The UK is distinguished from the rest of European countries for being the first safe haven to the Brotherhood organization in Europe after tightening the noose on the Brotherhood in Egypt in the 1940s. Since the foundation of the Brotherhood group by Hassan El-Banna in 1928, the United Kingdom has embraced the group and its leadership, becoming a headquarters for the group and allowing its members to cross over to Europe through it.
The British government confirmed that any association with the Brotherhood should be considered a potential indicator for extremism; however, the group should not be classified as a terrorist organization and should not be banned. The British authorities recognized that the Brotherhood’s sectors have suspicious ties to extremism and support terrorism, in terms of the ideological agreement or due to the fact that the group is a “transit” for elements that join terrorist groups.
From the perspective of democracy, respect for the freedoms and political expression, Britain and Europe have welcomed the immigration of the Brotherhood and the rest of Islamist organizations. The British and European governments considered the Brotherhood and political Islamist groups, of all spectra and ideologies, a trump card to pressure the countries of the Middle East and to rally against the former Soviet Union.
The Brotherhood’s duality
The Brotherhood has a double face in the UK and European countries, showing itself as moderate and an advocate of peaceful coexistence, integration and maintenance of the democratic values and interfaith understanding on the one hand, but implicitly promoting its political objectives on the other. The Brotherhood organization tries to strengthen itself in European societies through social and economic projects and by exploiting refugee issues, schools and charities.
Luis de la Corte, a researcher at the Security Affairs Institute in the Autonomous University of Madrid, believes that the Muslim Brotherhood works through a dual strategy. It “is not only trying to build influence on religious basis, but also working so hard to gain influence over the political institutions and inside the ruling class”. The group depends on promoting the theory that it does not get freedom in its home countries, and is attracted to European societies embracing pluralism and freedom, as shown in a number of studies by European writers on the beginning of the Arab Spring.
British society’s view of the Brotherhood:
British intelligence documents have revealed a lot about Britain’s involvement with the Brotherhood organization since the 1940s. The British government has benefited a lot from the Brotherhood in Britain and abroad in order to create a business network that serves its interests in the region’s countries, as revealed in the Brotherhood in British Intelligence document.
The British government’s propaganda had, without any doubt, an impact on the acceptance of these groups. The Brotherhood’s duality and empowerment policy and the grievance in Britain might have assisted the Brotherhood in infiltrating into British society and, even more, getting closer to decision-making bodies.
The Brotherhood’s isolationism
Despite the endeavours of the Brotherhood to conceal its intentions that are not far away from the Salafi-jihadism’s intentions of Islamising European societies, the British society accuses the Brotherhood with isolationism and dualism. While advocating the modern democratic political system in Britain, the Brotherhood imposes its teachings on Islamic communities to the point of forming “Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice” groups.
A study by Valentina Colombo, a researcher, on “Islam in Europe” indicates that “Islamic work in Europe differs from the Arab world and has a completely independent organization. It is the Federation of Islamic Organizations in Europe (FIOE) that is registered in the European Union. The FIOE has a headquarters office in Brussels”. It quoted Ibrahim Munir as noting that there are Western organizations branching from the Muslim Brotherhood. Its main umbrella, which corresponds to the top of the pyramid, is the FIOE, whose main statements are published in the “Message of the Brotherhood”. The FIOE includes organizations established by individuals who have strong ties to the Brotherhood. In every Western country, these individuals have created a set of institutions that take on familiar local forms: human rights groups, religious institutions, research institutions, student unions, lobbying groups, etc.
British citizens consider that the Brotherhood has already succeeded in creating “isolationist” communities that have their own attitudes, traditions and customs, to the point of forming kindergarten and private schools on which their Islamic teachings are imposed.
In December 2019, a report of Egyptian Dar Al-Ifta’s Observatory of Takfiri Fatwas and Extremist Views stated that “the Brotherhood is working on spreading and expanding significantly in the Western societies by forming the so-called parallel entities to be an alternative to the state and society for its members, according to its founder’s will, Hassan El-Banna, to the Brotherhood members to create parallel societies in the West and seek to dominate decision-makers therein”. The report of the Observatory included details concerning the Brotherhood’s plan to proliferate in European societies by controlling them intellectually and penetrating their cultural and political institutions.
British citizens believe the danger of the Brotherhood is greater than Salafi-jihadism
According to European intelligence reports, British citizens believe that the danger of the Brotherhood is already greater than the danger of Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State. The risks of the Brotherhood are more than Salafi-jihadism, due to the Brotherhood’s support of that group through its advocacy activities and the provision of logistical support to those organizations in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya, along with recruitment and funding.
The Tony Blair Institute for Global Change has published a study showing the ideological overlap between the Muslim Brotherhood and the terrorist groups such as the Islamic State. Eman El-Badawy, director of Research Department in the Institute, said that “evidence clearly indicates a significant ideological overlap between the Islamist groups’ use of religious texts (such as the Brotherhood) and the terrorist violence used by the Islamic State and Al-Qaeda”.
