Will Arabs Have the Courage to Label Muslim Brotherhood a Terrorist Group?
The Egyptians authorities have officially labeled the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist group, triggering a debate as to whether other Arab countries should follow suit.
The decision was taken in light of Muslim Brotherhood's alleged responsibility for a series of terror attacks against Egyptian civilians and soldiers.
The question being asked today in the Arab world is whether other countries will take similar measures against Muslim Brotherhood groups and branches.
Buoyed by the Egyptian move, Palestinian and Jordanian political analysts and activists have urged their leaders to seize the opportunity and crack down on the Islamists in their countries.
But for now it seems that most Arabs, especially the Jordanians and Palestinians, are reluctant to follow the Egyptians — the reason why this week the Egyptians urged the members of the Arab League to enforce a counter-terrorism treaty that would block funding and support for Muslim Brotherhood.
Badr Abdelatty, spokesman for the Egyptian Foreign ministry, said Arab League members that signed the 1998 treaty should enforce it against the Muslim Brotherhood, which has a presence in most Arab countries.
The Muslim Brotherhood has a large presence in Jordan; while Hamas, a branch of the organization, controls the entire Gaza Strip and enjoys popular support in the West Bank.
"In the eyes of Muslim Brotherhood, we are infidels and an enemy," said Jordanian analyst Fares al Habashneh. "They believe that an Islamic Caliphate is inevitable and seek to destroy our country and national identity."
Habashneh said that the Jordanian authorities should seize the opportunity and take measures against Muslim Brotherhood in the kingdom. "Their ideological and political option have failed," he added. "It is time to reconsider the presence of the Brotherhood ideology and end their incitement and hatred."
But the Jordanian authorities, which have yet to comment on the Egyptian move to designate the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist group, do not seem to have the courage to follow suit.
Jordan's Minister for Political Development, Khaled Kalaldah, announced that the Muslim Brotherhood is a licensed organization in the kingdom. He denied that his government had plans to outlaw the group.
Even the leaders of Jordan's Muslim Brotherhood say they are confident that King Abdullah II would not take such a drastic measure against their organization. "We have no fear that that the decision taken by the coup leaders in Egypt would affect us in Jordan," said Zaki Bani Irsheid, a senior Muslim Brotherhood official. "It's not in the interest of the regime in Jordan to support such a move because that would threaten stability [in Jordan]."
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas also appears to be reluctant, or afraid, to take a similar decision against his rivals in Hamas. Instead, Abbas is continuing to talk about his desire to achieve "national unity" with the Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood.
For now, Abbas is turning a blind eye to demands from some of his advisors and loyalists to declare Hamas a terrorist group. He and his Fatah loyalists have reacted to the Egyptian move by calling on Hamas to "disengage" from the Muslim Brotherhood – a call that has been rejected by the Islamist movement in the Gaza Strip.
Palestinian political analyst Adel Abdel Rahman pointed out that the Egyptian authorities' decision should also apply to Hamas, which he said is a "branch of the Muslim Brotherhood and its partner in terrorist attacks."
The Palestinian leadership, he added, should issue Hamas with a one-month ultimatum to disengage from Muslim Brotherhood or face the repercussions. "Hamas should be asked to apologize to the Egyptian people and their leadership for all the terror attacks it participated in," he said. "Hamas should also immediately dismantle its armed militia and relinquish control over the Gaza Strip."
Muwafak Matar, another Palestinian analyst, said that Hamas now faces only one option: to disengage from the Muslim Brotherhood and return to the Palestinian people.
Hamas, he said, "represents only a small fraction of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. We rule out the possibility that Hamas would disengage from the Muslim Brotherhood. Instead, it may resort to military escalation with Israel to distract attention from the Egyptian decision."
Prominent Palestinian editor Abdel Bari Atwan said he now expects the Egyptians to declare Hamas a terrorist group. "After declaring war on the Muslim Brotherhood and arresting its leaders and members, the next step is surely going to be accusing Hamas of terrorism," he said. "The Egyptian authorities see Hamas as belonging ideologically to the Muslim Brotherhood and this is partially true. But the Egyptians will not be able to do the same thing to Muslim Brotherhood groups in Jordan, Iraq, Turkey and Tunisia because the Egyptian authorities cannot reach these groups and strangle them as they are doing with Hamas in the Gaza Strip."
The reluctance of Arabs to declare the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist group means that the ball is now in the court of the Arab League, which is entitled to ask Arab leaders to enforce the 1998 counter-terrorism treaty. Jordan's King Abdullah and PA President Mahmoud Abbas can use the treaty as an excuse to outlaw the Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan and Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
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