Having links to the Muslim Brotherhood should be considered a “possible indicator of extremism” but the group will not be banned, David Cameron said.
A long-awaited and diplomatically sensitive review of the group found that parts of the Muslim Brotherhood had a “highly ambiguous relationship with violent extremism”, the Prime Minister told MPs.
Although there would be no immediate ban on the group, Mr Cameron said the Government would keep it under review to see if it meets the legal test for proscription as a terrorist organisation.
The review was completed last summer amid calls from allies such as Saudi Arabia for the UK to impose a ban on the group, and ministers have been accused of sitting on the report to avoid upsetting key partners in the Middle East.
The Brotherhood played a leading role in Egypt’s 2011 revolution. It is considered a terrorist organisation by several countries but has also taken part in democratic elections on a peaceful platform.
But Cairo has waged a sweeping crackdown on senior figures from the Islamist group since its leader Mohammed Morsi was ousted as president by the military in 2013.
In a written statement to MPs, Mr Cameron said: “The Muslim Brotherhood comprises both a transnational network, with links in the UK, and national organisations in and outside the Islamic world.
“The movement is deliberately opaque, and habitually secretive.”
The Prime Minister said the Brotherhood characterises Western societies and liberal Muslims as “decadent and immoral” and “it can be seen primarily as a political project”.
But he continued: “Parts of the Muslim Brotherhood have a highly ambiguous relationship with violent extremism. Both as an ideology and as a network it has been a rite of passage for some individuals and groups who have gone on to engage in violence and terrorism.”
Although it has stated its opposition to al Qaida, it has “never credibly denounced” the terrorist group’s use of the work of Sayyid Qutb, one of the Brotherhood’s most important historic figures.
Mr Cameron added that “individuals closely associated with the Muslim Brotherhood in the UK have supported suicide bombing and other attacks in Israel by Hamas”, a terror organisation whose military wing was banned in the UK in 2001.