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|The Muslim Brotherhood|
IPA: [elʔexˈwæːn elmosleˈmuːn]
|International affiliation||Muslim Brotherhood|
|Politics of Egypt|
|The Muslim Brotherhood|
IPA: [elʔexˈwæːn elmosleˈmuːn]
|International affiliation||Muslim Brotherhood|
|Politics of Egypt|
The Muslim Brotherhood (Arabic: جماعة الاخوان المسلمين gammāʿat al-ʾiḫwān/al-ikhwan/el-ekhwan al-muslimūn, IPA: [elʔexˈwæːn]) in Egypt is a Sunni Islamist religious, political, and social movement. It is, or was, considered the largest, best-organized political force in Egypt, estimated by different sources to have 100,000 or 600,000 adherents/supporters. Founded in Egypt by Hassan al-Banna in March 1928, the group spread to other Muslim countries but has its largest, or one of its largest, organizations in Egypt despite a succession of government crackdowns in 1948, 1954, 1965, 2013 after plots, or alleged plots, of assassination and overthrow were uncovered. Following the 2011 Egyptian Revolution, it first had great success. It launched a civic political party—the Freedom and Justice Party—to contest elections, which it described as having "the same mission and goals, but different roles" than the Brotherhood, and agreeing to honor all Egypt's international agreements. The party won almost half the seats in the 2011–12 parliamentary elections, and its candidate, Mohamed Morsi, won the June 2012 presidential election. However Morsi was overthrown after mass protests within a year and a crackdown ensued that some have called more damaging to the movement than any "in eight decades". Hundreds of members were killed or arrested, and Morsi and most of the Brotherhood's leadership were imprisoned. In September 2013, Egyptian court banned the Brotherhood and its associations, and ordered that its assets be seized. The military-backed interim government declared the movement a terrorist group following the December 2013 Mansoura bombing.
The Muslim Brotherhood was founded in 1928 by Hassan al-Banna, an Egyptian schoolteacher, who preached implementing traditional Islamic Sharia law in all aspects of life, from everyday problems to the organization of the government. Inspired by Islamic reformers Muhammad Abduh and Rashid Rida, he believed that Islam had lost its social dominance to corrupt Western influences and British imperial rule.
The organisation initially focused on educational and charitable work, but quickly grew to become a major political force as well. (Sources disagree as to whether the Brotherhood was hostile to independent working-class and popular organisations, or supported efforts to create trades unions and unemployment benefits.) It championed the cause of poor Muslims, and played a prominent role in the Egyptian nationalist movement, fighting the British, Egypt's occupier/dominator. It engaged in espionage and sabotage, as well as support for terrorist activities orchestrated by Haj Amin al-Husseini in British Mandate Palestine, and up to and during World War II some association with Britain's enemy, the German Nazis, dissemination of anti-Jewish, and anti-Western propaganda.
Over the years, the Brotherhood spread to other Muslim countries, including Syria Jordan, Tunisia, etc. as well as countries where Muslims are in the minority. These groups are sometimes described as "very loosely affiliated" with the Egyptian branch and each other.
In November 1948, following several bombings and assassination attempts, the government arrested 32 leaders of the Brotherhood's "secret apparatus" and banned the Brotherhood. At this time the Brotherhood was estimated to have 2000 branches and 500,000 members or sympathizers. In succeeding months Egypt's prime minister was assassinated by Brotherhood member, and following that Al-Banna himself was assassinated in what is thought to be a cycle of retaliation.
In 1952, members of the Muslim Brotherhood are accused of taking part in an event that marked the end of Egypt's "liberal, progressive, cosmopolitan" era – an arson fire that destroyed some "750 buildings" in downtown Cairo – mainly night clubs, theatres, hotels, and restaurants frequented by British and other foreigners.
