Britain’s opinion on the Muslim Brotherhood
The reason behind the Brotherhood’s decline is the group’s involvement in hostile political attitudes against Western values
British Prime Minister David Cameron has described the Muslim Brotherhood is a “deliberately opaque and habitually secretive" group. These two charges are not enough to ban the group and sanction its members. If the British government is truly skeptical and has suspicions over the activities of the Brotherhood, then this will prove to be a devastating blow for the reputation of the group, especially that many Brits interested in Middle Eastern affairs had believed the group to be a positive image for Muslims all around the world and worthy of support.
In fact, the British government’s opinion would not be the only blow to the reputation of this group, one of the most well-known Islamic groups in the West. The reason behind the Brotherhood’s decline is the group’s involvement in hostile political attitudes against Western values; against basic freedoms and their support of the use of violence, as seen in Egypt today.
We should not forget that the Muslim Brotherhood had benefited at times from understanding and support among Western human rights organizations and Western intellectual circles, especially when the regional issues were limited and the Brotherhood’s opinion was in line with the pan-Arab street, including shared stances on Palestine and Iraq.
Religion as a political project
However, revolutionary changes forced the Brotherhood to confront difficult questions on freedom of expression, institutional independence and liberal societies. In Egypt, Jordan, Tunisia and, of course, in Gaza, the positions of the group were similar to those of totalitarian regimes; believing only in a freedom compatible with their ideas. The Brotherhood has resorted to adopting strategy of comparison between their group and Islamic terrorist organizations such as al-Qaeda and ISIS; of course, this puts the Brotherhood in a better light in the eyes of the West. However, the Muslim Brotherhood being an “opaque and secretive” group, as described by Cameron, may be no less dangerous, because it raises the prospect of a political project to create a religious state that is based on the rejection of others, whether Muslims or not.
The reason behind the Brotherhood’s decline is the group’s involvement in hostile political attitudes against Western valuesAbdulrahman al-Rashed
Today, the West is aware of the difference between being religious and being extremist, between being a faithful Muslim and being a terrorist. Supporting the right of Muslims to perform their religious rituals and teaching their children Islam is not debatable because it is a constitutional right in most Western countries. However, setting religion as a political project in which a group governs over all others is no longer convincing to many Western intellectuals. The use of religion, whether Christianity, Islam or Hinduism, in this way is dangerous and will lead to fascist regimes that govern in the name of religion in order to survive and exclude others.
Nevertheless, it is worth mentioning that even if the British government is convinced that the Brotherhood is a dangerous entity, it probably won’t ban it or oppress its members because British laws do not impose bans on ideas, but rather acts of violence or threats.
This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on Dec. 19, 2015.
Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the former 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.