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Who Are the Muslim Brotherhood? Are They Terrorists?

Photographer: Ozan Kose/AFP via Getty Images

The U.S. has dusted off plans to add the Muslim Brotherhood to its list of foreign terrorist organizations. Officials said a designation was being prepared after President Donald Trump in April hosted his Egyptian counterpart Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi, who as army chief in 2013 evicted the group from power and then cracked down on Islamists. Listing the loosely-affiliated Brotherhood would bar Americans from providing it with assistance and force U.S. financial institutions to freeze its assets. Political parties inspired by its tenets are in power in several nations, potentially exposing those governments to penalties.

The group, called al-Ikhwan al-Muslimun in Arabic, is a 90-year-old movement among members of Islam’s majority Sunni branch that combines political activism with charity work. The Brotherhood and the mainstream Islamist parties it has inspired across the Muslim world believe Islamic law and values should play a central role in public and political life. Its most famous slogan is: “Islam is the solution.” The movement defines itself as non-violent, accepting parliamentary politics and participating in state structures. Its members often disagree on issues like the rights of women and minorities. All that puts it at odds with radical Islamist militants, such as al-Qaeda and Islamic State, which denounced the Brotherhood as a “devastating cancer” that cares more for democracy than faith.