The Muslim Brotherhood in Britain adopts a relatively old approach that was unveiled in the document written by prominent Brotherhood leader Muhammad Akram, titled “Towards a global strategy for Islamic policy: Assumptions, elements, procedures, and duties”. This approach aims at achieving the general goal of creating a parallel social entity competitive with other entities of European society, its principles, and values through a tactical maneuver – integrating into the European society, asserting the democratic rhetoric, and gradually winning control over political trends. Fulfilling this goal depends on the sustained capacity-building of the force needed for the Islamic propagation and an uneven support for the jihadist movements across the Islamic world. Made clear in the document, this maneuver is established on the doctrine of “jurisprudence of minorities” (Fiqh Al-Aqalliyyat), i.e. identifying with the larger community while maintaining the Islamic identity.
Britain has accepted the Brotherhood since the establishment of their society in Egypt and opened its doors for the Brotherhood’s escapees in the 1950s. The UK has been the Brotherhood’s sought-after treasure, serving as a model for infiltration of European societies. For whatever motives Britain had backed the Muslim Brotherhood – whether convinced as is claimed or seeking political exploitation of them – it offered the Brotherhood an opportunity to establish existence, grow, and influence the British community, a stepping stone the Brotherhood built upon to move on to neighboring European countries and promote their strength in the West.
In a press conference in 2008, the Mayor of London Ken Livingston said “We have good relations with the Muslim Brotherhood – the largest Islamic movement – and the movement has been receiving funds from the British Foreign Office since its inception”, a statement that wasn’t surprising nor shocking to any researcher or observer of the Muslim Brotherhood. In 2010, Robert Dreyfuss in his book “Devil’s Game”, analyzed the Britain-Brotherhood relationship stating that, “To get the Muslim Brotherhood off the ground, the Suez Canal Company helped Al-Banna build the mosque in Ismailia that would serve as its headquarters and base of operations and [it] has been supported for a quarter of a century by British diplomats and intelligence officers.” But has the British support to the Muslim Brotherhood stopped with Britain leaving Egypt? The direct answer is “no,” recognizing that London is a second capital for them after Cairo. If Egypt is the Brotherhood’s country of origin, Britain offers them protection and an alternative homeland, some specialists remarked.
Several publications spoke extensively about the powerful existence of the Brotherhood in Britain, as has been evidenced by the House of Commons of the United Kingdom’s veto, in 2015, on a bill to designate the Brotherhood a terrorist group. Early this year, when the subject of the bill was raised again, rejection was still outstanding despite the British government and several political and cultural elites being aware of the inherent danger the Muslim Brotherhood poses on the European community in general and British society in particular. This calls into question the reason behind the considerable influence of the Brotherhood in Britain and their networks entrenched in British society whether in the economy, media, or the social spheres and even dominating the decision-making circles.
Networking is the basis of the Brotherhood’s work in Britain
In tracing the roots of terrorist groups with the emergence of the Brotherhood, structures of terrorist groups have evolved over time from hierarchy structures to decentralized ones, and eventually evolving into network structures compatible with terrorism turning into a cross-border phenomenon. Network analysis is better suited for exploring recent phenomenon in social sciences in general and strategic studies in particular, especially with the spread of transnational networks, estimated to exceed 30,000 networks, active in global issues in different spheres.
The existence, spread, and growing influence of the Brotherhood in Britain provide a practical application of a “network structure”, a structure that the Brotherhood adopted early on and depended on in the 1980s with the restructuring of the Muslim International Brotherhood Organization. Before reviewing the Brotherhood’s networks in Britain, it would be more beneficial to shed light on the characteristics of networks.
- Establishing a network is all about maximizing impact about a subject or toward a specific side – power through influence. This is exactly what the Muslim Brotherhood is aiming at, i.e. holding power of influence in communities in which it operates, particularly in the UK.
- Actors within a network enjoy interdependence. However, there is a balance between the independence of actors and collaboration between them to achieve common goals. This distinctive property underscores the plurality and diversity of Brotherhood organizations, each having an independent legal personality but all with a one common goal. This is consistent with the third property of networks, i.e. the distribution of economic, cultural, service, and media roles among organizations.
- Links connecting networks create a “social cohesion force” that stimulate behavior and is at the same time sufficiently flexible to assimilate the broader participation of influential actors. Brotherhood networking in the UK has proved to be effective, preventing the UK from designating them as a terrorist group, offering them a safe refuge where they can revive the remnants of their project with the help of their sponsors.
