US President Donald Trump’s announcement in late April 2019 that he was seeking to have the US State Department designate the Muslim Brotherhood as a Foreign Terrorist Organisation has sparked serious concerns among Islamist parties around the world that they may be included. Morocco’s ruling Parti de la justice et du développement (PJD) is no exception.
Although the PJD has never been formally part of the Muslim Brotherhood’s international structures, it sprang out of the same ideological stable and has long been considered as the Moroccan equivalent of what is the longest surviving Sunni fundamentalist opposition movement in the MENA region.
While the PJD has long sought to differentiate itself from the Muslim Brotherhood and the Brotherhood’s mother branch in Egypt, there are clearly those in the Trump Administration who consider the party to be, if not part and parcel of the Brotherhood, at least ideologically close to it.
There are certainly ideological crossovers between the two. Both follow what is known as the wasati current, or middle way, which rejects violence and aspires to a more moderate interpretation of Islam. Even the PJD has acknowledged on repeated occasions that, despite the lack of organisational links, it comes from the same school of thought as the Brotherhood.
It is notable that whenever the PJD holds conferences or major meetings, members of the Muslim Brotherhood are usually in attendance and vice versa. Furthermore, PJD members have expressed their solidarity with the deposed Egyptian Brotherhood.
While such acts are hardly surprising, given the PJD’s Islamist orientation, there are some in the Trump administration that feel PJD should be included in the designation.
This could have serious consequences for the PJD which is already struggling and suffering a decline in popularity on account of its poor performance in government. Thus while the PJD is unlikely to be included in any US designation of the Brotherhood — something which in itself is not yet certain — the knock on effects could still serve as another blow to the party and its desire to present itself as a progressive reformist force that is far removed from the likes of the Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood.