Individuals Matter
Individuals Matter
Tuesday, March 17,2009 16:35

The March edition of Middle East Report features a very good article on the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood by Joshua Stacher. He hits on many important points but one of them is critical to understanding "what’s going on" inside the Ikhwan today:

The single most important development in state-Brother relations is the December 2006 arrest—and eventual imprisonment—of Khayrat al-Shatir. A prominent businessman, al-Shatir was the organization’s liaison with state security and a staunch proponent of engaging Western governments. His op-ed during the 2005 elections exemplifies the pragmatic political thought he advocated at the Guidance Office at that time.[8]Al-Shatirwas also responsible for mobilizing the youth of the Brothers into trained units—attracting the regime’s attention. As one young Brother commented, "He breathed life into the youth…. That is why he and his son-in-law were arrested and tried in front of a military tribunal but the head of the student department was left alone. A lot of people talk about his money, but it was because he is a man of organization."[9]

In the week after the fixed 2008 localelections, the military tribunal convened by Mubarak in 2007 finally sentenced al-Shatir to seven years in jail. With his arrest, the Brothers lost an important balancing figure at the Guidance Office

Ibrahim Hudaybi had a great article in 2007 on how taking Shatar, a very good leader, out of the equation has had a significant (negative) effect on Ikhwani policy. I am totally against the trend in American academia of minimizing the significance of individuals and trying to view things in a systematic, organizational-centric perspective. Organizations are made up of individuals. People matter. And personal leadership, especially in places like Egypt which do not have strong, deeply established institutions, is extremely important. So when you take the best leaders of a group out of the equation, that’s going to have an effect on its policy. For example, Hudaybi blames the Muslim Brotherhood’s 2007 platform, especially statements saying things like women or Copts can never be President of Egypt, on the absence of positive leaders such as Shatar. This does seem to me like a logical explanation.