Is the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization?

Sonia Farid
Sonia Farid
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“Declare the Muslim Brotherhood a Terrorist Organization” is a petition initiated by American political commentator Dick Morris. Morris holds the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) responsible for several terrorist attacks on American soil which he argues were carried out by people that the group “converted.” He accuses the group of aborting the Arab Spring through curbing freedom of speech, persecuting women and minorities, and establishing repressive theocracies. He urges readers unfamiliar with the MB to visit the website of a group called Citizens for National Security, which features a detailed account of the group under the title “Homegrown Jihad in the USA: MB’s deliberate, premeditated plan now reaching maturity.” Morris concludes by urging Americans to sign his petition in order to “protect America” and “take a stand against Terrorism.”

The result of such a petition in Egypt was already obvious from the signature collection campaign that ignited the June 30 protests and ousted President Mohammad Mursi. It is more interesting to speculate whether Americans would in fact sign this petition against a group that has caused them little or no harm directly and that was not linked to September 11. Although it does mention Terrorism with a capital T in reference to the MB’s global influence, the petition addresses America and is aimed at protecting American national security. At the end of the day, the MB is not a major source of concern for average American citizens and they are unlikely to rally behind such a cause. This was made clear when a similar initiative was launched on the petition platform under the title “We the people” and the number of Egyptian petitioners remarkably exceeded that of their American counterparts.

It is interesting that the countries that designate organizations as “terrorist” are usually those that are not directly affected by their activities. This is the case with Hamas and Hezbollah. Hamas is designated as a terrorist group by the U.S. and the EU. The same applies to Hezbollah’s military wing. It seems more logical for these assessments to come from the Palestinian Authority and the Lebanese government respectively, but they have not. The groups remain popular because they began as resistance movements, a cause that earned them considerable support at the beginning and won them the guardian’s status in recent times. And their histories are not entirely shameful – Hamas did win democratic elections and was Gaza’s only defense line against Israeli attacks. Hezbollah did play a major role in ending Israeli occupation of South Lebanon. It was only later that each group started losing sympathy, particularly when Hamas made no secret of its alliance with the MB and when Hezbollah openly supported the Syrian regime, not to mention the rather bleak record of both groups as far as human rights are concerned.

The MB does not currently enjoy any support outside its ranks and has engaged in a variety of actions that fall under the category of terrorism, both as government and opposition.

Sonia Farid

The MB, on the other hand, does not even have such credentials. It has failed miserably to link its existence to a national struggle despite its attempts to do so. It was always prioritizing its own interests, which often drove it to strike deals with its staunchest enemies. Apart from militancy and religious discourse, the MB shares very little with Hezbollah and Hamas. In fact, the MB proved to be the worst in power, even though the other two are by no means democratic, simply because the MB’s struggle was against the very people it ruled while Hezbollah and Hamas’s hostility was mainly directed against an external enemy. The MB does not currently enjoy any support outside its ranks and has engaged in a variety of actions that fall under the category of terrorism, both as government and opposition.

More than a U.S. petition

The United States has the right to protect itself even against the most invisible sources of danger, but this is the business of the Americans. Egyptians, on the other hand, need to lobby on their own front instead of “flocking,” as the Washington Post puts it, to a White House petition that would affect only American politics. However, Egyptians can learn from American expertise in designating organizations as terrorist. The Egyptian government would do good to check the U.S. handbook on terrorist organizations, if that or a similar text exists, to see if the specifications apply to the MB. It would do even better to see that if any country is justified to designate the MB as a terrorist organization it should be Egypt.

Apart from the American habit of labeling as terrorist any entity that might remotely undermine its interests or those of its allies, Morris’s petition in particular underlines two important facts. The first is that designating a group as a terrorist organization is not a symbolic action to indicate condemnation of a group’s activities, but a practical one. The state, he explains, would make sure this group is denied any assistance. Therefore, taking such a step in Egypt would mean blocking through legal means all the channels through which the MB receives financial and logistical aid. The second issue is the importance of identifying the enemy; otherwise you may as well wage war against the windmills. The Egyptians made it clear who their enemy was when they stated that the goal of the second revolution was toppling the MB. The state must now do this officially so that the group can be held legally, politically, and morally accountable for the damage inflicted upon the country both during its rule and following its ouster.

This is, of course, easier said than done. It remains to be seen how such a step can be taken in a way that minimizes any retaliatory reactions on the group’s part. Unlike the U.S., Egypt is directly and closely affected by everything the MB does. It will take more than an announcement and American expertise to take action against them.


Sonia Farid, Ph.D., is an Assistant Professor of English Literature at Cairo University. She is a translator, editor, and political activist. Her social work focuses on political awareness and women’s rights and her writing interests include society, politics, and security in Egypt. She took part in a number of local and international conferences and published several academic papers. She can be reached at [email protected]

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.
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