British government opposes banning Muslim Brotherhood

Still, report describes group as having ‘ambiguous relationship’ with terrorism, and says membership is a possible red flag

Egypt's former president Mohammed Morsi sits in the defendant's cage during a court hearing in Cairo, Egypt, November 3, 2014. (AP/Mohammed al-Law)
Egypt's former president Mohammed Morsi sits in the defendant's cage during a court hearing in Cairo, Egypt, November 3, 2014. (AP/Mohammed al-Law)

Links to the Muslim Brotherhood should be considered a “possible indicator of extremism,” but the group should not be banned, according to a British government review published on Thursday.

“Parts of the Muslim Brotherhood have a highly ambiguous relationship with violent extremism,” British Prime Minister David Cameron said in a statement, according to Reuters. “Both as an ideology and as a network, it has been a rite of passage for some individuals and groups who have gone on to engage in violence and terrorism.” He described the group as “deliberately opaque, and habitually secretive.”

Last year, Cameron ordered British intelligence to launch a probe into the Islamist party, after reports suggested it was planning militant activities from London following a harsh crackdown on the organization in Egypt.

The Brotherhood — the oldest Islamist movement in the Middle East — describes itself as a peaceful charitable and political movement. Saudi Arabia and Egypt, however, consider it a terror organization. In Egypt, Brotherhood leader Mohammed Morsi was ousted as president in 2013.

The British review described the Brotherhood’s form of political Islam as primarily “a political project,” but said that a minority of its supporters in Egypt “have engaged alongside other Islamists in violent acts.”

Cameron said groups linked to and influenced by the Brotherhood had sometimes characterized Britain as fundamentally hostile to Muslim faith and identity and had expressed support for suicide bombings and other attacks by Hamas.

“Aspects of the Muslim Brotherhood’s ideology and activities therefore run counter to British values of democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty, equality and the mutual respect and tolerance of different faiths and beliefs,” he said. But the group’s views and activities didn’t meet the legal tests for a ban.

Cameron said the government would keep tabs on the views and activities of Muslim Brotherhood associates in Britain and on whether the group met the legal test for being outlawed as a terrorist organization.

Britain would also maintain its policy of refusing visas to members and associates of the group who have made extremist comments and will intensify its scrutiny of the views and activities of Brotherhood members, associates and affiliates overseas.

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