World leaders were quick to send sympathetic messages to the Egypt’s government and people following the monstrous terror attack on worshippers in the northern town of Al Arish, eliciting the greatest single death toll in the country’s modern history.
The heartless creatures planted explosive devices outside the mosque before turning their machine guns on the crowd as they exited before firing at ambulances rushing to the scene.
Television pundits have given their analyses; the most common seems to be that this was a strategic attack designed to turn Egyptians against their president. If that is so, the killers’ strategy has failed dismally. On the contrary, judging by the messages on social media and phone calls made by the public to local TV networks, people are not only rallying around the government and the army but they are also asking for imprisoned terrorists to be given the rope. Such expressions of solidarity from foreign leaderships are no doubt appreciated but among the cables and statements were those from countries working behind the scenes with terrorist groups as well as the parent of them all, the Muslim Brotherhood, with the aim of destabilising the most populated Arab nation.
A commiserating cable from the Emir of Qatar Shaikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al Thani smacks of hypocrisy. The Qatari state has given sanctuary and passports to wanted Brotherhood criminals for years, has unsavoury links to various Takfiri groups and condones Al Jazeera’s constant continual negative reporting on Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the UAE.
Likewise an announcement from Turkey’s Deputy Prime Minister offering to cooperate with Egypt’s fight against terror is clearly designed to impress the international community. Turkey also harbours Brotherhood figures, is one of the international organisation’s go-to conference destinations and willingly hosts its propagandist TV and radio outlets. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan once pledged that the only president of Egypt he recognises is the deposed Mohammad Mursi and has frequently been photographed flashing Brotherhood hand signs. Notably just days before the latest deadly incident Egyptian authorities arrested 29 individuals alleged to have been spying for Turkey’s intelligence services in a conspiracy with the Muslim Brotherhood as part of a plot to “undermine and disrupt Egypt’s state institutions”. They were charged with membership of a terrorist group, illegal wiretapping and money laundering.
I couldn’t help but roll my eyes when I read the message from Britain’s Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson. “I have been in touch with Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry to offer my condolences and underline the UK’s full commitment in standing with Egypt in its fight against terrorism,” he is quoted saying. Britain should begin by labelling the Muslim Brotherhood terrorist instead of putting up invitations on its Home Office website inviting Brotherhood head honchos to apply for asylum. At the time of writing no group has claimed responsibility for Friday’s massacre but whether it was perpetrated by the Daesh-affiliate Sinai State (formerly known as Ansar Beit Al Maqdis), Al Qaida or others holding to the same poisonous ideology, the Brotherhood watered their roots.
It was one of the Brotherhood’s founders and ‘intellectual godfather’ Sayyid Qutb who promoted the ‘righteousness’ of killing men, woman and children, Muslim and non-Muslim, who did not fall into line with his strict behavioural recipe for life. Almost all Al Qaida heads, including Osama Bin Laden, were Brotherhood members. Most crucially, recordings were aired of conversations between Mohammad Mursi and the brother of the current Al Qaida leader Ayman Al Zawahiri on Egyptian channels. Mursi was heard agreeing to release Al Qaida fighters from his country’s prisons and inviting others to set up camp on northern Sinai.
Sonia Farid rightly highlights in a column published on the Al Arabiya website, that Ansar Beit Al Maqdis [now known as Sinai Province] is “funded by the Muslim Brotherhood through a deal with the Brotherhood’s Deputy Supreme Guide Kharat Al Shater that was mediated by Mohammad Al Zawahiri, the brother of the Al Qaida chief.” Another senior Brotherhood figure, Mohammad Al Beltagy, was heard on Al Jazeera in 2013 telling his following that he had “the remote” capable of stopping the attacks, on condition Mursi was reinstated.
The Brotherhood has tentacles in approximately 60 countries, among them many western democracies. On occasion their leaders have been feted by the White House, the US State Department and the UK Parliament. Egypt efforts to extradite Brotherhood fugitives from Britain have failed to bear fruit.
As a first step, countries pledging to stand shoulder to shoulder with Cairo to eradicate terrorism should show their seriousness by branding the Brotherhood terrorist just as Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain have done. The second step should consist of sharing intelligence, satellite surveillance and anything else that can help the Egyptian government eliminate the terrorist threat once and for all before it metastasises and heads to their own shores.
Linda S. Heard is an award-winning British political columnist and guest television commentator with a focus on the Middle East.