Brotherhood charity work in UK under investigation
Britain’s charity watchdog has been asked by David Cameron’s government for detailed information on any charitable work involving the Muslim Brotherhood amid Egyptian claims that this is used as a cover to support extremism.
The UK prime minister’s office has told The National that a report on the Brotherhood’s “philosophy and values and alleged connections with extremism and violence” will be submitted to the UK parliament before its summer recess begins on July 22.
The report, by Britain’s ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Sir John Jenkins, will be the result of what Mr Cameron’s Downing Street staff insist is a “review” and not an investigation or inquiry.
Sir John is carrying out his work against a background of controversy about the group’s aims, organisation and methods and also its sources of funding.
A US think tank, the International Assessment and Strategy Centre (IASC), says that almost from the inception of modern Islamic banking in the early 1980s, the international Muslim Brotherhood “set up a parallel and far-flung offshore structure that has become an integral part of its ability to hide and move money around the world”.
As long ago as 2006, IASC argued that the Brotherhood saw a need for a clandestine network hidden from non-Muslims and even Muslims if they opposed its objective of promoting an Islamic caliphate, “spreading Islam, by force and persuasion, across the globe”.
It is not clear whether the Jenkins report will explore funding, though a spokeswoman for the prime minister confirmed its main conclusions would be made public.
The Charity Commission, which monitors the activities of more than 164,000 charities based in England and Wales, confirmed it had been asked for input.
“Like other government departments and agencies, we can confirm that the commission has been approached and asked if it has any relevant material to contribute to the review, which if we have, we will of course contribute,” a spokeswoman said. The commission refuses to give further details or even to say “whether we have provided or will provide any material”.
The spokeswoman said the Brotherhood was not a registered charity, a status reserved for bodies that have “exclusively charitable purposes and exist for the public benefit”, though many organisations or businesses also pursue charitable works over which the commission had no remit.
Little is known about the structure and financing of the Brotherhood. Abrar El Sayed, the Brotherhood’s London-based media relations officer told The National in April: “The MB funds itself through the contributions of its members.”
He also insisted the Brotherhood had no headquarters in the UK, as often reported, and that its only activities based outside Egypt were the International Criminal Court case against Egypt’s former military leaders and the London press office.
In a series of follow-up questions, Mr Sayed was asked what costs were associated with the press office, whether individual contributors included organisations and governments and what sums were raised globally as well as in the UK and elsewhere in Europe.
Mr El Sayed said: “We only answer media enquiries and not questions [of this sort].”
This reticence has not discouraged speculation about possible sources of income.
Some reports have suggested that 23 bodies listed as charities in Britain and Switzerland are linked to Brotherhood or its leaders.
International support for the Brotherhood has been confused.
Qatar angered other Gulf states with its billions of dollars in support for Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood-backed president Mohammed Morsi.
And the US government raised eyebrows by promising half a billion dollars in aid to Egypt during Mr Morsi’s one-year in power.
The money was blocked when Mr Morsi was removed, prompting a group of national security specialists headed by a former US defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld to protest in an open letter that this jeopardised US interests.
They cited the “religiously fundamentalist and undemocratic objectives of the Muslim Brotherhood”.
Updated: June 18, 2014 04:00 AM