“Will the Muslim Brotherhood Fall Apart?” ,(1/2)
Deeply-rooted in history and wide-spread, the Muslim Brotherhood is considered an effective and basic component in the social and political fabric of Arab and Islamic countries. In spite of this effective presence which extends to several other countries across the world, its continuity is beginning to be questioned, how far the Muslim Brotherhood will continue and how far their effective role will continue.
A part of the question is related to the internal diversity and differences in the group and how far this will have an impact on their cohesion and effectiveness. It is as if we were asking: Does the internal diversity in the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt or its counterparts in other countries negatively affect the group’s ability to continue, remain united and to continue its effective role?
The internal diversity in any social or political movement may enrich views and trends, and may also reflect diversity in experiences, knowledge, directions and skills. Thus, diversity may be considered a source of strength for any movement because it is an important part of the movement’s body of experiences and human efforts.
Social and political movements are based on collective human efforts. Consequently, their effect, role and effectiveness mainly rely on their human capital. And diversity is an element that enriches this human capital, because one-sidedness and stereotyping show that there is only one domineering trend of thought that controls the movement, reducing the effect of the movement’s human capital. From this meaning, we understand that diversity inside the Muslim Brotherhood is a part of its human capital. It increases its effect and role, and is accordingly increasing when more members join the group. It will also increases when Muslim Brotherhood thought gains more territories abroad, gaining a diverse and rich human capital.
Source of Strength is Source of Weakness
There is a considerable view towards social and political movements, establishments, societies and other various human formations: Points of strength in the social structure are themselves the points of weakness. This means that factors which may be considered sources of strength inside the movement can be in certain circumstances a major point of weakness in the movement, to the extent that it may lead to paralyzing -or even disintegration and collapse- of the movement. In other words, if the factors of strength weakened, they would negatively affect the movement.
The internal diversity enriches the movement’s human capabilities and is therefore a source of strength. However, if this diversity turned into a source of internal rows and conflicts, it will turn into a source of weakness; that is to say, a difference of opinion is an enrichment element while a disagreement over opinion is a schism element. We definitely think that any diversity of views may lead to some kind of disagreement, but the impact will be temporary so long as the movement is eventually using its internal diversity to enrich its human abilities. If the movement failed in managing its internal diversity through a healthy and democratic management, this diversity will turn into a source of internal conflict.
Diversity inside the Muslim Brotherhood
The Muslim Brotherhood is marked by clear internal diversity because it is widely spread whether in one country or across the countries that includes its counterparts. Add to this several elements that help in increasing the internal diversity, including the group’s multiple activities and its working in several fields. This leads to the presence of multiple specializations and skills that the group may need. This definitely adds to the MB’s sustainability for decades, helps it to have diverse historical stages along with diverse experiences, to have diverse situations that the group may face and to have diversity between generations.
In the meantime, we see that the Muslim Brotherhood was founded on a view and a method of work which have main constants and characteristics. This view and its method were a melting pot for every one joining the Muslim Brotherhood and its Islamist counterparts. This melting pot was even a school in the comprehensive Islamic cultural reform which affected many individuals and groups both through direct affiliation to the group in a certain stage, or by being affected while the one is outside. Throughout the group’s long history, the main principles, targets and means that shaped its course since the era of its founder and first Chairman Hassan Al Banna were crystal clear.
We conclude from this that the Muslim Brotherhood is marked by the two elements of “unity” and “diversity”. Balancing between them is a source of the group’s survival. This makes us put a tentative view around the group’s future: the control of internal diversity over melting pot in the Muslim Brotherhood may threaten its survival, role or effect. Also, that the melting pot beats the internal diversity -leading to changing the group into one type- threatens its survival, effect or role. Therefore, we will observe two trends in their clearest degrees. Each of them focuses on one side more than the other. Both trends aren’t represented by specific persons all the time because each trend may be represented by some persons for some time.
Integration versus Disintegration
In the beginning, we can notice the internal cohesion reached in the Muslim Brotherhood group throughout the past eight decades. This reality doesn’t give it a final immunity against any internal disintegration, but it shows- at the same time- that it is difficult for the group to face what may lead to disintegration or end. Thus, the risks that the MB faces lie primarily in the presence, popularity and effectiveness it has gained. This means that internal problems or internal dangers can lead to a retreat in-not an end of- the group’s role. That the group’s role and effect and role may change is a down-to-earth possibility the copes with the observed change in the group’s effect through time or across countries.
