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Why did the Muslim Brotherhood survive in London?

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Hesham Shafick

Hesham Shafick

By Hesham Shafick

            “The Brotherhood back to jails” might be the theme of the universal attack against the group – led by the Egyptian protesters and military.  Being an MB research specialist, I have developed relationships with MB leaders of all levels and ages. Some of those relationships had grown to be personal, which definitely makes me sympathise with them on the humanitarian level.  However, being an academic I learnt not to put this into the equation. The relevant part is that many of those leaders either escaped to London or had relatives over there. And as I landed in London for my Postgraduate studies, I went to visit.

            As a scholar and a specialist in the MB, London is a great floor to explore. A city that may seem a land of freedom and diversity is in fact more fascist than most developing countries. I had to go to register my name at the police station, just because I hold a low-rank passport that makes me more vulnerable to trouble-making. Then it is not democracy and tolerance that makes the Muslim Brotherhood escape Muslim States to London, there must be something bigger; something that makes the group able to keep its position, funding, and popularity in a foreign capital while losing a religious-Muslim capital that they ruled for a year.

It might be the mere fact that the MB achieved official power that made the group lose in Egypt. Revising the literature of Hassan El-Banna and early thinkers of the Brotherhood -excluding Sayed Qotb – assuming direct governance was never on the plan. Even Qotb’s literature preached for a militia-based enforcement of Sharia, yet not economic and political governance. Leaders of the Brotherhood found themselves in a dilemma, in which they could never decide who rules who, the Brotherhood rules the state, or the president rules the Brotherhood, a dilemma that lasted until the very last moments. It was psychologically and organisationally impossible to shift from an underground organisation that has confidentiality on the top of its priority list to a state that must be transparent on its every action. In London, and in Egypt before they governed, those fellows did not need to tell where they get their money from as long as they used it for the benefit of the poor- who are always their main supporters.

On an international level, the Muslim Brotherhood in Cairo was a risk factor on all its neighbors in the Arab world. Those neighbours in Gulf-Saudi Arabia and UAE in specific- sponsored the war on the MB in Egypt. On the other hand, the risk factor is much less, probably diminishing, in London. The Muslim Brotherhood in London even plays a liaison role in the European foreign policy to the Middle East, a historical role that extends to the early beginnings of the Muslim Brotherhood politically sponsored by the British State.

Yet the social component plays the biggest role in this comparison. In Egypt, Islamists do have the luxury of choice between different Islamist groups. In London, they are all the Muslim Brotherhood at the end – as they all fall under the umbrella of the Muslim Association in Britain (MAB). The reason for this is simple: Muslim Arabs in London who care about associating themselves with Muslim groups are blue-collars and second rank officers, only MB officials have the money to sponsor their initiatives.  British Muslim Initiative, Centre for International Policy Studies,  European Council for Fatwa, Research Federation of Islamic Organisations in Europe, Federation of Student Islamic Societies (FOSIS), Muslim Student Association in Britain, Institute for the Study of Human Sciences, Institute of Islamic Political Thought, Interpal, Libyan Islamic Group, Mashreq Media Services,  Muslim Aid,  Muslim Welfare, Trust, Palestine Return Centre,  Palestine Times, and Union of Good, are few items on the list. In addition, eagerness to associate oneself for a blue-collar in London makes a variety of Muslims from different ideological backgrounds join those groups and causes sponsored by the MB, even if they would never do that back home. Finally, the peculiarity an Arab has within the London community is enough to not aim for other distinctions as Salafi, Sufi, Jihadi, Takfiri, etc.

Finally rests the human-resource component. Most of the MB leaders in London are those who were allowed to escape the Arab regimes at times of MB Diasporas.  In order to get this chance, you needed to be really rich and connected. This leaves Cairo with the less skilled elite than those of London (exclude Council of Guidance, as most of them actually returned back from London to Cairo in the 90s- Omar Suleiman’s deal). In addition, living in London gave them more windows to experience, knowledge and network. It is worth mentioning that- according to a Haddad family member who refused to mention his name- London MB leaders do not tend to intra-marry from one another as is the case in Egypt.

On 18 May, I published an article on Daily News Egypt that asserts the imperative laxity of the Brotherhood and kept the “when” question open. Now I forecast their return, in Cairo, based on the London model, and again raise the “when” question.

Hesham Shafick is a policy researcher at the University of London, and the former executive manager of the Muslim Brotherhood Unit, Cairo Center for Strategic Studies.

  • http://citizensfirstasnau.blogspot.com.au/ MJ

    “..there must be something bigger;” and more dangerous to ‘democracy and tolerance’-Cultural Relativism with its accomplice in crime Freedom of Religion.

    Your article reminded me very much of someone else who failed to understand what a fascist genocide construct actually is, and in time and space informs. It appeared Norman thought of himself as an insightful ‘academic’ despite having seen firsthand, heard first hand from adherents themselves. No doubt Norman developed personal relationships amongst the German elite in the 1930s, nice people mostly ‘What is the problem?’

    Norman Hillson “I speak of Germany”, London 1937 said “..; the NAZI … Germany..that great unified people are looking for peace and see friendship with Britain as a basis for peace not only for themselves but for everyone else.”

    “Communities (cultures) tend to be guided less than individuals by conscience and a sense of responsibility. How much misery does this fact cause mankind! It is the source of wars and every kind of oppression, which fill the earth with pain, sighs and bitterness.” (Albert Einstein, 1934)

    Gee who would have thought you of all people given just what you have said in this article: “I had to go to register my name at the police station..” tut tut.

    “..former executive manager of the Muslim Brotherhood Unit, Cairo Center for Strategic Studies.”

    “I have developed relationships with MB leaders of all levels and ages. Some of those relationships had grown to be personal, which definitely makes me sympathise with them on the humanitarian level. “

    And from such a grounding you can go on and tell us:

    “A city that may seem a land of freedom and diversity is in fact more fascist than most developing countries.”

    Now from a rational Other perspective security risk is written all over you. Interesting you perceive yourself as a supposed moderate liberal ‘academic’, so innocuous – in fact in reality you may be very much more dangerous to ‘freedom and diversity’ the Age of Enlightenment version that is, than any procedure set in place by Other for rational self-protection to keep track of you.

    You’re an academic you must therefore understand what the gist of Albert Einstein’s argument is.

    Something to do with an uncomfortable fact for cultural relativists, despite the existence of personable adherents even at the highest levels of genocide constructs – what happens?

    2013: Egyptian artists rally against ‘Islamisation’ of culture – 1937: The Munich “Degenerate Art” Exhibit ‘Nazisation’ of culture
    http://citizensfirstasnau.blogspot.com.au/2013/06/2013-egyptian-artists-rally-against.html

    Cultural relativism has failed along Freedom of Religion to secure peace and security these two political constructs promised to deliver – instead both allow genocide constructs secular and religious to flourish inclusive of the Muslim Brotherhood even with State support in some cases – pure insanity.

    Tony Blair rightly pointed out in time and space Islam/Muslims in situ in Western Democracies will deliver ‘major schism’. How could anyone dare to cross the cultural relativist critical thinking Rubicon?

    This is why.

    How do you go about it. One Child Lost is One Child Too Many. One Child Lost is One Child Too Many. One Child Lost is One Child Too Many. One Child…
    http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/2013/09/24/why-did-the-muslim-brotherhood-survive-in-london/

    The Muslim Brotherhood survives in London in time and space relative independence of Other and women in particular will diminish – such is the nature of fascism.


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