One of the greatest mysteries for Western observers is to make sense of the Muslim Brotherhood and its part in the present and likely outcome of the current situation in Egypt.The Society of the Muslim Brothers (often known simply as الإخوان Al-Ikhwān, The Brotherhood or MB) is part of an Islamist transnational movement and the largest political opposition organization in many Arab states. Founded in Egypt in 1928 by the by an Islamic scholar Hassan Egypt the movement of the Brotherhood has as its slogan “Islam is the solution” and the credo: “Allah is our objective; the Qur’an is our constitution, the Prophet is our leader; Jihad is our way; and death for the sake of Allah is the highest of our aspirations.” One of the ongoing concerns is that a number of their teachings seem to be advocating a gradual infiltration of opposing power structures in preparation for takeover. The Brotherhood’s preferred form of Islam is generally interpreted by members to be very orthodox and in general follows the admonition of its founder to have separate and segregated education for boys and girls, is against “ostentation in dress and loose behavior,” advocates a separate curriculum for girls, and “the prohibition of dancing and other such pastimes. Largely Sunn’i in membership they advocate a Sura system of control.
Despite an official non violent policy and plenty of welfare programme assistance, the Brotherhood has been accused as supporting terrorism. They certainly have been involved in uprisings in other places like Syria. During the second World War, the Brotherhood in Egypt showed itself aligned with the Nazis, and on a number of occasions since 1936, the Brotherhood has been accused of fomenting violence. The Brotherhood’s stated goal is to instill the Qur’an and Sunnah as the “sole reference point for … ordering the life of the Muslim family, individual, community … and state”. This includes a strong desire to place their membership under Sharia law. Many of their writings make it abundantly clear that they are strongly opposed to any form of Western colonialism. For example Mustafa Mashhur Leader of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, 1996-2002 put it in these terms. (Translated by Palestine Media watch from the book “Jihad is the Way”)
“Jihad for Allah is not limited to the specific region of the Islamic countries, since the Muslim homeland is one and is not divided, and the banner of Jihad has already been raised in some of its parts, and shall continue to be raised, with the help of Allah, until every inch of the land of Islam will be liberated, and the State of Islam established.
The problems of the Islamic world – such as in Palestine, Afghanistan, Syria, Eritrea or the Philippines – are not issues of territories and nations, but of faith and religion.They are the problems of Islam and all Muslims, and their resolution cannot be negotiated and bargained by recognizing the enemy’s right to the Islamic land he stole, and therefore there is no other option but jihad for Allah, and this is why jihad is the way.”
On the other hand Osama bin Laden accused the brotherhood of abandoning the principles of Jihad and it is true that their spokespeople are claiming a completely non-violent way to ahieve the way of the people is what is now intended. As a somewhat inadequately qualified observer I place on record my doubts that they will be comfortable with a continued place for those who have supported the US in the past, and those like the Coptic Christians who will have a tenuous place if the majority (ie 90% Sunn’i) will now have their way. Two chilling attacks on Coptic Christians, one where 24 were killed at New Year and a driveby shooting of six Coptic Christians on 6 January was reminder enough – and when the Pope protested a senior Muslim Cleric said the Pope had no right to interfere with internal Egyptian affairs.  Their Muslim Brotherhood’s strong opposition to the establishment of the state of Israel leaves no doubt about their likely intentions in that direction.  While the US will still enjoy the support of those whose oil wealth and military resourcing depend on US cooperation, the Muslim Brotherhood, from everything they have written and done in the past, might have far less reason for wanting to continue the relationship.
We might also remember that despite strong Government action against the Brotherhood in the past, the MB remain very powerful in terms of popular support. In the parliamentary elections in 2005, the Brotherhood’s candidates, standing as independents because their political party was officially illegal, won 88 seats (20% of the total) and remain the largest opposition bloc despite receiving very little support from the Government controlled media.  The fact that in the subsequent election the whole group of Brotherhood independents mysteriously lost their seats suggests more a doubt about the way the elections were organised than a genuine loss of public support.

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  1. Very well said and thought out. This is not being reported in the mainline media (state run media is what I call it) here in the good ole USA. My concern is what will it take for the West to wake up, pull their head out of the sand and realize how big of a threat Islamic radicals are to us? 9-11 was a wake up call, but so many have gone back to sleep.

  2. Bill Peddie says:

    The thing to look out for, if …and I can only speculate … if the Muslim Brotherhood does have the support I think they have, their most probable candidate is Muhammad El Baradei. It is an open secret that the Brotherhood supports him and may even launch a joint election ticket with him. In fact as bad as that may be for the West, one who is even more popular, and possibly more likely to win an election is the Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa, who has made a series of statements suggesting he is even more radical about anti Western interests. Either choice should give Western leaders pause for thought.
    I don’t think you should be hard on your local media. After all, the media represent the known interests of the population and I fear understanding of international politics is hardly high on the scale for things that sells newspaper and TV. I agree that we might underestimate the need for vigilance, but I wonder if it occurs to many that we only need to be vigilant against those we treat as enemies. As someone with training as a chemist I know how to make a bomb. Because I am well treated I don’t want to.

  3. Pingback: From Jefferson to Jihad – Listen Carefully to the Arab Streets (via ON MY WATCH – the writings of SamHenry) | Village of the Banned

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