The word “terrorist” conjures within the mind’s eye scenes of chaos. One Islamist terror group in particular, operates on a scale and with a presence that surpasses Al Qaeda and ISIS, which are in fact its ideological offshoots. Denied the reins of an actual government since the removal of Mohammed Morsi from the presidency in Egypt in 2013, the Muslim Brotherhood now operates from the shadows across a vast geography ranging from Europe to Qatar, hiding in plain sight.
A few days ago, a British parliamentary session shed light on this issue. Members of Parliament called for the Muslim Brotherhood to be formally designated a terrorist group by the UK. Ian Paisley, from Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party, told Parliament that the Brotherhood encourages “hatred and attacks on Christians”, and that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, whose AKP party is largely inspired by Brotherhood ideology, was a “problem for Christians”. Conservative MP Bob Stewart echoed those concerns.
The Brotherhood is, indeed, a problem for Christians and others among the Middle East’s religious minorities. What Mr Paisley fails to point out, however, is that the Brotherhood is a problem for Muslims, too. Arab and Muslim nations have fought for decades against its attempts to turn the region’s “sacred beliefs into tools of hatred”, to quote Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan.
Since its founding in 1928, the organisation, which originated in Egypt, has stopped at nothing to seize power and establish an intolerant Islamic theocracy in its home country. The group regularly targets Coptic churches, tourists and the military.
The Brotherhood’s ideological offspring includes a host of odious groups, responsible for a multitude of bloody attacks, attempted coups, and reigns of terror and ineptitude across the Middle East. Hamas’s takeover of Gaza, for instance, has only served to weaken Palestinian sovereignty and cut residents of the Strip off from their compatriots in the West Bank and their Arab neighbours in Egypt. Hamas is also responsible for a slew of attacks, kidnappings and deaths. The Brotherhood’s malevolent reach has even grazed the Gulf, where they have unsuccessfully attempted to take root. The UAE formally applied the terrorist label to the group in 2014, a few months after Saudi Arabia had done the same.
Having been given chase by governments in Egypt and the Gulf, the Muslim Brotherhood has now sought refuge in Doha, which has assisted in whitewashing the group’s image outside the region, including in Europe.
Last year, two French journalists uncovered Doha's financing of terrorist groups, including the Muslim Brotherhood, in a book titled Qatar Papers – How the Emirate Finances Islam in France and Europe. Their work has revealed that Qatar funnelled Dh296 million to more than 140 projects across Europe to support the Brotherhood's expansion in the west.
Last April, US President Donald Trump said that he plans to add the Brotherhood to the US list of Foreign Terrorist Organisations. It is high time that Europe takes concerns about the Brotherhood seriously, and stood in solidarity with the millions of victims whose lives have been shattered by the group.