It may come as a surprise to many Americans that the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) has enjoyed strong support both from the United States and Britain for many years. It is, after all, an organization rejected as fanatical by the vast majority in the Muslim world.
Washington and London’s support stems in part from the belief that the MB represents “moderate Muslims.” Amidst today’s critical debate over extreme Islam and radical politics, both countries regard the MB as a “reasonable” alternative platform for promoting democracy.
It is a mistake of epic proportions.
There are two other salient reasons MB operates with impunity and with the implicit protection of the U.S. and the UK.
The first is money. Lots of it. America and Britain give MB’s global misdeeds a pass in order to ingratiate themselves with the wealthiest of benefactors — Qatar. Qatar is massively rich and massively active in both countries, investing in real estate, hotels, airline links, and media. Qatar brags of its $35 billion U.S. investment. Its $700 million built the new Washington City Center. In the UK, Qatar invested over $33 billion. Projects there include Europe’s tallest office block, the Shard.
Business and politics are inextricably linked and Qatar money funds a variety of Mid-East political factions. This includes Muslim Brotherhood parties in Libya and Egypt, the latter of which is home to ousted MB president Mohamed Morsi.
The second reason is that President Barack Obama and Prime Minister David Cameron are desperate to retain a strong voice in the Middle East and North Africa region. Long before President Obama’s presidency, Washington think tanks were churning out pro-MB policy papers calling for the DC establishment to accept the MB as the “voice of reason.” President Obama apparently heeded the call, and with gusto, symbolically opening up the White House to MB supporters in the United States.
What both the U.S. and the UK fail to realize is that the Brotherhood is no friend to them and certainly no friend to democracy. As is the historical precedent with similar national socialist organizations, the Brotherhood is happy to use democracy to ascend to power, but once there, has no interest in reciprocity.
Egypt is a good case in point. Before being removed from power, the MB was deep into the forced Islamization of the country. It failed, miserably. The great majority of Egyptians had come to loathe Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood, and especially the direction they were taking the country. Those who condemn Morsi’s 2013 ouster as a military coup d’etat are misinformed. It was, in reality, a massively public rejection and overthrow.
(None will soon forget, either, the outrageous but “true-color” outbursts of the Muslim Brotherhood’s spiritual leader, Yousef al-Qaradawi, concerning Hitler’s “appropriate” punishment of Jews.)
It’s happening in Libya as well, albeit in a slightly different fashion. After being overwhelmingly rejected in last year’s elections, the Brotherhood’s political wing, the Justice and Construction Party, turned to violence to force the exile of the legitimate government. Its members in the previous parliament have reconstituted themselves in a rump legislature, refusing to accept there were free and fair elections and claiming they are still in power in Tripoli. Delusional and intransigent, but entirely in character.
Libya’s Muslim Brotherhood has effectively propelled that country into civil war. And Libyans are dying in large numbers, in part thanks to support from Washington and London, both of whom have adopted the puzzling view that the MB holds a political legitimacy on par with those who were actually chosen by the people.
For its part, the MB is careful not to identify itself as an extreme rightwing organization, but it cannot hide the truth. The MB is a classic national socialist movement, possessed of an ideology that it is determined to force upon hundreds of millions of non-accepting Muslims.
What is both ironic and tragic is that in working with the MB, and trying to force the Brotherhood on a region that does not want it, the U.S. and the UK are ensuring they themselves will be rejected by the very people they want to continue to influence.
It is already happening. In Libya, the democratically elected parliament and the government are taking an increasingly wary approach to London and Washington, who they see as having betrayed them. The Saudi-led Arab coalition’s decision to launch airstrikes on Yemen without first consulting or even notifying the U.S. or London is just the latest example of the West’s waning influence.
So it would seem then that Washington and London’s decision to use the MB as a midwife to appeal to former and/or future al-Qaeda/ISIS supporters on the strength of its supposed “moderate Muslim” credentials is ill-advised and thoroughly counterproductive.
As alliances shift in the Middle East and North Africa, the U.S. and the UK are losing ground and missing the obvious. The MB is fractured. Its ‘Dawa faction’ is becoming ever more radicalized by pro-ISIS and al-Qaeda groups. The MB in Libya and in Jordan epitomize that progression.
By helping and harboring an undemocratic and politically toxic MB, the U.S. and the UK are doing the very thing that they have spent so many years attempting to prevent: allowing sovereign states to become safe havens for international terror groups.
The United States and Britain must stop looking for the moderate Muslim in the MB: It is a deadly mirage.
Richard Galustian is a Senior Consultant to several major international corporations involved in Libya as well as the rest of MENA. Based on his background and experience, he has unique access to various influential components of British, U.S. and Middle Eastern and North African societies. One of his primary endeavors involves providing political and business advice. Richard has lived and worked most of his life in the Middle East and North Africa as a defense and security consultant. Noteworthy is the fact that he spent three years in Iraq, post-2003 invasion, as well as time in Afghanistan in 2006 and now in Libya. He is a regular Middle East and Africa commentator for both the Gulf News of the UAE & The Times of Malta.