Prime Minister David Cameron has ordered Whitehall officials to launch an investigation into the Muslim Brotherhood’s UK activities – drawing on assessments by MI5 and MI6.
According to the Guardian newspaper, a Downing Street source confirmed that the review would examine allegations that the Muslim Brotherhood was behind the murder of three tourists on a bus in Egypt in February and that it planned extremist activities from Britain.
The source said: “The prime minister has ordered a review to get a better understanding of the Muslim Brotherhood and its values – and look into its alleged links to extremism.”
The No 10 source confirmed a report in the Times that the investigation is being launched as the prime minister faces pressure to follow the example of Egypt and Saudi Arabia (which claim that the Muslim Brotherhood uses London as a crucial centre for its activities) to ban the group.
MI5 will assess how many leaders have been based in Britain after last year’s coup in Egypt in which Mohamed Morsi, the Muslim Brotherhood president, was ousted.
Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, the head of the Egyptian armed forces who played a leading role in the overthrow of Morsi last year, has placed the former president on jail where he awaits trial for treason.
British officials are saying it is “possible but unlikely” that the Muslim Brotherhood will be banned in Britain on the grounds of terrorist links.
Foreign Office officials figures have until now resisted proscribing the organisation on the grounds that that could encourage “extremists.” “The truth is that this is a large, disparate organisation that takes different forms in different countries,” an official told the paper.
The security services are said to take a more hardline view. Sir Richard Dearlove, the former head of MI6, has reportedly described the Muslim Brotherhood as “at heart a terrorist organisation”.
A Downing Street spokesman told the Times: “The Muslim Brotherhood has risen in prominence in recent years but our understanding of the organisation, its philosophy and values, has not kept pace with this.
“Given the concerns about the group and its alleged links to violent extremism, it’s absolutely right and prudent that we get a better handle of what the Brotherhood stands for, how they intend to achieve their aims and what that means for Britain.”
The Muslim Brotherhood has many supporters in the UK, especially among British Arabs.
Prominent British Muslims such as Azzam Tamimi and Anas Tikriti are well known Muslim Brotherhood supporters and organisations such as the Muslim Association of Britain, the British Muslim Initiative, Al Hiwar TV channel, the Cordoba Foundation and Middle East Monitor are thought to be sympathetic to the Muslim Brotherhood.
Moreover, Muslim Brotherhood supporters in the UK are well known for their advocacy of political Islam but have always had a reputation of working within the law and the system.
Responding to the inquiry announcement today, Amnesty International UK’s head of policy and government affairs Allan Hogarth said:
“It is of course perfectly legitimate for the UK to review security arrangements over the Muslim Brotherhood, but the UK must not let this distract from the fact that human rights abuses are being inflicted on large swathes of Muslim Brotherhood supporters in Egypt by the country’s increasingly repressive security services
“Since the ousting of Mohamed Morsi last year, there’s been a huge crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood. Thousands of the movement’s supporters have been arrested, there are numerous reports of Muslim Brotherhood supporters being tortured in detention, and – shockingly – 528 people were sentenced to death in one fell swoop last week after a grossly unfair trial..
“The Foreign Secretary William Hague has already talked of the government’s ‘deep concern’ over Egypt’s mass death sentences, and it will make a nonsense of No 10’s review if it doesn’t actually reflect human rights concerns like these.”Meanwhile the Islamic Human Rights Commission (IHRC) has condemned the government move.
In a statement it said: “IHRC believes that the PM’s decision is a direct response to the outlawing of the Muslim Brotherhood by the armed forces in Egypt in December last year, shortly after the movement’s democratically elected leaders were overthrown in a military coup…
“In March, Saudi Arabia also designated the Brotherhood as a terrorist group and banned it from operating in the Kingdom. It is no secret that the Saudi and Egyptian regimes have been lobbying western capitals to curb the movement’s activities in a bid to reduce its influence in the Middle East.
”IHRC believes it is outrageous that the British government should be pandering to the authoritarian regimes in the Middle East when British interests and justice would be better served by taking diplomatic action against them for their part in overthrowing a democratically elected government and bringing back military rule.”