In 1952 the monarchy was overthrown by nationalist military officers of the Free Officers Movement. While the Brotherhood supported the coup it vigorously opposed the secularist constitution that the coup leaders were developing. In 1954 another unsuccessful assassination was attempted against Egypt's prime minister, (Gamal Abdel Nasser), and blamed on the "secret apparatus" of the Brotherhood. The Brotherhood was again banned and this time thousands of its members were imprisoned, many of them held for years in prisons and sometimes tortured.
One of them was the very influential theorist, Sayyid Qutb, who before being executed in 1966, issued a manifesto proclaiming that Muslim society had become jahiliyya (no longer Islamic) and that Islam must be restored by the overthrow of Muslim states by an Islamic vanguard, also revitilising the ideal of Islamic universalism. Qutb's ideology became very influential outside of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, but the Brotherhood's leadership distanced itself from Qutb and adhered to nonviolent reformist posture.
Imprisoned Brothers were gradually released after Anwar Sadat became president of Egypt in 1970, and were sometimes enlisted to help fight Sadat's leftist opposition. Brethren were allowed to publish the magazine Da'wa, though the organization remained illegal. During this time, more radical Qutb-inspired Islamist groups blossomed, and after he signing a peace agreement with Israel in 1979, became confirmed enemies of Sadat. Sadat was assassinated by a violent Islamist group Tanzim al-Jihad on 6 October 1981, shortly after he had Brotherhood leaders (and many other opposition leaders) arrested.
Again with a new president, (Hosni Mubarak), Brotherhood leaders (Supreme Guide Umar al-Tilmisani and others) were released from prison. Mubarak cracked down hard against radical Islamists but offered a "olive branch" to the more moderate Brethren. The brethren reciprocated, going so far as to endorse Mubarak’s candidacy for president in 1987.
The Brotherhood dominated the professional and student associations of Egypt and was famous for its network of social services in neighborhoods and villages. However, the government did not approve of the Brotherhood's renewed influence (it was still technically illegal), and resorted to repressive measures starting in 1992.
In the 2000 parliamentary elections, the Muslim Brotherhood won 17 parliamentary seats. In 2005, it won 88 seats (20% of the total compared to 14 seats for the legally approved opposition parties) to form the largest opposition bloc, despite the arrest of hundreds of Brotherhood members. It lost almost all but one of these seats in the much-less-free 2010 election, which was marred by massive arrests of both Brethren and polling place observers. Under Egypt's emergency law Brethren could only stand as independents, but were easily identified since they campaigned under the slogan – 'Islam Is the Solution'.
During and after the 2005 election the Brethren launched what some have called a "charm offensive." Its leadership talked about its "responsibility to lead reform and change in Egypt." It addressed the `Coptic issue', insinuating that the Brethren would do away with Egypt's decades-old church building-permit system that Coptic Christians felt was discriminatory. Internationally the Brethren launched an English-language website and some of the Muslim Brotherhood's leaders participated in an Initiative to 'Re-Introduc[e] the Brotherhood to the West', "listing and addressing many 'Western misconceptions about the Brotherhood.'"
Seeing this campaign as a direct threat to its position as an indispensable ally of the west against radical Islamism, the Egyptian government introduced an amendment to the constitution that removed the reference to Islam as 'the religion of the state,` and would have allowed women and Christians to run for the presidency. Brotherhood MPs responded by walking out of parliament rather than voting on the bill. In addition, the movement has also reportedly played into the government's hands provoking non-Islamist Egyptians by staging a militia-style march by masked Brotherhood students at Cairo's Al Azhar University, complete with uniforms and martial arts drills, reminding many of the Brotherhood's era of 'secret cells'.
According to another observer:
"after a number of conciliatory engagements and interactions with the West", the Brotherhood retreated into its comfort zone of inflammatory rhetoric intended for local consumption: all suicide bombers are `martyrs`; `Israel` regularly became `the Jews`; even its theological discourse became more confrontational and oriented to social conservatism.
