US House committee calls for designation of Muslim Brotherhood as ‘terrorist organisation’
Washington - The US House of Representatives Judiciary Committee has advanced a bill that calls for the US State Department to designate the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organisation.
The bill quotes extensively from Brotherhood founder Hassan al- Banna’s book “The Way of Jihad,” in which Banna writes that the goal of the organisation is to “to impose [Islamic] law on nations and to extend its power to the entire planet”. The State Department, the bill said, “should exercise the Secretary of State’s statutory authority by designating the Muslim Brotherhood as a foreign terrorist organisation”.
Although an identical measure has been introduced in the US Senate, the bill is unlikely to become law.
The legislation, advanced February 23rd on a 17-10 party-line vote, was introduced by Representative Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.) and quickly received the support of 30 other members of Congress, 29 of whom are Republicans.
Judiciary Committee Chairman Robert Goodlatte (R-Va.) said he was troubled that the State Department had not designated the Brotherhood as a terrorist organisation. Doing so, he said, would “make it less likely that the Muslim Brotherhood will be able to further infiltrate the United States”.
Several Democrats, including Representative John Conyers of Michigan, accused the committee of acting “without any real consideration of the facts”. The committee voted without having any hearings on the bill or requesting any briefings from the State Department.
Congress does not have the power to place an organisation on the terrorist list, which is maintained by the State Department, so the legislation is limited to urging the department to do so. However, the bill requires the secretary of State to send a report to Congress within 60 days of the bill’s becoming law that either designates the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist group or explains why the organisation does not meet the criteria for being placed on the terrorist list.
The bill would next be voted on by the entire House of Representatives, where it most likely would pass given that Republicans enjoy a majority and a small number of Democrats probably would support the bill as well. The House has yet to schedule a vote on the bill.
The bill would then be sent for approval to the US Senate, where an identical measure has been introduced by US Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas). Cruz’s bill has only two supporters, which is a reflection of the fact that Cruz, who is seeking the Republican nomination for presidential elections, is not personally popular with his colleagues.
If approved by the Senate, the bill would be sent to the White House where US President Barack Obama almost certainly would veto it. Presidents of either party do not like Congress encroaching on what they see as executive branch powers and State Department officials would be annoyed at having to prepare another politically sensitive report to Congress. Because a presidential veto may only be overturned by a two-thirds majority vote in both houses of Congress, the safest bet is that the bill never will become law.
Although some individual members of the Brotherhood and several of its charities have been listed as terrorists, the Obama administration has refrained from designating the entire organisation as a terror group. In a February 25th hearing before the House Foreign Affairs Committee, US Secretary of State John Kerry said the administration carefully assesses the Brotherhood’s status and has determined that “writ large, [it] is not a terrorist organisation”.
US-based non-governmental organisations that support the Brotherhood were quick to speak out against the Judiciary Committee’s action. The Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy (CSID) distributed a letter from John Esposito, professor of Islamic Studies at Georgetown University, who described the Muslim Brotherhood as “a force for democratisation and stability in the Middle East”.
The Brotherhood has been declared a terrorist group by several US allies, including Egypt, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, as well as by Russia.
After an official review, Britain decided in December not to include the Brotherhood on its terrorist list but British Prime Minister David Cameron said “the review supports the conclusion that membership of, association with or influence by the Muslim Brotherhood should be considered as a possible indicator of extremism”.
The organisation’s “relationship with violent extremism”, Cameron added, “is highly ambiguous”.