The Muslim Brotherhood Egypt, Arabic al-Ikhwan al-Muslimun, is a religiopolitical group. Scholar Hassan al-Banna established the group in 1928 in the eastern city of Ismailia. In the 1930s, the Brotherhood saw swift growth in its membership. People saw it as providing much-needed services.
In those early days, it centered on education and religious programs. By 1952 the Brotherhood had retreated underground. Read on to see how the Muslim Brotherhood had to keep shifting its outlook to survive.
What Is the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt?
This Islamist revivalist movement followed the fall of the Ottoman Empire. A ban on the caliphate system of government ensued. This system had unified the Muslims for hundreds of years.
Over the next 20 years, the Brotherhood grew as a popular movement. It encompassed education and religion and also touched on politics through the Party of the Muslim Brotherhood.
When al-Banna founded the group, he based its ideology on the teachings of the Quran. Al-Banna’s initial aim was to spread Islamic morals and good works, but the group soon became involved in politics.
The group was visible in the struggle to rid Egypt of British colonial control. It wanted to cleanse the nation of all Western influence. “Islam is the solution” is its best-known catchphrase and is used worldwide.
The chief financier of the party was former presidential candidate Khairat al-Shater. He delivered a seminal speech in 2011 that outlined some of the goals of the Muslim Brotherhood.
Here are a few of these goals:
- To institute religion and “Islamize” life in its entirety — Al Banna’s stated aim was to install Islam’s Sharia law into all aspects of life. Sharia law should dominate everything, from running the government to solving everyday problems.
- To think, plan, spread awareness, and market the idea of the Muslim community’s awakening — The Arabic name for this concept is Ummah Nahda. Another of al Banna’s stated aims was to unify Islamic states and countries. He especially wanted to unite the Arab states and free them from foreign imperialism.
- To guarantee that governments commit to building a stable political life — The group wanted to see the peaceful rotation of power that sought the interests of the people. Such power had to follow the rule of law and guarantee the independence of the judiciary. It also had to provide security, build the country and people, and fix their problems.
The main focus of their ideology was the reform of existing political systems in the Arab world. The current members now have a wide range of interpretations of al-Banna’s early ideology when the Brotherhood started as an active participant in a nationalist movement. After that, it became a banned group forced to operate underground.
As a result, it leaned towards an armed struggle for their ideology but later went back to being a reformist-minded party. Thus, the goals have had to shift several times in the history of the Muslim Brotherhood.
Yet, the ultimate goal of the Brotherhood is controversial. It is a key reason they have operated in secrecy over the last 90 years. That goal is to create Muslim states overseas and, they hope, in America as well.
The US Brotherhood has had a continuing and meaningful impact on Islam in America. It has helped launch Islamic schools and mosques, promoting prominent Muslim organizations and summer youth camps.
What is the true nature of the Muslim Brotherhood
It is a radical theocratic political organization far removed from liberalism or democracy. Today, it continues in the same vein.
The political project of the Egypt Brotherhood at home and elsewhere has four primary aims:
- Creating the “faithful man”
- Establishing the theocratic polity
- Enhancing the interventionist state
- Advocating confrontational foreign and national security policies
Al-Banna believed in the formation and spread of an authentic Islamic state. Yet, he knew that could only happen through the outlawing of Western viewpoints. The Brotherhood had to put an end to Western influence on Sharia doctrinal laws. Supporters of the Brotherhood still believe in this doctrine today.
For the first time, these beliefs are becoming blurred. The ruthless military attack of 2013 has aggravated persecution, and oppression has increased. The tense situation has in several ways minimized the organization’s original goals.
According to Al-Banna, “It is the nature of Islam to dominate, not to be dominated, to impose its law on all nations and to extend its power to the entire planet.” The Muslim Brotherhood thus resists the worldly tendencies of Islamic nations and wants a return to the teachings of the Qur’an. The organization’s motto is: “Allah is our objective. The Prophet is our leader. Qur’an is our law. Jihad is our way. Dying in the way of Allah is our highest hope.”
The Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood After the 1952 Revolution
Egyptian politics took a sharp dictatorial turn in the 1950s. The Brotherhood became one of the chief targets of the regime’s repression. It has lacked official legal existence for six decades, but it remains one of the most influential political and social programs in modern history.
The lower middle class was the group’s primary constituency and became the most successful organized opposition to Egypt’s British occupation when it joined the Free Officers, nationalist military leaders. The Free Officers wanted to take Egypt away from a British-backed monarchy.
In July 1952, a military junta forced King Farouk out of power in a coup d’etat. The Brotherhood opposed this junta and rejected his vision as the leader of a secular, socialist, pan-Arab movement.
The group had thrived under the Egyptian monarchy and managed to spread fast in Egypt and across the world until it faced its first crackdown. This crackdown came as a result of the actions of an alleged follower of the Brotherhood who tried to kill the leader of the Free Officers, Gamal Abdel Nasser, in 1954.
The government jailed thousands of suspected Brothers in response. It released them 20 years later, in 1974.
Nasser barred the group from the government, but it still became a force in society. It built allegiance as a populist alternative to the Egyptian state. The state offered little to citizens. It also suffered recurring military defeats by Israel.
Sayyid Qutb, a very influential theorist, was one of those imprisoned. Before his execution in 1966, Qutb issued a manifesto. It proclaimed that Muslim society had become Jahiliya (no longer Islamic). He added that it was imperative to reestablish Islam. He advocated the takeover of Muslim states by an Islamic vanguard.