Two years later the Egyptian government amended the constitution, skewing future representation against independent candidates for parliament, which are the only candidates the Brotherhood can field. The state delayed local council elections from 2006 to 2008, disqualifying most Muslim Brotherhood candidates. The Muslim Brotherhood boycotted the election. The government incarcerated thousands of rank-and-file Muslim Brotherhood members in a wave of arrests and military trials, the harshest such security clampdown on the Brotherhood "in decades." 
Following the 2011 revolution that overthrew Hosni Mubarak, the Brotherhood was legalized and emerged as "the most powerful" and "most cohesive political movement" in Egypt. Its newly formed political party won two referendums, far more seats than any other party in the 2011–12 parliamentary election, and its candidate Mohammed Morsi won the 2012 presidential election. However within a year there were mass protests against his rule and he was overthrown by the military.
In the January–February 2011 uprising itself, the Brotherhood remained "on the sidelines", but even before it was officially legalized it launched a new party called the Freedom and Justice Party. The party rejected "the candidacy of women or Copts for Egypt's presidency", although it did not oppose their taking cabinet positions. In its first election the party won almost half of 498 seats in the 2011–12 Egyptian parliamentary election,.
In the first couple of years after the revolution, critics speculated about both secret collusion between the Brotherhood and the powerful (secular oriented) military, and a looming showdown between the two. The Brotherhood and the military both supported the March constitutional referendum which most Egyptian liberals opposed as favoring established political organizations. It was said to have stopped the "second revolution" against military rule by remaining uninvolved during violent clashes between revolutionaries and the military in late 2011, and protests over the thousands of secretive military trials of civilians, (unless fellow Islamists were being prosecuted).
Egyptian author Ezzedine C. Fishere worried that the Brotherhood had
"managed to alienate its revolutionary and democratic partners and to scare important segments of society, especially women and Christians. Neither the Brotherhood nor the generals showed willingness to share power and both were keen on marginalising the revolutionary and democratic forces. It is as if they were clearing the stage for their eventual showdown."
While the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) dissolved the parliament dominated by the Brotherhood and other Islamists., the Brotherhood won the presidential election, defeating Ahmed Shafiq, a former military officer and prime minister of Mubarak.
Within a short period, serious public opposition developed to President Morsi. In late November 2012 he 'temporarily' granted himself the power to legislate without judicial oversight or review of his acts, on the grounds that he needed to "protect" the nation from the Mubarak-era power structure. He also put a draft constitution to a referendum that opponents complained was “an Islamist coup.” These issues—and concerns over the prosecutions of journalists, the unleashing of pro-Brotherhood gangs on nonviolent demonstrators; the continuation of military trials; and new laws that permitted detention without judicial review for up to 30 days, and impunity given to Islamist radical attacks on Christians and other minorities—brought hundreds of thousands of protesters to the streets starting in November 2012 During Morsi's year-long rule there were 9,000 protests and strikes.
By April 2013, Egypt had "become increasingly divided" between President Mohammed Morsi and "Islamist allies" and an opposition of "moderate Muslims, Christians and liberals". Opponents accused "Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood of seeking to monopolize power, while Morsi’s allies say the opposition is trying to destabilize the country to derail the elected leadership". Adding to the unrest were severe fuel shortages and electricity outages—which evidence suggests were orchestrated by Mubarak-era Egyptian elites.
By 29 June the Tamarod (rebellion) movement announced it had collected more than 22 million signatures calling for Morsi to step down. A day later somewhere between 17 and 33 million Egyptian protesters demonstrated across Egypt urging Morsi to step down A lesser number demonstrated in support of him.
On 3 July, the head of the Egyptian Armed Forces, General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, announced President Mohamed Morsi's removal by the 2013 Egyptian coup d'état, suspension of the constitution. Brotherhood supporters staged from sit-ins throughout the country, setting up camps and shutting down traffic.
The crackdown that followed has been called the worst for the Brotherhood's organization "in eight decades". On 14 August, the military declared a month-long state of emergency and commenced raids to remove the camps. In retaliation Brotherhood supporters looted and burned police stations and dozens of churches.