Primarily, any network consists of three elements: nodes (actors), links (lines of communication), and influence (channels through which interactions bring about the desired effect). The effectiveness of interaction between these elements is what determines the network’s power of influence and the ability of actors to double the power of influence by utilizing the direct and indirect links they have with the decision-making circles. The Brotherhood’s networks in Britain comprise several institutions. Civil society organizations can be considered the main nodes, leaders and cadres of the links, while the influence allows penetration into British society and institutions thereof. The freedom of movement enjoyed by the Brotherhood in Britain increased the effectiveness of their network and contributed to the expansion of its relations to influence parliament and other decision-making circles. For example, in 2018, Jeremy Corbyn, former leader of the Labor Party with close connections to the Muslim Brotherhood circle, emerged in a picture making the four-fingered Rabaa sign associated with the Egyptian Brotherhood during his visit to the Finsbury Park Mosque, let alone his ties with the Palestinian Fund for Relief and Development where he publicly called for an increase in donations to the fund, in what was considered a support of extremist movements.
Below is a review of Muslim Brotherhood network elements in Britain
First: Nodes (actors)
Members of the Brotherhood residing in Britain relied on finding ways to adapt to society’s rules, while making use of these rules to make impact and strengthen their presence by establishing networks, cementing ties between networks’ elements, and reinventing the role of the International Brotherhood Organization.
- The Islamic Relief Worldwide (IRW) was established in 1984 by Hani Al-Banna. The presence of the foundation is extensive in countries where it operates and its leaders enjoy close ties with presidents, ministers, high-profile public service officials, and mass media. The foundation, which has offices spread worldwide, is placed on the UN and the international aid policy agendas and is a member of the UK’s Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC). It is estimated that the IRW raises annually a total of £10 million from its Ramadan fundraising campaign. Resources of the foundation have been estimated at £570 million including donations coming from the UN, the EU, and Britain. Its sources of funding vary from individual donations and businesses to the government.
The IRW operates on two levels, on the surface as a charity for relief and development but underneath as a back for the Brotherhood covertly supporting them, implementing their agenda, and extending their influence in British community. In addition, the Islamic relief foundation in Britain has been involved in collaborating with groups of extremist ideologies and its leaders have been accused of fueling sentiments of racism and hatred and promoting extremism.
Many suspicions have been raised about the IRW’s relationship with extremist organizations, which prompted the Charity Commission for England to investigate the Islamic Relief’s role in deploying extremist preachers, drawing on a report issued by the Middle East Forum analyzing the activities of the IRW, its branches, its relations with the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas, the extremist attitudes of its members, and its deployment of preachers who stir up hatred against both moderate Muslims and non-Muslims. For example, the IRW in the United Kingdom provided funds to the Al-Falah Charitable society, a Hamas-affiliated proselytizing organization run by Ramadan Tanboura and is still financially associated with other terrorist-related organizations, including Qatari regime-related associations, such as the Qatar Charity.
Currently, the organization is facing a barrage of criticisms and accusations of ideological extremism and some of its leaders have been described as racist against the background of abuses from those leaders (with Hani Al-Banna in the lead) toward some ethnic sects and religious groups to the point that their statements have been described as similar to that of the Islamic State (IS). As such, the DEC, which raises millions of sterlings for relief in countries like Yemen, is due to re-examine the role of the IRW following a compliance claim filed before it.
- In 1989, the Brotherhood officially announced the launch of the Federation of Islamic Organizations in Europe (FIOE) in Markfield near UK’s Leicester. In 2007, the federation’s headquarters was moved to Brussels in an attempt to extend and strengthen the Brotherhood’s presence in the European continent and to keep up with the growing activity with European bodies. Some writings suggest that the relocation of the federation’s headquarters marked the Brotherhood’s increased flexibility as to creating safe havens. Following the bombings that targeted the London underground in 2005, England-Brotherhood’s relationship became more of a tug-of-war. The FIOE has many duties including promoting cooperation and coordination between Islamic groups in Europe, encouraging participation in elections of the European Parliament, and developing the Brotherhood plans and strategies in Europe. Some researchers consider the FIOE’s practical application of Hassan Al-Banna’s bottom-up Islamization model, with preaching (daawa) and education as its key tools.
