London at the centre of Muslim Brotherhood rehabilitation attempts

Questions are being asked about what role London is playing in hosting organisations that potentially threaten the security of Middle Eastern countries.
Sunday 10/06/2018
A file picture shows Egyptian Revolutionary Council leader Maha Azzam attending a news conference in London. (AFP)
A file picture shows Egyptian Revolutionary Council leader Maha Azzam attending a news conference in London. (AFP)

LONDON - London has had a vibrant community of political exiles from across the world. However, questions are being asked about what role the British capital is playing in hosting organisations that potentially threaten the security and stability of Middle Eastern countries, including some of Britain’s closest allies.

Organisations with suspected ties to the Muslim Brotherhood have been using London as a base seeking to rehabilitate the group’s image. This is raising concern in many Arab capitals among people who fear a resurgence of the Islamist group.

The Cordoba Foundation had an event June 7 in London under the banner “Muslim Brotherhood in the Middle East: Between Revolution, Democratic Transition and New Realities.”

The group, which describes itself as an “independent strategic think-tank,” has been called a front of the Muslim Brotherhood by former British Prime Minister David Cameron and the United Arab Emirates listed it as a terrorist group in 2014.

The meeting was hosted by Cordoba Foundation CEO Anas al-Tikriti, who previously was president of the Muslim Association of Britain, another group with reported Brotherhood ties.

The meeting was attended by a variety of activists and academics, including Egyptian Revolutionary Council leader Maha Azzam and Azzam al-Tamimi, a member of the Hamas politburo.

Maha Azzam, who took pains to clarify that she was speaking in her position as head of the Egyptian Revolutionary Council, specifically criticised the European Union and the United States during her comments, accusing them of “colluding” against the Muslim Brotherhood. The Egyptian Revolutionary Council has also been designated as a terrorist group by Egypt.

She focused on Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, leading allies of the United Kingdom and Europe in the fight against terrorism. “Saudi Arabia and the UAE are colluding with friends in the West to demonise the Muslim Brotherhood,” she said. “The public is being sold a lie.”

Tamimi, who is chairman of Al-Hiwar TV, which is based in London, echoed similar complaints about a campaign against the Brotherhood.

“Until the coup, there were excellent contacts between the [British] government and the Muslim Brotherhood,” he said, in reference to the 2013 ouster of Islamist President Muhammad Morsi.

Tamimi particularly criticised British Prime Minister Theresa May for supporting the current Egyptian government.

An inquiry into the Muslim Brotherhood by the British government in 2015 — known as the Jenkins report — acknowledged that the Muslim Brotherhood was willing to use violence and terror in pursuit of long-term goals but stopped short of calling for an outright ban of the group in the United Kingdom.

“Much about the Muslim Brotherhood in the United Kingdom remains secretive, including membership, fund raising and educational programmes… Though their domestic influence has declined, organisations associated with the Muslim Brotherhood continue to have an influence here which is disproportionate to their size,” the report said.

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