“Designating the Muslim Brotherhood a ‘foreign terrorist organization’ would wrongly equate it with violent extremist groups like Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State and make their otherwise lawful activities illegal,” said Laura Pitter, senior US national security counsel at Human Rights Watch (HRW). “The designation would also unfairly taint anyone alleged to be linked to the Muslim Brotherhood and undermine the exercise of its political rights abroad.”
A federal statute grants the secretary of state broad authority to designate any foreign entity a “foreign terrorist organization” once the State Department determines that it engages in “terrorist activity,” has the “capacity and intent” to do so, and that such actions threaten US nationals or US national security.
A related executive order permits the government to label individuals or groups that assist or are “associated” with terrorist organizations as “specially designated global terrorists” and to block their assets. The law provides few legal protections to those designated.
The Muslim Brotherhood is an international Islamic social and political movement with numerous independent political parties, charities, and offices in the Middle East, Europe, and elsewhere.
In several countries in the Middle East and North Africa, including Jordan and Tunisia, Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated parties are recognized by law and hold seats in parliament. The Muslim Brotherhood maintains offices in Qatar, Turkey, the United Kingdom, and other countries, but has no official presence in the US.
Risks to US Groups, Individuals
If the US government designates the Muslim Brotherhood a foreign terrorist group, then not only its members, but anyone either in the United States or abroad suspected of providing support or resources to the group would be at risk of removal from the US if they are non-citizens and having their assets frozen.
They would also risk unfairly being targeted for prosecution under various laws, including those banning material support for terrorism. These consequences could apply to charities, civil rights groups, or individual members of such groups suspected of having ties to the Muslim Brotherhood.
Under US law, the offense of material support for terrorism can include providing money, training, transportation, or expert advice or assistance, among other services. If the designation is made, those deemed to have supported the Muslim Brotherhood’s political parties or helped coordinate its advocacy strategies in foreign countries where it remains legal would risk US prosecution.
In the past, the United States has used these charges in an overbroad manner, punishing behavior that did not demonstrate an intent to support terrorism. Such prosecutions violate individuals’ rights to free expression and association, among others.
Several bills have been introduced in Congress over the years urging the State Department to make the designation based on unfounded arguments that the Muslim Brotherhood is seeking to infiltrate US political institutions and casting several important American Muslim organizations as being affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood.
“Muslim-affiliated groups that promote civic values and protect civil rights are crucial to US democracy,” Pitter said. “Threatening their rights threatens the rights of all Americans.”
Effects of the designations are immediate. Groups and individuals can petition to be removed from the list of designated groups and challenge agency decisions in federal appeals courts, but they face many evidentiary and procedural challenges in doing so.
For example, evidence submitted by the government in support of the designations can include hearsay, uncorroborated statements, and secret evidence to which the person or entity challenging the designation cannot have access. The government can also block assets during an investigation into whether a specially designated global terrorist label is appropriate but before the designation has actually been made.
The Muslim Brotherhood was founded in Egypt in 1928 and has since evolved into an international movement whose branches effectively operate independently of one another. The main branch of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt officially renounced violence in the 1970s and sought to promote its ideas through social and political activities.
Following the Egyptian uprising of 2011, the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood formed a political party and won a plurality of seats in parliament. Mohamed Morsy, a Muslim Brotherhood member, became Egypt’s first freely elected president in 2012. In July 2013, following mass protests against Morsy, the military forcibly removed him.
An interim, military-backed government declared the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist group on December 25, 2013, attributing to it a bombing the day before that killed 16 people and wounded at least 130 at a police station in the Nile Delta. The government did not furnish evidence implicating the Brotherhood, which condemned the attack.
Human Rights Watch criticized Egypt’s 2013 designation of the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist group as politically driven and aimed at expanding a crackdown on the Brotherhood’s peaceful activities.
