The Muslim Brotherhood: A Challenge or Opportunity for New Egypt?
Founder of the Muslim Brotherhood
During the January Revolution in Egypt many Middle Eastern experts had two major questions in their mind. The first question was that what Mubarak’s decision would be against the demonstrations. Would he give up or continue despite the wide opposition against his authority? The answer came on 11th February and Mubarak resigned by leaving the country to the Egyptian army. The second major question during this revolution was that what the behavior of the Muslim Brotherhood which is the largest opposition group in the country would be. This question is important because even though the Muslim Brotherhood has always been the leading opposition movement against oppressive Egyptian governments, there have been suspicious views about their intentions because of their Islamic character. Would they consider this revolution as a way to create an Islamic regime? Would they just support the democratic reforms in the country and accept to live under a secular democracy? In this text the history and goals of the Muslim Brotherhood will be explained briefly.
The Muslim Brotherhood (MB-Al-Ikhwān al-Muslimūn) was established by Hasan Al-Banna in Egypt in 1928. Initially, the community was assumed as a social organization whose main concern was an apolitical religious reform in the society. Even though the community put its efforts on expanding Islamic values throughout the society, the effect of Palestinian events in 1930s and opposition against British colonial hegemony forced the MB to develop a political disclosure. Because of their political views and opposed stance, their activities were banned by the government but in the chaotic atmosphere of the World War II they accelerated their efforts and reached thousands of people. Indeed, during that time a branch of the movement got armed to protect their leaders from state oppression. After the war, the movement was dissolved by the government because of their violent policy .
When Nasser took over the country, he assumed the MB as a major threat against his authority and put a tremendous pressure over the members of the community. For that reason, during Nasser’s period, the community continued its activities secretly. The MB began to gain power in Egypt after the death of Nasser. During 1970s with the re-entrance to political arena the organization began to transform its political attitudes. They left the violent policies and began to follow a more moderate policy which aimed to participate to the political system and expand their influence within the system. This policy showed itself in 1984 elections in which the MB joined in a coalition with Wafd party. In this election the MB got only 8 seats. In 1987 they made another alliance with Labor party and gained 36 seats. By joining to the independent candidates, the MB won 1 seat in 1995 elections, 17 seats in 2000 elections and 88 seats in 2005 elections.
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* Published in the Fifth Issue of Political Reflection Magazine (PR).