The Muslim Brotherhood has recently acquired, via one of their own, the reigns of the Presidency of Egypt. Now, the office of President, in the hands of Mohamed Mursi, has caused a lot of concern, as well as controversy, within Egypt herself, within the Mideast, among her regional neighbors, as well as on the international political stage, by virtue of the Muslim Brotherhood’s history of being religiously radical, extremist, etc., or, in many cases, falsely accused of being religiously radical, extremist, etc. But, let’s look at the history of the Muslim Brotherhood, in a proper perspective, to see how the Muslim Brotherhood emerged, evolved, and, why are they such a feared political force in the Muslim/Arab-World, as well as in the eyes of the broader international-community.
The Muslims Brotherhood was actually formed as a result of the want, within Egypt, among its people, to rise against British influence/rule, during the waning years of Egypt’s last monarchy, the Mamlukes. Initially, the Muslim Brotherhood served as a revolutionary movement, to rout the Mamlukes, as well as the British shadow-rulers & kick them out of Egypt, leaving & letting Egyptians to write their own story, on the walls of time-The founder of the Muslim Brotherhood was known as Hassan al-Banna.(The Moderate Muslim Brotherhood, Robert S. Leiken & Steven Brooke, Foreign Affairs Magazine)
The Muslim Brotherhood is now, what it has always been: a religious movement, centralized, but, not limited to Egypt or the Muslim/Arab-World, geared towards making Islam the law of the land. Now, in theory, this seems great. However, if/when not applied correctly, actually based upon the Qur’an & Sunnah (Prophetic-Tradition), this objective & fervor, for the establishment of the Shari`ah (Islamic-Law), can/will have very dangerous & disastrous results. And, historically, unfortunately, the Muslim Brotherhood has deviated from its roots, at different times, from simply being a religious-movement, to lowering itself to more like a religious-gang, even to the extent of the Muslim Brotherhood being directly responsible for the assassinations of many prominent figures in Egypt, like Prime Minister Mahmoud an-Nukrashi Pasha, as well as their own founder, Hassan al-Banna himself, in 1949.(BBC News: “Profile: Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood”, Passion for Islam: Shaping the Modern Middle East: the Egyptian Experience, Caryle Murphy)
After the expulsion of the Mamlukes & the British, in 1952, Egypt, was finally free to carve out her own political path. However, there were a lot of hurdles for the Muslim Brotherhood, mainly because of the fact that that they had directly supported a military-coup, lead by a secularist, with military strength, by the name of Gamal Abdel Nasser. He was very clear on making Egypt a secular state, which was in complete contradiction to the fundamental founding principles of the Muslim Brotherhood. The establishment of a secular Egypt really rubbed the Muslim Brotherhood the wrong way, to the extent that they, in 1954, began to openly oppose the newly formed constitution of Egypt, taking the stance that it was not in accordance to the Shari`ah.(BBC: “Power of Nightmares”)
Also, they openly opposed Gamal Abdel Nasser, whom, ironically, they had once willingly supported, against the Mamlukes & the British. The Muslim Brotherhood was actually blamed for an assassination-attempt, against Gamal Abdel Nasser, in 1954. And, this was definitely something that Nasser used, to his advantage, to marginalize his potential political competition-He immediately made moves, to hunt down, arrest, prosecute, torture, imprison, and, even execute members of the Muslim Brotherhood. In fact, the most famous member of the Muslim Brotherhood, even overshadowing its founder, Hassan al-Banna, Sayyid Qutb, was executed under the Nasser administration, in 1965. Qutb, a Muslim thinker, activist, and, anti-Nasser propagator, was famous, mainly, for issuing his work, Milestones.
At first, Qutb was imprisoned & tortured, after the assassination attempt on Nasser. Being a member of the Muslim Brotherhood made him an easy-target, among many other easy-targets. Then, after being released from prison, he committed himself to the writing of what would be his most famous work, Milestones, in 1964. Milestones laid the groundwork for what Qutb’s vision of how to recreate an Islamic-State should be approached, within the traditional & external Muslim-World, particularly, within the Arab-World. However, this work, in the text itself, is responsible for ideas that have given rise & justification, used by latter peoples, influenced by his works, to pronounce Takfir (Blasphemy) upon other Muslims, for not ruling their respective countries, according to the Shari`ah. Upon this, it seemed as though Qutb, within his work, Milestones was blatantly giving Muslims the green-light to assassinate their own leaders, because of the fact that they were governing over others, with secular/non-religious laws, thereby making it okay to declare them Non-Muslims & thus lawful to kill.(BBC: “Power of Nightmares”)
This placed Muslim leaders, within the Arab-World under immense fear, because if the common-people were to buy into this concept, that they were no longer Muslims, not only would they lose their power, but, they would also lose their lives. So, Nasser spared no expense to get rid of Qutb any way that he could, which he did. After the execution of Sayyid Qutb, in 1965, he became a Pan-Islamic/Pan-Arab icon, not only in Egypt, but all across the Muslim-World, as well as the Arab-World. This act of the execution of Qutb, along with other prominent figures in the Muslim Brotherhood, at the time, charged up this movement to be even more radical against their government, in Egypt, and, their influence, which had been spreading to other parts of the Muslim-World, in other countries, had begun to expand rapidly.
Over the course of the next 4 decades, after the execution of Sayyid Qutb, the influence of the Muslim Brotherhood has shaped the revolutionary landscape & mindset of Muslims, in the Muslim-World, that has not reversed since. The Muslim Brotherhood has been credited, most notably, of inspiring the rise of various splinter movements & groups, such as Hamas, in Palestine & Syria, al-Qaeda, globally, Al Eslah Society, in Bahrain, Iraqi Islamic Party, Muslim Brotherhood Society, in Jordan & Palestine, National Islamic Front, in Sudan, Movement for the Society of Peace, in Algeria, and Hadas, in Kuwait-As far as personalities go, the Muslim Brotherhood has also been credited in shaping the ideologies of people like Ayman al-Zawahri, the mentor of Osama bin-Laden.(BBC: “Power of Nightmares”, Financial Times, Newsweek journalists Mark Hosenball & Michael Isikoff) Now, with all of this said, what should our conclusion be, and what do we learn from this, and, more specifically, what does this mean for a future Egypt?
My take on this is very simple:
The historical backdrop of the Muslim Brotherhood is very important to know, as to get a very clear sense of why some people may love them, as well as why some people may hate them, as well as knowing how they, as a group, as a movement have, for better or for worse, been a dominant factor in how politics in the Muslim/Arab-World has played out. Also, knowing the past gives us a better insight into how the future may develop. Egypt has a lot of problems, not saying not. However, maybe if given the chance, Mursi, along with his new administration, along with the support of Egyptians, themselves, may be able to pick up Egypt, by her bootstraps, and take her to a better place. I’m of the stance that Mohamed Mursi needs to be given a fair shot, to do the job right, before he is criticized, for causing instability & danger in the Mideast, by Egypt’s neighbors, or nations with particular interests, and/or alterior motives, to dominate the region.