Violence escalated rapidly, lasting several days and resulting in the deaths of 638 people and injury of some 4000. By 19 August, al Jazeera reported that "most" of the Brotherhood's leaders were in custody. On that day Supreme Leader (Mohammed Badie) was arrested, crossing a "red line", as even Hosni Mubarak had never arrested him.
On 23 September, a court ordered the group outlawed and its assets seized. Two days later security forces shuttered the main office of the newspaper of the Freedom and Justice Party, and confiscated its equipment.
Some question whether the military and security services can effectively crush the Brotherhood. Unlike the last major crackdown in the 1950s, when Egypt's "public sphere and information space" was tightly-controlled, the Brotherhood has a larger and broader international presence beyond the reach of Egypt's government to sustain itself.
Others—such as Hussein Ibish and journalist Peter Hessler—believe its "unlikely" that the Brotherhood will return to political prominence" soon, because of its aggressive but incompetent performance while in power. According to Hessler, the group antagonized the powerful entrenched government institutions, the news media and millions of non-supporters, acting "with just enough aggression to provoke an outsized response", while not having nearly enough military resources to defend itself against that response. It no longer leads the opposition to the coup, and has even lost its "religious credibility", such that "at mosques, even staunch opponents of the coup told me that they wouldn't vote for the Brotherhood again."
Hussein Ibish believes the Brotherhood is being challenged by the Salafi movement, and is undergoing a crisis so severe that "what ultimately emerges from the current wreckage [may] be unrecognisably different" from the traditional Brotherhood.
A day after the 2013 Mansoura bombing, the military-backed interim government declared the Muslim Brotherhood movement a terrorist group—despite that fact that another group, the Sinai-based Ansar Bait al-Maqdis, claimed responsibility for the blast.
Murshid ("supreme guide" or "General leaders" (G.L.)) of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt have been:
The Brotherhood itself describes the "principles of the Muslim Brotherhood" as including firstly the introduction of the Islamic Shari`ah as "the basis controlling the affairs of state and society;" and secondly work to unify "Islamic countries and states, mainly among the Arab states, and liberating them from foreign imperialism". It denounces the "catchy and effective terms and phrases" like "fundamentalist" and "political Islam" which it claims are used by "Western Media" to pigeonhole the group, and points to its "15 Principles" for an Egyptian National Charter, including "freedom of personal conviction... opinion... forming political parties... public gatherings... free and fair elections..."
In October 2007, the Muslim Brotherhood issued a detailed political platform. Amongst other things it called for a board of Muslim clerics to oversee the government, and for limiting the office of the presidency to Muslim men. In the 'Issues and Problems' chapter of the platform, it declared that a woman was not suited to be president because the post's religious and military duties 'conflict with her nature, social and other humanitarian roles.' While underlining 'equality between men and women in terms of their human dignity,` the document warned against 'burdening women with duties against their nature or role in the family.'
In his writing, Hassan Al-Banna outlined a strategy for achieving power of three stages:
The Brotherhood's self-description as moderate and rejecting violence has created disagreement among observers. A Western author, (Eric Trager), interviewing 30 current and former members of the Brotherhood in 2011 and found that the Brethren he talked to emphasised "important exceptions" to the position of non-violence, namely conflicts in Afghanistan, Bosnia, Chechnya, Iraq, and Palestine. Trager quotes the former Supreme Guide Mohammed Mahdi Akef as telling him
We believe that Zionism, the United States, and England are gangs that kill children and women and men and destroy houses and fields. .... Zionism is a gang, not a country. So we will resist them until they don't have a country.
Trager and other have also noted the MB's use of the honorific "sheikh" to refer to Osama bin Laden. While the Brotherhood differs with bin Laden and al-Qaeda, it has not condemned them for the 9-11 attacks because it does not believe they were responsible. A recent statement by the Brotherhood on the issue of violence and assassinations condemned the killing of "Sheikh Osama bin Laden" by the United States, saying: "The whole world, and especially the Muslims, have lived with a fierce media campaign to brand Islam as terrorism and describe the Muslims as violent by blaming the September 11th incident on al-Qaeda."
