The rising interest in Islamic movements in the West may be fully justified on grounds of national interest. However, there is a creeping danger of neo-Orientalism in the garb of Western social science. One possible outcome is the mystification of Islamic militancy by western writers. Concepts of the ’revival,’ ’resurgence, and return’ of Islam may be quite misleading. The tendency to lump together all Islamic movements in all countries of the so-called ’crescent of crisis’ glosses over the historical specificities and the socio-economic particulars of these countries. Premature generalization must also be guarded against.
Five years ago, in cooperation with an Egyptian research team. I began a study of the Islamic movement in Egypt. The major events in Iran had not yet unfolded. What motivated our research was the spreading appeal of the movement among Egyptians in the late 1960s and throughout the 1970s. violent confrontations between Islamic groups and the regime of President Sadat had been increasing in number and scale after 1972.
This study reports on our analysis of the Muslim Brotherhood alternatives to the major policy orientations of the sadat regime. The choice of the Muslim Brotherhood of all Islamic groups in Egypt was motivated by several considerations. First, as a movement, the MB is not new on the Egyptian political landscape. It was founded by Hassan al-Banna in 1928. Jamal al-Din al-Afghani, Muhammad ’Abdu, and Rashid Rida in the late nineteenth and early twentieth and early twentieth centuries were its ideological antecedents. This historical continuity should dispel current western views which see Islamic movements everywhere as if they spring out of nowhere. Second, the MB movement has been oriented toward a total change of society. Its underlying premise is that there is no separation between religion and state. Islam is state and politics. In this sense the MB is to be distinguished from Sufi and retreatist movements. The later are individual-oriented, seeking human salvation be minimum involvement in societal affairs and maximum spiritual unity with god. Equally, the MB is to be distinguished from establishment religion symbolized by al-Azhar. The latter has, since the nineteenth century, been under state control, and hence has acted as a formal legitimizer for successive ruling elites. The MB seeks maximum involvement in worldly a affairs and a total change of the Social order. Third, this group has proved to be tenacious. It was cracked down on three time-once in Royal Egypt and twice by the Nasser regime. Each time its organization was decimated. And observers wrote its obituary, But it has always reemerged. Fourth, the MB has been a grassroots movement, with an appeal mainly to lower-middle class. This class has in turn been the fastest growing in Egypt. The Nasser led July Revolution appealed to the same constituency. In the 1950s and the early 1960s. it pulled the rug out from under the MB and appropriated the support of most this constituency. After the 1967 defeat of the Nasser regime at hands of Israel. The Brothers (along with other Islamic groups) began to win back the support of an increasing segment of Egypt’s middle classes. The semiformal comeback of the Brotherhood was symbolized by the reappearance of their hitherto banned monthly magazine, al-Da’wa (the Call).
This latest comeback had President Sadat’ s tolerance, if not out right blessing. Earlier in the 1970s Sadat had felt that Islamic groups, including the Brothers, would counterbalance the combined opposition to his regime (mounted by Nasserite and leftist elements). Evidence suggests that Islamic groups welcomed this tacit alliance and indeed delivered their part of the bargain during the first four years of Sadat ’s tenure in office in return for a greater margin of freedom of _expression and organizational movement. However, as early as 1972 some Islamic groups began to agitate against the regime. In 1977, one of them, the Islamic Liberation Organization, attempted a coup d’etat: the attempt failed and resulted in the execution of its top leaders and the jailing of most of its members. In 1977, another group, gama at al- Muslimin (also Known as al-Takfir wa –I- Hijra (Repentance and Holy Flight) had a violent showdown with the Sadat regime. While the leaders of the two groups had at one time been members of the MB, evidence suggests that they were splinter groups with no organizational links to Brothers. They were acting on their own when the confrontations took place. Thus the MB was spared prosecution and allowed to continue under the watchful eye of the regime ’s security apparatus.
Some Egyptian observers maintain that MB is tolerated by the regime so long as it confines itself to Islamic preaching, stays out of politics, refrains from reviving its underground militia, and avoids criticism of President Sadat and his policies. In its first year of publication, al-Da’wa seems to have observed most of these conditions. However, as soon as President sadat announced his celebrated visit to Israel in 1977, the MB, through al-Da’wa, launched the most vehement of attacks on Sadat ’s "peace initiatives" in the following four years, the MB expanded its attacks to all of the regime ’s major policies.
The pillars of the MB’s Islamic ideology have been much written about. This paper will focus on that part of the ideology which represents an integrated critique of Sadat ’s regime.
Sadat, one of the original leaders of the 1952 Revolution, succeeded President Nasser upon his death , in September 1970 Despite proclamations of loyalty to Nasser ’s ideological line. President sadat began a gradual shift on several major issues right from the start. In the early years he was slow and quite cautious. Between 1971 and 1977, he managed to remove most loyal Nasserites and leftists from power, consolidated his position. And waged a successful war against Israel. "the latter boosted his popularity, and he felt much freer to assert his own world view. In addition. There was less of a need to invoke Nasser’s symbols and slogans as legitimizing mechanisms.
