On 3rd May two leading figures of Muslim Brotherhood-linked groups lobbied Congress. Hani El-Kadi and Mahmoud El-Sharkawy, the president and the spokesman of the Egyptian Americans for Freedom and Justice (EAFJ) demanded that support to Egypt’s military rulers be cut off because of the regime’s human rights abuses. Thereby, they avoided to concede their own support for terrorist groups, the Revolutionary Punishment Movement (RPM) and the Popular Resistance Movement (PRM), which have committed attacks in Egypt. For instance, the PRM as well as ISIS claimed responsibility for the same attack against police officers near Cairo.
Although the Muslim Brotherhood itself publicly denies any connection with terror movements, it issues statements supporting terror attacks. Furthermore, Abu Emara, a former Muslim Brotherhood leader, told media that fighters of the RPM belonged to the Brotherhood.
Another participant of the lobbying trip, Ayat Al-Orabi, a member of the Egyptian Revolutionary Council, accused Christians of waging war on Islam which is a narrative often used by terrorists to gain recruits.
However, it is questionable why the EAFJ delegation, which obviously supports jihad and terrorism, gained access to any Congressional office at all.
Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, AQAP, condemns the boycott of Qatar by other Arab countries due to the country’s support for the Muslim Brotherhood and its role in Yemen. Recently, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt cut their ties with Qatar and drafted a list of individuals designated as terrorists sponsored by Qatar. Al-Qaeda’s leader Khalid Batarfi publicly called this step “war against Islam and the Muslims”.
Al-Qaeda obviously has links to the Muslim Brotherhood which were confirmed by public comments on joint attacks of both groups in Yemen. Furthermore it is a fact that most leaders of AQAP were members of the Muslim Brotherhood. Although the Brotherhood seemed to be hostile to Al-Qaeda in 2011 and 2012 in order to gain political influence in Yemen, the relations between the two groups returned in 2014.
An expert on Yemeni Islamist groups explained that AQAP’s statement serves as a guide to Muslim Brotherhood members that dialogue with the opponents is useless and that jihad is the only appropriate means to react to this situation. In Al-Qaeda’s latest issue of Al-Masra weekly the group attacks the Arab countries because of their campaign against Qatar and its Emir.
US-President Donald Trump tries to strengthen the relationship to American allies and partners and thereby faces obstacles such as Qatar’s support for Islamists.
Qatar permitted the USA to build a huge air base, Al-Udeid, as base for all US-coalition air operations for the entire region including Afghanistan and Syria. As such, it is a crucial means to protect US national security interests in the Middle East and makes Qatar an American ally. On the other hand, one would expect allies to share interests, support each other’s basic policies and to see common enemies. This implies that Qatar should not provide any kind of support to forces that threaten American interests or those of friends and partners of the USA. Notwithstanding, Qatar promotes the Muslim Brotherhood as well as its affiliated groups including the offshoot Hamas.
Hamas is responsible for attacks against American forces and interests, rejects the existence of Israel and, from an ideological standpoint, promotes religious intolerance. E.g. Yusuf Al-Qaradawi, a resident of Qatar who speaks on a weekly show on the media network Al-Jazeera, promotes anti-American and anti-Israeli sentiments. Al-Jazeera is subsidized by the government of Qatar and nevertheless legitimizes extremist and intolerant beliefs of the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamists.
Furthermore, Qatar provides money and material support to Islamist fighters in Libya and Syria and thereby clearly acts against US-American interests. Qatar is a small country that tries to gain influence through its natural gas and oil wealth. Critics claim that Qatar uses its money to buy off Islamists while Qatar itself stresses its bridge-building role between Islamists and the Western world. Instead, it seems that Qatar wants to preserve its ties to the USA in view of security matters as well as to Islamists in order to expand its influence in the region.
Although Al-Udeid base is strategically important, the Trump administration should signalize that it has alternatives such as bases in the United Arab Emirates unless Qatar is ready to become a more reliable ally.
According to the Yemeni government, the Muslim Brotherhood tries to create tensions among the member states of the Saudi-led coalition against the Shia Houthi militias in Yemen. A certain state allegedly offered funds for the Brotherhood’s mass and social media in order to cause tensions between Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. These discrepancies should lead to the dissolution of the alliance that is fighting against Iran’s local allies. Hence, the Muslim Brotherhood supposedly criticized the Arab coalition and thereby caused massive controversy in Yemen.
However, Yemeni Foreign Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Abdelmalik Al-Mikhlafi officially stressed that the Muslim Brotherhood will not succeed and that the coalition will remain active in Yemen until it reaches its goals: construction, security and stability.
Qatar has often been criticized for its close links to the Muslim Brotherhood and other radical Islamist groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah. During the visit of US-President Donald Trump to Saudi Arabia, the Arab states and particularly the Gulf States appeared united. However, as soon as the official visit was over, the differences between the countries appeared again.
A video accessible to the public showed alleged quotations of Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani praising the Muslim Brotherhood as well as the militant groups Hamas and Hezbollah. Notwithstanding, Qatar’s government officially declared in front of the press that no one has the right to accuse the country of terrorism. According to the statement, other countries have bred terrorism themselves by adopting an extreme version of Islam. Hence, they should not accuse Qatar only because others declare the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist group and do not tolerate the type of resistance exercised by Hamas and Hezbollah. This message clearly refers to Saudi Arabia which thereby fuels the existing rivalry between the two countries. Later, the government of Qatar backpedaled and said that the server of the state news agency had been hacked and that the video was a fake. However, the media debate about the video in the Gulf States reveals the frictions between Qatar and Saudi Arabia based on Qatar’s relations to the Muslim Brotherhood and the country’s role during the Arab Spring. Qatar had supported the uprisings through Al-Jazeera in order to increase its political options in the Arab world. Thereby, it also supported movements that questioned the legitimacy of theocratic regimes such as Saudi Arabia. Recently, Saudi Arabia and Egypt have blocked the broadcaster which suggests that the disputes will continue.