- In 1997, the Muslim Brotherhood established the Muslim League (ML) as a non-governmental organization in Britain, under the direct supervision of Kamal Al-Helbawi, the then-Secretary-General of the International Organization. Writings differ on the scale of the existence of the Brotherhood in the UK with estimates of branches ranging between 11 to 20 branches. The ML marked the beginnings of the institutional existence of the Muslim Brotherhood in England. However, later, this existence took many forms including institutions combining charitable and economic activities and investment of major capital in different sectors.
- The Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), established in 1997, is the most diverse Muslim umbrella body that comprises national, regional, local and specialized Islamic organizations and institutions representing different ethnic and sectarian groups within the British Muslim community. The MCB was established with the aim of increasing knowledge about Islam and fighting all forms of inequalities and discrimination against Muslims. Among the organizations established in the 1999s and 2000s, the MCB was described as the “best known and most powerful” to represent Britain’s Muslims.
The council runs a number of projects geared towards developing instructional materials for Islamic schools, strengthening links between Muslim communities in the UK and those in Nigeria, Bangladesh, and India. These projects and initiatives include:
- “Towards Greater Understanding” is a program aimed at combating racism against Muslims and the associated marginalization, discrimination and prejudice. The program’s implementation will start in South Asia.
- “Islam is Peace” is a campaign aimed at breaking down barriers of suspicion and division, challenging stereotypes, combating prejudice, and offering an opportunity for strengthening the values of respect, tolerance and peaceful co-existence.
- “Mosques” is a program which periodically identifies a number of mosques to be developed or new ones to be built. The program aims at capacity-building and empowering mosques by providing training and the required resources to imams as well as organizing visits to them, turning them into integrated cultural institutions instead of being places of worship per se. Several British government reports have shed light on this expansive role after revealing undeclared ties between the Council and the Brotherhood.
Suspicions have fallen upon the actual role of the MCB until the Times published a report in 2015 titled, “Muslim Council ‘secretly linked’ to Brotherhood” which described the Council as Britain’s biggest Islamic organization and its largest Muslim student group with undeclared links to the Muslim Brotherhood, a fundamentalist network that has at times incited violence and terror and a movement that views Western society as corrupting and inherently hostile to Muslim interests. The report states that the Muslim Brotherhood engages in politics where possible, but it sometimes turns to terrorism to implement its goals. The Brotherhood’s rhetoric in the West calls for non-violence, but its Arabic rhetoric contain a deliberate call to violence.
- The European Institute of Human Sciences was established in 1998. It is linked to other Islamic institutes in Europe that teach the Islamic religion – or rather, the Brotherhood’s interpretations of Islam. These institutes include the European Institute for Humanities located in Frankfurt, Germany, established in 2012 and the European Institute for the Humanities in France established in 1991.
- The Cordoba Foundation (TCF) was established in 2005 by Brotherhood leader Anas Al-Tikriti, son of Osama Al-Tikriti, the prominent Iraqi Brotherhood leader. Since its establishment, the TCF has been run by Anas Al-Tikriti before he stepped aside for his sister, Raghad Al-Tikriti, in January 2020 to be the first woman to head the foundation. The TCF has been described by former British Prime Minister David Cameron as “a political front for the Muslim Brotherhood.” The TFC has founded a Brotherhood-affiliated group, the British Muslim Initiative, that has close ties with Hamas movement and its director is Muhammad Sawalha, a prominent Hamas activist believed to have been the architect of Hamas’ political and military strategy. In 2018, The Telegraph published a report, which revealed TCF’s close cooperation with other British terrorist organizations, seeking to set up up dictatorship or a caliphate in Europe.
The Cordoba Foundation adopts a “Cultures in Dialogue” slogan and presents itself as an intellectual, research, and advisory center that aims at promoting inter-cultural dialogue and positive coexistence between cultures, ideas, and people, and working with decision-making circles for a better understanding and acceptance of inter-communal and inter-religious issues in Britain, Europe, and beyond. The slogan and goals reflect the considerable flexibility the Brotherhood demonstrates in adapting to the British culture to gain acceptance by the community and break stereotypes about the organization and its members.
