Should the Trump administration’s ongoing discussions result in designating the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) a terrorist organization, it would harm America’s national security and destabilize Sunni Muslim countries, many of whom are presumed allies of the United States. Despite objections to such a designation from within the administration, President Donald Trump seems to have been persuaded by Egypt’s strongman Abdel Fattah al-Sisi during his recent visit to Washington to make this ill-advised policy.
The decision to declare the MB a terrorist organization reflects an ignorance of the organization’s history, ideology, deep roots in the Muslim world and impact on mainstream Muslim political activism globally. If the administration’s goal is to separate radicals and extremists from mainstream Muslims, then pushing the MB into the radical camp by declaring it a terrorist organization is short-sighted and counterproductive.
According to press reports, Egyptian strongman Sisi on his recent visit to the White House lobbied Trump to declare the MB a terrorist organization. Trump reportedly acquiesced to Sisi’s request because of his visceral attraction to dictators and because of his scant knowledge of the Muslim Brotherhood and Islamic politics in general.
Since Sisi removed the MB-affiliated Egyptian president Muhammad Morsi from office in 2013, his regime began to target MB members mercilessly. Thousands were arrested illegally, tortured, put through sham trials and given harsh sentences, including the death penalty. Sisi’s policy directly contradicts his earlier thinking on the matter. He has done that despite his belief that domestic stability in Egypt could best be achieved through a partnership between the military and the Muslim Brotherhood.