The Egyptian government has since arbitrarily arrested tens of thousands of people, and carried out widespread torture and enforced disappearances of Muslim Brotherhood members and alleged supporters. An extensive government review of the Muslim Brotherhood in the United Kingdom in 2015 found that it “has not been linked to terrorist-related activity in and against the UK.”
If the United States designates the Muslim Brotherhood a foreign terrorist organization, US allies that have not reached a similar conclusion would probably feel pressure to change their stances, and governments already hostile to the Muslim Brotherhood would have an excuse for politically motivated repression.
“The Muslim Brotherhood is a large and complex political organization operating in many countries,” Pitter said. “By calling for the entire group to be designated as a terrorist organization, the Trump administration is making an extraordinarily broad policy determination that will harm the participation of Muslim groups in democratic processes.”
(On 14 August 2013 Egyptian security forces raided two camps of protesters in Cairo: one at al-Nahda Square and a larger one at Rabaa al-Adawiya Square. The two sites had been occupied by supporters of ousted Muslim Brotherhood’s President Mohamed Morsi, who had been removed from office by the military a month earlier, following mass street protests against him.
The camps were raided after initiatives to end the six week sit-ins failed and as a result of the raids the camps were cleared out within hours. The raids were described by Human Rights Watch as "one of the world’s largest killings of demonstrators in a single day in recent history”.
According to Human Rights Watch, a minimum of 817 people and more likely at least 1,000 were killed in Rabaa Square on August 14. According to the Egyptian Health Ministry, 638 people were killed on 14 August (of which 595 were civilians and 43 police officers) and at least 3,994 were injured.
The Muslim Brotherhood and the National Coalition for Supporting Legitimacy (NCSL) claimed the number of deaths from the Rabaa al-Adawiya Mosque sit-in alone was about 2,600. The total casualty count made 14 August the deadliest day in Egypt since the 2011 Egyptian revolution, which had toppled Morsi's predecessor Hosni Mubarak
HRW published a report in which it accused security forces of excessive force, in addition to claiming that the dispersal was planned at the highest levels of the Egyptian government. The death toll given by HRW ranged from 817 to approximately 1000. HRW stated that the actions of the police likely amounted to "crimes against humanity."
However, in an official statement from the State Information Service, the government of Egypt criticized HRW, alleging that the organization's report lacked transparency, ignored violence by protesters, and that it was biased in favor of the Muslim Brotherhood.
As a consequence for publishing the report, executive director Kenneth Roth and Middle East and North Africa Director Sarah Leah Whitson, working for HRW, who were to publicly present the report to journalists and diplomats, were detained for hours by authorities and deported from Egypt. In a statement from the Egyptian Interior Ministry on its official Facebook page, HRW was accused of illegally operating in Egypt without permits from authorities.)
“For more than 30 years, Muslim Brotherhood associated movements and parties have been a force for democratization and stability in the Middle East.” Professor John Esposito, the Director of the Bridge Initiative, made this remark in a submission to the House Judiciary Committee, when asked to provide evidence concerning the proposed bill to designate the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization.
Here are five reasons his claim is false and the Muslim Brotherhood should be listed as a terrorist organization.
1) Its stated goal is the establishment of an Islamic State
According to the original bylaws of the Muslim Brotherhood, the stated goal of the organization is the restoration of an Islamic state as a system of government ruled in accordance with sharia.
Article 2:E of the bylaws, as posted on the Muslim Brotherhood’s English-language website as recently as 2011 and recorded by the Investigative Project on Terrorism reads “The need to work on establishing the Islamic State, which seeks to effectively implement the provisions of Islam and its teachings. Defend the nation against the internal enemies, try to present the true teachings of Islam and communicate its ideas to the world.”
In 2012, when Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohammed Morsiwas running for president, his candidacy was launched at a rally at which the man introducing him, Safwat Higazi, declared “We can see how the dream of the Islamic Caliphate is being realized, Allahwilling, by Dr. Mohamed Morsi and his brothers, his supporters, and his political party.”