- The London Open Academy, established in 2000, aims at disseminating the Islamic knowledge and educational, linguistic, and applied sciences, adopting an integrated, methodological, and scientific vision in keeping with the times. The College, they state, follows the creed of Ahl Al-Sunna Wal Jamaa and practices of the righteous ancestors and offers online undergraduate, graduate, and post-graduate programs under the supervision of a group of scholars, professors, and preachers at a relatively low cost compared to other British universities.
- Muslim Charities Forum (MCF) was initiated in 2008 by Hani Al-Banna and registered as a UK-charitable organization. The forum comprises members of recognized international non-governmental Muslim-led organizations based in the United Kingdom, including the Humanitarian Relief Foundation (HRF), the Islamic Relief Worldwide (IRW), Muslim Aid charity, Muslim Hands, Ethar Relief, and Qira’a Foundation. The MCF aims at enhancing the contribution of the British Muslim charitable sector to the international development through encouraging the exchange of experiences, ideas, and information between MFC members on one hand, and networks of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in the United Kingdom and beyond and governments and entities engaged in international development, on the other. The forum attaches great importance to institutional funding and partnerships to identify opportunities to build stronger relationships between donor institutions and Muslim-led NGOs and promote partnerships between Muslim-led NGOs and other organizations.
The MCF functions as an umbrella for 10 British Brotherhood entities, six of which at least finance Hamas and its branches. Naturally Hamas’ relationship with the Brotherhood is not questionable as is evidenced by the oath taken by Hamas members including its senior political leader, Ismail Haniyah, which reads, “I pledge allegiance to Allah to declare loyalty to the Muslim Brotherhood and pledge unwavering loyalty and obedience to its leadership in good and bad”. Hani Al-Banna once stated to forum members, “Anti-terrorism legislation might stand in the way of delivering foreign aid to certain locations”, in reference to Hamas.
In 2018, the MCF received £110,000 from the British government and was due to receive an additional sum of £140,000 under the “Religious Minorities Action Project,” an initiative that aims at encouraging social integration by promoting interfaith cooperation and the role of women in spreading faith, reducing youth involvement in crime, and providing children with protective training. However, this government aid was suspended after The Telegraph accused an MFC member of having links with extremist organizations. The MFC denied the accusation but the Secretary of state for Housing, Communities, and Local government remarked that, “the MFC has failed to reassure us that they have strict procedures in place to investigate and scrutinize its members.”
- The Arab Organization for Human Rights (AOHR) is a Qatari-backed organization run by Muhammad Jamil, a Brotherhood member. It is a Brotherhood entity that defines itself as an organization that advocates human rights in the Gulf and the Arab world but it basically does nothing but discredit the UAE in decision-making circles in the UK and the US. The AOHR was founded by Anas Al-Tikriti in 2012 but registered – and its website as well – to his wife Malath Shaker with its founding director listed as Abdus Salam, brother of Malath Shaker. The AOHR held meetings with the UK Parliament’s Joint Committee on Human Rights in which false testimonies about human rights in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Kuwait had been given.
The previous institutions might seem independent of each other, each having its own specialization, focus, communications, and relations but they are actually interconnected through channels and there are common threads that link these UK-based institutions to the Brotherhood actors worldwide. These links could be divided into two categories: Brotherhood leaders and cadres and intermediary institutions, including companies and universities. Below are examples of these “inter-institution channels”.
- Geographical connectedness facilitates direct contact between Brotherhood organizations. In February 2015, the Sunday Telegraph established that, “the main hubs for the Brotherhood’s operations in Europe are Westgate House, a serviced office block at the Hangar Lane roundabout in Ealing, west London, and Crown House, about half a mile north of it on the North Circular Road. The two buildings contain at least 25 organizations linked to the Brotherhood, or to Hamas. A third building very close by – Pinnacle House on Old Oak Common Lane – houses the Palestinian Fund for Relief and Development (Interpal), another major charity headed by Issam Mustafa, member of the executive body of Hamas, that has close links to the Brotherhood and Hamas. Interpal has been banned by the US government as a terrorist organization but still operates in the UK and claims cutting off relations with Hamas.”
- Mosques are a perfect model for ties. The religious character of mosques helps give privacy to Muslims in Britain. Mosques don’t function only as places of worship but serve as educational and service institutions as well. In 2002, there were 329 mosques in Britain, 50 of which are located in Birmingham, increasing almost fivefold to reach 1,500 mosques in 2016 across Britain and Scotland. If run by entities with particularistic agendas or extremist Imams, mosques become more risky. Some data suggest there are about 1,200 mosques run by either Turkish institutions or not universally moderate imams.
