'Political Islam' and the Muslim Brotherhood Review Contents

6The Muslim Brotherhood Review


115.In April 2014, the former Prime Minister David Cameron commissioned the Muslim Brotherhood Review to assess ‘the philosophy, activities, impact and influence on UK national interests, at home and abroad, of the Muslim Brotherhood, and of government policy towards the organisation’.205 Sir John Jenkins, then a senior member of HM Diplomatic Service, led the Review206 and assessed the international aspects of the Muslim Brotherhood and its affiliates overseas. Charles Farr, then a senior Home Office official, assessed the domestic aspects of the Muslim Brotherhood and its affiliates in the UK.207 The ‘Main Findings’ of the Review were made public in December 2015.208 Sir John Jenkins had originally been given the deadline of reporting to the Prime Minister by Parliament’s summer recess of 2014,209 and the Review was completed in July 2014.210 The ‘Main Findings’ of the Review were made public in December 2015.211

116.There was a delay of a year and a half between the completion of the Muslim Brotherhood Review in July 2014 and the publication of the Main Findings on 17 December 2015, the last day on which the House sat before the Christmas recess. The Government should explain its handling of the Review after its completion.

117.The full report of the Muslim Brotherhood Review was an internal report to the Prime Minister, and has not been made public. We have not been allowed to see the full report on the grounds that, as the former Prime Minister David Cameron told us, it contains “materiel provided by foreign Governments in the strictest confidence”.212 We have also not been allowed to see a redacted version because, Mr Cameron said, such material “is reflected throughout the Review and cannot be redacted”.213 Mr Cameron told us that “the Main Findings already in the public domain are comprehensive and representative”214 and that they “accurately reflect our knowledge of the Muslim Brotherhood at the conclusion of the Review”.215

118.We were disappointed that the Government, despite two formal requests, did not see fit to provide the Committee with access to a full copy of the Muslim Brotherhood Review, even under controlled conditions; nor was it prepared to provide us with a redacted copy. This was an obvious hindrance to our scrutiny during this inquiry, as was the rejection of our request that Sir John Jenkins give oral evidence, on the grounds that the Minister and a serving official should answer our questions on the Review.

Reactions to the Main Findings

Agreement with the Main Findings

119.When asked whether the FCO agreed with all of the Main Findings of the Muslim Brotherhood Review, Tobias Ellwood MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the FCO, told us that “this report is now two years old”216 but that “I do not have any reason to alter anything”.217 The wording of the FCO’s written submission to our inquiry218 closely matched a Ministerial Written Statement about the Muslim Brotherhood Review,219 and the Main Findings of the Muslim Brotherhood Review,220 both of which were submitted by the FCO as Annexes to its evidence.

120.Of those witnesses to our inquiry who commented on the Review, those who agreed with the Main Findings included Dr Ziya Meral,221 Ed Husain,222 Dr Machteld Zee,223 Mokhtar Awad,224 and the Community Security Trust (CST).225

Alleged misrepresentation of the Muslim Brotherhood

121.A number of witnesses who commented on the Muslim Brotherhood Review were critical of the Main Findings. Speaking in general terms about the Findings, Dr Omar Ashour, from the University of Exeter, told us that: “sometimes they were not very nuanced and sometimes they were inaccurate”.226 In particular, several witnesses felt that the Main Findings had mischaracterised the Muslim Brotherhood. For example:

Undermining the UK’s image abroad

122.Several witnesses told us that the premise of the Muslim Brotherhood Review, and its Main Findings, would damage the image of the UK abroad. One of the specific objections was that the UK had held an inquiry into the Muslim Brotherhood’s perceived practice of violence, but not the violence practiced against the Brotherhood following its removal from power in 2013. Alison Pargeter told us that:

The UK’s decision to conduct this review and to focus on the Brotherhood and its relationship to violence (as opposed to its engagement in the political process) while failing to speak out more robustly against the atrocities being committed against the movement and its supporters by the current Egyptian regime is highly questionable. Its doing so has only compounded the view that is held widely throughout the region that the West prefers dealing with authoritarian regimes, that it is opposed to Islamism, and that its rhetoric on democracy and human rights is completely hollow.232

123.Speaking about the Muslim Brotherhood Review, Usaama Al-Azami, a PhD candidate from Princeton University, described “the widespread perception in the Muslim world that a clear double standard applies to democracy promotion when the democrats in question are Islamists.”233 Dr A. Amr Darrag, a member of the Executive Board of the Freedom and Justice Party, complained of “double speak”234 in the UK’s foreign policy and Nezar Ghorab, a former member of the Egyptian parliament for the now-banned FJP, described the UK as having a “record of double standards”.235

124.We asked the FCO why the Main Findings of the Muslim Brotherhood Review discussed the relationship of the Muslim Brotherhood with violence, but made no mention of the violence perpetrated against the group, particularly (but not exclusively) in Egypt during the summer of 2013. The FCO told us that the Main Findings had made reference to violence against the Muslim Brotherhood by mentioning examples from the 1950s and 1960s.236 With regards to events in Egypt in the summer of 2013, the FCO told us that:

The Review, as the then Prime Minister said when commissioning it, was about getting to grips with the background behind MB in order fully to understand the nature of the organisation and its implications for UK interests. That did not require an examination of events in Egypt following the fall of the Morsi Government.237

125.We criticise the lack of transparency of the Muslim Brotherhood, but this criticism also applies to the Government’s Review of the Muslim Brotherhood. The opacity of the process, the obvious charge around motivation for the Review, and the failure to publish it in full, left the Review’s Main Findings wholly open to criticism. Given that the Review was led by one of the FCO’s most senior diplomats, these shortfalls damaged the UK’s reputation for fair dealing more generally. The Government should immediately publish as much of the evidence given to the Muslim Brotherhood Review as possible, in the interest of transparency and the credibility of the process.

