You are on page 1of 3

The purpose of this article is mainly to provide some background on the Muslim Brotherhood but while

reading this, I noticed that many points in here would be good for the AFF side.
The Muslim Brotherhood- Background and why they could be bad for the US
Bajoria 11. (Bajoria, Jayshree: Senior Staff Writer for the Council on Foreign Relations. 3 February 2011.
Accessed: 4 February 2011. <> )

The Muslim Brotherhood (known in Arabic as al-Ikhwan al-Muslimeen) is Egypt's oldest and largest
Islamist organization. Founded in 1928 by Hasan al-Banna, it is widely considered the world's most
influential Islamist organization, with numerous branches and affiliates. It is "the mother of all Islamist
movements," says Shadi Hamid, a Middle East expert at the Brookings Institution's Doha Center. The group
has emerged as Egypt's biggest opposition movement. Many analysts expect the Brotherhood to play a larger
role in the country's future, following the anti-government protests of 2011 in which hundreds of thousands
of Egyptians took to the streets to call for political and economic reforms and the ouster of autocratic
President Hosni Mubarak. "Without the Muslim Brotherhood, there's no legitimacy in whatever happens in
Egypt anymore," says Ed Husain, a senior fellow at CFR. But there are concerns over the group's aim to
establish a state ruled by sharia or Islamic law, questions over its support for the Mideast peace process and
its policy toward Israel and the United States, and ambiguity over its respect for human rights.

A History of Violence
The Brotherhood's original mission was to Islamize society through promotion of Islamic law, values, and
morals. An Islamic revivalist movement from its early days, it has combined religion, political activism, and
social welfare in its work. It adopted slogans such as "Islam is the solution" and "jihad is our way." It played
a role in the fight against British colonial rule and was banned for a short time in 1948 (BBC) for
orchestrating bombings inside Egypt and allegedly assassinating Prime Minister Mahmoud al-Nuqrashi. It
then experienced a short spell of good relations with the government that came to power through a military
coup, which ended British rule in 1952. But following a failed attempt to assassinate President Gamal Abdul
Nasser in 1954, the group was banned again.
At this time, Sayyid Qutb, a prominent member of the Brotherhood, laid down the ideological ground for the
use of jihad, or armed struggle, against the regime in Egypt and beyond. Qutb's writings, in particular his
1964 work Milestones, has provided the intellectual and theological underpinnings for the founders of
numerous radical and militant Islamist groups, including al-Qaeda. Extremist leaders often channel Qutb to
argue that governments not ruled by sharia are apostate and, therefore, legitimate targets of jihad.

The Brotherhood has spawned branches all across the globe. These organizations bear the Brotherhood
name, but their connections to the founding group vary. Detractors of the Brotherhood argue that the group
continues to have some links to Hamas, an organization termed as a terrorist group by the United States,
European Union, and Israel, and originally a branch of the Muslim Brotherhood in Palestinian territories. But
other analysts argue the nature of links is not entirely clear. In addition, some of the world's most dangerous
terrorists were once Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood members, including Osama bin Laden's top deputy,
Ayman al-Zawahiri.
But CFR's Husain says it is wrong to make the Muslim Brotherhood "responsible for the actions of all of its
intellectual offspring." Since 9/11, prominent members of the Brotherhood have renounced violence publicly
and tried to distance themselves from al-Qaeda's violent practices. The Brotherhood's foray into electoral
politics has also widened the schism between them and groups like al-Qaeda. Zawahiri had been openly
critical of the Brotherhood's participation in 2005 parliamentary elections.
But like other mass social movements, Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood is hardly a monolith; it
comprises hardliners, reformers, and centrists, notes terrorism expert Lydia Khalil. And some hardline
leaders have voiced support for al-Qaeda or use of violent jihad. For instance, as recently as 2006, Khalil
points out, a member of Brotherhood elected to parliament, Ragib Hilal Hamida, voiced support for terrorism
in the face of Western occupation. Instances like these raise questions over the group's commitment to

Toward Pragmatic Politics

The Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood has more than three hundred thousand members and runs numerous
institutions, including hospitals, schools, banks, businesses, foundations, day care centers, thrift shops, social
clubs, and facilities for the disabled.
Since the 1970s, the group has not engaged in violent activity and though officially banned, the Egyptian
government has allowed it to operate within limits, keeping it in check with frequent arrests and crackdowns.
In the last three decades, it has increased its advance into the political mainstream through alliances with
other opposition parties and through members running for parliament as independents.
Some analysts say the group has evolved to become more moderate and embrace democratic and liberal
principles such as transparency and accountability. Analysts Samer Shehata and Joshua Stacher point out in
this 2006 Middle East Report how the group has "settled on a strategy of political participation."
Brotherhood-affiliated candidates first participated in local and parliamentary elections as independents in
1984, and its most successful electoral showing was in 2005, when its candidates won eighty-eight seats, or
20 percent of the legislature.

