UK allowing Brotherhood members seek asylum proves group's peaceful nature, analysts say

ANADOLU AGENCY
CAIRO
Published 09.08.2016 22:13
Updated 09.08.2016 22:14

A U.K. Home Office guideline that would allow members of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood group to seek asylum in Britain represents a "tacit" admission of the group's peaceful nature, analysts believe.

Last week, the Home Office issued an internal guideline on the prospect of granting asylum to Muslim Brotherhood members.

High-profile or politically-active members, especially those who have taken part in protests in Egypt, "may be able to show they are at risk of persecution, including the possibility of detention [by the Egyptian authorities], where they may face ill-treatment, unfair trials and disproportionate punishments," the guideline read.

"Additionally, high-profile supporters or those perceived to support the Muslim Brotherhood -- such as journalists -- may also be similarly at risk of persecution. It would be appropriate to grant in such cases," it added.

The assertions triggered a wave of controversy in Egypt, prompting the British embassy to state that Britain would not consider asylum requests from Brotherhood members resident outside the U.K.

"We are not obliged to consider asylum requests we receive from outside the U.K.," a Home Office official said in a statement issued by the embassy.

"We will consider asylum requests that are submitted in the U.K.; they will be taken individually, according to the U.K.'s international obligations," he said.

Last year, a review of the Brotherhood ordered by then Prime Minister David Cameron concluded that membership or links to the Islamist movement represented a "possible indicator of extremism".

Egypt's oldest Islamist group, the Muslim Brotherhood has been the subject of a harsh crackdown by the Egyptian regime since a 2013 military coup removed Mohamed Morsi, the country's first freely-elected president and a Brotherhood leader.

The Egyptian authorities accuse the Brotherhood of condoning violence and have designated the group a "terrorist" organization.

Since Morsi's overthrow, thousands of Brotherhood members have been thrown behind bars and hundreds have been slapped with death sentences.

Peaceful

Zuhair Salim, director of the London-based Arab Orient Center for Cultural and Civilization Studies, said the Home Office guideline constituted proof that the U.K. review of the Brotherhood had been definitively closed.

"It is tantamount to an admission [by the U.K.] of the Brotherhood's peaceful nature," he told Anadolu Agency.

Salim believes the move will have "repercussions on certain Arab countries that use Islamist movements to intimidate the West".

He went on to accuse some Arab countries of trying to tarnish the image of moderate Islamist groups.

Salim, however, ruled out the notion that the British decision would affect relations between Cairo and London.

"The government of [Egyptian President Abdel Fattah] al-Sisi isn't looking for more problems," he said. "Egypt's current situation doesn't allow it to take on the British government," he added.

On Tuesday, Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry criticized the British decision to allow Brotherhood members to request asylum.

"Egypt doesn't see the decision as positive for the two countries' relations," he said at a press conference in Cairo.

Policy shift

Tarek Fahmy, a prominent Egyptian political analyst, said the move reflected a U.K. policy shift regarding the Muslim Brotherhood.

"It indicates that the government of [U.K. Prime Minister] Theresa May is changing British policy vis-à-vis the Brotherhood, which could be seen as a positive development for the Islamist group," he told Anadolu Agency.

Fahmy further believes the perceived policy shift could have a negative impact on Egypt-U.K. relations.

"But we can't predict the extent of the impact," he said.

Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohamed Sweidan, for his part, believes the Home Office guideline has a "political dimension".

"There has been a change in relations between Egypt and Britain," he told Anadolu Agency.

"Britain has dealt with the Brotherhood for decades," he said. "What's more, it has a powerful intelligence service that can easily determine whether or not the group adopts a peaceful approach to resisting tyrants."

"The novel thing about the U.K. [Home Office] document is the U.K. government's recognition of crimes committed by the coup regime [in Egypt] against its opponents," Sweidan said.

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