Home and abroad: Closing in on the Muslim Brotherhood

Gamal Essam El-Din , Sunday 13 Dec 2020

While some US senators are moving to label the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organisation in America, two businessmen were arrested in Egypt for allegedly funding terrorism

Closing in on the MBs
Closing in on the MBs

US Senator Ted Cruz, a member of the Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee, announced on 2 December that he decided to reintroduce the Muslim Brotherhood Terrorist Designation Act, a 2015 bill that urges the US State Department to use its legal powers to label the Muslim Brotherhood as a Foreign Terrorist Organisation (FTO).

Cruz said his bill requires the US State Department to report to Congress about whether the Muslim Brotherhood meets the legal criteria for FTO designation. Cruz, a senator representing the state of Texas, said his colleagues, senators Jim Inhofe, Ron Johnson, and Pat Roberts, have co-sponsored the bill.

“I am proud to reintroduce this bill and to advance America’s fight against radical Islamic terrorism. I commend the current administration of President Donald Trump’s work calling terrorism by its name and combating the spread of this potent threat, and I look forward to receiving additional information this new bill requests from the Department of State,” Cruz said.

According to Cruz, “many of the US’ closest allies in the Arab world have long ago concluded that the Muslim Brotherhood is a terrorist group that seeks to sow chaos across the Middle East, and I will continue working with my colleagues to take action against groups that finance terrorism.”

“Since the founding of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, Brotherhood-affiliated groups have consistently preached and incited hatred against Christians, Jews, and other Muslims while supporting designated radical terrorists,” Inhofe said.“I am proud that under the Trump administration we continue to call out and combat radical terrorism and I am glad to join my colleagues today in introducing this legislation. We must continue to condemn FTOs and hold them accountable for the evil they perpetrate.”

Cruz said he first introduced the Muslim Brotherhood Terrorist Designation Act in 2015 and reintroduced the bill in 2017.

In early 2017, an Egyptian parliamentary delegation led by MP and businessman Mohamed Al-Sewidi visited the United States and met with Cruz. Al-Sewiditold reporters that the delegation highly praised Cruz for his “courageous attempts” to convince the White House and the US State Department todesignate the Muslim Brotherhood an FTO.

“We told Senator Cruz we are ready to provide him with all the documents necessary to support his case against the Muslim Brotherhood,” Al-Sewidi said.

One of the reasons that prompted Cruz to designate the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organisationisthat the US government designated the Holy Land Foundation (HLF), a Texas-based Muslim charity group, as a “Specially Designated Global Terrorist Organisation”. Cruz has repeatedly accused the HLF of money laundering, funding and providing material support to Hamas and working as a front for this Palestinian militant organisation and the Muslim Brotherhood.

In 2019, several congressmen, including Cruz, called upon Trump to take further steps towards branding the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist group. Senator Majority Leader Louie Gohmert of Texas affirmed the importance of listing the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organisation, accusing the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) of destroying documents during the presidency of Barack Obama due to the infiltration of Muslim Brotherhood elements into his administration.

American newspapers, particularly The New York Times, disclosed in April 2019 that following a visit to the White House, Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi urged Trump to criminalise the Muslim Brotherhood and place it on terrorist watch lists. Trump, who called the Brotherhood a “radical movement” during his presidential election campaign in 2016, has so far stopped short of declaring the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organisation.

HishamAl-Naggar, a political Islam researcher, said inthe daily ArabicAl-Ahramon 30 November that once news was leaked that Trump might move to classify the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organisation, he faced a campaign from the US leftist media intimidating him from doing so.“

While some newspapers claimed the classification would hurt America’s relations with many countries, like Turkey, which has a strong Muslim Brotherhood presence, others said the decision would represent an aggression against American civil liberties and feed into the Islamophobia industry,” Al-Naggar said.

He argued that “there is a kind of holy alliance between Islamist extremist institutions and the radical left in America as both are trying their best to show the Muslim Brotherhood as a moderate movement that renounced violence a long time ago and that stands against autocratic rulers. Let us also recall that the Muslim Brotherhood always exploits freedoms in Western societies to spread there and use charity organisations as a front to penetrate communities and become a critical mass.”

Abdel-Rehim Ali, an independent MP and a political Islam researcher, told Al-Ahram Weekly that the Muslim Brotherhood has a strong presence in the US and Europe. “This organisation is the leader of political Islam movements that aim to fight secularism in Western society,” said Ali, adding that the grand project of the Muslim Brotherhood is to Islamicise the entire world, targeting countries like France and the US in particular. “It resorts to victimhood and Islamophobia theories to fight any attempts to designate it a terrorist organisation,” Ali said.

Egypt designated the Brotherhood a terrorist organisation in 2013, months after the ouster of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi following mass protests and the staging of several terrorist attacks on security buildings. Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Russia and Belgium followed suit in 2014 and 2020.

Meanwhile, Egyptian prosecution authorities this week took a number of measures aiming at drying up the sources of funding of the Muslim Brotherhood.

On Saturday, Juhayna Food Industries Company Chairman Safwan Thabet was ordered detained for 15 days pending investigations on charges of allegedly joining and funding a terrorist organisation, mainly the Muslim Brotherhood.

A judicial committee formed by the Justice Ministry had seized Thabet’s funds in 2015 on allegations that he had ties to the banned Muslim Brotherhood.

Some press reports said on Sunday that the judicial committee in charge of supervising the confiscated money of Muslim Brotherhood assetsdiscovered that Thabet was involved in donating money to the Muslim Brotherhood and its armed wings to buy weapons and receive training.

Facing similar charges is Al-Tawheed and Al-Nourchain stores owner SayedAl-Sewerki who was arrested Saturday and ordered detained 15 days pending investigations for allegedly financing a terrorist group. Al-Sewerki was sentenced in 2003 to three years in prison on polygamy charges.He was convicted of having five wives simultaneously and falsifying divorce and marriage documents.

In January 2015, Giza’s Misdemeanor Court acquitted Al-Sewerkiof the charge of “insulting the Egyptian flag”, as shoes bearing the flag were sold in his chain of stores.

A TV talk show said on Saturday that questioningthe Muslim Brotherhood’s former acting supreme guide Mahmoud Ezzat showed that he admitted that the group had received money and donations from Al-Sewerki.

According to security sources, Al-Sewerkiwill appear before investigators in the coming hours.

Ezzat’s trial opened in Cairo on Monday. He faces charges of joining a terrorist organisation, masterminding terrorist attacks, and possessing unlicensed weapons and ammunition. Prosecution authorities said Ezzat’s most serious chargeis leading a number of violent attacks against protesters in Al-Moqattam district in 2013, leaving nine dead and 91 injured.

On Sunday, security forces arrested Khaled Al-Azhari, a former minister of labour. He was placed in custody 15 days pendinginvestigation into charges related to joining the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood and funding terrorist crimes. Al-Azhari was a former minister of labour under the Muslim Brotherhood between August 2012 and July 2013.

*A version of this article appears in print in the 10 December, 2020 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.

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