Day by day, year after year, the influence of the Muslim Brotherhood in several countries seems to be abating and the ground seems to be shrinking beneath their feet.
With the fall of their rule in Egypt in 2013, the imperial dream of the Muslim Brotherhood has been shattered along with their misguided aspirations of the return of the so-called caliphate. Many Arab countries raced to declare them a terrorist group, starting with the United Arab Emirates and ending with Saudi Arabia, which finally announced this decision, and accelerated the process by preventing all their figures from addressing the public at mosques.
As a result, the Brotherhood had no choice but to flee and blend in with some Muslim enclaves in Europe.
Some European countries have recognized the threat they pose, and day by day we hear that an increasing number of associations, mosques and human rights centers working to serve the Muslim Brotherhood are being shut down.
In this context, it is important to refer to the significant role Germany and France have played by declaring war on extremist organizations and groups supported by Turkey. Particularly, French President Macron, who stated during an interview with “Jeune Afrique” the most widely read pan-African magazine, that Turkey and the Brotherhood are fueling anti-French sentiments in Africa by playing on post-colonial resentment.
“When I decided to attack radical Islam, my words were distorted by the Muslim Brotherhood, but also by Turkey, which has the ability to influence public opinion, including in sub-Saharan Africa,” he said. Reiterating a position that has caused immense controversy, he added: “I am not attacking Islam, I am attacking Islamist terrorism. We don't talk with terrorists. We fight them.”
However, in contrast to France’s strong role in pressuring the European Union to take a stand against the Brotherhood and extremism, we find that the UK has taken an entirely opposing stance, described by the Italian-American writer and Director of the Program on Extremism at George Washington University, Dr. Lorenzo Vidino, as a “slowdown.”
He even made an interesting comparison between the positions of British prime ministers during the past two decades, with regard to their attitudes towards the Brotherhood and radical groups in general.
By the end of the first decade of the 21st century, two British prime ministers, Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, discovered that “soft Islamists” were a problem because of their divisive social agenda, and they realized that meeting intolerance with tolerance was an ill-advised decision but rather a betrayal of UK’s progressive values.
Afterwards, David Cameron came along and pledged to “drain the swamp” in which radical Muslims are allowed to hide and develop their extreme views.
However, Theresa May did not give this matter its due attention. Then, Jeremy Corbyn, a supporter of political Islam groups, came to lead the Labor Party, before leaving after losing the last election.
At the moment, it may seem reasonable for the UK to be concerned with addressing post-Brexit challenges, as well as facing the coronavirus pandemic, which has turned the UK into a ghost town because of the long and grueling lockdown.
But perhaps, British officials should realize that they cannot afford to leave this matter unaddressed because there are dangerous smoldering embers hiding just beneath the surface and they could flare up at any time threatening to cause disastrous wide-spread repercussions.
This article was originally published in, and translated from, the Egyptian daily Al-Masry Al-Youm.