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Congress is moving to officially designate the Muslim Brotherhood as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) and impose sanctions on any person who provides the group and its affiliates with “material support,” according to a copy of the legislation obtained by the Washington Free Beacon.
The Muslim Brotherhood Terrorist Designation Act of 2014—sponsored by Rep. Michele Bachmann (R., Minn.)—seeks to slap U.S. sanctions on the organization’s political center in Egypt as well as scores of affiliates operating across America and Europe, according to the bill.
The bill currently has seven cosponsors: Peter Roskam (R., Ill.), Trent Franks (R., Ariz.), Cynthia Lummis (R., Wyo.), Kevin Brady (R., Texas), Steve Southerland (R., Fla.), Louie Gohmert (R., Texas), and Doug LaMalfa (R., Calif.).
While the United States has designated individuals and certain affiliates of the Brotherhood in the past, this is the first time that Congress has moved to sanction the organization as a whole, including all of its member organizations.
The 19-page bill seeks to build a case against the group as one of the leading sponsors of terrorism and argues that the Brotherhood has long been a key player in orchestrating attacks across the globe via its proxies.
The legislation comes as Egyptian authorities continue to crack down on Muslim Brotherhood-backers that have wreaked havoc on Christians and other minorities since the downfall of former President Mohammed Morsi.
The bill would direct the U.S. government to level all “available sanctions” to any person in the United States “who knowingly provides material support or resources to the Muslim Brotherhood or its affiliates, associated groups, or agents.”
It also moves to block anyone affiliated with the Brotherhood from receiving a U.S. visa, which could complicate the White House’s diplomacy efforts on multiple fronts.
A senior member of the Brotherhood was hosted at the White House in February, and other representatives of the group have also gained entrance to the United States, though it remains unclear just how many due to limited documentation.
Additionally, the bill would force a complete shutdown of any Brotherhood affiliates located in the United States and permit the removal of “any alien who is a member or representative” of the group.
Much of the legislation focuses on building a case against the Brotherhood and detailing its many terrorist links.
While the organization remains headquartered in Egypt, where it has faced a violent crackdown from Egyptian authorities, the Brotherhood operates across the world.
“The Muslim Brotherhood’s motto remains to this day what it has been for decades: ‘’Allah is our objective. The Prophet is our leader. The Koran is our law. Jihad is our way. Dying in the way of Allah is our highest hope. Allahu-Akbar!’” the bill states, referring to primary documents from Brotherhood leaders.
Lawmakers argue that, at its core, Brotherhood continues to support and finance jihad and promote the spread of an extremist version of Islam across the globe.
Previous administrations have designated global elements of the Brotherhood as terrorists.
The terror group Hamas, for instance, which continues to fire rockets at Israeli civilians from its headquarters in the Gaza Strip, is a known wing of the Brotherhood and has operated with its support.
Former President George W. Bush designated in 2001 the Brotherhood Lajnat al-Daawa al-Islamiya (the Islamic Call Committee) in Kuwait as a terrorist organization.
The Brotherhood’s Lajnat al-Daawa al-Islamiya served as a financial conduit for terror mastermind Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda. It also has funded terror groups in Chechnya and Libya.
The U.S. government also has designated Muslim Brotherhood leaders from Yemen and other countries.
The Brotherhood’s financial networks have been implicated in the funding of Chechen rebels and there is evidence that the group has established some fundraising channels in the United States.
Former FBI Director Robert Mueller told lawmakers in 2011 that classified intelligence indicates the Brotherhood has been operating in America.
‘‘I can say at the outset that elements of the Muslim Brotherhood both here and overseas have supported terrorism,” he said at the time.
Some have pointed to the case of the Holy Land Foundation, a Muslim charity shut down by the federal government for funneling money to Hamas, as firm evidence of the Brotherhood’s efforts to raise money in the United States for terrorists
Experts note that while the Brotherhood supports an extremist ideology it would be very difficult for the government to designate the group and then determine who exactly is a member.
“American terrorist designations should be applied narrowly, or else they will lose their credibility. While the bill correctly highlights the Brotherhood's deep hostility towards the United States and its violent ideological underpinnings, the evidence suggesting that it's currently engaged in organized terrorism is flimsy,” said Eric Trager, an Egypt expert and fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP).
“Moreover, given the significant blow that the Brotherhood has experienced in the past thirteen months since [former President] Morsi's fall, the Brotherhood is no longer a strategic threat, and focusing on it will distract policymakers attention from the far more significant threats that have emerged in Syria and Iraq, where actual jihadis now control territory,” Trager explained.