finance jihad. The bill identifies several US-organizations as Muslim Brotherhood entities with connections to terrorist organizations like Hamas, among them the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), the North American Islamic Trust (NAIT) or the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR).
Since there is no doubt that the Muslim Brotherhood itself is a terrorist group for which reason its ban would be an important step to counter terrorism in the USA.