Banning Muslim Brotherhood different from targeting members
Washington - An internationally renowned expert on the Muslim Brotherhood has raised questions about possible US initiatives aimed at designating the oldest and biggest movement of political Islam a terrorist group, although, he said, the organisation was “prepared to countenance violence”.
Sir John Jenkins, a former British diplomat in the Middle East, told The Arab Weekly that efforts to go after the Brotherhood itself, rather than individual members or subgroups, lacked concrete focus because there was no central structure of the transnational movement that could be targeted.
Several US allies in the Middle East, including Egypt, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, have outlawed the Brotherhood. The Trump administration is reportedly working on a similar decision. Advocates of a ban, such as US Senator Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Representative Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Florida, argue that the movement meets the criteria of a “foreign terrorist organisation”.
Jenkins, however, said it was unclear exactly which individuals and entities would be the focus of such a step. Speaking following a panel discussion on the issue in Washington, Jenkins said the Brotherhood did not constitute a unified group that could serve as a target for a ban.
Jenkins, executive director of the Bahrain-based International Institute for Strategic Studies-Middle East, led a policy review for the British government on the Muslim Brotherhood and political Islam in 2014 and 2015. He said the Brotherhood followed a “revolutionary” ideology but that its branches have developed differently in different countries.
As a result, Jenkins argued that, while groups or individuals connected to the Brotherhood network can be prosecuted for illegal acts by authorities in the West, the same was not true for the movement itself. In most cases, the legal framework necessary to move against individual players was already in place, he said. Jenkins warned that any move to ban the Brotherhood had to be carefully crafted because it would inevitably be challenged in court.
One of the difficult issues surrounding the Brotherhood is its view of the use of violence as a means for ideological ends. In his policy review, Jenkins concluded that “for the most part, the Muslim Brotherhood [has] preferred non-violent incremental change”. But he added that it was “prepared to countenance violence — including, from time to time, terrorism — where gradualism is ineffective”.