Comparing the Muslim Brotherhood of Egypt and Jordan
Though the Muslim Brotherhood is an organization that has its roots in several different countries, it is most popular in Egypt and Jordan; therefore this paper tries to answer the question: In what ways is the Muslim Brotherhood similar and different in Egypt and Jordan? This piece will begin to discuss the similarities of the movements in both Egypt and Jordan, and then move onto differences in each movement and finally end up at possibilities if the movements in the region were to come together. This piece will bring together an organization that for the most part does not have interaction between members in other countries and looks at the potential for more communication between chapters and even a regional organizational structure where resources are centralized which can lead to better efficiency.
Just a brief background of the Brotherhood and its founder; the Muslim Brotherhood began in 1928 in Egypt as an organization that sought to bring education to the masses. Started by a school teacher, Hassan al-Banna, the Brotherhood pushed strongly on education and pushed literacy for both women and men. The Brotherhood sought change within the government by bringing the change from within. The Brotherhood sought to elect members to the government and effect change from there. In 1937, initial support of King Farouk turns into opposition to the monarchy. In the early 40s Hassan al-Banna is sent to northern Egypt in order remove his influence on the main cities. This backfires when al-Banna begins schools which become the base for the movement in the 80s and 90s. In 1941, Hassan al-Banna wins a seat in parliament and begins to gain power; however, he withdraws when two promises are made to him: one, that the government would stop randomly arresting members of the MB and two, the government would begin to crack down on alcohol and prostitution. In 1945, when Prime Minister Mahic is assassinated, the MB is widely arrested and laws against them are passed. In 1949, al-Banna is killed by police who say that he was drawing a weapon.
Though the leader of the movement was now dead, the Muslim Brotherhood did not end. It continued to function, allying itself with the free officers which sought to overthrow the monarchy. On July 23rd 1952 the Free Officers do succeed and overthrow the government. In the aftermath, the Free Officers saw the Muslim Brotherhood as an increasing threat to their power. In turn, the leaders and members began to be widely arrested and six leaders were hung. In 1954, the Muslim Brotherhood is officially outlawed; however Sayyid Qutb becomes the new leader. He advocates actively trying to overthrow the government and endorses the use of violence in order to get mission accomplished. He is accused of plotting to overthrow the government and 1965 and is hanged August 29th 1965.
Following the death of Gamal Abdel Nasser, Anwar Sadat takes over and reverses a number of reforms. He releases and thousands of MB members and begins to liberalize the country. At this time, the MB begins to return to their roots of educating. During the bread riots and Sadat’s trip to Israel, which ware widely unpopular, tons of MB members begin to be arrested again. In 1981 Sadat is assassinated and Hosni Mubarak takes over. President Mubarak begins to crack down on the MB and it is still illegal for it to be a political party. In 1985 as a tactic to reduce the influence of the Muslim Brotherhood in local mosques, al-Azhar, the oldest university in the world begins to appoint every imam of every mosque in Egypt.
The first important thing to note is the similarities in the movements in both Egypt and Jordan. In both cases, the Muslim Brotherhood did not advocate violence; on the contrary, the MB preached non violence and pushed reforms from within the government. In both cases, MB members have run and successfully won seats in the governing bodies and have peacefully tried to make reform from within. The MB continues to work within the government calling for reform from within rather than attacks aimed to overthrow the government.
The similarities between Egypt and Jordan’s Muslim Brotherhood situations are present. In both instances, they have been outlawed at times when challenging the government or gaining too much power and seen as a government ally during times of need by the government. During disasters it is the Muslim Brotherhood that springs into action with extensive informal social networks that provide everyday services from garbage pickup to hospital services and everything in-between. It is the MB that is there long before the government even has a chance to mobilize and begin to send aid to devastated areas.
The rejection of the Arab-Israeli peace process is a similarity amongst the Egyptian and Jordanian MB. “Palestine does not belong to Palestinians but to all Muslims and cannot be conceded by Palestinians or any Muslim government.”
The MB of both Egypt and Jordan follow in this ruling which is their basis for denying the state of Israel and denying any attempts at a peace process in which Palestinians could move back. The denial of bargaining with Israel leads to the MB to receive a bad name in the global atmosphere as an organization that does not actually want non-violence and a country that supports terrorism which it does not. By being inflexible on this one point, the MB of both Egypt and Jordan open themselves as well as their governments to immense criticism from the outside world as supporting a terrorist organization.
Both the Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan and in Egypt participates in elections. Though religious organizations can not run as political parties, everyone continues to know who the candidates for the MB are. In Egypt, completely fair elections would give the MB about 15 percent of the vote; though that is far less than the one third needed to nominate a presidential candidate, it is still gaining steam.
In Jordan, because there is a monarchy, there is more space for political opening to be allowed. The monarchy’s position is safe; therefore, virtually all others in the House of Representatives are subject to be removed due to a vote. During the election of 1989, which is considered to be the freest that Jordan had ever seen, “the opposition factions combined to win 39 House seats. The moderate Islamist party, the Muslim Brotherhood (MB), won the largest single share with 23 seats.”
Though the Brotherhood has been able to have some candidates, a lot of the time the MB is outlawed by the government and has its members jailed, tortured and sometimes even killed for the movement.
The ultimate goal of each organization is the same, “main target is to achieve Islamic rule… We proceed step by step, not by using force.”
Their purpose is the same, their means are the same, their audience is the same and often times the punishments handed down by the governments are the same.
