May 13,2019 – JORDAN TIMES – Hassan A. Barari
US President Donald Trump is considering labelling the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organisation. While it is not clear yet as why he is doing so, a step like this would certainly trigger another unnecessary spiral of anti-American sentiments in the Middle East. Needless to say, the United States does not need to further worsen its image in the region.
Apparently, President Trump does not appreciate that the Muslim Brotherhood has served as a shield against more radicalism in the Middle East. Many followers of the organisation are most likely to be pushed to radical movements. At least the Muslim Brotherhood does not employ violence and, indeed, take part in elections whenever it is allowed. In a country like Jordan, for instance, the movement has been a key pillar of stability in the country.
In Egypt, the movement contested the 2012 elections and won by a landslide. And yet, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi, who came to power in 2013 by virtue of a military coup, is dead set to brand the movement a terrorist group. In fact, the Trump administration’s decision to label the organisation came at the request of Sisi. A few months ago, he spoke openly about the need for Europe to probe mosques. This kind of incitement should be understood against the background of his confrontation with the organisation.
“Islam hates us,” Trump once remarked! I have hard time understanding how Islam hates the west. Casting aside the work of some anti-Islam orientalists, the claim of hatred is hard to back up with any hard evidence. Perhaps, Trump is influenced by the work of some scholars, such as Samuel P. Huntington, who predicted a clash of civilisations. Worse, some Arab leaders have been using political Islam as a boogeyman to scare off the West. The “either us or Islamists” argument employed by Arab leaders meant to secure the Western support for the current autocratic status quo in the Middle East.
I think that Trump is wrong in reading the region as a whole. A decision like the one he is considering will send chills up the spine of people who have aspired for a better future of a region fraught with conflict. It is high time for the West to realise that the politics of inclusion can work wonders. If fact, the more the public space is open, the more moderate people become. For this reason, the public space in Jordan has been open to all, including Muslim Brotherhood. The result is clear: The organisation in Jordan has participated in politics and elections, thus becoming a shield against radicalism.
Trump should not listen to leaders like Sisi, as the US will get nothing as a quid pro quo. On the contrary, if the US falls in the trap, an increasing number of people may turn against the US. Worse, an increasing number of young people may join radical and terrorist organisations. It is not too late for Trump to consider the perilous consequences of such an ill-advised move.