By Ryan Mauro
The British government is signaling that it may join the Arab coalition against the Muslim Brotherhood by announcing an investigation of the group spearheaded by the ambassador to Saudi Arabia. The Saudis joined Egypt in banning the Brotherhood as a terrorist group last month.
Prime Minister David Cameron said, “We want to challenge the extremist narrative that some Islamist organizations have put out.”
He explained that the British government would not focus only on “violent extremism,” but the ideologies driving it. That is a sharp difference from the U.S. government, which will not even say the word “Islamist” and has a narrow focus on violence.
A government spokesman frankly admitted that the British government believes its intelligence on the Brotherhood is lacking. He said, “The Muslim Brotherhood has risen in prominence in recent years but our understanding of the organization—its philosophy and values—has not kept pace with this.”
The MI5 domestic intelligence service will review Brotherhood activity in the U.K., where it has active offices. To date, British policy allows the Brotherhood to operate in the country without restriction, harboring leaders that fled Egypt.
The MI6 foreign intelligences service will review Brotherhood activity abroad, including whether it was involved in a bombing of a tourist bus in Egypt in February that killed three South Koreans. Ansar Jerusalem, a Salafist group even more radical than the Brotherhood,claimed responsibility.
The Brotherhood claims it is opposed to violence inside Egypt and is not involved in such acts, but Salafist supporters of the Brotherhood often are. Raymond Ibrahim has documented this Brotherhood game and translated transcripts of alleged phone calls between then-President Mohammed Morsi and the brother of Ayman al-Zawahiri regarding secret collaboration.
Meanwhile, the Brotherhood issued a thinly veiled threat that the response to a government probe might be terrorist attacks.
Egypt banned the Brotherhood as a terrorist group in September, followed by Saudi Arabia in March. The United Arab Emirates enthusiastically endorsed the bans and pledged its full cooperation. Bahrain then joined the coalition, calling the Brotherhood a “clear terrorist threat.” The coalition is putting severe pressure on Qatar for its stubborn support of the group.
Anonymous British officials say it is unlikely that the Brotherhood will be banned as a terrorist group, but Cameron’s language suggests that his government wants to take action against it for being an extremist group that incites violence. If Cameron does ban the Brotherhood as terrorists, he will be supported by former MI6 chief Sir Richard Dearlove who said it is “at heart a terrorist organization.”
The Muslim Brotherhood’s London office issued a statement that said it will contest any restrictions on its activity in court and that Sir John Jenkings, the ambassador to Saudi Arabia overseeing the review, will not be objective. It claimed it “does not engage in or promote acts of violence in order to achieve its aims,” a claim that is easily debunked by pointing to its Palestinian branch, Hamas.
The British review is part of a broader focus on the Islamist ideology, rather than just its violent adherents. Cameron said in December that the government would not be deterred by the political correctness surrounding the issue:
“I have been absolutely clear that this is not something we should be afraid to address for fear of cultural sensitivities. We have already put in place some of the toughest terrorism prevention controls in the democratic world, but we must work harder to defeat the radical views which lead some people to embrace violence.”
Cameron’s Extremism Taskforce’s final report concluded that the Islamist ideology, specifically that of the Muslim Brotherhood, is the core problem. The Islamist ideology was described as a “distinct ideology which should not be confused with traditional religious practice.” The teachings of Brotherhood cleric Sayyid Qutb were specifically mentioned.
The features of the Islamist ideology, according to the report, include pursuing a global Islamic state with sharia as state law; preaching that the West is at war with Islam; rejecting democracy and equality; the labeling of opposing Muslims as apostates; and a belief that one cannot be both a Muslim and British.
The governmental panel concluded that policy is flawed because of the false depiction that confronting Islamism is equivalent to confronting Islam. Ironically, it is the Islamists (especially in America) pushing this narrative. The report states:
“We have been too reticent about challenging extreme Islamist ideologies in the past, in part because of a misplaced concern that attacking Islamist extremism equates to an attack on Islam itself. This reticence, and the failure to confront extremists, has led to an environment conducive to radicalization in some mosques and Islamic centers, universities and prisons.”
The panel recommended a consideration of whether to ban groups based on anti-democratic ideologies and hate. It observed that, despite laws prohibiting the incitement of violence, Islamist radicals are still able to spread their dangerous ideology.
The British review of the Muslim Brotherhood is the opening salvo in a new offensive against the Islamist ideology. The United Kingdom is a mile ahead of the U.S. in recognizing the threat.