The Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt is mounting a desperate campaign in the U.S. to avoid being designated as a Foreign Terrorist Organization, according to The Seventh Day, one of Egypt’s largest news outlets.
The political winds have changed in Washington and the Brotherhood is running scared. U.S. President Donald Trump has made clear his support of Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, announcing he stands with the Egyptian president in his fight against terror and extremist groups that are threatening one of America’skey allies in the Middle East.
After tens of millions of Egyptians took to the streets to protest the abuse and power grabs of former Egyptian president Mohammed Morsi (a member of the Brotherhood’s political party) in the summer of 2013, El-Sisi and the military took control of Egypt. He was elected president in 2014.
El-Sisi’s recently successful meeting with Trump in Washington set a Brotherhood plan in motion to gain support of members of Congress and academia to block a move to designate the organization as terrorists.
Lectures, discussions and events are being held in prominent American universities, including Harvard and Georgetown, about the “constructive contribution” the Brotherhood has made to Egypt since the Arab Spring began.
For example, speaking under the title “The Nobility in Justice,” Mahmoud a-Sharkawi, a Brotherhood official in Washington, lectured about the “positive” role the Brotherhood has played in Egypt since January 25, 2011 (the date marking the beginning of the Arab Spring in Egypt) in a conference at St. John’s University in New York.
The group is also reaching out to members of Congress, trying to re-brand the way it is perceived in Washington after al-Sisi’s successful visit.
Testifying in Congress, Tarek a-Zimer, head of the Building and Development Party, the political party of the Egyptian Brotherhood, urged Americans to change their views about the organization. Other officials of the Brotherhood who attended the hearing used their presence to incite against el-Sisi and the current Egyptian government.
Writing in a blog, A-Zimer asked, “Have the Americans internalized the lesson and fully understood the danger of the current situation to their interests?”
Sources close to the Brotherhood say the purpose of the campaign being waged on American university campuses is to put pressure on Trump in light of the negative opinions about the Brotherhood that are now prevalent in Washington due to the change in administrations.
What they fear most is a decision by the administration to designate the Brotherhood as a terror organization.
Hisham a-Naggar, an Islamic scholar, agreed. He said the purpose of the Brotherhood campaign is to confront the new negative shift in American opinions toward the Brotherhood. These opinions include support for el-Sisi and allying with him against terror – positions that include a crackdown on Brotherhood activities.
Formerly, having the support of the West (and the American president) was the Brotherhood’s “ace in the hole” – the most important card the group could play in its multi-faceted moves to take over Arab countries and their current regimes. Now that support has been taken away, and the group is reeling.
Tarek al-Bashabishi, a former Brotherhhood official who now works against the organization, commented that ever since the Brotherhood lost power in June 2013, it’s been been inciting various Arab countries and international institutions against Egypt to weaken el-Sisi so the Brotherhood can return to power.
Al-Bashabishi added that after Trump was elected, a huge political shift occurred. The U.S. administration is now against the Brotherhood and in support of el-Sisi’s fight against them. Now, he says, the Brotherhood’s only option is to try to bribe Trump’s rivals in Congress so they can be used as mouthpieces for the Brotherhood.
He said the Brotherhood is engaged in a fight for its life, playing all its cards – including using financial support from Turkey and Qatar and the Brotherhood lobby in America – to avoid being designated as a terror organization.
Al-Bashabishi also noted the same phenomenon in the UK, where he said the Brotherhood is trying to bribe members of the House of Commons to support the anti-Egypt opinions of the Brotherhood.
Ran Meir is Clarion Project’s Arab Affairs Analyst