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Politics of Islamic Resurgence - Egypt (1)

Guiding Questions for our four case studies of Islamic resurgence (in Egypt,
Lebanon, Iran, BritainlFrance):

1. What impels Islamic resurgence in the given country?

2. What are the nature and goals of leading Islamist movements in that

3. What has been the response of the state to Islamic resurgence? Has it
practiced inclusion or exclusion of Islamists?

4. What is the projected long-term impact of Islamic resurgence on the

political system of the given country?


1. What has impelled Islamic resur2ence in Egypt?

The quest for authenticity in face of crushing cultural imperialism?

The desire for solace in the face of military defeat in 67?

The failures of the modem state?

The prevalence of authoritarianism?

The economic and psychological dilemmas created by the process of

modernization and modernity?

All of the above?

A. Quest for authenticity in the face of crushing cultural imperialism:

Egypt: subject to imperialist domination since British occupation

in 1881

Direct military occupation by the British persisted until the 1950s

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Cultural and economic domination persists to this day

(E.g.: receives more than $2 billion in aid from the US every

year --a terrific boon to Egypt but a source of domination

B. Solace in the face of the 67 defeat?

No country suffered the humiliation of that defeat greater than Egypt

...given the country's passionate identification with Arab nationalism

and Nasser's ambitious rhetoric ..

C. Failure of the modem state?

The Egyptian state is prototypical of such failure

It is prostrate with fiscal crisis and incapable of delivering on the most

basic social welfare promises

It is riddled with corrupt politicians

All this makes the Islamic alternative,

complete with its vision of social justice and pious upright leaders

all the more attractive

D. Prevalence of authoritarianism?

Although the Egyptian state is less oppressive than police states in the
region like Syria

the regime does not give free play to opposition parties to organize a
mass base

In this vacuum, Islamist movements organize and flourish

E. Economic and psychological dilemmas posed by modernization and


The Egyptian case is prototypical ofthe sorts ofdislocations wrought by

these processes.
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(E.g. extremely high levels of rural-to-urban migration)

II. Nature of Islamist Movement in Egypt

Four major streams to the Islamic resurgence movement in Egypt (with
divergent goals and methods)

A. The Muslim Brotherhood

i. Originated by Hassan al Banna in 1929

ii. Under Nasser (1952-1970):

At first MB allied with Free OfficerslNasser (in 1952)

But Nasser's compromise deal with the Brits in 1954 (promise to

respect Britain's strategic and commercial interest in the region in
exchange for British withdrawal from Suez Canal)

persuaded many MB that Nasser was insufficiently ardent in the

campaign against imperialism

MB protest; Nasser arrests MB leader (Hudaybi); MBattempt to

assassinate Nasser

Consequence: over duration of Nasser's rule (till 1970): Nasser

mercilessly represses the MB

iii. Under Sadat (1970-1981):

In effort to make a break with Nasserist past and counter the

political threat from the left: Sadat seeks
rapprochement with Egypt's Islamic character

Sadat authorizes partial rehabilitation of the MB

(Releases MB leaders from prison; permits MB newspaper

al-Dawah; though no permit to organize as a
political party)

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20 years of repression had chastened MB

Leads MB to redefine its goals and strategy

Re goals: MB no longer seeks to overthrow secular state;

Instead seeks to Islamicize state and society gradually through
education and persuasion and the progressive
implementation of the Shariah

Re means: MB renounces violence; embraces refonnist strategy to work

within legal channels

MB sought to achieve full legal status as a party but Sadat and

Mubarak refuse

Still, MB is pennitted to participate in electoral process via covert

alliances with legal opposition parties ('84; '87) and by running as
independents ('95; 2000, 2005)

In 1984: MB alliance with Wafd party wi~ 15% of the national vote
(58 seats out of possible 360 seats( 8 seats go to MB)

In 1987: MB alliance with the Labor and Liberal parties wins 17% of
the national vote ( 60 seats;(35 go to MB)
~-. ~.,.,/

In 1990: most opposition parties J:)dy~ott elections to protest their less

than free and fair con uct

In 1995: regime signals intolerance for party alliances with MB; pne MB
gets elected as an i n d e p e n d e n t - - ­

In 2000: MB runs as independents:,!L,get elected to parliament ~})~

IN 2005: MB runs as independent~et electe d to parliament / ).£lp,,~/,

MB electoral strategy does not enable them to create an Islamic state overnight

But it does allow MB to influence budgetary decisions; channel

toward Islamic projects
And expand the domain of Shariah

~-~~--~~~-~~ .......... -~~~~-----~-- ............. -- --

.. .~~-
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In addition to participating in political system, MB builds its

institutional base in society:

Sponsors schools, organized charities, funded newspapers ...

Lobbies hard to win control of professional associations (e.g. the

engineering syndicate, the lawyers syndicate, the press syndicate)

Goal: Islamicize civil society ...

and expand the domain of the Shariah

B. The radical jamaat

(small radical underground groups

that seek to establish an Islamic state by violent revolution)

Examples: Takfir w'al Hijra and Jihad and the Islamic Group

Goals: revolutionary not reformist

Seek to overthrow the secular state

which they condemn as jahil (pagan) and ridden with apostasy

Means: embrace violence

undertaking forceful jihad (or holy war) against the pagan state

is not merely justified by Islam--- it is a duty for true believers

The differentjammaat are not a unified force (many in competition with

each other)

These militant groups: responsible for the death of nearly 13000

people over the course of the 90s

And millions in lost tourist revenue

Brutal repression by the state encouraged the most important militant

groups, namely al-Jamaa and ai-Jihad to renounce violence in 1999 and
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C. Neighborhood and campus based Islamic associations or clubs

Not unified

Goals: not political.

They do not seek to reform the character ofthe state like the MB
nor do they seek to overthrow the state like the radical

Their goal: to Islamicize socieity ...

to deepen their member's knowledge and commitment to Islam ...

They are extremely successful primarily because they respond to

the real material and psychological needs oftheir members

By solving real problems for many Egyptians

they win substantial support for the Islamist cause

D. MainstreamlEstablishment clergy

Establishment clergy act as a pressure group, nudging the regime in the

direction of further implementation of the shariah

They do not argue for the overthrow of the state

They abhor violence and extremism

They fear the h anarchy and chaos that might come with regime

Concerned to defend their privileges (since many are salaried employees

of the state)

Encourage moderation and gradual reform

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Focus on preaching and educating the people

and counseling and pressuring the state in ways that will extend
the influence of the Shariah