International Relations Multilateral Prelims cum Mains

Muslim Brotherhood, the group the US wants designated ‘terrorist’

The News

  • The U.S said that the proposal to designate the Muslim Brotherhood a foreign terrorist organization (FTO) is under its internal process.



  • The US had considered the designation of Muslim brotherhood as a FTO in 2017 but later dropped the idea.
  • Recently, a meeting between the US president and Abdel Fattah al-Sisi of Egypt was held in the White House.
  • During the meeting the Egyptian leader requested to the United States to designate the Muslim Brotherhood group as a foreign terrorist organization (FTO) and impose sanction on it.
  • The U.S president also agreed to the demands of the Egyptian leader.


Summary of the news

  • The U.S President wants to designate the Muslim Brotherhood as a foreign terrorist organization and impose economic and travel sanctions on it.
  • However, some officials in the U.S have raised objections to this considering that:
    • This organization does not meet the legal definition of a terrorist group.
    • Such designation could have unintended consequences in allied countries where the Brotherhood fields prominent political parties.


Understanding about the Muslim Brotherhood


  • The Muslim Brotherhood is a movement founded by a school teacher, Hassan al-Bannain Egypt in 1928.
  • The purpose of founding the movement was Islamic religious revival, which would Muslim nations to improve their situation and defeat their colonial masters.
  • Though he wanted that the Muslim nations defeat the colonial masters but he didn’t give any specific idea of Muslim government.


  • His teachings spread far beyond Egypt.
  • Even today many Islamist political movementsin the world trace their roots to the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood.
  • However, some of these groups do not explicitly link themselves with the Muslim Brotherhood.
  • Also, political parties explicitly linked with the Muslim Brotherhood are recognized in many countries including Jordan, Iraq, Kuwait, Bahrain, Morocco, Turkey and Tunisia.


Arguments suggesting terrorist links of the group

  • International advocacy: Countries like Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates argue the Islamic ideology of the group is a threat to the idea of the nation-state and thus a threat to the region’s stability.
  • Connection with Al Qaeda: Ayman al-Zawahiri, the fugitive leader of al-Qaeda, is a former member of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood and both the groups are part of the same movement since both envision societies grounded in Islam.
  • Terrorism: Some factions of the Egyptian Brotherhood such as Hasm and Liwa al-Thawra have broken off and carried out violence against the government, based on which the Egyptian president accuses the group as a whole of supporting and carrying out terrorism.
  • Violent attacks: Hamas, a faction of the Muslim Brotherhood carries out bombings and rocket attacks on Israeli civilians, which the Muslim Brotherhood considers legitimate resistance to Israeli occupation.


Arguments countering terrorist links of the group

  • Experts view: Even the experts critical of the groupargue that the organization does not meet the criteria for a terrorist group.
  • Denouncement: The founder of the group denounced the perpetrators of violent act and said that those perpetrators of violence are neither Brother nor are they Muslims.
  • Formal declaration: In 1960s, a small circle of Muslim Brothers were arrested for reestablishing an armed wing and in turn, the group formally codified its opposition to violence by adopting a title, “Preachers, Not Judges.”
  • Investigation: Britain also investigated designating the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist group but decided the group did not qualify.
  • Criticized Al Qaeda: Ayman al-Zawahirihas assailed the non-violent position taken by the Brotherhood and also the Brotherhood strongly criticise al-Qaeda.
  • Shifting of groups: Many people who are frustrated with the non-violent ideology of the group have quit it and joined more militant organizations such as Al Qaeda.
  • Difficult to categorize: Many Brotherhood affiliates around the world operate independently and identify loosely with the Egyptian original, so it is difficult to identify the links categorically.
  • Advocates of democracy: They call for democratic elections across the Arab world due to which they are being opposed bythe authoritarian governments as well as militant Islamists.
  • Winning the elections: The Muslim Brotherhood began winning seats in Egypt since the 1980s and in 2011Mohamed Morsi, a Muslim brotherhood member won Egypt’s first free presidential election though he was ousted in 2013.


About foreign terrorist organisation (FTO)

  • The Secretary of State of the U.S is authorized to “designate an organization as a foreign terrorist organizationunder Section 219 of the United States Immigration and Nationality Act.
  • The criteria for such designation are-
    • The organization is a foreign organization.
    • The organization engages in terrorist activity or terrorism.
    • The organization threatens the security of United States nationals or the national security of the United States.
  • Currently, total sixty-eight terrorist organizations have been designated as FTOs by the U.S.
  • The FTO list includes Hamas, Hezbollah, al-Qaida, the Islamic State, Jundallah, Boko Haram, and the Colombian FARC.
  • Some organizations that threaten India are also on the FTOs list including Jaish-e-Mohammad, Lashkar-e-Taiba, Hizbul-Mujahideen, Haqqani Network, and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, the Indian Mujahideen, LTTE, and Harkat-ul Jihad al-Islami-Bangladesh.

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