43.Critics accuse the Muslim Brotherhood, in particular, of being what the former Prime Minister David Cameron called a “deliberately opaque and habitually secretive” organisation. The Muslim Brotherhood Review concluded that:
From its foundation the Muslim Brotherhood organised itself into a secretive ‘cell’ structure, with an elaborate induction and education programme for new members. It relied heavily on group solidarity and peer pressure to maintain discipline. This clandestine, centralised and hierarchical structure persists to this day.
44.It is also the case that the Muslim Brotherhood argues that—from its foundation and throughout its history, in Egypt and elsewhere in the region—the group has been broadly repressed, thus necessitating a relatively secretive structure. The submission from the group to the Muslim Brotherhood Review detailed how the movement was proscribed in Egypt in 1954, and repressed under numerous Egyptian presidents thereafter. In terms of the present day, the movement argued that “the Muslim Brotherhood finds itself in a period of extreme repression and persecution in Egypt and the Middle East generally”.
45.The repression that the Brotherhood has faced in Egypt, and other parts of the Middle East, makes the group unlikely to be fully transparent about its structure and operations. We have found the Muslim Brotherhood to be a secretive organisation, but not a secret one. The secretiveness of some political-Islamist groups makes it important for the FCO to have a clear understanding of them, and the resources to enable it to do so.
46.Documents provided to us by the Muslim Brotherhood have given some insight into its structure and activities. The submission from the Muslim Brotherhood to the Muslim Brotherhood Review, for example, outlined three types of Brotherhood membership. Speaking about the organisation in Egypt alone, the Deputy Supreme Guide of the Muslim Brotherhood, Ibrahim Mounir, told us that “in Egypt, the number of Muslim Brotherhood members who gained the right to vote on internal issues within the organisation after passing through several stages is nearly 900 thousand or a million”.
47.In terms of their initiation, Mr Mounir told us that members did swear an oath, but said that neither the wording of the oath nor the requirement to swear one was controversial or unique to the Brotherhood. We asked Mr Mounir if he would repeat the oath to us, and he said:
I vow to obey the Muslim Brotherhood organisation, work for its ideas and follow its leadership orders unless they command me to disobey God.
48.In terms of its funding, the Muslim Brotherhood’s submission to the Muslim Brotherhood Review said:
The Muslim Brotherhood is a privately and independently funded movement relying on membership subscription fees to sustain its activity, with each local administrative office charged with independently managing the economic activity in its respective sector. However, the Muslim Brotherhood also accepts donations from members or supporters. In addition to this, the organisation is built on the principle of charity and much of the Muslim Brotherhoods relies on voluntary work by its members.
49.The submission from the Muslim Brotherhood to the Muslim Brotherhood Review said that, despite the repression that the group faced, “the Muslim Brotherhood continues to be a powerful and organised voice in Egypt”. The submission described, seemingly referring to Egypt, a national structure that consisted of “a pyramid formation that can be broken into three geographical spheres”:
i)“Local—the “family” (usra), is a framework established in the first several decades of the movement’s existence. It is essentially an Islamic study circle. Each “family” chooses a leader (naqib) to represent it on the administrative council of the local Muslim Brotherhood branch. Each family member is required to lead an Islamic lifestyle”;
ii)“Regional—The activity of the “families” is monitored by a regional administration…The activity of the regional administrations is directed by the professional departments, subjected to the General Guidance Office”.
iii)“National—the structure of the Muslim Brotherhood has remained essentially identical to the initial scheme formed in the 1930s and 1940s”.
50.The submission explained that the top decision-making body of the Muslim Brotherhood was the General Guidance Office, which operated in conjunction with the General Shura Council.
51.The Muslim Brotherhood has an international presence. The group told us that the Grand Shura Council of the organisation represented the Brotherhood’s “transnational presence”. The Muslim Brotherhood has established or inspired branches in several states, with the evidence provided to us by the Libyan Muslim Brotherhood being one example. The Main Findings of the Muslim Brotherhood Review described how some exiled Brotherhood members had settled, for example, in the UK from Egypt and the UAE. Ibrahim Mounir, the Deputy Supreme Guide of the Brotherhood, was described by the group as being “Secretary General of the International Section”.