Last Sunday, the Muslim Brotherhood´s Youth Front has issued a controversial paper, titled: Assessment Before Vision: a Look Back at the Past. In the document, the initiative tries to assess the mistakes of past decades and years, particularly the brief period between the resignation of President Mubarak and the fall of President Morsi, and to outline principles for the future. The Youth Front, which was founded in 2014, calls for a rapprochement with the powers that be, in the Middle East as well as in the West. Instead of trying to erect a caliphate, the Muslim world should coexist with others.
The Youth Front, which has its home base in Egypt, is regarded as an initiative of second tier leaders of the MB. The current leadership of the MB, most notably its spokesperson Talaat Fahmy, has instantly rejected the ideas. Ibrahim Mounir, head of the MB´s international organization, pointed out that internal debates are normal and that the sole responsibility for strategic decisions lies with the Supreme Guide Mahmout Ezzat, usually considered a member of the conservative Old Guard. Apparently, the internal rifts inside Muslim Brotherhood continue to widen. Read more at:
Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis has withdrawn his nominee for the highest ranking civilian post in the Pentagon, former Ambassador Anne Patterson. Mrs. Patterson had served as US ambassador to Egypt during and after the ouster of President Mubarak and had maintained close ties with the then ruling Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood. Jim Mattis´ pick was heavily criticized, particularly by Sens. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., and Ted Cruz, R-Texas, who has recently called on the US administration to designate the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization. Read more at:
A report on the Muslim Brotherhood, commissioned by Sweden’s Civil Contingencies Agency (MSB), has recently led to a fierce debate about an Islamist infiltration of the country´s civil society. The report has depicted the organization as operating a broad network and of building a parallel society by infiltrating political parties and civil society organizations. The report has sparked a hefty response by 22 Swedish researchers specializing in religious studies who blamed MSB for “conspiracy theories”. The MSB has responded that the report is a feasibility study and relies on reliable sources, The Local reports. Read more at:
The emergence of new extremist groups at the Sinai Peninsula forced Egypt to broaden its cooperation with Hamas. The Islamist group Hamas is now preparing a new agenda and thereby will detach itself from the Muslim Brotherhood.
Observers argued that after the coup in 2013 in Egypt, in which the Muslim Brotherhood candidate President Mohammed Morsi was overthrown, also the group’s offspring Hamas suffered from the consequences. Furthermore, the situation gave rise to more radical Islamist groups in the Northern Sinai which became a new centre of extremism. However, Hamas found an opportunity to survive despite Israeli military attacks, its isolation caused by Egypt’s closing of the Rafah Gate border crossing and attempts of Salafi groups to rebel and ISIS’ recruitment of new followers. Now, Hamas is ready to adopt major changes in its approach. It will cut its ties with the Muslim Brotherhood and restore relations with Egypt. Thereby, it will be more independent and will try to self-legitimize itself.
Already last year, all signs of the Muslim Brotherhood were removed from the streets and mosques in Gaza. A Hamas official also told the media that there is a need for changes in the group’s political ideology and its charter with regard to its relations with regional and international institutions. The recent developments in US-politics and President Donald Trump’s suggestion to outlaw the Muslim Brotherhood and to improve US-ties with Egypt further forced Hamas to demonstrate more independence. According to Hamas officials, the organization already signalled towards Egypt that it will henceforth stress its character as Palestinian national group without affiliation to any other international movement, including the Muslim Brotherhood. Hamas has also taken action against other radical movements in Gaza in coordination with Egyptian intelligence.
Summing up, it seems that Hamas tries to find a new position against the background of a new security situation in the region in order to gain outside support for Gazan needs.
US-President Donald Trump seriously considers labeling the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization which implies that making business with the Islamist group becomes an offense under US-law. Hence, this move means a success for the conservatives who are critical towards the group’s ties to militant Islamist movements. Several countries like the United Arab Emirates, Syria or Russia banned its activities.
The Muslim Brotherhood was established in the 1920ies by the religious scholar Hassan Al-Banna and became increasingly influential in Egyptian society. In the 1950ies it was forced underground because it was blamed for violent attacks. Sayyid Qutb, one of the movement’s leaders, is known as the founder of modern jihadism. The Brotherhood’s ideology spread all over the Middle East and influenced existing groups or promoted the establishment of certain militant branches such as Hamas. The group was banned in Egypt until the revolution of 2011. In 2012, its candidate Mohammed Morsi even became president but was overthrown already one year later. The current Egyptian President, Al-Sisi, again labeled the group a terrorist organization.
The Muslim Brotherhood also has a strong presence in the USA. Ted Cruz introduced the “Muslim Brotherhood Terrorist Designation Act” which seeks to add the group to a list of terrorist organizations including Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), an institution with close links to the Muslim Brotherhood, argued that the bill aims at controlling Muslims in the USA and has no effect on national security. On former President Obama’s “We are the People” website a call for the US-government to designate the Brotherhood a terrorist organization was the tenth-most singed petition with more than 200,000 signatures. Notwithstanding, the former US-administration did not see evidence that the Muslim Brotherhood has renounced its commitment to non-violence and therefore did not take any concrete steps.