A top Turkish politician this week argued that the potential decision by U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration to list the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) as a foreign terrorist organization along with the likes of al-Qaeda would “increase Islamophobia” in America and Europe.
“This move also will increase Islamophobia in Europe and America and will strengthen the hands of extreme rightists and Islam’s enemies in another part of the World,” Omer Celik, the leader of Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), declared on Tuesday, the state-run Anadolu Agency (AA) reports.
Celik also alleged that a U.S. terrorist designation would “deal a major blow to democratization demands in several Middle East nations.”
Some analysts and critics of the designation argue that given the group’s wide range of support across various countries like Turkey and its presence within some of those governments, designating MB a foreign terrorist organization (FTO) would undermine the U.S. relationship with various countries in the Middle East that support the group.
Such designation would “pave the way for American sanctions on the transnational movement, which has supporters throughout the Arab and wider Muslim world,” AA alleges.
The non-governmental Countering Extremism Project (CEP) reports on the relationship between MB and Turkey’s ruling AKP party:
Some members of the leading Justice and Development Party (AKP), however—including Turkish President Recep Erdoğan—have provided various forms of support to the Brotherhood, including granting asylum to wanted Brotherhood members and equipping them with satellite television and radio stations. Despite being charged in absentia by the Egyptian government, some Brotherhood fugitives have been allowed to openly congregate in Turkey and organize against the Egyptian government.
“It is not an armed group, but … an ideological organization,” Erdogan argued in February 2017 in response to international pressure against MB, according to CEP. “There would be no tolerance for the Muslim Brotherhood in Turkey if they had to do with terrorism, and we have not seen or observed any action [from them] that indicates this.”
Erdogan’s relationship with MB goes back decades and he has made Turkey a sanctuary for members exiled from countries that have deemed the organization a terror outfit.
On Tuesday, the White House announced that Trump is weighing making good on his administration’s pledge to list MB as a foreign terrorist organization (FTO).
Trump “has consulted with his national security team and leaders in the region who share his concern,” White House spokesman Sarah Sanders told AA on Tuesday. “This designation is working its way through the internal process.”
In addition to Russia, several Muslim countries, including those that have already outlawed MB, came out in support of Trump’s proposal: Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain, and Egypt. Qatar and Turkey appear to remain MB supporters.
In December 2017, MB threatened to “wage war” against the United States in response to President Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and move the American embassy there, a move that angered several Muslim countries and other jihadi groups like al-Qaeda and the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL).
Some Republican lawmakers have pushed to list MB as a terrorist group to no avail. Former President Barack Obama, who welcomed some of the groups’ representatives to the White House, resisted.
While claiming the group renounced violence decades ago, the New York Times reports that MB affiliates have infiltrated the political systems in Muslim countries like Tunisia and Turkey.
The MB jihadi offshoot Hamas, already designated a terrorist group by the United States, has carried out several attacks, particularly against American ally Israel.
Some news outlets have dismissed assertions by Frank Gaffney, the chairman of the Center for Security Policy, and Mark Levin that MB has already or at the very least trying to infiltrate the American government.
MB’s goal of establishing a society governed by Islamic law, including sharia, is well known.
The U.S. Department of State (DOS) secretary is the leader in charge of adding groups to America’s FTO list.
Anti-designation Trump advisers, and members of the intelligence and law-enforcement communities, argued that not all Brotherhood factions are terror-linked. They also expressed concerns that the wide reach and influence of MB may impact diplomatic relations with countries close to the group like Turkey.
Some critics of the designation argue that the move may illegal given that MB is too diffuse and diverse to characterize as one group and not all its components are explicitly linked to terror.