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The battle against the Brotherhood is not in Britain

It is normal that Britain would not care about banning the Brotherhood and pursuing its members

Abdulrahman al-Rashed

Published: Updated:

The Muslim Brotherhood was overjoyed by the British ministry of foreign affairs’ statement that “it is studying the Egyptian cabinet’s decision [that] labeled the group a terrorist organization” and that “Britain does not ban the Brotherhood’s [branch] in Britain and does not consider it a terrorist organization.” Britain is a vital hub as many of the group’s leaders and followers reside there, the country is the base for a lot of the group’s activities, not just linked to Egypt but the wider Middle East as well.

It is normal that Britain would not care about banning the Brotherhood and pursuing its members. It is because the Brotherhood does not have a political agenda that opposes the British state. The Brotherhood is thus solely the problem of Egypt and of the countries it targets for political change.

Britain went through a similar situation when it banned the Irish Republican Army (IRA) and stipulated that the penalty for belonging to the group could reach up to ten years in prison. However, many countries rejected the British categorization of the separatist movement as a terrorist one. The U.S., which was an important arena for the separatists to collect donations and market their cause, also rejected this terrorist categorization of the group. The same applied to many European countries. But the situation changed after the Sept. 11 attacks and the U.S. categorized the IRA as a banned organization. Other western countries followed in the U.S.’s footsteps.

I doubt that the Egyptian government will win its battle with the British who have a tradition of hosting opposition groups from the Middle East and South Asia.

The Egyptian government’s battle with the Brotherhood is not in the West but in Egypt itself

Abdulrahman al-Rashed

The Egyptian government’s battle with the Brotherhood is not in the West but in Egypt itself. It’s more of an intellectual battle than a security or a political one because the Egyptians have seen the Brotherhood persecuted under successive governments until the revolution erupted, providing the group an opportunity to increase its influence.

Bearing witness

Everyone was witness to how the Muslim Brotherhood was granted a chance and took the presidency, the cabinet and parliament. After that, it showed a previously unknown face. It failed to transform from a group into a state and worked to monopolize governance, eliminate other parties and establish an internal system that intimidated others. People thus screamed for salvation and the Brotherhood’s dream ended up as a nightmare.

Egypt can overcome the extremist phase of the Brotherhood, or the Brotherhood’s extremist wing, by establishing the values of the modern state. A state that is open to everyone and that rejects extremism and depends on political participation. It can do so by generalizing the culture of the civil state which respects everyone, instead of generalizing the culture of the political exploitation of religion like the Brotherhood leaders used to do.

In case the Brotherhood resorts to international terrorism or speak in the language of terrorism, then the group may become internationally pursued - just as Britain blacklisted the Egyptian groups of al-Jamat al-Islamiya and the Islamic Jihad as terrorist organizations.

This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on Dec. 30, 2013.

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Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. A veteran and internationally acclaimed journalist, he is a former editor-in-chief of the London-based leading Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, where he still regularly writes a political column. He has also served as the editor of Asharq al-Awsat’s sister publication, al-Majalla. Throughout his career, Rashed has interviewed several world leaders, with his articles garnering worldwide recognition, and he has successfully led Al Arabiya to the highly regarded, thriving and influential position it is in today.

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