By Abdulrahman al-Rashed
4 April 2014
There is always suspicion among Arabs that Britain is running the world, although the latter handed over their last colony (Hong Kong) more than a decade and a half ago. And there is a prevailing rumour that the Muslim Brotherhood was created by Britain and is run from one of the secret service offices on the banks of London’s Thames River! It is just another myth.
It goes without saying that Britain has a vast knowledge of our region and culture, thanks to its past colonial history and its shared present with the Arab world in areas of business, tourism and politics.
However, that has all changed now. The small island, with its dense population and limited resources, is suffering seriously from Arab and third world migrants. These migrants rely heavily on government subsidies and public services, and a group of them took advantage from asylum laws and became a major economic and social burden on the government.
I believe that the British government has a better understanding of the nature and complexity of the situation in Egypt than its American ally. Also, Britain’s position contradicts with that of the United States with regards to the military-backed government in Egypt.
Britain has had a long history in Egypt, as it ruled the area from 1882 to 1952. Also, the Muslim Brotherhood was established under British rule in 1928. During the monarchy era in Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood was always known as the opposition group, not to Britain but to the Egyptian Khedivate monarchy, which represented somehow a continuity of the Topkapi royals of the Ottoman Empire.
Based on these facts, the Muslim Brotherhood was always labeled as being an Anglo-American formation, an accusation that lacks proof. In fact, the Muslim Brotherhood was extremely disturbed by an article by Mark Curtis that appeared in The Guardian about four years ago in which Curtis accused London of having forged links with Islamist groups, including the Muslim Brotherhood, for many years before and during the era of Gamal Abdel Nasser. Curtis wrote that British authorities “first covertly funded the Muslim Brotherhood” and later “contacts were developed as part of plans to overthrow Nasser.” Those claims were strongly rebuffed by the Muslim Brotherhood.
But this is all history. What about today? The British government expressed its readiness to investigate the accusation against the Muslim Brotherhood in Britain over possible links to terrorism. But those who know the British judiciary system say that the courts rarely criminalize a group as a whole, no matter how big the file against it. The Muslim Brotherhood will remain in Britain, not only as its annoying house guests, but also as a bone in the throat of Britain’s political ties with Egypt. This is because the Brotherhood in the UK is very active on the political and media scenes, nothing to compare with the small Gulf opposition.
The more violence and terrorism occurs in Egypt, the more the Egyptian cabinet will shout “Muslim Brotherhood, Muslim Brotherhood.” This will put the British government in a tougher position especially that it needs to have solid ties with Arab governments to better protect itself from terrorism. It remains to be seen how Britain will balance its security needs with its judicial rulings.
Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. A veteran and internationally acclaimed journalist, he is a former editor-in-chief of the London-based leading Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, where he still regularly writes a political column. He has also served as the editor of Asharq al-Awsat’s sister publication, al-Majalla. Throughout his career, Rashed has interviewed several world leaders, with his articles garnering worldwide recognition, and he has successfully led Al Arabiya to the highly regarded, thriving and influential position it is in today.