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White House Rejects Petition to Declare Muslim Brotherhood a Terrorist Organization

( [email protected] ) Dec 01, 2014 05:46 PM EST
The White House has addressed a recent petition set to declare the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization, but the request was denied by government officials.
The Muslim Brotherhood during demonstrations in Egypt in 2013. Photo: Reuters

The White House has addressed a recent petition set to declare the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization, but the request was denied by government officials.

The petition, first created on July 7, 2013, was posted as part of the White House's "We The People" outreach program that encourages citizens to speak their minds on important issues straight to the White House. But when this petition reached its 100,000 required signature threshold within 30 days of being posted, no one from the government responded until now.

"We have not seen credible evidence that the Muslim Brotherhood has renounced its decades-long commitment to non-violence," the White House officially responded on the petition's page. "The United States does not condone political violence of any kind and we continue to press actors of all viewpoints to peacefully engage in the political process. The United States is committed to thwarting terrorist groups that pose a threat to U.S. interests and those of our partners." 

This, of course, is not the response that the 213,146 petition signers had hoped for when the petition was formed last year. In fact, the petition had gained such a strong following that Republican members of Congress had co-sponsored legislation that would attempt to officially declare the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization.

The Muslim Brotherhood, also known as the Society of the Muslim Brothers, began in 1928 with the slogan "God is our objective; the Qur'an is the Constitution; the Prophet is our leader; jihad is our way; death for the sake of God is our wish." Although the Brotherhood officially renounced political violence in 1949, the group was declared a terrorist organization by the Egyptian government on December 25, 2013 following an attack on police in Mansoura. This made Egypt the fifth country to declare the group as terrorist in addition to Russia, Syria, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates.

When Russia declared the group a terrorist organization in 2003, it banned all members of the group from the country, as well. "Muslim Brotherhood is an organisation, basing its activities on the ideas of its theorists and leaders Hassan al-Banna and Sayyid Qutb with an aim of destruction of non-Islamic governments and the establishment of the worldwide Islamic government by the reconstruction of the 'Great Islamic Caliphate'; firstly, in regions with majority of Muslim population, including those in Russia and CIS countries," the Supreme Court of Russia ruled. "The organisation is illegal in some Middle East countries (Syria, Jordan). The main forms of activities are warlike Islamism propaganda with intolerance to other religions, recruitment in mosques, armed Jihad without territorial boundaries."

So why is the U.S. government not following in the footsteps of these other countries, despite civilian pressure? The answer isn't clear, but it's important to note that both Hamas and Egypt's Gama'a al-Islamiyya, which have both held close relationships with the Muslim Brotherhood, are on the State Department's list of foreign terrorist organizations.

The petition was created, in part, as a response to the rise in power that the Muslim Brotherhood enjoyed after Egypt's Hosni Mubarak was overthrown in 2011. The Brotherhood won several elections in 2012, but was itself overthrown in July of 2013 after the country's first democratically elected president, Mohamed Morsi, was viewed as seeking too much political power by Egypt's civilians. 

"The Muslim Brotherhood has shown in the past few days that it is willing to engage in violence and killing of innocent civilians in order to invoke fear in the hearts of its opponents," the petition's developer stated. "This is terrorism."

Former U.S. White House counterterrorism chief Juan Zarate said in 2006 that "The Muslim Brotherhood is a group that worries us not because it deals with philosophical or ideological ideas but because it defends the use of violence against civilians."

It's not clear if petitioners plan to create another avenue for legislaton or follow-up on the current petition at this time.