- Leeds Muslim Youth Forum (LMYF) was founded in 2005 with the aim of supporting, training, and empowering Muslim youth. According to the LMYF website, “LMYF was set up in the aftermath of the deadly suicide bombings in London on 7/7 to recognize the vital role and positive contribution young people make to society and to ensure that their voices are heard.” The LMYF enrolls, supports, and trains young people from the local community and aims at bringing about a positive change for them and other Muslims by lobbying, campaigning, and making their views known with the LMYF strategic partners, policy making forums, and decision-making arenas.
- Companies and financial institutions belonging to or associated with the Brotherhood and its leaders closely intertwined with the British economy and operating within its system include Europe Trust, an investment banking fund and a consultancy; Jordan Company Secretaries Limited, a service provider that provides maintenance services to British companies; and, Al-Tayseer Healthcare Foundation, a healthcare, education, and training company established in 2007.
- Media channels that host Brotherhood members include Al-Hiwar TV, Media Foundation (Communication Limited) – both receive generous financial support from Qatar – as well as international news agencies that take the Brotherhood’s side and champion their demands, e.g. the BBC. On the social media level, there is the Makin Media Network, a news service based on social networking (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) and mobile applications founded and run by Muslim Brotherhood member Anas Miqdad from Britain. Other Brotherhood institutions include Middle East Eye (MEE), a non-profit London-based news agency funded by Qatar and established in December 2014 by Jonathon Powell, an executive officer at Al-Jazeera. The MEE has an English website that champions the Brotherhood agenda under human rights pretexts and is primarily concerned with attacking Egypt and GCC countries. David Hearst, The Guardian’s former correspondent known to have controversial relations with the Brotherhood, is the MEE’s website editor-in-chief.
There is also the Global Media Services Company Ltd. (GMS) is a publishing and media company registered in London and located in the modest out-of-sight Cricklewood neighborhood that houses the Brotherhood International Organization media office. Since its undisclosed inception 20 years ago, GMS has been managed and supervised by Ibrahim Mounir, a fact that came to light only in 2015. The company takes over the responsibility of publishing the Brotherhood printouts and websites, mainly in English, to reach out to the public opinion in the West, including Ikhwan Online Arabic website, Ikhwan Web English website, and Risalat Al-Ikhwan bilingual bulletin, among others.
- The Union of Good (UG) is an international organization headed by Yusef Al-Qaradawi, the Brotherhood’s spiritual leader, and founded by Issam Mustafa (of Interpal) who is currently serving as its secretary-general. The UG is an umbrella organization comprising 52 institutions across the US and Europe that raise funds for jihadist activities. Although the US Treasury designated the UG as a terrorist organization against the backdrop of its involvement in funding and backing violent actions in the Middle East, the organization is not banned in the UK. The UG has close liaison with the Qatar-based Al-Qaradawi Center for Islamic Moderation and Renewal (QCIMR) which serves as a line of communication between Brotherhood members worldwide.
Infiltrating into the British institutions, London-based Brotherhood leaders serve as well-functioning effective links. Among those leaders are Ibrahim Mounir, the Secretary-General of the International Organization of the Muslim Brotherhood since last September and the co-founder of the Islamic Unity Forum, who, according to Al-Arabiya website on 10 January 2021, holds shares in 17 Brotherhood-owned companies across Europe and Asia; Mahmoud Al-Ibbiari, Assistant Secretary-General of the International Brotherhood Organization in London and the Brotherhood’s high-profile liaison officer who manages Resala website, a Brotherhood media online arm through which Brotherhood statements, its leaders’ messages are communicated; Issam Al-Haddad, a former IRW member and a prominent Brotherhood leader; the London-based Mohamed Sudan, Secretary of the Brotherhood’s Foreign Affairs Committee; and Hani Al-Banna, founder and head of the World Humanitarian Forum, founder and current president of MCF, General Manager of Amjad TV, and the connecting ring with Qatar particularly the Jassim and Hamad Bin Jassim Charitable Foundation suspected of funding terrorism and extremist groups. Other prominent Brotherhood organizational leaders include Anas Al-Tikriti, founder of TCF; Raghad Al-Tikriti, current Chairperson of the Muslim League in Britain, former President of Federation of Islamic Organizations; Haitham Al-Haddad, head of the Islamic Research and Development Organization, and Azzam Tamimi, a prominent member of the Muslim League in Britain and Board Member of Al-Hewar TV.