By the mid-1970s, Sadat ’s internal and external policies were adding up to a new ideological orientation. It was so substantially different from that of his predecessor that some observers have dubbed it as the ’de-Nasserization’ of Egypt. Sadat ’s new orientation consisted of four major policies: the Open Door, democratization, alliance with the west, and conciliation with Israel. The Open-Door Economic Policy (Infitah)is a set of measures intended to encourage the private sector of the economy, Egyptian, Arab, and foreign investors have been given literally a free hand to operate. Law no. 34/1977 (and subsequent laws) granted individuals and corporations several privileges, including tax exemptions and reduced or no customs duty on imported capital equipment. In addition, they did away with currency restrictions, allowing investors to transfer their capital and profit out of the country, and floated the Egyptian pound vis-à-vis other hard currencies. Most of these privileges are denied to the public sector as well as to private sector enterprises initiated before 1974. In the following six years, investments under Law 43 totaled 3,1 billion, 65 percent of which was contributed by Egyptians, 19 percent by Arabs, and 16 percent by foreign capital. The Open-Door Economic Policy is an integral Part of the regime’s economic orientation, which seeks to reincorporate Egypt in the world capitalist system, encourage free competition, and adopt modern technology. Several foreign banks were allowed to open branches in Egypt for the first time since 1961. The regime ’s new economic orientation coincided with the massive infusion of US economic aid.
As part of the democratization policy, a permanent constitution was ratified in 1971. as in most constitutions of Western democracies, it stipulates the standard basic civil and human rights for all citizens. A multiparty system replaced the previous one-party system (the Arab Socialist Union) in 1979. the government declared an end to arbitrary arrest and detention of citizens without due legal process. Censorship of the press was said to have lifted, and the restriction on foreign travel was relaxed. Three small opposition parties were permitted to operate, with at least two of them having their own newspapers. These and other liberalization measures are hailed by the regime as ushering in a new era of rule by law, and fulfilling the sixth principle of the July Revolution-the establishment of "sound democracy." Sadat the state-controlled mass media credit this "democracy’ sadat and the state-controlled mass media credit this "democracy" and "rule of law" with making Egypt an oasis of stability and security in the midst of a chaotic despotic Arab world.
In his third major policy change, Sadat has systematically moved closer to the west and away from the Soviets. The strain in Egyptian-Soviet relations began as early as 1971 : taking a sharp turn for the worse when fifteen thousand Soviet advisors were expelled from Egypt in mid-1972. with the exception of a brief fence-Mending during the October war of 1973, the deterioration continued. Sadat began to openly criticize the Soviets as early as 1974, a criticism which escalated to outright political and ideological attacks in subsequent years. A friendship treaty between the two countries (signed in 1971) was unilaterally canceled by Sadat in 1976 He has persistently accused the Soviets of obstructing Egypt’s war efforts before 1973 and its peace efforts after 1973. The Soviets have been blamed for destabilizing his regime and are accused of expansionist designs in the Middle East and Africa. Simultaneously, Sadat has strengthened Egypt’s economic, diplomatic, and military ties with the United States. The latter’s economic aid to Egypt has totaled about 6 billion since 1974 and since 1977 arms sales have been on the increase. Sadat now considers the United states a "full partner" in his quest for peace, economic development. And warding off Soviet threats to the region. The American link is more than economic and strategic. Egypt’s official mass media hails the United States as a model to be emulated in democracy, development, land reclamation, and technological progress. American films and TV shows appropriate about 30 percent of Egyptian TV’s prime time, ranging from "I Dream of Jeannie" to "Dallas"
The fourth pillar of Sadat ’s new orientation is conciliation with Israel. As early as February 1971 he began to declare his willingness for peaceful coexistence. But his gestures were not taken seriously by Israel or the United States until the 1973 October War. In the midst of that war (16 October) and while his forces were still performing well, Sadat renewed his bid for a peaceful settlement of the Arab-Israeli conflict. The following six years witnessed a series of bold moves toward reconciling with Israel, culminating in Sadat ’s visit to Jerusalem in November 1977, the signing of the Camp David Accords in 1978, and the peace treaty between Egypt and Israel in 1979. the latter provided for " normalization" of all relations between the two countries in return for an Israeli withdrawal from occupied Egyptian territories (Sinai), and a pledge to grant the Palestinians in the west Bank and Gaza political autonomy, ending Israeli military rule and initiating a process which, during a five-year transition, would allow the Palestinians some sort of self-determination. Sadat ’s quest for peace is hailed by his mass media as the to spare endless bloodshed, achieve reasonable Arab objectives through negotiation, and bring prosperity to the long-sacrificing Egyptian people.
