The list of terrorist organizations published on November 16 by the United Arab Emirates cabinet is causing acute embarrassment in the West, since the Muslim Brotherhood and all its offshoots, from the Middle East to Africa, Asia, Europe and the US, figure prominently there.
The UAE did not stop there and, alongside the usual suspects – al-Qaida and its affiliates, Islamic State, Boko Haram, Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis and the like, listed well-known Islamic organizations in Italy, Sweden, Finland, Serbia, Great Britain (four), Denmark, Norway, Germany, Belgium and the United States (two). Though all are NGOs operating as welfare associations or associations for the defense of the rights of Muslim minorities in Western countries, they have strong ties to the Brotherhood. Some of these organizations were created by the first waves of Arab immigrants to Europe in the ’50s and were later taken over by the Muslim Brothers; others were created by the Brotherhood at the same time to make sure that the newcomers – students and workers – kept their Islamic identity and did not integrate into Western society.
The list has provoked angry reactions from European countries and from the United States because it includes powerful Muslim organizations such as the Council on American- Islamic Relations (CAIR) and the Muslim American Society (MAS), or the Union of Islamic Organizations of France (UOIF). These organizations enjoy a fruitful cooperation with national governments, but according to the UAE, they are affiliated to the Brotherhood and are therefore terrorist organizations.
Also on the list is the Federation of Islamic Organizations in Europe, which is the European branch of the Muslim Brothers. It has been active among Muslim immigrants since the ’50s and has been registered as a NGO in Great Britain since 1989. Its center today is in Brussels and it federates more than a thousand (!) Islamic organizations in 30 countries: women’s associations, associations for the protection of children, student organizations, workers associations and welfare organizations.
Its avowed purpose is to strengthen the religious identity of all Muslims on the continent and promote its fundamental goals: restore the caliphate and impose Shar’ia law.
Western media and governments still believe that the Brotherhood is a moderate, authentic Islamic movement working for the development and modernization of the Muslim world; a movement which is the only hope of that world. In Washington the State Department said that CAIR and MAS were not terrorist organizations and asked the UAE for “clarifications”– a move duplicated by Oslo regarding the Islamic Council of Norway. Stockholm rejected the classification of the Brotherhood, and more specifically that of the Muslim Association of Sweden, as terrorist organizations.
London has yet to react.
After all, several months ago Prime Minister David Cameron initiated an investigation to check whether Muslim Brothers in the United Kingdom had links with terrorism.
Though that investigation is apparently completed, its results have yet to be made public. According to what has filtered to the press, proof of such links was discovered but the British government, fearing violent reaction from its Muslim citizens, has asked for further inquiries.
The Arab League hastened to hail the publication of the list.
Its secretary-general, Egyptian Nabil Elaraby, issued a communique stating “We are fully in agreement with that decision, especially in view of the wave of terror in the region.”
He added that Saudi Arabia had pronounced the Brotherhood a terrorist organization and that Egypt had already taken a similar measure. One has to remember that the Muslim Brothers in Egypt are still refusing to accept the ouster of president Mohamed Morsi and are waging an all-out fight against President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.
Coincidentally, there are startling developments these days in the stormy relationship between Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the Emirates on the one hand, and Qatar, a staunch supporter of the Brotherhood, on the other. Several months ago, these three countries recalled their ambassadors to Doha for consultations.
They were protesting Qatari continuing support for the Brothers and the unrelenting campaign by Al Jazeera for the Brotherhood and against Egypt and the Gulf countries.
They gave the emir of Qatar an ultimatum: Expel the leaders of the Brotherhood, and their star theologian and preacher Yusuf al-Qaradawi, and stop the incitement.
Last week some form of “compromise” was reached.
The three ambassadors will go back to Doha; as for the leaders of the Brotherhood, they will be allowed to stay in Qatar but will stop their incitement. So far there has been no change in the tone of the broadcasts of the popular Qatari channel and it appears that the so-called compromise is the result of the growing fears of Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states, confronted on the one hand by the threat of a rampaging Islamic State and on the other by the very real possibility of a nuclear Iran as negotiations between Tehran and the West reach a critical point.
The Saudis have therefore come to the reluctant conclusion that presenting a united front of all Gulf countries is of paramount importance.
The Saudi monarch asked for Egypt’s understanding “for the sake of a common Arab interest.”
In Cairo the presidency issued a short communiqué applauding the deal; however, asked whether Egypt was going to normalize its relations with Qatar, President Sisi answered that Cairo would have to wait and see how the compromise would be implemented.
Nobody really expects the Muslim Brothers to stop fighting a regime they call illegitimate and which furthermore has jailed those of their leaders who did not flee in time, and even sentenced some of them to death.
Egyptian daily Al-Masry al-Youm reported, citing unidentified sources, that Sisi had been privy to the reconciliation process between Saudi Arabia and Qatar and that Qatar not only accepted to stop incitement against Egypt but promised to contribute to its economy. His cautious reaction shows that he does not trust Qatar but wants to show respect to Saudi Arabia, his country’s best ally.
As things stand today, Arab countries, caught in a maelstrom which threatens to engulf them all as it has already engulfed Libya, Somalia, Yemen, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon, are desperately trying to find a way out, even at the price of a hazardous compromise.
European countries, which could be next, are still unwilling to recognize how dangerous are the terrorist organizations active on their soil and openly admitting their links to the Brotherhood.The writer, a fellow of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, is a former ambassador to Romania, Egypt and Sweden.