Demonizing The Muslim Brotherhood Will Not Help in The Fight Against ISIS

Demonizing The Muslim Brotherhood Will Not Help in The Fight Against ISIS

David Cameron launched his investigation into the Muslim Brotherhood by saying, " It is an important piece of work… we will only get our policy right if we fully understand the true nature of the organisation."[i] Four months later, ISIS is posing a major threat to regional and global stability and the right policy would be to make a clear distinction between political Islam and violent jihadism. Groups like the Muslim Brotherhood should be treated as allies and not frozen out as terrorists, which is what David Cameron’s inquiry into the movement may end up doing.

The investigation, commissioned in April and headed by Britain’s Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Sir John Jenkins, has been looking into the Brotherhood’s alleged links to extremism. There is a possibility that the movement may be proscribed as a terrorist organisation, a decision that has the potential to cast suspicion over countless Muslims around the world. Is this really wise when the so-called "war on terror" is being lost?

Western suspicion and at times fear of political Islam is born out of a number of overlapping issues: the Iranian Islamic revolution; terrorist acts, of which one would be seen as the defining moment of the 21st century; and questions about Islam’s compatibility with the mores of secular western democracy. The last of course has little bearing on government policy given western governments’ enduring ties with repressive regimes in the Middle East.

The success of Islamist parties in Turkey and across the region in the "Arab Spring" has done little to allay these concerns. Even after winning three of the most democratic of elections in the Middle East, the jury is still out on political Islam. In 2006, Hamas won the very first internationally-observed election held in Palestine; in Tunisia, Ennahda (Renaissance) Party secured 41 per cent of the parliamentary seats; and in Egypt the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party won close to an absolute majority. The double standards employed by the West towards Islamist parties, particularly the Brotherhood in Egypt, were evident in the response to the revolution which unseated a military regime, replaced it with a democratically-elected president, and was itself undone by a military coup. This is damaging and counterproductive in the real battle against violent jihadists like ISIS.

The sudden impetus for Cameron’s investigation into the Brotherhood, which is also charged with identifying the values and philosophy of the movement to better understand "what we are dealing with", may backfire, claimed Professor Rosemary Hollis.[ii] The decision to push ahead with it is reported to have originated with British intelligence, not from the Foreign Office, where there is greater awareness of the dangers of alienating the rank and file of an Islamist movement hitherto identified as relatively moderate and nonviolent.

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