Is The Muslim Brotherhood Losing Internal Balance?
I believe every organization or institution has an equation for maintaining its internal balance. Internal balance refers to the organization”s ability to maintain its function, methods, and goals; its ability to develop its discourse, methods, and plans; its ability to adapt to different situations and circumstances surrounding it; its ability to persist, survive, and be effective; and its ability to deal with the status quo using different methods suitable for different times. In a nutshell, it is the organization”s ability to work flexibly while adhering to its general framework and ultimate purpose, as well as its ability to balance the various goals, fields, and stages of its work.
Contrary to the concept of internal balance is that of disequilibrium. Disequilibrium within an organization could obstruct its progress in carrying out the tasks it had planned; lead to the postponement of certain goals in order to focus on others; or lead to failure in certain fields for the sake of succeeding in others. Internal disequilibrium may either expand the movement”s development at the expense of achieving goals or bring it to a halt sometimes giving survival a higher priority than expansion. It could even lead to the reduction in the organization”s ability to achieve its goals, despite its strong ability to do so. In addition, disequilibrium may occur while protecting the institution against the inevitable endurance of risks so that it may be able to work towards its goals. So either it is preserved at the expense of its role, or placed at a high level of risk that could greatly harm or even demolish it before it can achieve or come near to achieving its ultimate goals.
Applying the concept of internal balance to the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and the other Arab countries- considering it as the central Islamic movement in the Arab and Muslim worlds, or as they say, the mother movement- we will find that it is an example of an organization that needs internal balance more than any others might need. In other words, it is an organization in which internal balance becomes its source of strength and a necessity for its preservation, effectiveness, and influence. Hence, internal balance is an important element for the Muslim Brotherhood which helps us to see what goes on inside it, predict its actions in the future, and specify its directions in terms of expansion and influence or how far they may have fallen back.
Thus, internal balance for the Muslim Brotherhood represents the key organizer which guides its movement, manages the abilities, capacities, and various trends within it, and organizes its process and development as well as its propagatory, political, and social work. Indeed, this internal organizer can be traced in the movement”s process of consultation and teamwork and throughout the interaction between its various trends, succeeding at times and failing at others. It is a complex process simply because it requires balancing between all the main components existing within the organization.
Because the Muslim Brotherhood was established as a comprehensive Islamic authority that works towards the aim of bringing forth an Islamic Renaissance, its work extends to the various domains of life based on a continuous long-term plan that is divided into several phases. The movement exists in several countries around the world and has survived for several decades, meaning that it has witnessed different periods of time as well as different places. So we are talking about an organization with diverse fields of work, goals, stages, methods and plans. All these levels of diversity make maintaining the movement”s internal balance a difficult task because of the complex internal interaction that occurs within it which may take the form of internal scrambling or even transform into a degree of temporary internal conflict.
One of the key issues raised within the Muslim Brotherhood is the balance between the various functions carried out by the group, especially the propagatory, internal educational and public political functions. The propagatory function is concerned with the spread of the movement”s ideology among the people, the extent to which the ideology finds acceptance, and, as a result, the extent of demand on joining the movement”s membership. The internal educational function is concerned with the internal organizational work and method for developing cadres by educating them and building their Islamic vision. Finally, the public political function is concerned with the movement”s political role in the general elections and by-elections, including its role within the legislative or municipal councils, as well as the syndicates and institutions of the civil society, in addition to its role regarding relations with other political powers. Not to mention the other functions and activities of the movement.
Since the movement was founded on the basis of plurality and, more so, comprehensiveness, the balance between its functions in the various fields becomes important. The degree of balance achieved depends on the movement”s effectiveness in all its different roles, gradually expanding on each role without affecting the others. Disequilibrium occurs when it focuses on one field in a way that negatively affects the others and then goes back to focus on the fields that were neglected. This way it loses its ability to balance between its roles in the various fields, which, in turn, leads to a waste of efforts due to the neglect of certain fields for a certain period of time. Balance can also be applied to stages of work. A certain field”s share in work may be little in the primary stages, but later increase over time without negatively affecting the other fields. Since it is impossible for any organization to play multiple roles with equal priority levels at the same time or play only one role at a time, the best method is to move from one stage to another expanding in a particular field while at the same time maintaining achievements made in the others.
I believe that the Muslim Brotherhood is more inclined to focusing on one aspect for a period of time. Then it tries to regain its balance by focusing on the other aspects in another period of time. However, this isn”t the best method. Rather, balance can be achieved through effective role performance that continuously progresses in all the fields of work, with the probability of certain roles being less important at a certain stage, and later increasing at another.
Balancing between the many specializations and skills within the Muslim Brotherhood is an important part of balancing between the various fields of work. Every field of work has its own considerations and factors of success. Sometimes during certain circumstances, certain factors that may benefit one field may not benefit others. For example, cutting down on political work may benefit propagative work. On the other hand, cutting down on political work may cause this field to fall back in its achievements. Thus, the problem doesn”t lie in the amount of work done in every field, but rather occurs when the retention of the amount of work required in one field conflicts with the requirements of the others. This point in particular may be the reason for the movement”s inability to balance their effectiveness in the various fields.
