mbIt is the holy grail of the anti-Islam lobby: the designation of the Muslim Brotherhood as a “foreign terrorist organization” (FTO) by the U.S. government.

The move could mean open season on American Muslims, cripple U.S. policy in the Muslim world and have implications for American domestic politics. Officials in President Donald Trump’s administration are currently debating issuing an executive order to implement the designation, while proponents on Capitol Hill are pushing legislation with the same objective.

“It will absolutely fuel the line in the Middle East that we are inherently anti-Muslim,” argues Ryan Crocker, who served as U.S. ambassador in four Arab countries, as well as Pakistan and Afghanistan. “Because while Trump and his nearest and dearest may not have any clue of how the Brothers are organized and how much autonomy each country’s organization has, this will just send a broad-brush message: All you need to be is Muslim to be blacklisted.”

Domestically, the proposed designation of the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist group “is viewed by some as a silver bullet, but actually, it’s more like a cluster bomb that’s going to cause damage everywhere,” says James Zogby, president of the Arab American Institute.

The move threatens to introduce an Islamophobic parlor game into American culture, fueling speculation on the degrees of separation between any Muslim and proponents of jihad. That’s because the Muslim Brotherhood is the granddaddy of most Islamist political movements around the world — both peaceful and violent. Many politically active Muslims who emigrated to the United States and helped to found Muslim civic associations here were either members of the Brotherhood, or had friends who were. As with the Kevin Bacon parlor game, look hard enough at almost any Muslim organization in the United States, and you are likely to find some glancing connection to the Brotherhood.

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By Lawrence Pintak

Lawrence Pintak is an award-winning journalist and scholar. He is a former CBS News Middle East correspondent and was founding dean of the Edward R. Murrow College of Communication at Washington State University (2009-2016). He was named a Fellow of the Society by the Society of Professional Journalists in 2017 for "outstanding service to the profession of journalism" around the world. Pintak is a contributor to ForeignPolicy.com, The Daily Beast, and other outlets. Read his articles at pintak.com. His books include Reflections in a Bloodshot Lens: America, Islam & The War of Ideas; Islam for Journalists (co-editor); The New Arab Journalist; and Seeds of Hate: How America’s Flawed Middle East Policy Ignited the Jihad. He holds a PhD in Islamic Studies from the University of Wales, Trinity St. David. Follow him on Twitter @LPintak.