Establishing international franchises was the key strategy that enabled the cancerous spread of the terrorist-designated Muslim Brotherhood group for nearly 93 years since its inception in 1928. Some countries were more welcoming to the Brotherhood’s activities than others and there is no country more welcoming to the group’s activity than the United Kingdom.
With an estimated number of at least 25000 Islamist residing in United Kingdom according to European Union counter-terrorism coordinator Gilles de Kerchove statements in 2017, UK Islamists presence is higher than any other country in the European continent. London became known by French intelligence and counter-terrorism experts as “Londonistan”
UK was deemed as a fertile ground for the Muslim Brotherhood to flourish and expand. The Muslim Brotherhood has faced many investigations and scrutiny about their radical and terrorist activities in Britain and worldwide last of which was in 2020. But they were always destined to be shelved despite the knowledge of the British government and intelligence of the activities. The British government with ties extended to the early days of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt has always believed in the importance of keeping links with the terrorist group as a political bargaining chip to be used when needed.
The growing importance of the Brotherhood chapter in the United Kingdom now lies in the fact that the group’s new Acting General guide Ibrahim Munir, 83 is residing in the United Kingdom now. His appointment followed the arrest of the notorious mastermind former Acting General Guide Mahmoud Ezzat in Egypt last Aug 28. 2020. The arrest which was a major blow to the group’s activities in the country and worldwide given Ezzat’s organizational capabilities forced the group to choose an acting General Guide residing outside of Egypt for the first time in its nine-decade old history.
Ibrahim Munir is the man who kept the Muslim Brotherhood global operations alive intact following the overthrow of Islamist President Mohamed Morsi from power after the June 30th 2013 revolution in Egypt and the banning of the group in December of the same year. The ban followed the arrests of its former General Guides Mohamed Badie and his predecessor Mahdi Akef. The Ban in Egypt was followed by a ban in a number of Arab states including United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain in 2014 and in Jordan in 2020. As a result, the Brotherhood was left in a tight spot as the ban was was followed by requests and pressures on the UK by Egypt , Saudi Arabia and UAE on UK to follow suit. But the British government and parliament chose the path of keeping their options open and retaining the Muslim Brotherhood presence in the country despite the incessant terrorist attacks and proliferated radicalism in the country throughout the last decade.
Munir usually portrays himself as the calm and diplomatic face of the group in Britain who keeps a low profile. Yet he has established ties to many political circles in the UK. He once told a British Parliament committee that investigated the Muslim Brotherhood that the Sharia laws the group advocates, tolerate apostates, but that statement contradicts the beliefs and teachings of Brotherhood founder Hassan al-Banna. That said, he couldn’t hide his true nature during the course of investigations in 2014 launched by former Prime Minister David Cameron’s government on the Brotherhood’s activities in the country and worldwide. The report was called the “Jenkins report” as it was supervised by former British Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Sir John Jenkins. Jenkins met Munir Jenkins and it has been reported that Mounir threatened to take legal measures if the review condemned or casted the Brotherhood in a negative light.
Furthermore, Mounir implicitly threatened of violence and terrorism in the country that if the review resulted in the ban of the group in UK. He claimed that Muslim communities would feel marginalized and it would open doors for possible violence.
Furthermore, Munir supervises the London-based IkhwanWeb online outlet which conveys the group’s official messages and communiqués to public. The main aim of the web is to create a civilized portrayal of the otherwise terrorist group to the western readers and politicians. A glance at the Muslim Brotherhood Arabic language website Ikhwanonline is a far-cry from what is presented in the English language website of the group.
The stark differences in messages between those addressed to western audiences which include words such as democracy, freedom and justice are different from the ones addressed to the radicalized followers of the group in Arabic which mostly focuses on avenging the fallen group members and calling out for violence and new riots in Egypt. The classical victimization tactics of the brotherhood are blatantly manifested in the difference between the contents of both websites.
In 2019, the diplomatic tenure of Munir fell out of favour with the terrorist group youth who accused him of neglecting the group’s younger members who are imprisoned in Egypt after court convictions of terrorism. He stated in an interview with Qatari Al Jazeera news network on Aug 2019 “We did not put them in jail and did not force them to join the Muslim Brotherhood,” he told Al Jazeera. “Those who want to disown the Brotherhood should do so,” saying they have been given the “Nasser’s License.” Nasser’s License was a permission granted by the group leaders to the incarcerated members during the rule of President Gamal Abdel Nasser, to declare that they disavow the Brotherhood publicly. In most cases, it was simply an act by the group members back then to be released from prison and dropping charges against them of joining a terrorist group.
Munir’s statement caused a ripple effect in the ranks of the group and even resulted in some defections from and rejection to his leadership after was appointed as Acting General Guide later in 2020. Despite, his efforts in maintaining the group’s organizational hierarchy, Munir’s leadership has been a source of ridicule and discontent from the group’s leaders and especially the younger members who believe that he is attempting to rule the group from an Ivory tower in London and is never involved in the group activities in the Middle East.