126.The FCO told us that the Review was about “getting to grips with the background behind [the Muslim Brotherhood] in order fully to understand the nature of the organisation”. Given this objective, it is rather more than unfortunate that the Main Findings neglected to mention the most significant event in the Brotherhood and Egypt’s modern political history: its removal from power in Egypt (the Arab World’s most populous state) in 2013, the year after being democratically elected, and through a military intervention.

127.Additionally, and although the Main Findings mentioned historic examples of the repression of the Muslim Brotherhood in the 1950s and 1960s, the FCO’s assessment that understanding the Brotherhood “did not require” an examination of events following the removal of the group from power in Egypt—including the killing in August 2013 of large numbers of protesters who sympathised with the Brotherhood, and the continuing repression of the group in Egypt and elsewhere—is a glaring omission. This violence and repression are clearly factors that affect how the Brotherhood behaves; the Review should have taken them into account when assessing the group, and the FCO should do so in the future.

Perceived pressure from Gulf allies

128.Political Islamists and their sympathisers believed that the UK had undertaken the Muslim Brotherhood Review to appease regional allies that had designated the Brotherhood as a terrorist organisation, principally Egypt,238 the UAE,239 and Saudi Arabia240. For example, the Muslim Brotherhood told us (via its lawyers, ITN Solicitors) that:

There was much speculation at the time that the Review had been ordered not as a result of any genuine security concerns about the activities of the Muslim Brotherhood in the UK but rather in response to pressure exerted by the Saudis and other Gulf States who felt their own regimes were threatened by the rise of democracy in the Middle East and by the Muslim Brotherhood’s role in those processes.241

129.This sentiment led some witnesses to conclude that the findings of the inquiry were pre-ordained, and not the result of an independent investigation. Dr Abdulmawgood Dardery, a former member of the Egyptian Parliament for the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) of the Muslim Brotherhood, told us that the Review “was politically motivated and so it led to what it was intended for”.242

130.The Muslim Brotherhood emphasised that Sir John Jenkins had held the position of UK Ambassador to Saudi Arabia at the same time as the Review was being written, and led, by him. The Brotherhood said that:

Sir John’s position as head of the review might be seen by some as implying some wish on the part of the UK Government to reflect or appease views communicated by the government of Saudi Arabia.243

Lord Wright of Richmond, himself a former UK Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, has also questioned whether Sir John was put in an “invidious position” by being asked to lead the Review while concurrently serving as Ambassador, given that Saudi Arabia sought to “discredit and destroy the Muslim Brotherhood”.244

131.Some witnesses, who sympathised with political Islam, believe that the perceived deference of the UK to its Gulf allies took place for commercial reasons. For example, Dr Anas Altikriti told us that:

The appearance that Her Majesty’s Government was pandering to undemocratic, authoritarian regimes which had little or no regard for freedoms or human rights, was problematic to say the least. The fact that this pandering appeared to be for commercial and business interests, made the case even worse.245

132.We have high regard for the work and impartiality of all UK diplomats. But, notwithstanding his knowledge, experience, and professional integrity, Sir John Jenkins’s concurrent service as UK ambassador to Saudi Arabia made his appointment to lead the Muslim Brotherhood Review misguided. It created the impression that a foreign state, which was an interested party, had a private window into the conduct of a UK Government inquiry. Whilst we have seen no evidence to suggest that Saudi Arabia was able to exercise undue influence over the report, the appointment of Sir John Jenkins created the perception that this was the case. This has undermined confidence in the impartiality of the FCO’s work on such an important and contentious subject.

205 UK Government, Government review of the Muslim Brotherhood, accessed 30 August 2016

206 UK Government, Government review of the Muslim Brotherhood, accessed 30 August 2016

207 Muslim Brotherhood Review, Main Findings

209 UK Government, Government review of the Muslim Brotherhood, accessed 30 August 2016

210 Muslim Brotherhood Review, Main Findings, para 6

216 Q191

217 Q192

218 ISL0047, para 6

219 David Cameron, Written statement on the Muslim Brotherhood Review The statement said that: “Parts of the Muslim Brotherhood have a highly ambiguous relationship with violent extremism” and “the main findings of the review support the conclusion that membership of, association with, or influence by the Muslim Brotherhood should be considered as a possible indicator of extremism”.

220 Muslim Brotherhood Review, Main Findings The final bullet point of para 39 says that “aspects of Muslim Brotherhood ideology and tactics, in this country and overseas, are contrary to our values and have been contrary to our national interests and our national security”.

221 Q38

222 Q112 and Q113

223 Q112

224 Q112

225 ISL0020, para 5, with regards to anti-Semitism.

226 Q39

227 ISL0039, in relation to Egypt

228 Q39

229 ISL0030, para 5

230 ISL0005, para 16

231 ISL0016, para 9

233 ISL0048, para 26

234 ISL0009, Executive summary

235 ISL0025, para 9

236 ISL0057, Q5

237 ISL0057, Q5

238 Egypt designated the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organisation in November 2013

239 The UAE designated the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organisation in November 2014

240 Saudi Arabia designated the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organisation in March 2014

241 ISL0016, para 7

242 ISL0027, para 38

243 Submission from ITN Solicitors, on behalf of the Muslim Brotherhood, to the Muslim Brotherhood Review, para 187, placed in the Parliamentary Archives

244 House of Lords Hansard, Volume 753, 8 April 2014, Muslim Brotherhood

245 ISL0012, para 22

3 November 2016