Thus, it is important to add an important criterion when we search for the group’s presence and effect. The Muslim Brotherhood group has likely become a part of the social fabric of the Islamic and Arab societies in which it is working. This means that the group’s survival and continuity becomes more likely most regardless of the problems it may face. However, the group’s survival or continuity isn’t in itself a proof of its success. It is rather the group’s ability to achieve its targets, and gradually coming closer to achieve its final objectives that represents a gauge that shows how far the group is effective in the societies sheltering it. It is better to read the effect of the internal diversity on the group’s effectiveness, not only its ability to survive and continue to live.
Every group or a movement is based on a number of main ideas, and main methods. This applies -like others- to the Muslim Brotherhood. However, there is a trend that leans to expanding the field of the constants and consensus in issues which may accept diversity and difference inside the MB, namely in nonessential issues in which the attitude can change with the change of time and place. This trend sees that the unity of view (consensus) must be adopted to achieve a greater degree of internal cohesion and unity lest the internal organization unity is jeopardized. We see that this trend can be traced in the Muslim Brotherhood and its role takes shape in particular moments, moments in which -according to those adopting this trend- internal discussion may negatively affect the MB, especially when there are external threats or attempts to exercise outside pressures on it to change some of its ideas.
We clearly observe here how attempts to preserve the MB may lead to curbing its role or effect on its social milieu because attempts to keep internal cohesion exceeds its target to the extent that it prevents it from benefiting from its internal diversity and curbs its ability to renew its discourse and methodology according to circumstances. This leads to beef up the movement’s ability to survive but it at the same time obstructs its social effect and its ability to achieve its targets. This is clearly reflected in the movement’s calling off achieving its goals, making it work according to an open time plan which has no deadline for reaching its purposes.
We see that this trend is effective inside the group, but its effect is still temporary, making it delay -not prevent- the process of development and initiative-taking. This because those adopting this trend aren’t always that strict in their bid to reach a consensus in the group, except in certain moments. They then prefer in other moments to cope with activation and revival when their concerns over the cohesion of group retreat.
Against this trend which is concerned with the group’s cohesion, there is another trend on the other extreme. It is trend which is concerned with the process of development and renewal. This trend leans towards opening the door for diversity of views considering the internal dialogue as a source of renewal. It sees also that settling some views leads to closing the door of diversity of views. This makes those adopting this trend keen on preserving the diversity of views inside the group, and that these views have their say and effect on the group to clearly show that the majority unanimously agrees on a specific view. Thinking that it is the ideal means to deal with variables of time and place, those adopting this trend focus on the continuous and open renewal process.
This trend mostly interacts with ideas and views proposed by all sections or elites. It is thus a trend which is open to holding a dialogue with the other. This trend is mostly leading a process of renewing the discourse or means of work. However, it actually widens the circle of variables in the group’s ideology to the extent that -some may think- this may affect the space of the society’s consensus ideology, namely, the main ideas and methodology upon which the group was founded and is based and through which it is recognized.
This trend is also effective inside the group. Its effectiveness has a positive impact on the process of developing the group’s discourse but it may reach- in specific stages- a negative internal diversity, namely, an amount of difference that one single group- that has one approved idea and one approved end- can’t endure. However, those adopting this trend seemingly stop pressing for changing an idea when there is a feeling that discussions over this idea inside the group are serious and when those adopting the view of protecting the cohesion of group start to activate organizational mechanisms to settle the internal debate and be sure of the group’s cohesion.
Negative and Positive Balance
The core of this scene leads to the cohesion and survival of the group because there are those who press for renewal and change, and there are concerned with protecting the internal cohesion, making the trend that wants to activate diversity useful, but it is curbed by the trend concerned with activating internal cohesion, and vice versa. Some may see this as a positive result. However, this balance between a conservative trend concerned with cohesion and the trend concerned with diversity may lead to a stagnant balance that prevents the group from making any progress, effectiveness or achieving its goals; and it may also lead to a kind of positive balance that allows the movement to go ahead and avoid any risks of internal dispute.
In sum, the Muslim Brotherhood has encountered stages of negative balance that led to stagnation in which the group’s presence and effect decrease, and the group faced stages of positive balance in which it achieved a clear amount of development and renewal. Thus, the Muslim Brotherhood should increase the space of positive balance; namely, developing work and ideas, and preserving internal consensus and cohesion through maintaining internal dialogues even in the agreed-upon issues, like a continuous review inside the group’s structure through one of its units to make this consensus represent the group’s attitude at a certain moment. Without violating this consensus, an internal development dialogue is observed without causing any disagreement inside the group. It is a review that takes place inside a specific level in the group so that the final view does not lead to suffocating diversity or blocking future renewal, and so that the renewal process isn’t carried out at the expense of the group’s cohesion and unity of view and methodology. We mean from this that the positive balance is based on a general consensus which is continuously clear while a review and dialogue are maintained so that dialogue doesn’t postpone consensus or consensus doesn’t block the dialogue.
* Egyptian Coptic Intellectual