The Muslim Brotherhood's most senior leader in the UK has threatened that a ban on the Islamist group in the UK could trigger terrorist attacks.
Ibrahim Mounir claimed that a British government probe into the Brotherhood's activities in the country was the result of pressure from Saudi Arabia - which has itself banned the group as part of a power struggle between rival Muslim regional power and chief Brotherhood sponsor Qatar.
In an interview with The Times, Mounir claimed that be banning the Muslim Brotherhood, the government would cause Muslims to turn to more violent means.
"If this [ban] happened, this would make a lot of people in Muslim communities think that [peaceful] Muslim Brotherhood values... didn’t work and now they are designated a terrorist group, which would make the doors open for all options," he said.
When asked if he was referring specifically to the use of violence, he replied: "Any possibility."
"This would make more problems than we ever expect, not just for Britain, for all Islamic organizations round the world holding peaceful ideologies. If the UK makes this option, you can’t predict [what would happen] with Muslims around the globe, especially the big Muslim organizations close to the Muslim Brotherhood and sharing its ideology."
Mounir, 77, went on to add that the move could damage the UK's reputation in the Muslim world at large.
In what some are reading as a veiled threat, he drew a comparison with Islamist reactions to the 2003 Iraq invasion, which he said was interpreted by many as a "war against Islam".
"And what happened here in 2007? And in Madrid?" he asked menacingly, referring either to two attempted major terrorist attacks in the UK in 2007, or a mistaken reference to the July 7 2005 bombings in London which killed 52 and injured over 100. The Madrid train bombings killed 191 people and injured approximately 1,800 others. In all incidents the perpetrators were Muslim extremists who claimed to be motivated at least in part by the war in Iraq.
Mounir said the Brotherhood was skeptical that the inquiry into its UK activities would be objective, given that it was being headed by Britain's ambassador to Saudi Arabia - which he accused of collaborating with the United Arab Emirates to undermine his group.
"The British Government needs to gain back its profile in the Middle East,” he said. “This is only by giving a solution to problems, not by making them more complicated. Britain was the first democratic state in the world. Please, Mr Cameron, don’t forget that," he said.
The British government acted following reports that Brotherhood leaders had met in London last year to decide their response to the Egypt crisis, after Islamist president Mohammed Morsi was ousted by the military, The Times originally reported.
They gathered in a flat above an Islamic charity office in the drab northwest London suburb of Cricklewood, the report said.
The paper quoted officials as saying it was "possible but unlikely" that the investigation would lead to a ban, with some in the Foreign Office reportedly believing it would only serve to radicalize and drive members underground.
Mounir denied that the Brotherhood had formed a government-in-exile following Morsi's ouster, but he admitted that its deputy, Gomaa Amin, was currently based in London.