The Muslim Brotherhood of Egypt and Jordan though similar have many differences as well. There are differences like the fact that they are completely outlawed and have extensive suppression in Egypt, while in Jordan, though they are suppressed, it is not as extensive. This results from the question of legitimacy of the person in control of the government. In Egypt, since President Mubarak is elected by the people, he needs to find new and creative ways to show why he receives 95 percent of the vote. While in Jordan, since the king has the right to rule because he is a descendant of the prophet Muhammad (S), he has the ability to open up the playing field a bit and allow members of the House of Representatives to be popularly chosen.
Another difference among the Muslim Brotherhood of Egypt and Jordan is their audience. The MB of Egypt is fighting for the right for representation and for the right to represent themselves, while the MB in Jordan is fighting for an expansion of those rights not only to be subdued in the House of Representatives but also want some sort of say in the House of Notables. The MB in Jordan isn’t fighting to get into the conversation, they’re fighting to get more talk time in the conversation and to cause a louder noise; while the MB in Egypt just has to scratch and claw in order to get any form of representation.
The obvious difference between the Egyptian and Jordanian chapters of the Muslim Brotherhood is location. Location along with social norms plays a huge factor in differences. Things that might be socially acceptable such as speaking out against the government maybe allowed in Jordan, but in a country in which everyone knows how corrupt politics, it may not be as socially acceptable. The coffee house discussions of how the President is manipulating the minds of the public may stay just there in the coffee houses and often nothing changes. In Jordan where one can speak out a little bit, one is allowed to talk about King Hussein’s tactics of suppression.
The Muslim Brotherhood in each country not only has different political agendas but they also have different social agendas. For example, the Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan may not like a particular law or government action which Egypt might not have; therefore, the MB would mobilize around this one point of a law or government function that it may not necessarily agree with.
If the Muslim Brotherhood of Egypt and Jordan were to begin to work together and pool its resources, it would indeed be make it a bit more difficult for the governments of each country to stop its growing influence. A regional structure would allow not only for interaction between local Egyptian and Jordanian units but would also help facilitate the expansion of the MB as an even larger driving force in Middle Eastern politics. Governments could no longer ignore or merely silence the organization because its larger regional structure would allow more political pressure to be placed on the governments.
As well as the pooling of resources, if one major head is created, it provides less dissent in the sense of a MB chapter wanting to do something that is not in the interest of MB as a whole. It would help keep leaders of this informal network in check while establishing a more formalized network in which members can communicate to others far away and protocol is setup to deal with certain situations. When members get to speak with members outside their own general area, they get to see a larger image of the movement and have something to look forward to. Their actions no longer affect only them and their countries, but also affect the other countries in the region as well.
One of the major resources that would be pooled would be a media outlet. Part of local networking involves that members in the community know what is going on and see positive changes, but if there is a regional structure, events or actions by one chapter can be shown to another as a means to help them become more efficient. It also provides an image to governments as to what positive changes the MB would be helping to make. Along with all this, one central media source would help provide material in order to try and recruit new members. This propagation technique could be used in order to drum up support for actions and help get donations. Along with a media outlet, the MB would be able to portray an image of non violence, social services and could help change the view of it around the world.
With a centralized command, the publications that are put out by certain chapters of the MB such as al-Ribat could become an international publication, open to higher scholarly sources and reaching tens of millions of new people. Advertising on these publications could help bring in the financing needed to expand social services such as hospital care and garbage pickup. New services can also be started such as child care or higher educational services. Once things become more centralized, it is easier to manage from a macro level. One does have to take care of the little things going on but it is not as difficult due to the expanding network of help available.
An additional advantage would be a centralized treasury which would be able to fund projects and help pay for services to the countries that need it most. If a disaster effects a certain area, monetary resources are able to be sent from one main account rather than reaching out to a large number of local networks for donations. One body of payment would make it more efficient to send money as well as more efficient to see where and how the money was spent.
The units of the Muslim Brotherhood throughout the Middle East each have their own thing to fight for. One may be fighting to bring upon a political opening while another might be trying to wiggle that opening into a larger opening that can be used by the organization. Some maybe working from within the system, while others begin to break apart and begin militant organizations out to overthrow the government. The Muslim Brotherhood whether one likes or dislikes them; provide a service that at times isn’t provided by the government itself. The MB have become an ideal for what informal social networks can do whether it be providing healthcare services or making sure the streets are safe.
Often what starts out as a social movement transforms into something bigger than itself. For example the Muslim Brotherhood started out as an organization that pushed for literacy for both males and females but soon developed into a religious political organization rooted in the community and saw its base grow from those who wanted an education to those who wanted to also get involved in politics as well as those who wanted to make social change. Change often comes in the weirdest places. Whether it be a bus boycott in the U.S. that jumpstarted the civil rights movement or a call for more literacy that provides the Middle East with the first real alternative to their current regimes.
The Muslim Brotherhood is different in many ways but similar in even more ways. Informal grass roots organization helps provide people with an ability to get involved in their own communities and to cause positive change. People have the unique ability to fight for their own social rights if they wish to join the organization and have the ability to be part of an organization that though it is local, its roots are deep in the international sphere. The chapters of the Muslim Brotherhood of Egypt and Jordan are different in several ways yet, after all that happens whether it the government jailing politicians or kidnapping those part of the movement, the uniqueness of this multi-national organization is truly vast. The local networks run independently but those who are part of it know that there is something bigger. They realize that what they are doing is also being done in other towns, in other countries by other people and that almost brings a sense of awe to see the bigger picture. Just imagine now if there was a regional structure in which they could communicate more efficiently with each other.