The un-Moslem Brotherhood

A few weeks ago the UK Prime Minister David Cameron announced that the British government would launch an investigation into the Moslem Brotherhood and its activities in the country.

The Moslem Brotherhood’s reaction was swift and unequivocal.

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The head of the British branch of the Brotherhood warned that the investigation could invite terrorist attacks against civilians.  Ibrahim Mounir said that the UK government’s designation of his organization as a terrorist entity could be interpreted by its followers that violence was an option and would send the wrong signal to Islamic organizations and Moslems around the globe.

Editorials have also since appeared, warning against alienating the rank and file of Moslem citizens. The argument is both disingenuous and dangerously misleading.

There is nothing called moderate-Islamist-extremism. These are patronizing terms with roots in Orientalism. There are in the end, only common criminals and law abiding citizens whatever their label or religion. Threats or incitement to violence are unacceptable, whatever the pretext. 

The Brotherhood neither represents, nor speaks for the vast majority of Moslems in Egypt or around the globe. While the organization and its violent affiliated organizations such as Hamas in Gaza, operate under the banner of religion, their discourse and acts could not be further removed from the teachings of Islam.

Notwithstanding their protestations to the contrary, it would be difficult to distance the Moslem Brotherhood from the violence that has taken place in Egypt over the past ten months since the ousting of Mohamed Morsi. In Egypt these days, university campuses are scenes of regular torchings as well as sporadic bomb attacks. Earlier this month four bombs were planted at Cairo University. Two exploded killing a senior police officer, while another went off just as investigators and journalist arrived at the scene. Far from condemning these acts, the Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party tweeted on its official account that student anger would not subside until vengeance was achieved.

And so the  Moslem Brotherhood should be redefined.

It is first and foremost a political entity, one that is not above incitement to terror or threats if in its view, the political situation warrants. The organization was never conceived as a religious and welfare association. Religion and welfare activities were incidental to the Brotherhood’s political ambitions and to this day, remain tools to address and attract followers at the grass roots levels.  It was after all, its founder Hassan El Banna who declared it a duty to establish sovereignty over the world, and the Brotherhood’s tarnished history is testimony to the organization’s priorities.

Redefining the Brotherhood as a political organization would free governments from the accusation that Moslems are the object of suspicion and investigation. It would also distance both Islam and Moslem citizens from their deeds and words – neither of which deserve to be tarnished by them.

Stripped of their undeserved religious label, the Brotherhood’s discourse and activities should be held to the same standards, universal values and the rule of law that apply to the rest of the world. 

Khayat is founder and chairman of an asset management company based in Egypt. She is also head of the economic committee of the Free Egyptians Party, a political party founded after the 2011 revolution.