"The Ikhwan followed the path of toleration and eventually came to find democracy compatible with its
notion of slow Islamization," wrote Middle East experts Robert S. Leiken and Steven Brooke in a
2007 Foreign Affairs article. But they note that many analysts "question whether the Brotherhood's
adherence to democracy is merely tactical and transitory--an opportunistic commitment" to electoral politics.
A further sign of the Brotherhood's pragmatic politics (RFE/RL), some experts say, came early in the 2011
protests when the group voiced support for the secular Nobel laureate and former International Atomic
Energy Agency chief, Mohamed ElBaradei, as opposition leader. Hamid points to the group's low profile in
the protests, too, as signals of the politics of compromise and survival. "They know the world is afraid of the
rise of Islamists in Egypt, and they don't want to give the regime a pretext to clamp down on the protestors,"
he says. He says that "at its core, the Muslim Brotherhood is a pragmatic organization" and to continue its
social and charity work with relative freedom of movement, the group studiously avoids all-out confrontation
with the Egyptian regime. In March 2007, the Mubarak government amended the constitution to ban political
parties based on religion, a move that Washington-based watchdog group Freedom House says ensures
"thecontinued suppression of the Muslim Brotherhood (PDF)."
An Islamic State?
Establishing an Islamic state based on sharia is at the center of the Muslim Brotherhood's ideology, both in
Egypt and among the group's many offshoots abroad. But the Brotherhood in Egypt has often said it is
committed to gradual and peaceful Islamization and only with the consensus of Egypt's citizens. In recent
times, some leaders have dismissed the idea of an Islamic state and expressed commitment to work with
other secular and liberal parties. The group's leaders have begun to deemphasize their focus on sharia in
recent years but as this Backgrounder notes, there is still great ambiguity in how they would legislate Islam if
given the chance. "They care about Islamic law, but they don't really know what they mean by that," says
Hamid. There is similar ambiguity in their call for greater human rights, especially with regard to women's
The specter of the 1979 Iranian revolution looms large for many in the West, who fear an Islamist regime in
Egypt if the Muslim Brotherhood comes to power. CFR's Steven Cook notes how Mubarak has used the
organization as his bogeyman for three decades to "stoke the fears of successive American administrations
and, in turn, secure Washington's generous diplomatic, political, and financial support." These concerns rose
to the surface again in the West following the 2011 public protests in Egypt to remove Mubarak. Israeli
leaders too, feared a replay of 1979. Meanwhile, Iran's clerics and officials hailed these protests, attempting
to paint them as arallying call for Islamism (Guardian) with their origin in Iran's revolution.
Some analysts dismiss these fears (ReligionDispatches), pointing to the differences between a powerful Shia
clergy in Iran and a Sunni Muslim Brotherhood. "Sunni Muslims don't have a doctrine of owing implicit
obedience to their clergy, and the clergy are not as important in Sunni religious life as the Shiite Ayatollahs
are in Iran," writes Juan Cole, a history professor at the University of Michigan. Also, experts point out that
the Muslim Brotherhood is hardly the most important religious group in the country. The Quietist Salafist
movement and Sufis are part of the main religious groups in the country.
However, CFR's Husain says Egypt going the Iran way is a genuine fear. "Then, secular democrats triggered
a revolution only to be brushed aside by fundamentalists. Today, ordinary Egyptians lead demonstrations,
but theBrotherhood waits in the background (FT); an indispensable force in national life." He says the United
States must begin to engage the Muslim Brotherhood today.
Implications for the United States
Egypt is an important strategic ally of the United States in the region, specifically in the pursuit on an Arab-
Israeli peace process. As this 2011 Congressional Research Service report notes, since 1979, Egypt has been
the second-largest recipient, after Israel, of U.S. foreign assistance (PDF). For the United States, its most
important foreign policy goals in Egypt are: Egypt's peace with Israel, U.S. access to the Suez Canal, and
general bilateral military cooperation. And therefore, Washington would like a government in Cairo that is
supportive of these goals.
The Muslim Brotherhood's stance on many of these issues makes U.S. concerns regarding the group
legitimate, say most analysts. "It does not share America's view on the security architecture in the region,
says Hamid, adding "It is strongly anti-Israel . . . and does not support the peace processes." The movement
has also said it would hold a referendum on the 1979 Camp David peace accords with Israel if it comes to
Leslie Gelb, CFR's president emeritus who has served as a senior
official in the U.S. State and Defense Departments, says if the
brotherhood rose to power in Egypt, it "would be calamitous for
U.S. security (Daily Beast)." He adds: "It would be delusory to take the MB's democratic
protestations at face value." Former CIA Officer Bruce Riedel, an expert of Middle East and South Asia,
adds: "living with it won't be easy, but it should not be seen as inevitably our enemy." He recommends: "We
need not demonize it nor endorse it."
But some analysts point to changing realities on the ground to advocate engagement with the organization.
Isolation of the group, some argue, means Washington would lose leverage with any future governments the
Brotherhood is a part of. CFR's Husain cautions Washington should neither isolate the group nor strengthen
them unwittingly. Engagement, he says, must be based on issues. "Pluralism, human rights, and Israel must
therefore be at the heart of talks with Egypt's Islamists.