However, according to authors writing in the Council on Foreign Relations magazine Foreign Affairs: "At various times in its history, the group has used or supported violence and has been repeatedly banned in Egypt for attempting to overthrow Cairo's secular government. Since the 1970s, however, the Egyptian Brotherhood has disavowed violence and sought to participate in Egyptian politics." Jeremy Bowen, BBC Middle East editor, calls the Brotherhood "conservative and non-violent".
According to a report by the Israeli-affiliated media-watchdog group Memri, the Arabic language website of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood displays much anti-Semitic and anti-Israel content, contains articles that engage in Holocaust denial, praise jihad and martyrdom, condemn the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty, calls for the destruction of Israel, and condemns negotiations with non-Muslims to regain lands lost by Islam. In addition, the Arabic website repeats Antisemitic conspiracy theories alleging that Jews have created evil in the world throughout history.
On 13 March 2013, the Muslim Brotherhood released a statement opposing the UN declaration 'End Violence against Women' on the grounds that it would "undermine Islamic ethics and destroy the family", and "would lead to complete disintegration of society".
In the book Secret of the Temple, written by Tharwat al-Khirbawy, a former member of the Muslim Brotherhood of Egypt, Khirbawy "explores the ideology of Mursi and the small group of leaders at the top of the movement, examining their devotion to Sayyid Qutb, a radical ideologue executed in 1966 for plotting to kill president Gamal Abdel Nasser." The book has been "dismissed by Brotherhood leaders as part of a smear campaign."
Talking to television channel France 24 shortly before he was elected president, Mohammed Morsi stated: "The majority of the people are Muslims and the non-Muslims, our brothers, are citizens with full responsibilities and rights and there is no difference between them. If any Muslim says anything other than this, he is not understanding Sharia."
However after he became president critics complained that attitudes of and actions by Brotherhood leaders concerning non-Muslims changed. In late April 2013 a fatwa issued by a member of the MB general guide's office -- 'Abd Al-Rahman Al-Barr (who is often referred to as the movement's mufti) -- forbade Muslims from greeting Christians on their Easter holiday, explaining that Easter and resurrection were contrary to the Muslim faith. "Jesus did not die and was not crucified, but rather Allah gave him protection from the Jews and raised [Jesus] up to Him... which is why we do not greet anyone for something we strongly believe is wrong. ..." The Israeli-affiliated media-watchdog group Memri quoted Coptic and opposition leaders attacking the fatwa and noting that in the past MB leaders and even Al-Barr himself had not only allowed but practiced the greeting of Christians on Easter. Columnist A'la Al-'Aribi in the daily Al-Wafd attacked the fatwa as "politics disguised as shari'a..." Al-Barr's previous "view reflected the position of the MB at that time – but now that circumstances have changed [and the MB is in power], he has changed his position..."
Another article in newsobserver.com noted President and former MB official Mohammed Morsi "has done little to assuage concerns" of Christians by being "slow to condemn the latest round of sectarian violence" in April 2013, not attend the naming of the new Coptic pope, and having no plans to attend Coptic Easter services – an annual custom of the former Egyptian President.
In August 2013, following the 3 July 2013 Coup and clashes between the military and Morsi supporters, there were widespread attacks on Christian Coptic churches and institutions. USA Today reported that "forty churches have been looted and torched, while 23 others have been attacked and heavily damaged". The Facebook page of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party was "rife with false accusations meant to foment hatred against Copts", according to journalist Kirsten Powers. The party's page claimed that the Church had declared "war against Islam and Muslims". Despite the Christians relatively minor role in the campaign against President Morsi, the page justified the attacks by saying: “After all this people ask why they burn the churches.” Later it posted: "For every action there is a reaction" and "The Pope of the Church is involved in the removal of the first elected Islamist president. The Pope of the Church alleges Islamic Sharia is backwards, stubborn, and reactionary." On 15 August, nine Egyptian human rights groups under the umbrella group "Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights", released a statement saying,
“In December … Brotherhood leaders began fomenting anti-Christian sectarian incitement. The anti-Coptic incitement and threats continued unabated up to the demonstrations of June 30 and, with the removal of President Morsi … morphed into sectarian violence, which was sanctioned by … the continued anti-Coptic rhetoric heard from the group’s leaders on the stage … throughout the sit-in.”
