US House committee calls for designation of Muslim Brotherhood as ‘terrorist organisation’

Friday 04/03/2016
US House Judiciary Committee in session under the chairmanship of Representative Robert Goodlatte (R-Va.).

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”.