US Congress debates the Muslim Brotherhood’s ‘global threat’

The State Department designates only some Muslim Brotherhood affiliates, such as Hamas, as terrorist groups.
Sunday 15/07/2018
Clear departure. US Representative Ron DeSantis, a Republican from Florida, speaks during in Washington. (AFP)
Clear departure. US Representative Ron DeSantis, a Republican from Florida, speaks during in Washington. (AFP)

WASHINGTON - The Muslim Brotherhood has come again under attack from conservative US lawmakers who want the entire group designated by the US government as a terrorist organisation.

At a July 11 hearing titled “The Muslim Brotherhood’s Global Threat,” US Republican congressman Ron DeSantis cited the Muslim Brotherhood’s “jihadist ideology” when he suggested the US State Department should label the entire organisation a foreign terrorist group and subject it to sanctions.

“The Muslim Brotherhood has been militant from its very beginning,” DeSantis said, recalling the organisation’s founding in Egypt in 1928, expansion into 70 countries and its leaders’ calls for jihad, support of sharia and suspected involvement in terrorism. “It is clear that the Brotherhood constitutes a real threat to the US and its national security interests.”

DeSantis is among 76 Republican House members sponsoring “The Muslim Brotherhood Terrorist Designation Act,” which urges the US State Department to expand its list of foreign terrorist organisations to include the entire brotherhood. An identical bill in the Senate has four Republican sponsors.

The State Department designates only some Muslim Brotherhood affiliates, such as Hamas, as terrorist groups. With both the House and Senate bills stalled since they were introduced in early 2017, DeSantis convened experts who warned about the Brotherhood.

“No group embodies the threat of radical Islam more than the Muslim Brotherhood,” said M. Zuhdi Jasser, president of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy. “Making the Muslim Brotherhood radioactive would allow the light to shine upon their most potent antagonists in Muslim communities.”

The effort to label the Brotherhood a terrorist group drew opposition from a Democratic leader at the hearing and a counterterrorism adviser to former US President Barack Obama. Daniel Benjamin said Brotherhood affiliates are legitimate political organisations in countries such as Jordan, Tunisia and Morocco.

In clear departure from the attitude of the Obama administration, figures in the Trump White House, supported by conservatives in Congress, have been very critical of the Muslim Brotherhood. The resumption of the congressional debate about banning the movement is expected to have ripple effects in North Africa and the Middle East.

1