The Brotherhood applies a highly selective membership process which gives its "internal cohesiveness and ideological rigidity" and is unique among Egyptian political/social organizations in its "breadth" and "depth" of networks. The long (typically at least four and a half years) and closely monitored membership process is thought to have prevented infiltration by state security during the presidencies of Anwar Sadat and Hosni Mubarak. Its structure bears some similarity to a similar Islamist party, Jamaat-e-Islami, in having a hierarchical organization where many supporters do not reach the level of full members. Potential members are recruited by recruiters who do not at first identify themselves as Brothers to prospective members.
Estimates of the Brotherhood's membership and supporters vary between 600,000 and 100,000. According to anthropologist Scott Atran, while the Brotherhood has 600,000 dues paying members in Egypt it can count on only 100,000 militants in a population of more than 80 million Egyptians. The New York Times describes it as having drawing on "support from hundreds of thousands of members and millions of affiliates and sympathizers throughout" Egypt.
How unified and powerful the Brotherhood is, is disputed. Former deputy chairman, Muhammad Habib has said, "there are fissures" in the Brotherhood, "and they may be to the very core. There is concern among the younger members that the leadership does not understand what’s going on around it." Another high-ranking member, Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh, who was recently expelled from the Brotherhood, warned of the possibility of "an explosion." Other observers (Eric Trager) have described the Brotherhood as "Egypt's most cohesive political movement, with an unparalleled ability to mobilize its followers ..."
According to journalist Kareem Fahim, following the 2013 crackdown, group has "fallen back on the organizational structure that sustained it for decades" when it was banned. He reports that the Brotherhood is "becoming more decentralized, but also more cohesive and rigid".
The brotherhood operates 21 hospitals throughout Egypt, providing modern medical care at subsidized prices . It also operates job-training programmes, schools in every governorate in the country and programs to support widows and orphans.
An estimated 1,000 of the roughly 5,000 legally registered NGOs and associations in Egypt are run by the Brotherhood according to Abul Futouh, a leading brotherhood member. Its clinics are reputed to have more available basic supplies and more up-to-date equipment. However, the Brotherhood's network of organizations is complex, sometimes operate under different names, and is difficult to track.
The Brotherhood's response to the 1992 earthquake in Cairo, where 50,000 people were made homeless, was an example of the group's effectiveness, compared to that of the Egyptian government. It quickly mobilized to provide victims with food and blankets and setting up makeshift medical clinics and tents for shelter.
According to Kareem Fahim, following the 2013 crackdown members have started to abandon "activities like preaching and social work" as they focus on "resistance to the military-backed government".
The Muslim Sisterhood is the female division of the Muslim Brotherhood. The members of the Muslim Sisterhood have been traditionally more involved in charitable activities than other members of Muslim Brotherhood. They are credited with keeping the Brotherhood together during the dark days of 1950s and 1960s when many male members were intentionally dispersed across Egypt’s prisons in order to cripple the apparatus, but the sisters "acted as an informal prison support network, carrying ideas and messages from prison to prison to sustain the Brotherhood, and were vital to their rebirth".
The work of the Muslim Sisterhood has help to attract new members to the Muslim Brotherhood. Many of these members come from university campuses, mosques and trade unions. During the Egyptian revolution of 2011, members of the Muslim Sisterhood have become more politically active, and they participated in the founding of the Freedom and Justice Party by the Muslim Brotherhood in April 2011. Not an auxiliary group, they intend to play an equal role in the government.
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