52.One analyst argued to us that the Muslim Brotherhood’s international presence is highly developed, but deliberately obscured by the group. Steven Merley, an investigator who has conducted research into what he calls “The Global Muslim Brotherhood”, told us that Brotherhood exiles had established like-minded organisations in their host countries. But Mr Merley told us that the Brotherhood made it difficult to ascertain the nature and extent of its international organisation:
The [Main Findings of the Muslim Brotherhood Review] underestimates the degree of global networking and deception employed by the worldwide networks of the Muslim Brotherhood…In depth investigation has shown that beyond secrecy, there appears to be a concerted effort to deceive and obscure the identity and activities of the Brotherhood network.
53.Ibrahim Mounir, the Deputy Supreme Guide of the Muslim Brotherhood and Head of its International Section, described the international structure of the Muslim Brotherhood as a loose coordination between like-minded groups:
Chair: The question was, do the branches of the Muslim Brotherhood in other countries co-ordinate?
Ibrahim Mounir: There is a real coordination among members of the Muslim Brotherhood, all of its branches and all people who embrace its ideology in almost the whole world. This kind of coordination of those principles does exist in more than one country…This coordination does not necessitate adopting the name “Muslim Brotherhood” or its ideology. The only requirement for this coordination is that it occurs under the principle of Islam’s comprehensiveness which focuses on deeds for this world and the hereafter.
54.There are instances in which the Brotherhood’s emphasis on loose affiliations has made it difficult to ascertain the exact nature of its international structure.
55.The Muslim Brotherhood has a highly defined organisational structure at both a local and national level in Egypt. But the Muslim Brotherhood told us that, incongruously, its international structure comprises a loose and vague affiliation of like-minded groups. The ambiguity of this international structure makes it more difficult to tell which groups around the world are Muslim Brotherhood.
56.The Muslim Brotherhood has been described as varying its messaging, to emphasise one aspect (possibly more liberal or conciliatory) in English while emphasising a different aspect of the same topic (possible more conservative, or rigid) in Arabic. Using the example of the group’s attitudes towards violence, the Main Findings of the Muslim Brotherhood Review concluded that:
Their [the Muslim Brotherhood’s] public narrative—notably in the West—emphasised engagement not violence. But there have been significant differences between Muslim Brotherhood communications in English and Arabic.
The FCO told us that it judged the Muslim Brotherhood, as well as other political Islamist groups, on the basis of both “their words and actions”.
57.Some witnesses told us that the strategy of adapting the same message when delivering it to different audiences was not unique to the Muslim Brotherhood. Dr Omar Ashour said this was something done by “all politicians”. Other witnesses also told us that political Islamists may have positive and pragmatic reasons for varying their messaging. Alison Pargeter told us that:
Political Islamist parties may sometimes tell Western audiences one thing and behave differently when addressing their own constituencies. However, this is not a deliberately deceptive act. Rather it is a reflection of its populist politics and of its immaturity within the political arena. It is also intrinsically linked to these movements’ longstanding desire to encompass as wide a constituency as possible.
58.Some instances of varied messaging, by the Muslim Brotherhood in particular, have indicated a contradiction of the desired outcome. One example took place in September 2012, when the United States Embassy compound in Cairo was breached by a crowd outside. The crowd was demonstrating against a film made in the US that they regarded as insulting Islam. An exchange took place on Twitter between the English-language-feed of the Muslim Brotherhood and that of the US Embassy. A Tweet from the Muslim Brotherhood read:
We r relieved none of @USEmbassyCairo staff were harmed & hope US-Eg relations will sustain turbulence of Tuesday’s events.
The US Embassy in Cairo responded:
Thanks. By the way, have you checked out your own Arabic feeds? I hope you know we read those too.
