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A virus multiplies quickly

Britain-First-Cricklewood-protest1Where next for the brotherhood?

Warnings have been issued for years. Trends have been established. Changes in society have been made. But, is anyone of consequence listening? Under the latitude of democracy and religious freedom, apparently not!

Soon to be examined will be questions. How did this happen? Who let this happen? What can we do about it? The inevitable answer: It’s all too damned late! It’s gone viral!

Muslim Brotherhood sets up shop in London

Egypt’s largest opposition movement has placed its media headquarters in one of London’s suburbs.

The Muslim Brotherhood, the largest and oldest religious organisation in Egypt, has survived multiple periods of repression. But according to recent reports, it has now regrouped at an unlikely location: An office above the Flame Kebab takeaway shop on Cricklewood Broadway, a high street in an unfashionable north-west London suburb.

This is the headquarters of World Media Services, a company that publishes IkhwaanPress.com (Brotherhood Press) – an Arabic language website sympathetic to the Brotherhood.

Mohamed Soudan is one of the senior members of the Brotherhood that fled to Britain after its political wing, the Freedom and Justice Party, was ousted in July. “There is no stability now in Egypt,” says Soudan, who served as foreign relations secretary under deposed president Mohamed Morsi. “The authorities have accused all members of the Muslim Brotherhood – and anyone else that opposes the government.”

The British government is not, as it has said, up-to-date on the Brotherhood in the aftermath of the Arab uprisings. They want to understand.– Fawaz Gerges, professor of international relations at the London School of Economics

Egypt’s military-led interim government is engaged in a brutal crackdown on dissent. The Brotherhood has been hit particularly hard, with up to 20,000 supporters currently imprisoned and 1,000 killed. Last month, a court sentenced 529 Brotherhood supporters to death in an unprecedented mass trial. In December, the Egyptian government designated the Brotherhood a terrorist organization; Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates recently followed suit.

Against this backdrop, it should be little surprise that some members of the movement, like Soudan, have sought refuge abroad. But the activities of the group have caused concern in Britain. “The prime minister has commissioned an internal government review into the philosophy and activities of the Muslim Brotherhood and the government’s policy towards the organisation,” said Downing Street in a statement this week. British prime minister David Cameron said the inquiry would aim to discover any “path of extremism and violent extremism, what its connections are with other groups, what its presence is here in the United Kingdom” and to “fully understand the true nature of the organisation”.

When Al Jazeera contacted the Muslim Brotherhood in London, they said they are doing “the best we can to support the people in Egypt, but London is not the centre of activity”. The proprietor of World Media Services, 67-year-old British Egyptian Mohamed Ghanem, says that he and his staff are affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood but are by no means the central command.

“The Brotherhood has a long history in Britain – decades not years,” says Fawaz Gerges, professor of international relations at the London School of Economics. “Waves of Islamist dissidents since the 1960s have found in London a refuge, a place to congregate and survive.” Groups such as the Muslim Association of Britain, prominent in the campaign against the Iraq War, and the Cordoba Foundation, a think tank on Muslim relations with the West, are acknowledged to have close ties to the Brotherhood.

Of course, such connections are not illegal. Affiliates of the movement are currently in government in Tunisia, Morocco and, until recently, Egypt. The Muslim Brotherhood, founded in Egypt in 1928, is one of the most powerful political entities in the Middle East. As a  pan-Arab movement, it combines political activism with charity work and was the only opposition force that flourished under respective dictatorships, emerging as a natural leader after the Arab Spring revolutions. Despite violent beginnings, it renounced the use of force in the 1960s.

Allegations of violence

But it has been suggested by British officials that individuals associated with the organisation may be involved with violence. The Egyptian government has alleged that it is behind a string of attacks in the country. The review will include an investigation by MI6, the foreign intelligence service, about these allegations, as well as an assessment by MI5, the domestic intelligence agency, of the number of senior leaders based in the UK following the coup.

“Since July, two members have come to the UK, and I am one of them,” says Soudan. “This is not a big conspiracy.” Experts say that there are currently no figures available on the number of post-coup arrivals, so this is impossible to verify.

When it comes to any hint of violence, the UK is taking no chances. “The British don’t want to make the same mistakes they did in the 1990s, when Britain was accused of becoming a theatre for militant Islamists,” says Gerges. “The British government is not, as it has said, up-to-date on the Brotherhood in the aftermath of the Arab uprisings. They want to understand.”

A UK government spokesperson said it was “possible, but unlikely” that Britain would follow its allies in Saudi Arabia and the UAE in classifying the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organisation.

Threat to national security?

There must have been pressure from the Egyptians or the Saudis about the presence of members of the Brotherhood in London.– Maha Azzam, Chatham House

Yet many analysts have balked at the inquiry’s suggestion that the group poses a threat to British national security. “This is a communitarian, religious, conservative movement that focuses on politics and social mobilisation as the basic tools of its actions,” says Gerges. “Even if some individual members of the Brotherhood have engaged in violent activities, I don’t think this reflects the strategy or worldview of the organisation.”

“It seems that the general climate in the Middle East – where the Muslim Brotherhood is being repressed – has now spilled over into trying to affect attitudes among western governments,” says Dr Maha Azzam, associate fellow for the Middle East and North Africa programme at Chatham House. “There must have been pressure from the Egyptians or the Saudis about the presence of members of the Brotherhood in London.”

