Following up on its earlier report, 'Political Islam' and the Muslim Brotherhood Review, the Foreign Affairs Committee gives its reaction to the Government's response. There are many areas on which the Government and Committee broadly agree. However, the Government's response to the Committee's questions and recommendations regarding the Muslim Brotherhood Review in particular remain disappointing.
The Committee's report found the Muslim Brotherhood to be a secretive organisation, but not a secret one. It calls for further engagement by the UK Government with the group, and regrets that some of the reasoning behind the Muslim Brotherhood Review remains opaque. Ministers' explanations as to why the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) would not give the Committee sight of the full report are 'threadbare'.
The purpose of the Review was to better understand the Muslim Brotherhood. But the Main Findings of the Review ignored events of obvious and profound significance for the development of the Brotherhood, especially those that took place in Egypt during 2013 and thereafter.
The removal of the Brotherhood's elected government from power by the military, the killing of at least hundreds of its supporters in protest sites by the Egyptian security forces, and the subsequent mass detentions and trials of perceived Brotherhood sympathisers in Egypt get no mention in the Main Findings. The Committee believes that it is time for the FCO to explain why these key events were excluded from the Review's terms of reference.
The secretiveness of some political-Islamist groups makes it important for the FCO to have a clear understanding of them, and the resources to enable it to do so. To enhance and update its assessment of the Muslim Brotherhood, the Committee believes that the FCO must meet with the group, which is not designated as a terrorist organisation by the UK.
Important for the FCO to have a clear understanding of the group
Chair of the Committee, Crispin Blunt MP, commented:
"FCO officials have not met at an official level with the Muslim Brotherhood since 2013. We continue to believe that a complete understanding of the group requires an understanding of their history, including the events of 2013 and afterwards. It also requires the FCO to meet the group.
As the Committee has not seen the findings of the Muslim Brotherhood Review, nor had the opportunity to question any of the report’s authors, we continue to ask questions of ministers about the position of the Government towards the group.
Finally, a Foreign Office starved of sufficient resources to work effectively across the world has become a regular refrain of our reports and applies no less to the Middle East and Northern Africa region. The Committee will continue to point out that, in a time of substantially growing demand on the diplomatic service, it is woefully underfunded."