59.Articles in the Egyptian media suggested that the Arabic-language Twitter feed of the Muslim Brotherhood was encouraging and praising the protests, while the English-language feed issued conciliatory messages of concern for the welfare of embassy staff. An article by Jeed Basyouni, from BBC Monitoring (the translation and analysis branch of the BBC), also lists other examples of what the author termed the Brotherhood’s “doublespeak”.
60.In terms of their messaging, we have seen evidence that some political Islamist groups vary their message to different audiences and, in particular, that they vary content depending on whether the message is in English or Arabic. This is hardly a trait confined to political Islamists alone. But, in some communications, particularly from the Muslim Brotherhood, the English and Arabic messages have proved contradictory. In future, the FCO should take account of this in its dealings with, and analysis of, the Muslim Brotherhood’s communications in different languages in order to assess the sincerity of their public statements.
61.Some of the statements provided to us by the Muslim Brotherhood, on fundamental principles, have contained contradictions, caveats, or significant ambiguities. These include:
62.Some statements by the Muslim Brotherhood to us in English gave the impression of reluctance to offer a straight answer to questions, or of playing defensive rhetorical games with fundamental rights. The FCO is correct to judge these groups on the basis of both their words and their actions. The FCO must be provided with sufficient resources to maintain the capabilities—particularly in linguistics training and translation—that are necessary to identify when the messaging of political-Islamist groups diverges between different languages.
82 Muslim Brotherhood Review, , para 9
83 Submission from ITN Solicitors, on behalf of the Muslim Brotherhood, to the Muslim Brotherhood Review, paras 31-47, placed in the Parliamentary Archives.
84 Submission from ITN Solicitors, on behalf of the Muslim Brotherhood, to the Muslim Brotherhood Review, para 122, placed in the Parliamentary Archives.
85 Submission from ITN Solicitors, on behalf of the Muslim Brotherhood, to the Muslim Brotherhood Review, para 104, placed in the Parliamentary Archives.
89 Submission from ITN Solicitors, on behalf of the Muslim Brotherhood, to the Muslim Brotherhood Review, para 107, placed in the Parliamentary Archives.
90 Submission from ITN Solicitors, on behalf of the Muslim Brotherhood, to the Muslim Brotherhood Review, para 123, placed in the Parliamentary Archives.
91 Submission from ITN Solicitors, on behalf of the Muslim Brotherhood, to the Muslim Brotherhood Review, para 105, placed in the Parliamentary Archives.
92 Written evidence from ITN Solicitors on behalf of the Muslim Brotherhood, the Muslim Brotherhood’s submission to the Muslim Brotherhood Review, para 106. Placed in the Parliamentary Archives.
93 Written evidence from ITN Solicitors on behalf of the Muslim Brotherhood, the Muslim Brotherhood’s submission to the Muslim Brotherhood Review, para 106. Placed in the Parliamentary Archives.
95 Muslim Brotherhood Review, , para 26
96 , para 16ii
97 , para 4
98 , paras 1 and 10
100 Written evidence from ITN Solicitors on behalf of the Muslim Brotherhood, the Muslim Brotherhood’s submission to the Muslim Brotherhood Review, para 13. Placed in the Parliamentary Archives.
101 para 1
102 Hazem Kandil, Inside the Brotherhood, p186
103 Dr Altikriti spoke about The Muslim Association of Britain in Q82 while Mr Abdulmalek said that, in the UK, “MB linked organisations and affiliates (UKIM, MSS etc) were founded in the early sixties” in para 3.
104 Muslim Brotherhood Review, , para 39
105 , paras 4 and 6
108 Tweet captured by , as well as other sources, accessed on 29 July 2016
109 Tweet captured by , as well as other sources, accessed on 29 July 2016
110 Some examples include and Ahram Online, , (accessed 29 July 2016).
111 BBC, , (accessed 29 July 2016)
3 November 2016