Much of the current hostility towards the Brotherhood in the Middle East is down to the polarised politics of the region. An organisation called Ansar Beit al-Maqdis, which has denounced Morsi as an apostate, claimed responsibility for some of the violent attacks that the Egyptian government has blamed on the Brotherhood. In its official statement, the Muslim Brotherhood expressed concern that Britain’s Saudi ambassador, Sir John Jenkins, was taking charge of the inquiry, urging Britain “not to bend to pressure from foreign governments”. Downing Street stressed that Jenkins was selected for his expertise.

Given that the current anti-Brotherhood climate in the Middle East is the result of these deeply polarised regional politics, Britain’s decision to hold an inquiry is itself sensitive. “Western democracies deal with governments like Egypt and Saudi Arabia but ultimately know that they are undemocratic, with an agenda that is ultimately not only intolerant but repressive of different political views,” says Azzam. “Western democracies must not fall prey to pressure from non-democratic countries. This is a review, but one worries that it could be the first step towards measures that are not fair for a group that has upheld the laws of Britain.”

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office has previously warned against proscribing the Brotherhood on the basis that restricting a non-violent group risks enforcing the argument of armed religious fighters: that victory will be attained by bullets, not the ballot box.

The Brotherhood has said it will co-operate fully with the investigation. “We understand that the UK is a democratic country, and we respect their law, but this will come to nothing because we oppose violence,” says Soudan. “We have nothing to hide.”


{ 5 comments… add one }
  • Albert 06/04/2014, 6:57 pm

    Never mind about the dopey Poms, they have been a lost cause for some years when it comes to Islamics.

    Belgium is predicted to fall to Islamic control within twelve months and Britain won’t be far behind, followed in close order by France and Holland. Who is to blame for this? Well, the first instinct is to blame politicans, but in reality it is the brain dead citizens of those countries and it will be the brain dead citizens of Australia that will let it happen here.

    Every war or armed insurrection happening on this planet at the present time involves the “Religion of Peace”. Every terrorist act is committed by the “Religion of Peace”. And, and, surprise, surprise, every western government is caving in to these barbarous butchers and telling us we must be tolerant.

    Well, they want to be very careful that their calls for tolerance doesn’t evolve into an armed retaliation not if but when Islamic violence erupts in Australia.

  • proud ozzie 07/04/2014, 12:45 am

    Another copy paste moronic article to appeal to the brain dead.
    What is it with you fools?
    An Islamic revolution in Australia! you twats are stark raving mad.
    You are pathetic, think about it, so much work goes into this silly site, yet so few as in virtually no replies, accept if copy paste article is about muslims or how aboriginal people are making life impossible for you good, white christain folk.
    A sad pathetic all male, misfit homosexual denying man loving crew.

    • Darryl 07/04/2014, 1:25 pm

      Proud Ozzie – you are an oxymoron. If you think for one minute that islam is a religion of peace – you are a first class embicile. Have you not been paying attention? Why is it that this ideology, over ALL others, sits atop the news bulletins on an almost daily basis. Why is this? Where are the Buddhists, Sikhs & hindus? They never feature in the news because they are actually religions of peace. Not so for islam. With its female genital mutilation, child brides, death to apostates, death to gays, blatant open calls for fatwahs here & there, for jihad, for shariah law…under their hypocritical guise of tolerance… islam is abad joke & unfortunately you’re not allowed to laugh at them because useful idiots like you try to silence & drown out reasonable, educated discussion about their cancerous spread across the world. I think the worm has turned & soon we’ll have politicians with balls who will stand up for common sense, decency & real Australians who want Australia free of the muslim leeches.

  • MM Editor 07/04/2014, 5:13 pm

    Normally, I would not waste time responding to rude and twisted fools like proud ozzie, but for the record, a few things need to be said. MM is not “all male” as you claimed. The site does have a lot of work put into it, as you mentioned, especially unseen work such as daily advise to Parliamentarians, industry heads, other websites and “think tanks” based in 14 countries with analysis . The information is compiled by a staff of 11, nine of which are highly educated women with five born in Moslem states. That should suffice as an indicator of your extremely poor judgement.
    On this site, unlike you, we foster free speech, even though it may be contrary to the staff’s personal beliefs. We find the ranting of fools as most useful in our data gathering to provide effective measures to our clients about how to combat cyber-idiots. Each of your comments will be added to our monthly mail-out, complete with a psychologist’s assessment report.
    So, proud ozzie, I’ll bet you had no idea that venting your spleen on this site would be an aid to others who may suffer serial pests. Also, we do choose deceased writer’s names for certain articles because our female researchers understand that bias and bigotry is alive and well, as you have indicated to our readers and 486 emails of condemnation has confirmed that. The cut and pasting of articles is essential to prove that the information was not an in-house concoction. Enough time wasted!
    I wish you well.
    Aisha, Editor in Chief.

  • Ludmilla 07/04/2014, 6:06 pm

    Bravo, Aisha!
    Thank you for explaining a little about Morning Mail. I am not alone in appreciating your exhaustive searching for interesting articles and your insightful comments. My associates and I find MM a more or less one stop site for comprehensive news offering. To receive the same amount elsewhere would require subscriptions to several publications. MM does the hard work for us.
    Keep up the fine editorial comment, the welcome monitoring for trolls and foul language, and the long-read essay on Sunday.

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