European intelligence reports have accused the Islamic Relief and its branches in European capitals of supporting extremist groups. The Islamic Relief has engaged in funding Al-Qaeda’s training camps in Afghanistan and the work and coordination with Somali Al-Shabaab group. That might be evidenced by media reports that revealed the operations of recruiting and attracting to extremist groups and the recruitment of youth and girls from Britain.
The Brotherhood in Britain and its relationship with extremist Islamist groups
The UK Charity Commission started investigating Islamic Relief’s promotion of extremist preachers. The Middle East Forum (MEF), a research center in Philadelphia, released a report intensively looking into Islamic Relief’s activities, branches, relationship with the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas, the extremism of its officials and its promotion of preachers who incite hatred against it.
The Islamic Relief in the UK has provided funds, for example, to Al-Falah Benevolent Society which is Hamas’ advocacy organization, headed by Ramadan Tanboura. Meanwhile, Islamic Relief Worldwide (IRW) is still financially associated with other organizations affiliated with terrorism, including the fronts of the Qatari regime, such as Qatar Charity.
Erin Marie Saltman, a researcher at the British Quilliam Foundation, says that the idea of generalizing the extremism reasons is a misguided idea. Despite the fact that the youth of second- and third-generation Muslim immigrants are often the most targeted for recruitment by terrorist organization. People who have converted to Islam recently are also targeted. The researcher explains that “people recruited for these organization usually feel special in a world where making a fortune seems to them impossible. The extremist groups exploit such a sense of hopelessness to achieve its objectives by convincing those youth of joining strong groups ─ associating their image with an adventure to change the world”.
A native UK citizen considers that British citizens of foreign origin are not British, but they hold the citizenship. This is an indication that a large portion of British citizens still considers British citizens of foreign origins do not belong to British society as much as they belong to their mother country, even if they are third- or fourth-generation immigrants.
A study by Bertelsmann Stiftung, a German institute, showed that the integration of Muslim immigrants has made real progress in Germany, France, the UK, Switzerland and Austria despite the obstacles they encounter in education and employment. The institute stated that “the integration has taken place in the second-generation of the majority of Muslim immigrants at most”, according to a statement in which it announced a study that included 1,000 people as a sample, besides another 500 people saying that they are Muslims from the mentioned countries.
European values threatened by the Brotherhood
European governments have been tolerant in their reception of Muslim Brotherhood members and loyalists. Thus, European governments must tighten the noose and be more careful in receiving anyone who has a relationship with the Muslim Brotherhood. The European governments are bound to surpass the idea of “Human Rights and Freedoms” depending upon circumstances and for security purposes, particularly with regard to granting who are sympathetic to the Brotherhood the accreditation and permission to open mosques and establish associations and organizations to be a cover for them in order to infiltrate into Europe, due to the fact that this group exploits the idea of “Human Rights and Freedoms” to elicit sympathy and implement its agenda.
France has realised the danger of the Brotherhood and institutions associated thereto. The wave of extremism in France has recently increased, leading the French authorities to implement plans and strategies with a view to combating extremism and terrorism in French society, through enacting laws and formulating actions to provide security against various forms of extremism and terrorism.
This draft law is one of the largest legal texts in Macron’s term, consists of 54 articles and aims at combating Islamist extremism and terrorism. 20 Minutes, a French newspaper, believes that the government is moving forward with caution and firmness to adopt this law, especially that its name has been changed from the Islamist isolationism to the law of strengthening Republican values. The newspaper stated that President Macron has revealed the broad outlines of the law last October, after the killing of Samuel Paty, a history teacher, and the terrorist attack in Nice. The authorities want the text to be balanced and to include dissuasive measures provided for the French society’s cohesion.
Law of strengthening Republican values
What about Britain?
Why didn’t the UK classify the Brotherhood as a terrorist organization? The relationship between the UK and the Brotherhood spans for decades. The British intelligence has revealed that the Brotherhood is its trump card. There are two reasons why the UK did not place the Brotherhood on the terrorist list.
First: The Brotherhood is a card to pressure Arab governments, in particular Egypt.
Second: European countries, in particular Britain, is worried that the designation of the Brotherhood on the terrorist list may lead to secret terrorist operations against UK interests, either in Britain or abroad, carried out by the Brotherhood in response to that designation, which means that there are British and European fears of placing the Brotherhood on the terrorist list.
After Paris has taken a series of rapid actions to combat extremism and eliminate the political Islamist activities, especially the Muslim Brotherhood, British reports indicate that the government started reviewing the Brotherhood’s activities and examining the cultural and religious associations and centers in Britain.
The expectations, or perhaps the wishes, have been heightened that Britain could follow in France’s footsteps, particularly when it comes to controlling capital and external financing and banning many private schools and mosques that advocate extremism. It is critical that the Brotherhood should be kept away from decision-making bodies, especially in the areas of research and studies and advisory roles for British institutions.