The best solution in this case is to consider the cost of the movement”s work as a whole. This means taking every field into consideration in a way that doesn”t affect the other fields. This allows for progress in the various fields, although it may occur at a lesser degree. Conditions that may negatively affect the propagatory or political roles to the extent that progress in either of them falls back at a noticeable rate should be ignored for the sake of planning to maintain a minimum level of progress and effectiveness in all fields. Although this isn”t an easy matter, it is an ideal practical solution.
Secrecy and Publicity Can”t Be Balanced
Due to the worldwide security siege and confrontations with the Muslim Brotherhood, the movement has become apprehensive about preserving the organization, followed by its taking measures to resist security blows. Here, apprehension about security may influence the organization”s publicity, as some will argue that a certain degree of secrecy is necessary for its protection. In this case, I believe that balance is not required. The group is, in essence, publicized. Furthermore, its role and legitimacy can be gained through its public work. Secrecy has never, in any stage, served the movement in the long run, although it may have sometimes helped them temporarily. Therefore, secrecy of an aspect of an organization or a certain stage of its work doesn”t protect it from the security”s sieges or blows as much as it has a major impact on the movement”s effectiveness in most of the fields. Since the movement introduces itself as an organization carrying a message for the people, this message needs to be publicized and transparent. The more transparent the movement, the clearer its mission, roles, and goals will be to others. This, in turn, will reinforce its credibility among its target audience.
This is not to imply the exposure of the organization to the harmful security blows. What is required is not secrecy, but organizational caution, and there is a big difference between the two. Caution may sometimes mean not publicizing the name of a certain official although every one may know of such a position; or delaying the announcement of an activity or procedure- like elections- and announcing it later on; or postponing the announcement of some steps which will become eventually known in the end; or not publicizing the names of some of the movement”s members. In fact, an organization”s membership does not need to be announced unnecessarily exposing the names of newly recruited members to security manhunt. Thus, organizational caution can save the movement some, but not all, painful blows, taking into consideration that what actually protects its image from distortion and attracts more members is its publicizing of its mission, goals, purposes and activities. If we reach the stage in which the important and basic information about the movement becomes known to the various observers and society, the organization can be assumed as public, even if it keeps some details that won”t affect its image secret in order to avoid some of the possible blows targeting it. Publicity is the best way to maintain the balance between the organization”s mission on one hand and its preservation on the other, whereas secrecy stands in the way of its mission, the basis upon which the organization came into existence.
This is a key issue for the Muslim Brotherhood for its role requires influencing and reforming the status quo. Thus, it is a reformist movement that seeks to improve the status quo and any reformist movement confronts the existing regime which in turn rejects its role in reform and change. Moreover, it confronts the domineering and ruling powers on the local, regional and international levels which view any reformist effort as a threat to their existence, plans and goals. Hence, the Muslim Brotherhood”s role is based on risk and paying the price of reform attempts.
It is also clear that the Muslim Brotherhood, since its establishment, has accepted to pay the cost of its mission, considering it a necessary tax. Thus, endurance and full acceptance of the consequences aren”t the movement”s problems. Rather, the problem lies in assessing the risks that may accompany each of its steps. Here, one view is more inclined to not exposing the organization to dangers although members are ready to endure it, whereas another sees the process of preserving the organization as costing it a key part of its role, thus, delaying the reform process.
Again, balance here is required because risks may accompany all the roles carried out by the movement since they all have a link with the process of changing the reality at stake. And if the organization is the movement”s means to carry out its mission, then also the organization will face many dangers. However, balance here can be achieved where preserving the organization does not curb the movement”s influence or effectiveness in all the other fields, postpone future stages of its work, or keep it from realizing its ultimate aims. Balance can also be realized by avoiding high-level risks that exceed the reasonable level.
Here, we must admit that balancing is not an easy matter, especially in complicated work conditions manifested in the internal political tyranny and foreign domination schemes. However, it can be generally observed that there have been times when preserving the organization was the priority, and other times when taking risks were the priority. The end results prove that balance between the two can be realized through the strengthening of the organization and its expansion at the grassroots level, and raising the level of risk according to the organization”s level of strength. Otherwise, the process of strengthening the organization will not have direct effectiveness or become a process with no end.
Balance is the Secret to Success
We could conclude by saying that the most important factors of the Muslim Brotherhood movement”s success are its abilities to magnify its role in all fields of work over the course of time; achieve greater effectiveness over time; preserve the organization and its effectiveness at the same time; and gather the various views, skills, and specializations within it and use them to hone its planning and decision- making abilities, i.e. the movement”s ability to achieve balance. If its internal balance is shaken, it may lose its influence and effectiveness in general, lose its role in any of its fields, or greatly fall back in any field. So in order for it to progress towards its goal of achieving comprehensive development, it should balance between its goals, between its means, and between its goals and means, a process that is difficult because of the nature of the comprehensive reformist work which the movement chose to pursue.
*Rafik Habib is an Egyptian Coptic Intellectual. The article appeared in Arabic in Islamonline.com and was translated into English by Ikhwanweb.