News Desk |
Washington is considering blacklisting the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organisation, but experts warn the move would risk radicalising its members and further destabilising the Arab world. A grassroots Islamist movement with affiliates in several countries including Turkey´s ruling AKP party and Tunisia´s Ennahda, it said that it officially renounces violence.
Placing the movement on Washington´s list of foreign terrorist organisations (FTOs) would ban its members from entering the United States and make it a crime for any American to assist the group. Abdelrahman Ayyash, a researcher on Islamist movements, warned that the decision could escalate repression of the Brotherhood in Egypt and push its adherents towards more hardline groups.
“It would end up adding… more extremists to ISIS-like groups,” he said, using an alternative acronym for the Islamic State group. Founded by Egyptian scholar and schoolteacher Hassan al-Banna in 1928 as an Islamic charity and political movement, the Society of the Muslim Brothers grew rapidly, spawning offshoots from Morocco to Turkey, many of which are active today.
Despite repeated crackdowns over the decades, it remained a major political actor in Egypt (despite long being banned), before taking power for the first time in a 2012 election after president Hosni Mubarak was deposed the previous year. But after the army´s 2013 toppling of Mubarak´s successor Mohamed Morsi, the country´s first elected civilian president and a Brotherhood official, Cairo once more banned the movement and declared it a terror group.
The month after the Islamist president´s ouster, security forces broke up two pro-Morsi protest camps in Cairo, killing at least 700 people. President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi´s government has since executed dozens of Brotherhood members and imprisoned thousands.
Sisi, who met President Donald Trump in April, reportedly urged him to blacklist the group. The White House announced on Tuesday that the designation was “working its way through the internal process”.
The move would allow US officials to impose sanctions on any person or organisation with links to it. But Fawaz Gerges, a political science professor at the London School of Economics, said that while the move would isolate the Brotherhood, it would ultimately adapt.
“The movement´s dominant narrative celebrates the pain and sacrifice of their members as part of their political DNA,” he said. That echoes the experience of one of the Brotherhood´s key figures, Sayyid Qutb. The American-educated Egyptian religious scholar was jailed under President Gamal Abdul Nasser in the 1960s. He became increasingly hardline in
prison. The Brotherhood remains a diverse movement with a presence in many countries, according to Yehia Hamed, a Brotherhood member who was investment minister in Morsi´s government. He warned that blacklisting the movement could drive Muslim Brotherhood members to join the ranks of groups such as Al-Qaeda and IS.
“They will go to the young members and say: ´you are peaceful — and still you are labelled a terrorist´,” he said. Hamed said he was planning to sue Trump as he would be personally affected by the blacklisting.