He also revitalized the model of Islamic universalism. Qutb’s philosophy became very influential outside the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood. The leadership of the Brotherhood dissociated itself from Qutb. It then adopted a posture as peaceful activists.
The Brotherhood became Egypt’s leading official opposition faction. Then in January 2011, a non-religious youth protest movement arose. This movement protested against the Mubarak regime in Egypt.
After a brief hesitation, the Muslim Brotherhood’s senior membership sanctioned the movement. It called on its members to join in demonstrations. The movement became known as the Arab Spring Revolution.
On January 5, 2011, the revolution overthrew former President Hosni Mubarak, who had been in office for 30 years. Tens of thousands of demonstrators swarmed Tahrir Square, demanding the overthrow of Mubarak. The longtime leader had been eyeing a dynasty by coaching his son to succeed him.
The Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood has been controversial since its founding. Throughout its life, the Brotherhood has met opposition from dictators. They have feared its organizational strength and appeal among moderate Muslims. They thought that these attributes made it the ultimate threat to their rule.
At last, the Brotherhood got its chance to govern after the January 2011 revolution. In late April 2011, they founded the Freedom and Justice Party. The people voted candidates to the parliament and the presidency in 2012.
Mohamed Morsi was the country’s first president elected by the democratic process. He attempted to expand his powers in December of that same year, sparking a wave of protests.
Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, his Minister of Defense, instigated a coup one year later. He appointed himself president and crushed the group. This move by the military followed days of mass anti-government protests. Morsi had also dismissed a demand from some generals calling on him to settle Egypt’s worst political disaster since Mubarak left power in 2011.
The government tried Morsi together with 14 senior members of the Brotherhood. The allegation was that he had incited his followers to kill. They blamed him for the deaths of two opposition demonstrators and a reporter. They said that he had also ordered the illegal imprisonment and torture of others.
The army detained tens of thousands of Brotherhood advocates and murdered hundreds more in the streets. The coup and clampdown left the Brotherhood drifting. It was the worst hit the Brotherhood had taken in its ninety-two-year history.
Sisi has made it his business to crush the Islamist group since the 2013 coup. The Brotherhood once laid claim to being the Arab world’s most robust non-state program. It has established a global network. It has also inspired groups such as Hamas, the Palestinian revolutionary society. Sisi has reduced it to a weak, divided organization.
The Muslim Brotherhood has a knack for enduring through long episodes of oppression. This skill lies in the details of its organizational structure, and its central, pyramidal structure has stayed constant. The External Egyptian Brotherhood Office, made up of higher-ranked exiled members, augments it.
The group persisted throughout the era of repression in the 1950s and 1960s. Then-president Gamal Abdel Nasser’s government tortured and imprisoned many members.
The Brotherhood’s persecution under Nasser drove three developments:
- A faction of the Brotherhood chose to adopt violence. They felt it was the only way to topple the Nasser regime. That approach would also work for any other government that wasn’t sufficiently Islamic.
- Another wing decided that only grassroots ventures – “bottom-up Islamization” – was the way to go.
- The third wing migrated to other countries. They chose to leave instead of participating in the system or resorting to violence.
Egypt Muslim Brotherhood President Mohamed Morsi
Born Muhammad Muhammad Mursi Issa al Ayyat on August 20, 1951, Morsi was an engineer. He was born in al-Shaquiyyah governorate, on the eastern side of the Nile Delta.
He studied at the Cairo University and earned his doctorate from the University of Southern California in 1982. He taught engineering at California State University, Northridge, until 1985. After that, he returned to Egypt. He became a professor of engineering at Zagazig University, a position he held until 2010.
Former President Morsi died in an Egyptian courtroom on June 17, 2019. He had served for a year and four days before his removal from office by a military coup. Morsi was an unlikely candidate from the beginning, but he had risen to power in the wake of the Arab Spring.
The Brotherhood disqualified the initial candidate, Khairat-el-Shater, on a technicality. They put forward Morsi soon after that. The press named him al-stebn “the spare tire.” The Brotherhood had rolled him out like an extra wheel.
Morsi, like other Brotherhood leaders, commended the ideals of liberty. They praised democracy when speaking to members of the foreign media. In the presence of different audiences, he had a history of making more troubling statements. His campaign gatherings could be unsettling.
The Brotherhood’s first official political arm was the Freedom and Justice Party. Morsi led that party. He stood at the climax of its political, social, and ideological struggle. Morsi’s death closed a chapter in Egyptian history.
Sisi continues to persecute the Brotherhood. In August 2020, Egypt’s interior ministry carried out a raid on a Cairo apartment. There they captured Mahmoud Ezzat, the acting leader of the Brotherhood. Ezzat had eluded the authorities for seven years.
The authorities said they found telephones and computers with encryption software. They alleged that Ezzat used this equipment to communicate with Brotherhood members. These members were at home and abroad.
Conclusion: There Will Be an Uprising in Egypt, Brotherhood Says
The official spokesman of the Egypt Brotherhood is Talaat Fahmy. He has warned that a new revolution will sweep aside the current regime. “No injustice can last forever,” he told AFP in Istanbul. “People’s patience and ability to tolerate what is happening is not eternal.”
The Brotherhood has seen many travails in its history. Will Fahmy’s prediction come true? We will see over time.