The power of the Brotherhood’s networks in Britain remains limited unless their desired influence is achieved, i.e. guiding different interactions in the interests of the Brotherhood in and outside Britain. Such influence is evident in several aspects, including the following:
- Existence of groups (elites) that embrace the Brotherhood’s ideology and accept its rhetoric, as is evidenced by the strong presence of the Brotherhood in schools and universities and their infiltration into student activities. Such existence didn’t go unnoticed. Some members of the British society realized this danger and warned against the intentions of some obscurantist groups that aim at exerting influence on the minds of young British leading them to adopt extremist ideologies. These warnings came after the Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills (Ofsted) received a letter disclosing an organized attempt to spread extremist ideology in some British schools, in what became known as “Trojan Horse Scandal”. A report of the Birmingham City Council on the Trojan Horse Scandal revealed that extremist school heads terrorized teachers and administrators, kicked them out of schools, and applied their own agenda. Ian Kershaw, an independent adviser, prepared a 150-page report in which he remarked that, “Some of the individuals involved, predominantly Pakistanis, have a great deal of influence in their communities and have used this to coalesce others to influence local schools. It is a determined effort to change schools, often by unacceptable practices, in order to influence educational and religious provision for the students served.”
- The magnitude of funding given to institutions belonging to the Brotherhood entrenched in the British society help increase their impact and promote their extremist ideology, a profound impact that led Colonel Tim Collins, a counter-terrorism expert, to consider the terrorist Brotherhood as the greatest obstacle to combating terrorism in Britain, stating that “the Brotherhood represents a major threat to British society and that the government has to counteract the Brotherhood’s influence. Collins indicated that the Brotherhood receives substantial funding in Europe and that it has received €120 million from different financiers with Qatar – which, Collins claims, attempts to eradicate the UK’s Strategy for Countering Terrorism – being the biggest of them. The Brotherhood’s business activities in Britain are estimated to exceed £200 million.
- Several prominent figures architect the infiltration of the Brotherhood. Their extensive outreach across the world and across different academic and research institutes empowered them with skills that facilitated engaging with international mechanisms, helped them distort the image of many Arab regimes, make erroneous representations of them, and escape, time and again, accusations of their responsibility for spreading terrorism and extremism and planting it into the minds of generations of Muslim and Arab expats exploiting their control of mosques and Muslim and Arab gatherings in the Diaspora. Among those figures are Dalia Lotfi, head of the Qatar-backed European Coalition for Human Rights in Paris, who coordinates with the AFD International established in Brussels in 2006 to support the Brotherhood and its institutions in Europe and beyond; Salma Abdul-Ghaffar of Human Rights Monitor in London, daughter of the Brotherhood leader Ashraf Abdul-Ghaffar, proven guilty in the case known as the “international organization and Brotherhood’s youth projecting military force” at Al-Azhar University, and Yasmine Hussein, head of the Faith and Human Rights Department at Amnesty International and wife of Wael Mesbah, a member of the Brotherhood in Britain. Hussein plays a major role in conveying erroneous reports about human rights in Arab countries, particularly Egypt. When Mohamed Morsi came to power, Hussein met with him. She also works for the IRW and has been designated as a terrorist by many Arab countries.
- In the last quarter of 2020, the Brotherhood’s intense activity on the human rights file has been observed simultaneously with the completion of the US presidential elections in October 2020 and the Brotherhood’s recognizing Biden’s agenda to use human rights as a tool in US relations with the Arab countries. To that end, the Brotherhood resorted to revitalizing its already existing institutions in Britain. Several resources indicate that Alaa Abdel-Monsef managed the Salam International Organization for the Protection of Human Rights in London, an organization that is engaged in internationalizing cases involving Brotherhood members and turning them into human rights cases. In addition, the Brotherhood established Al-Shehab Center for Human Rights (SHR) in London, headed by the London-based Khalaf Bayoumi, lawyer of Alexandria Brotherhood Members. The SHR aims at supporting prisoners of terrorist groups as well as intensifying the AOHR activity in criticizing Arab countries and levelling accusations at them of violating human rights.