Muslim Brotherhood British Franchises
The Muslim Brotherhood operates several groups and franchises from the United Kingdom. One their most famous offshoot groups are Islamic Relief charity group which has been designated as a terrorist group by the United Arab Emirates in 2014. The group founded by Hany El-Banna has been accused of funneling funds to terrorist activities under the guise of charity. El-Banna radical stances are manifested time and again as he labeled the persecuted Yazidi people who faced a genocide on the hands of the Islamic State ISIS as “Devil Worshippers”
The scandals of Islamic Relief didn’t stop there, as former chief executive Tayeb Abdoun, resigned after posting anti-Semitic remarks on social media and publishing his support for the Muslim Brotherhood and even quoting the founder of Al Qaeda Osama Bin Laden. Similarly, in July 2020 IRW trustee and director Heshmat Khalifa quit the board after being challenged about social media posts labeling Jews the “grandchildren of monkeys and pigs” and expressing contempt Egypt’s president.
According to IRW accounts IRW received £565,000 ($749,000) in 2019 and £1,082,000 in 2018 from Qatar Charity. Qatar Charity is an organization closely linked to Muslim Brotherhood leader and radical ideologue Yusuf Al-Qaradawi who resides in Qatar.
Munir activities in UK are extensive and through his so called “Anti-Coup alliance” through which they claim that June 30th 2013 revolution massive revolution was a coup that targeted the late Islamist President Mohamed Morsi.
Moreover, as per the Muslim Brotherhood modus operandi to create as many franchises as possible in one country that all follow the same leadership and agenda, the Brotherhood created the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), an umbrella organization that supervises over 500 mosques in Britain. This is considered one of the most powerful Muslim Brotherhood’s tools in the United Kingdom. Through, the group manages to influence mainstream Muslims and appropriating the Islamic faith in Britain while promoting the group’s agenda. Despite denying being part or being affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood, the MCB is an integral part of the brotherhood expansionist plan in Britain.
MCB is among the most vocal Muslim Brotherhood organizations in the United Kingdom. The group was consulted by the British consecutive governments in matters regarding Muslim in Britain. Similar to their American counterparts Council on American Islamic relations which is affiliated as well to the Muslim Brotherhood, they attempted to falsely present themselves as the voice for British Muslims regarding of their origins. The group couldn’t hide their radical stances especially in their interpretations of Shari’a laws that governs social affairs such as marriages.
For instance in 2008, MCB strongly denounced a proposed Islamic wedding contract that enables the women to initiate divorce on equal terms and prevent men from polygamy. This contract was presented the Muslim Institute. Despite the fact that no the British governments no longer rely on MCB as their sole source on Islamic affairs, the group continues to attempt to hijack the Muslim voice in Britain while masking themselves as moderates. It is the same group that vehemently defended radical Brotherhood ideologue Yusuf al-Qardawi and criticized the British governments from banning him from visiting the United Kingdom.
MCB is not alone in the field but the Brotherhood’s franchises include Islamic Human Rights Council (IHRC), Muslim Engagement and Development (MEND), Federation of Student Islamic Societies and Cage.
Moreover, The United Kingdom was the country of choice to prominent Muslim Brotherhood fugitives and exiles such the Tunisian Ennahda founder and leader and current Tunisia speaker of the house Rachid al- Ghannouchi. Al-Ghannouchi spent 22 years in exile and returned to Tunisia only after the ousting of former president Zine El Abdine Bin Ali in 2011. The current acting Muslim Brotherhood was granted asylum in the United Kingdom in the 1980s following his allegations that he received death threats from Egyptian security back then.
The British chapter of the Muslim Brotherhood preserved ties with their Turkish counterparts for decades. Turkish Islamist President Recep Tayyib Erdogan has cemented ties with the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood worldwide. His political advisor Yassin Aktay once said “The Muslim Brotherhood represents Turkey’s soft power,” and indeed the Turkish government spared no efforts and expenses to support, host and finance the group especially since it was ousted in Egypt and banned in the likes of United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain. There are over 20,000 Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood members living in Turkey at the moment which represents almost two thirds of the number of Egyptians reported to live in the country.
Ibrahim Munir along with Muslim Brotherhood leaders such as former General Guides Mahdi Akef, Mahmoud Ezzat along with the likes of Saad El-Katatni and chief finanicer Yusuf Nada visited Turkey in March 2011 to attend the funeral of Turkish Muslim Brotherhood’s leader and former Prime Minister Necmettin Erbakan. Erabakan was instrumental in the proliferation of the group in the country which paved the way to the eventual domination of the Muslim Brotherhood’s AKP party in the Turkish political spectrum for over two decades.
At the moment, Britain remains the most stable stronghold for the Muslim Brotherhood Global. The Brexit and the British laws may be an incentive for the group to expand further in the country especially now the country is free from the European Union security guidelines which have seen countries such as France, Austria, and Netherlands and Belgium cracking down on the Muslim Brotherhood and Islamist groups. The aforementioned European countries have taken actions against the group in the past two years due to the continued terrorist attacks and rising levels of extremism all of which the Muslim Brotherhood presence have greatly contributed to. But that is not exactly the case in Britain where Islamists and especially the Muslim Brotherhood manage to successfully mask themselves peace-loving activists and persecuted opposition who seek asylum in Britain.