2) The Terrorist Group Hamas is a Muslim-Brotherhood Affiliate
Hamas was founded in 1987 out of the Muslim Brotherhood in Gaza. Article Two of the Hamas Charterreads “The Islamic Resistance Movement is one of the wings of Moslem Brotherhood in Palestine. Moslem Brotherhood Movement is a universal organization which constitutes the largest Islamic movement in modern times.
It is characterised by its deep understanding, accurate comprehension and its complete embrace of all Islamic concepts of all aspects of life, culture, creed, politics, economics, education, society, justice and judgement, the spreading of Islam, education, art, information, science of the occult and conversion to Islam.”
Article 13 of the Hamas Charter reads “There is no solution for the Palestinian question except through Jihad.” Hamas has carried out and continues to carry out many terrorist attacks against Israeli soil.
Given the Muslim Brotherhood more broadly has never rejected this connection, any Muslim Brotherhood group anywhere in the world is connected to Hamas unless it specifically disavows the group.
3) The Muslim Brotherhood Has a Doctrine Of Gradualism
Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, the Muslim Brotherhood’s spiritual leader, said when discussing the eventual introduction of the brutal hudud punishments mandated under sharia governance, that they should be introduced gradually when the people were ready. Of Muslim Brotherhood rule in Egypt he said “there should be no chopping off of hands in the first five years.”
This commitment to gradually implementing the full program shows that even Brotherhood affiliates that nominally support more progressive policies may later change to support more hardline stances once in power.
4) Muslim-Brotherhood-Linked Groups Like CAIR Were Implicated in Terror Funding
The Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) which is named in the Muslim Brotherhood bill, was founded by members of the Islamic Association of Palestine, a group described by the Anti-Defamation League as “a Hamas affiliated anti-Semitic propaganda organization.”
CAIR was listed as an unindicted co-conspirator in the Holy Land Foundation trial, the largest terrorism financing trial in American history. On July 1, 2009, U.S. District Court Judge Jorge Solis upheld CAIR’s designation as an unindicted co-conspirator because of “ample evidence” linking it to Hamas. As a result of this evidence, the FBI deemed CAIR was not “an appropriate liaison partner” and severed all ties.
5) The Muslim Brotherhood Was Designated a Terrorist Organization by Arab Allies
Egypt’s President Abdelfatah el-Sisi and the United Arab Emirates both designated the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization. The UAE also included the U.S.-based group CAIR in the list of designated terrorist organizations because of its connection to the global Muslim Brotherhood. Despite lobbying from U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and public pressure, the UAE refused to back downon its designation.
Gehad el-Haddad, official spokesman for the Muslim Brotherhood (MB), is on a mission to rewrite the terrorist and radical history of the MB. He seems to be doing this for the consumption of naïve Americans.
These seem only too willing to believe -- in the name of tolerance, diversity and trying to be non-judgmental -- that an organization whose ultimate goal is the supreme reign of Islamic sharia law everywhere -- if necessary through violent jihad -- could possibly value anything even approximating equality and the rule of (non-sharia) law.
"We are not terrorists," wrote el-Haddad in a recent article in the left-leaning pro-Muslim (failing) New York Times.
"The Muslim Brotherhood's philosophy is inspired by an understanding of Islam that emphasizes the values of social justice, equality and the rule of law... We believe that our faith is inherently pluralistic and comprehensive and that no one has a divine mandate or the right to impose a single vision on society... Nothing speaks more to our unequivocal commitment to nonviolence than our continued insistence on peaceful resistance, despite unprecedented state violence".
The "faith", which el-Haddad avoids naming, is Islam. The very essence of Islam, as sanctioned in the Quran and the hadiths, however, seems to be the belief in a divine mandate to impose the single vision of Islam on the world -- if necessary, through violent jihad. Its motto is: "Allah is our objective; the Prophet is our leader; the Quran is our law; Jihad is our way; dying in the way of Allah is our highest hope".
