British govt’s delayed Muslim Brotherhood report slammed

Peter Harrison
Peter Harrison - Al Arabiya News
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A report by the British government that was expected to say the Muslim Brotherhood should not be classified as a terrorist organization - and remains unpublished a year after it was first due - has been slammed as unhelpful and a potential contributor to the ongoing stigmatization of Muslims.

Prime Minister David Cameron most recently pulled the report on March 15 this year, hours before it was due to be published, to avert a row with key allies in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA).

He said the report should be released alongside the then-coalition government’s new counter-extremism strategy.

However, the UK general election saw issues in the MENA region take a back seat, as politicians instead debated immigration and the country’s position in Europe.

In May, Al Arabiya News asked the prime minister’s office when the report was likely to be released. A spokeswoman responded: “In due course.”

Last week, when Cameron made his much-anticipated speech on extremism in the UK, some commentators said that would be the perfect time to release the report.

However, a Downing Street spokeswoman told Al Arabiya News: “The government’s position has not changed on this - the report will be released in due course.”

The review - which has been led by Sir John Jenkins, the British ambassador to Saudi Arabia - is understood to have concluded that the Brotherhood should not be banned as a terror organization, but instead urged to be more transparent about its links and operations involving mosques and charities.

Critics of the report say it should never have been commissioned in its current form. Chris Doyle, director of the Council for Arab-British Understanding, told Al Arabiya News: “I have always said the whole commissioning of the report was done in a very cack-handed fashion. It shouldn’t have been a prime ministerial authorized report. It should’ve been done by another body. It should’ve been depoliticized.”

He said Cameron’s speech last week addressing his five-year strategy to fight extremism in Britain overshadowed the report into the Brotherhood.

Doyle said he did not believe the report had reached any conclusions that suggested the Brotherhood posed a threat to Britain, but he added that the findings did not suggest the organization had a clean bill of health.

He said if there had been genuine concern of a threat posed to the UK, an investigation would have probably been carried out privately. As such, the existing report became little more than a “public relations exercise.”

The report, which was requested by Cameron, was researched by Sir John and presented in July last year after three months of research.

Brotherhood rule ended in Egypt with the overthrow of President Mohammad Mursi in 2013, in a military coup led by Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. Mursi was later arrested and now faces execution.

Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have banned the Brotherhood, which they consider a terrorist organization.

However, the movement has support from Qatar and Turkey, where some of its senior members fled in 2013.
Doyle said the report now puts the UK government in an uneasy situation - whatever the conclusions, valued allies would have been unhappy with the outcome.

His comments echo those of former British Foreign Secretary Sir Malcolm Rifkind, who told The Independent that he attributed the delay to “diplomatic problems” over the conclusions.

Sir Malcolm said in March: “We have a large number of friendly governments who are bitterly opposed to the Muslim Brotherhood and others who take the opposite view. There must have been some quite complicated considerations that have had to be taken into account. They should have known about those considerations.”

However, Doyle said there were other implications posed by such a report that would be far wider-reaching for the Muslim population in Britain.

He said: “If it isn’t about security, what was the purpose of the report? It stigmatizes the community and creates that level of sentiment among British Muslims that they’re permanently under scrutiny, permanently seen as a Trojan horse, which doesn’t help the prime minister in the long run.”

Successive Downing Street spokespeople have declined to comment further on the report other than to say it will eventually be released.

Mohamed Ghanem of the Brotherhood-affiliated World Media Services, said there was “no political agenda behind the Muslim Brotherhood in the UK,” adding that it operated as a charitable promoter for Islam in a “peaceful way.”

Ghanem said the British people “are tolerant and accept everyone, but we have to distinguish between the general feeling and the political lobbies and the media.”

He added: “I’d like to see the report, but I’d like to say to those from the political side, ‘why did you order this in the first place?’ If you order the report... you should let the people know about it. If you ask for it to gain information and maybe learn something, you should let the report be seen.”

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