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From the Blog
Morsi, The Muslim Brotherhood and the Future of Egyptâ
On June 24 tens of thousands of Muslim BrotherhoodÂ supporters gathered in Tahrir Square to celebrate theÂ victory of their candidate Mohamed Morsi, who wasÂ announced Egyptâs president by the electoral commissionÂ Photo Courtsey of Jonathan RashadÂ The Muslim Brotherhood has recently acquired, Â via one of their own, the reigns of the PresidencyÂ of Egypt. Now, the office of President, in theÂ hands of Mohamed Morsi, causes mixed feelingsÂ in the populace. There is joy as well as concernÂ within Egypt itself, within the Middle east, amongÂ her regional neighbors as well as on the internationalÂ political stage by virtue of the MuslimÂ Brotherhoodâs history of being or falsely accusedÂ of having the tendency to be radical in their views.Â But, letâs look at the history of the Muslim Brotherhood,Â in a proper perspective, to see how theÂ group emerged, evolved and why they are such aÂ feared political force in the Arab World and in theÂ broader international community.
The Muslim Brotherhood (Ikhwan Al-MusliminÂ in Arabic), the largest Islamic movement inÂ recent history was actually formed as a result ofÂ the want, within Egypt, among its people, to riseÂ against British rule and its influence during theÂ waning years of Egyptâs last monarchy, the Mamlukes.Â Initially, the Muslim Brotherhood servedÂ as a revolutionary movement to oust
the Mamlukes as well as the BritishÂ shadow-rulers and kick them out ofÂ Egypt, leaving Egyptians to write theirÂ own story on the walls of time. The founder of the Muslim Brotherhood wasÂ a man by the name Hassan al-BannaÂ born in 1906 in Mahmoudiya, nearÂ Alexandra Egypt. He was to provideÂ ideological and organizational leadershipÂ that moved hundreds of thousandsÂ of people not only in Egypt but all overÂ the Arab World.
The Muslim Brotherhood is a religiousÂ movement that was gearedÂ towards establishing justice and autonomyÂ of Muslims in their country byÂ upholding the tenets of the Shariâah. InÂ theory, this seems palatable to a majorityÂ Muslim population. However, if not appliedÂ correctly, actually based upon theÂ Qurâan & Sunnah (Prophetic Tradition),Â this objective and fervor for the establishmentÂ of the Shari`ah (Islamic-Law),Â can quickly become sour for the people.Â And, historically, unfortunately, someÂ members of the Muslim BrotherhoodÂ have deviated from its roots and coreÂ principles at different times. From simplyÂ being part of a religious movementÂ to lowering themselves to be more like aÂ part of a religious gang to the extent thatÂ some members of the Muslim BrotherhoodÂ being directly responsible forÂ the assassinations of many prominentÂ figures in Egypt like Prime MinisterÂ Mahmoud an-Nukrashi Pasha who hadÂ called for the disbandment of the groupÂ in 1948 after rumors spread of theirÂ intent to overthrow the government inÂ a coup. Hassan Al-Banna had spokenÂ against these assassinations, advocatingÂ that it was not the way of Islam. InÂ 1949, Hassan Al-Banna himself wasÂ also assassinated.Â After the expulsion of the MamlukesÂ and the British, in 1952, Egypt wasÂ finally free to carve out her own politicalÂ path. However, there were a lot ofÂ hurdles for the Muslim BrotherhoodÂ mainly because of the fact that they hadÂ directly supported a military-coup ledÂ by a secularist with military strength,Â a man by the name of Gamal AbdelÂ Nasser. He was very clear on his intentÂ to make Egypt a secular state, somethingÂ which was in complete contradiction toÂ the fundamental founding principles ofÂ the Muslim Brotherhood. The eventualÂ establishment of a secular Egypt reallyÂ rubbed the Muslim Brotherhood theÂ wrong way to the extent that they, inÂ 1954, began to openly oppose the newlyÂ formed constitution of Egypt, taking theÂ stance that it was not in accordance toÂ the Shari`ah.Â Also, the Muslim Brotherhood openlyÂ opposed Gamal Abdel Nasser whomÂ they had once willingly supportedÂ against the Mamlukes & the British.Â The Muslim Brotherhood was actuallyÂ blamed for an assassination-attemptÂ against Gamal Abdel Nasser in 1954.
This was definitely something that NasserÂ used to his advantage to marginalizeÂ his potential political competition. HeÂ immediately made moves to hunt down,Â arrest, prosecute, torture, imprison, and,Â even execute members of the MuslimÂ Brotherhood. As a matter of fact, theÂ most famous member of the MuslimÂ Brotherhood, even overshadowing itsÂ founder Hassan al-Banna, Sayyid Qutb,Â was executed under the Nasser administrationÂ in 1965. Qutb, a Muslim thinker,Â activist, and, anti-Nasser propagator,Â was famous mainly for issuing his work,Â Milestones.
At first Qutb was imprisoned &Â tortured, after the assassination attemptÂ on Nasser. Being a member of theÂ Muslim Brotherhood made him an easyÂ target among many other easy targets.Â Then, after being released from prison,Â he committed himself to the writing ofÂ what would be his most famous work,Â Milestones, in 1964. Milestones laid theÂ groundwork for what Qutbâs vision ofÂ how to recreate an Islamic State shouldÂ be approached within the traditionalÂ & external Muslim World particularlyÂ within the Arab World. However, thisÂ work in the text itself is responsible forÂ ideas that have given rise & justificationÂ used by latter peoples influenced by hisÂ works to pronounce Takfir (to judge a person to be non Muslim) upon other Muslims for not ruling their respective countries according to the Shari`ah.
This placed Muslim leaders within the Arab World under immense fear because if the common-people that they ruled were to buy into the concept that they were no longer Muslims, not only would they lose their power but they would also lose their lives. Hence, Nasser spared no expense to get rid of Qutb any way that he could. After the execution of Sayyid Qutb in 1965, he became a Pan-Islamic/Pan Arab icon not only inÂ Egypt but all across the Muslim 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 vocal against the government in Egypt. Their influence which had been spreading to other parts of the Muslim World had also begun to expand rapidly.
Over the course of the next few decades, after the assassination of Hassan Al-Banna and the execution of Sayyid Qutb, the influence of the Muslim Brotherhood has shaped the revolutionary landscape & mindset of Muslims in the Muslim World. With all of this being said, what should our conclusion be? What do we learn from these historic accounts and more specifically, what does this mean for a future Egypt? The historical backdrop of the Muslim Brotherhood is very important to know so as to get a very clear sense of why some people may love them and why some people may hate them. Knowledge of this history also helps to know how they as a group and 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 unique problems that any leader regardless of their background would find tough to handle. However, if given the chance, Morsi along with his new administration and the support of Egyptians may be able to pick up Egypt by her bootstraps and take her to a better place. I am of the stance that Mohamed Morsi needs to be given a fair shot to do the job right before he is judged or criticized by some Egyptians, who may not favor the Muslim Brotherhood being in power, and its neighbors or nations with other competing ideologies or particular interests or ulterior motives to dominate the religion.