Even dawa, the Islamic call to conversion, or proselytizing -- as explained by the Muslim Brotherhood's spiritual leader, Yusuf al-Qaradawi, host of one of Al Jazeera's most popular programs, Sharia and Life, which reaches an estimated 60 million viewers worldwide -- is an Islamic summons for the non-violent conquest of non-Muslim lands.
As Qaradawi told a Muslim Arab Youth Association convention in Toledo, Ohio, in 1995, "We will conquer Europe, we will conquer America! Not through sword but through Da'wa."
Sharia includes the end of free speech under "blasphemy laws"; the oppression of women, including women being worth half as much as a man in court and inheritance; polygamy, and the persecution of Jews (Qaradawi advocates killing all of them).
Qaradawi has explained in TV recordings how sharia also includes chopping off hands for theft, killing apostates and homosexuals, as well as beating women as a means of "disciplining" them.
According to a recent report by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), the MB recently launched a lobbying offensive in the United States to charm decision-makers in the Trump administration and Congress to give up on the Muslim Brotherhood Terrorist Designation Act of 2017, re-introduced on January 9, 2017, by Senator Ted Cruz.
According to the MEMRI report, the Muslim Brotherhood's lobbying efforts include:
"Launching a widespread informational media campaign, including the hiring of U.S. lobbying and legal firms, outreach to the press in the U.S., and dissemination of informational content aimed at improving its image in the West, particularly in the U.S." The purpose is "to convey that it is not a terrorist organization, but rather an ideological movement whose methods of operation are peaceful".
Human Rights Watch (HRW), an organization that is supposed to look out for victims of human rights abuses, not abusers of human rights, also jumped on that bandwagon. Human Rights Watch is begging US decision makers not to designate the Muslim Brotherhood -- who, if they had their way, would take away everyone's human rights and substitute them with sharia law -- a foreign terrorist organization.
The MEMRI report also cites former MB official Tareq Abu Al-Sa'ad's claim that, as part of its efforts to improve its image in the U.S., "the MB relies on specific American families who are members of the MB and have close ties to the U.S. administration... to contact human rights organizations to help improve its image in Washington".
Conveniently, Hamas -- which according to Article Two of its charter, "is one of the wings of Moslem Brotherhood in Palestine. The Moslem Brotherhood Movement is a universal organization which constitutes the largest Islamic movement in modern times..." -- is, it seems, working on a new charter which would declare that Hamas is not a part of the Muslim Brotherhood, despite always having been so.
That way, is the MB's "narrative" of newfound "nonviolence" suddenly supposed to become believable? The Muslim Brotherhood evidently considers the West filled with utter dupes, willing to take anything at face value that is served up to them. One can hardly blame them. The West has swallowed whole the propaganda of Islam as a "religion of peace". Why should the US not buy the equally false idea that the MB is a non-violent, pluralistic, social justice movement?
Also according to the MEMRI report: "On February 5, the Saudi website Elaph reported that the MB had signed a contract with an American lobbying firm, paying it $4.8 million to help it establish ties with Trump administration officials in order to improve its image in U.S. media.
According to the report, the contract included organizing meetings with Trump administration officials, submitting documents on Egyptian government mistreatment of the movement and its members, publishing articles in American media, and providing platforms for MB officials in the American print and TV media.
Elaph added that elements close to the Obama administration had helped the movement sign the contract with this firm, whose officials include figures close to Obama's election campaign and to Hillary Clinton. According to Elaph, the firm employs dozens of former White House and State Department staffers who have extensive ties to members of Congress and political and strategic research centers in the U.S".
Is anyone doing anything substantial to counter the Muslim Brotherhood's lobbying offensive in the United States?
(Human Rights Watch, an organization that is supposed to look out for victims of human rights abuses, not abusers of human rights is begging US decision makers not to designate the Muslim Brotherhood -- which, if it had its way, would take away everyone's human rights and substitute them with sharia law -- a foreign terrorist organization.
"Allah is our objective; the Prophet is our leader; the Quran is our law; Jihad is our way; dying in the way of Allah is our highest hope". — Muslim Brotherhood motto.