The U.S. Shouldn’t Label the Muslim Brotherhood as Terrorists
The Trump administration is considering designating the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization. Yaroslav Trofimov details some of the problems with doing this. One problem is that it effectively lends support to jihadists:
“Muslim Brothers are part of the society. If you go and try to make pressure against them, you are supporting the violence. You are supporting ISIS. You are supporting al Qaeda,” said Mohammed Dallal, a Kuwaiti lawmaker affiliated with the Brotherhood. “Those kind of terrorist people will be saying: ‘We told you so.’ They will never accept democracy. They will never accept your participation in elections.”
There are numerous governments in the region that include some members of Muslim Brotherhood affiliates or are on good terms with the group, so relations with them would be harmed by the attempt to list the MB as a terrorist organization. There is also some danger that listing the group as a terrorist organization could infringe on the rights of American Muslims here at home and may even create risks for academics that study these movements. The effort to label the group as terrorists is driven by ridiculous anti-Islamist fanatics at home that imagine that the Muslim Brotherhood has infiltrated the government and by authoritarian client states abroad that want to be able to oppress their domestic opponents even more. It’s a bad cause, and it should be defeated.
The biggest flaw is that labeling them as terrorists isn’t based in any proof that they are engaged in or even interested in using violence to achieve their goals. Besides being wrong on the facts, the danger in labeling an organization as terrorists on ideological grounds alone is that it erases the line between groups that pursue their political goals peacefully and those that resort to violence. That feeds into jihadist propaganda and helps to discredit organizations that reject violence. It eliminates important distinctions between the very sort of Islamists that are willing to work within existing political structures and those that want to destroy them. Designating the group as terrorists would be a major error and would undermine counter-terrorism efforts all across the region.