- The influence of Brotherhood networks has been manifested in the House of Commons of the United Kingdom’s veto, in 2015, on a bill to designate the Brotherhood a terrorist group. This subject has been brought up for discussion again in the British Parliament which reiterated its dismissive attitude.
Possible boundaries of Brotherhood networks in Britain
Reflecting upon the spread of the Brotherhood in Britain and the effectiveness of their networks in realizing their goals in as well as outside Britain, a number of conclusions could be drawn, leading to a better understanding of the limits of Britain’s role in undermining the Brotherhood, as follows:
- The Brotherhood realized that the democratic system in Britain and its structures allow for an open and supportive public realm for civil society organizations, a characteristic that makes it easier for Brotherhood organizations to be active in British society and facilitates its communications with other organizations and Muslim communities living in Britain.
- Activities of Brotherhood organizations in Britain are characterized by diversity, ranging from economic, financial, religious, charitable, and informational. This resulted in greater proliferation and further spread of the Brotherhood organizations which opened up more opportunities for overlapping and interconnectedness between them especially with links between these organizations already well-established. For example, Qatar Charity links several organizations together, e.g. the Muslim League and Leeds Muslim Youth Forum receive part of IRW’s incoming funds. Likewise, The Cordoba Foundation brings under its umbrella the Federation of Islamic Organizations, which then funds more ten organizations, some of which have already been involved in carrying out terrorist attacks. Such interconnectedness goes beyond organizations’ level to the individual level. For instance, both Hani Al-Banna and Anas Al-Tikriti have founded several organizations but soon left their management to other members.
- Although Brotherhood organizations in Britain are recognized and operate under the British laws, access to the organizational structure of these entities remains a challenge due to their overlapping nature. Every few years, the leadership of these organizations change but their names and biographies remain unknown. Even more, some Brotherhood organizations, including the Muslim Council of Britain, stopped publicizing data on its organizational and management structure since 2018 against the backdrop of a government crackdown to sift through Brotherhood activities in the UK. Doing so, they aim at keeping themselves out of sight, applying the Brotherhood universal principle of “making known the call and keeping secrecy on organization”.
- Many associations belonging to the Brotherhood contribute to supporting Islamic movements in and outside Britain. While these organizations focus primarily on operating nationally, some go beyond the idea of nationalism and turn to support these movements worldwide and finance their extremist and terrorist acts in the Middle East as well as some Asian countries. Reference could be made here to Qatar’s and Turkey’s role in supporting Brotherhood organizations in Britain. Several studies suggest Qatar’s close ties to the Islamic movements in Europe, being the principal advocate of the project aimed at spreading political Islam in Europe through its increased funding by the Qatar Charity. Second to Qatar, Turkey also plays a pivotal role in supporting and directing the Islamic movements in Britain and across Europe. Turkey has relations with an international network of groups supporting Palestinian Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
- Regardless of their ethnicity or race, Islamic movements in Britain overlap considerably that some prominent groups of them are not essentially related to Al-Jamaa Al-Islamiya (the Indian subcontinent) nor the Brotherhood. However, all these movements work collaboratively as they commit to one ideological framework in the relations between hubs, associations, and individuals for their interests. Islamic centers and associations, managed by directors hailing from different origins and ethnicities, run joint campaigns for activities and fundraising. Ahsan Manzier, Director of the Islamic Foundation in Britain stated, “We belong to a global network that isn’t confined to Al-Jamaa Al-Islamiya, the Brotherhood, or the Turkish Welfare. We are all friends and allies.”
Overall, Brotherhood members manage to adapt to their surroundings. In their country of origin, Egypt, they engage in violence and terrorism but deny their horrendous actions, deny the law, and deem society and the government infidels. In Britain and other European countries, they coexist in peace, respect the law and society, while secretly inciting violence and terrorism.
When it comes to the Brotherhood, Britain applies double standards which makes it a safe haven for the Brotherhood. Britain’s approach isn’t present-day. Before the 1952 Revolution, Britain recognized the Brotherhood as a political actor and used them as a tool to exercise pressure on other political forces, but at the same time warned against their ability to mobilize. Likewise, British society is divided today on the Brotherhood between those seeing them as a peaceful group with humanistic motivations and concerns and those regarding their spread as an inherent danger threatening British society and believe they have a role in spreading extremism and justifying terrorism worldwide.