Has the Muslim Brotherhood lost its European safe haven?

The Brotherhood considers Britain a safe country for it and an easy place to escape to, will this still be the case?

Abdel Latif el-Menawy
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The Canadian parliament has designated the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization after petitions were signed off and sent to it. Now that Britain is moving in a similar direction, it seems Europe has decided to lift its support of the Brotherhood.

Although the British intelligence community’s decision to take a close look at the Muslim Brotherhood’s activity in London surprised many, the move isn’t at all surprising for Britain which suffered from terrorism in 2005 - the July 7 London bombings.

These bombings, which targeted Underground train stations and killed 50 people and injured around 700 others, was the price the UK paid for harboring terrorists and embracing terrorist organizations and for turning into a haven for many extremists during the 1990s. Following the explosions which targeted innocent people in Egypt, and now that Egypt and Saudi Arabia have blacklisted the group, it seems Britain has finally realized the threat of the Brotherhood which wears the mask of Islam yet adopts violence.


On the run

After the Brotherhood’s state collapsed in Egypt and after the group was expelled from Saudi Arabia, Britain has found itself leaning in a new direction regarding extremist groups, especially since there are reports that Brotherhood members who fled to Qatar intend to immigrate to London. Therefore, the UK must be cautious of having London turn into a new haven for Islamist extremists.

The UK must be cautious of having London turn into a new haven for Islamist extremists

Abdel Latif el-Menawy

Meanwhile, the Brotherhood sensed the threat against it and hit back at British Prime Minister David Cameron - who ordered the investigation into it - and threatened to resort to the judiciary. The group said that it will take matters to court if the British government seeks to restrict its activities in London, and voiced its concern that former British ambassador to Saudi Arabia John Jenkins will lead the review ordered by Cameron.

A spokeswoman for Cameron justified why Jenkins was assigned to lead the review and said: “[the review] would focus on the group across the region, not just Egypt, and Jenkins has deep knowledge of the Middle East.” This justification however has not put an end to the anger of the Brotherhood – which has several legal, religious and charity organizations affiliated with it in London. The Brotherhood usually uses these organizations as a cover for other operations.

Choosing Britain

The Brotherhood considers Britain a safe country for it and an easy place to escape to. Therefore, it seems the group is worried about the inquiry into it because it’s a surprising and unprecedented move by Britain which never considered the group as a terrorist organization and never even put the group under surveillance. The British Times newspaper reported that the investigation will include assigning the MI6, Britain’s overseas intelligence agency, to examine allegations that the Muslim Brotherhood is behind a bus attack which killed British tourists abroad. It also said the MI6 would investigate other attacks in which there are suspicions of the Brotherhood’s involvement. But the major inquiry which Britain will launch will be carried out by the MI5, the domestic counter-intelligence and security agency, and will be focused on the Brotherhood’s presence inside the country.

These measures seem tantamount to lifting the European cover off from the Brotherhood - a cover which the group has long enjoyed. These measures also echo Egypt’s warnings of international terrorism threats and of radical international projects that are far from religion and only use Islam as a cover.

This article was first published in al-Masry al-Youm on April 6, 2014.


Abdel Latif el-Menawy is an author, columnist and multimedia journalist who has covered conflicts around the world. He is the author of “Tahrir: the last 18 days of Mubarak,” a book he wrote as an eyewitness to events during the 18 days before the stepping down of former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. Menawy’s most recent public position was head of Egypt’s News Center. He is a member of the National Union of Journalists in the United Kingdom, and the Egyptian Journalists Syndicate. He can be found on Twitter @ALMenawy

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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