Every since the decriminalization during the Arab Spring, the Muslim Brotherhood has risen as a formidable force in the Middle East.
When Hassan al-Bana founded the Muslim Brotherhood along with workers of the Suez Canal company in 1928 he dreamt of an Egypt free of British colonialism and united under the Islamic faith. 89 years later and the Muslim Brotherhood is still a force to be reckoned with. According to its official English website: “The Muslim Brotherhood is a group established to promote development, progress, and advancement based on Islamic references”.
Indeed, the crux of the Brotherhood is rooted in the idea that Islam is not merely a faith system but a way of life intended to be lived and instilled by in the political and economic system of a state. The Muslim Brotherhood since its founding in Egypt has had a long and controversial history, largely responsible for shaping the modern political climate of the country.
After facing suppression and repeated outlawing by various other political movements in the country, the Brotherhood found opportunity in the political vacuum opened by the abdication of Hosni Mubarak in 2011. That opportunity came in the 2012 Egyptian presidential election which saw the appointment of Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohamed Morsi. Morsi soon fell out of favor with the Egyptian masses however and the Brotherhood was once again outlawed and forced underground in the country. Abroad nonetheless the Brotherhood has seen growth; with offices opened across the Middle East and even the globe; with a significant force in the United States carrying influence.
Why is the Muslim Brotherhood dangerous?
The nature of the Muslim Brotherhood has made it inherently prone to appeal by extremists. Those attracted by the Brotherhoods support of Sharia law and effort to unify all Islamic states, alongside previous armed movements linked with the organization; has made the group attractive to many Islamists, and indeed even provided inspiration to a few. Namely Hamas which possibly emerged from the Palestinian branch of the Brotherhood.
The Brotherhood since its inception has had the ability to spread ideology throughout regions that already have an overwhelmingly Islamic base. Indeed, even greater than its previous influence in Egypt is the Brotherhood’s presence in other countries— including Qatar which was recently condemned precisely because of its affiliation with the organization.
The country’s famous news agency “Al-Jazeera” has subsequently come under attack exactly for the same reason. Critiques have attacked the broadcasters supposed support of the Muslim Brotherhood, pointing out famous Islamic Theologian Yusuf al-Qaradawi’s presence on the network combined with his previous affiliations with the Brotherhood as an example of their support. Nonetheless, the Brotherhood still has a deep presence in the country; with many still supportive of the organization. It is for this reason that the Brotherhood is powerful. Because the movement places its emphasis on ideology and social change instead of armed conflict and military might; adoption by foreign governments of its policies becomes easier, and the fact that it is pro-theocratic makes it an even more viable option for Islamist-leaning states.
The Brotherhood’s image
Indeed, many states have classified the organization as a terrorist group. With Russia, Egypt, Bahrain, the U.A.E, Syria, and Saudi Arabia all condemning it of terrorism. The United States is curiously missing from that list of countries, however. Motions to classify the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist group have been made by Trump’s administration; but with ongoing debate as to the nature of the Brotherhood and its relation to Islamism organizations, the consensus has been weak.
Indeed many in America support the Brotherhood, and the organization arguably has sway in the form of some American organizations; with groups such as the Council on American-Islamic Relations calling the effort to condemn the group an attempt “ to marginalize the American Muslim community and to demonize Islam”. Evidently, the case for the Muslim Brotherhood is still open. The organization undoubtedly has a significant presence in the Middle East, and with growing unrest in the region adding fuel to the fire that is Islamist extremism; the Brotherhood has a strong chance of survival.
If the Muslim Brotherhood is to survive, however, it will be outside of Egypt. The organization succeeds more as an ideology and a social movement than it has as a political party. With the organization once again carrying clout in the region, the Muslim Brotherhood may indeed continue to dictate events in the Middle East. Whether those events will be positive or negative is the real question.
Evidently, the case for the Muslim Brotherhood is still open. The organization undoubtedly has a significant presence in the Middle East, and with growing unrest in the region adding fuel to the fire that is Islamist extremism; the Brotherhood has a strong chance of survival. If the Muslim Brotherhood is to survive, however, it will be outside of Egypt. The organization succeeds more as an ideology and a social movement than it has as a political party. With the organization once again carrying clout in the region, the Muslim Brotherhood may indeed continue to dictate events in the Middle East. Whether those events will be positive or negative is the real question.