Never has a Western document provoked such panic among the ranks of the Muslim Brotherhood. The most inflamed see it as a “declaration of war” and threaten to take revenge. The most cunning adopt a low profile, fearing a ban on the Brotherhood.
In a hearing held on 11 July 2018 under the title of “The threat of the Muslim Brotherhood to the United States and its interests”, the US Congress Subcommittee on National Security presented a report with extremely alarming conclusions, describing the Brotherhood founded in 1928 by the Egyptian Hassan Al-Banna as “a radical Islamist organization that has expanded into a network of branches in over 70 countries”.
To define the scope of the threat posed to the United States and the world by the Muslim Brotherhood, the committee based its conclusions on testimonies and expert reports by a group of eminent analysts made up of Hillel Fradkin (Hudson Institute), Jonathan Schanzer (Foundation for Defence of Democracies), Zuhdi Jasser (American Islamic Forum for Democracy), Daniel Benjamin, Norman E. McCulloch Jr. and John Sloan Dickey (Center for International Understanding, Dartmouth College) and Ambassador Ryan Crocker, Diplomat in Residence at Princeton University.
The committee produced a highly detailed 90-page report titled “The Muslim Brotherhood’s Global Threat”, concluding that the Muslim Brotherhood constitutes “an influential global movement whose different branches work to promote a radical and extremely violent ideology, even though some of these branches are not directly involved in terrorism”.
At the end of the hearing, the Chair of the Congress Subcommittee, Ron DeSantis openly acknowledged that “US policy has not taken into account the radical behaviour of the Muslim Brotherhood and its support for terrorist groups”. This admission is seen as an early indication of the will of the US Congress and the Trump Administration to classify the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization.
In the face of this threat on the horizon, the headquarters of the Muslim Brotherhood remained discreet, restricting itself to the usual rhetoric by accusing the US committee report of being part of a “campaign led by the religious extreme Right in the United States against Islam”. However, certain offshoots of the Muslim Brotherhood, particularly in Libya, have called this report a “declaration of war”.
For instance, Khaled El-Mashri, the head of the “Justice and Construction Party”, the political showcase of the Muslim Brotherhood in Libya, was quick to meet with Stephanie Williams, who he knew when she was acting ambasador in the US Embassy in Libya, and who had just been appointed assistant representative of the United Nations in the country, to “ask her for clarification”, while warning her that the report could have “dangerous consequences”.
For his part, the Head of the Military Council of Tripoli, the former Jihadist affiliated to al-Qaida Abdelhakim Belhadj, who is presently close to the Muslim Brotherhood, sounded an even more threatening note. According to a confidential European document, he would have cautioned a Western source with whom he had spoken in Istanbul that the report by the Congress constituted, as he saw it, “a declaration of war by the United States and their Emirati allies against the Muslim Brotherhood”, while warning his interlocutor that this “would have consequences, including in Libya”.
At the moment, these threats remain at the level of verbal intimidation. However, if the Trump Administration decided to carry out its threats to classify the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organisation, there is no doubt that the armed wing of the Brotherhood would not hesitate to turn words into deeds.