These four major policies are quite interlinked. Together they constitute the genesis of Sadat ’s vision of Egypt’s present and future. Obviously he has thrown Egypt’ s lot with he West. Not only in terms of global alignment, but also in terms of a cherished mode of socio of global alignment, but also in terms of a cherished mode of socio-economic-political development. Rebuilding a strong, prosperous. Peaceful, democratic Egypt would make it a model for the entire Arab world to emulate. Assessing the credibility and potential success of Sadat ’s dazzling vision, as well as effects on the Arab world, is beyond the scope of this paper. Suffice it to say that domestically all organized opposition forces have expressed misgivings – ranging from reservation on one or more of the four major policies to a total rejection of the fundamental pillars of Sadat ’s entire vision. Most of the Arab states have likewise expressed varying degrees of opposition to Sadat ’s foreign policy. The conciliation with Israel was the one issue which resulted in nearly a total break between Sadat ’s regime and all Arab governments.
The Muslim Brotherhood has emerged as the most vocal critic of Sadat ’s vision. His alliance with the west and conciliation with Israel have received the brunt of the MB ’s frontal attacks since 1977. The Open-Door Economic Policy and the process of democratization have appropriated relatively less of the MB’s attention. But apprehension vis-à-vis these two policies is equally unmistakable.
The MB critique has invariably contained alternatives to each of Sadat ’s major policies. Such alternatives are presumably grounded in the MB’s understanding of Islam. We rely primarily on the two monthly periodicals al-Da’wa and al-Itisam (Perseverance) which speak for the MB in particular and the other Islamic groups in general. Each periodical has a circulation of about a hundred thousand inside Egypt.
The MB emphasizes two operational principles – one strategic and one tactical. The strategic principle is an assertion of its longstanding call for the establishment of an Islamic social on the basis of the Shari’a the present order in Egypt (and other Muslim countries) is deemed "non-Islamic" and therefore, "corrupt" it is responsible for all societal ills and must be brought down. The tactical principle is the assertion that the MB is seeking its strategic objective in Egypt nonviolently through consciousness-raising of the Muslim masses and advice to "Muslim" rulers. The MB’s leadership has detached itself from other Islamic groups which engage in violent confrontation against the Sadat regime. With this tactical caveat, which is reiterated in nearly all issues of al-Da’wa, the MB has spared any occasion to highlight the corrupt of the regime, often without mentioning Sadat by name.
On the regime’s socioeconomic policies, the MB has, since 1976, gradually pointed out their ineptness and injustice. As early as the fourth issue of al-Da’wa (October 1976). The MB openly attacked the regime ’s failure to deal effectively with Egypt’s problems of education, housing transportation, and inflation. The dramatic food riots of January 1977 gave the MB an opportunity launch its sharpest attack on Sadat ’s regime since the MB’s latest reappearance on the political landscape. In a long editorial al-Da’wa (February 1977) mocked the government for blaming the widespread riots on the communists. It asserted that the riots were merely "normal symptoms of a more profound and prevalent disease afflicting various sectors of our people… The ruling party and its deputies (in parliament) are isolated from the people who rejected the latest economic measures (which triggered the riots) …. Those who burned and looted public and private property have not done so had they felt any sense of belonging to this country or sharing in its wealth … they are poor, humiliated. And bitter. In the same issue, Omar al-Tilmisani. The editor, wrote under the provocative heading, "Should Muslims go Hungry, No One Is Entitled to wealth.
These tremendous fortunes of the few, with its opulent display for everyone to see. And which the rich are spending conspicuously on Luxurie… could it have eased the hardship of the needy…. If we do not take from the rich to spend on the poor are we not violating the dicta of the Holy Quran? Are we not subjecting our nation and government to God’s wrath? … the Infitah would have helped in solving part of our serious crisis had it been devoted to productive enterprises rather than luxury items which aggravate the hardship. And these embezzlements which we read about every day could have been eradicated if the pure and the faithful were in charge.
A third, longer article on the riots entitled, "Don’t Hide Your Heads in the Sand, gave the MB’s blunt evaluation of the regime’s socioeconomic performance. The author, A.H. Abu al-Fatah. Contended that the government’s announcement of terminating subsidies of some basic commodities (which sparked off mass rioting) was the straw which broke the camel’s back. Like other MB spokesmen, he declared that what happened on 18 and 19 January "could not have been a plot engineered by the communists. The latter may have tried to ride the wave of public anger but they are the ones who provided the underlying reasons. He then outlined the longstanding factors responsible for the show of mass outrage: The rampant social injustice: "The ruling class in Egypt has appropriated for itself unprecedented privileges. The average citizen perceives a glaring inequality… Many of the rent laws serve the vested interests of the few at the top….. injustice breeds all sorts of social ills-bribery. Nepotism, graft, and sabotage of human morality. (2) The excessive "dreamselling" and inept performance. The gap between expectations and achievement "sharpened the contradictions created by injustice. The suffering of the average citizen has intensified due to the multiplicity of problems in his daily life transportation, food, clothing, and housing. Prices have skyrocketed with every sunrise, while incomes of the majority have remained the same or declined…. Meanwhile the state and class which controls authority are building luxury housing and live conspicuously. (3) the neglect of religious education and absence of pious models among the rulers:
The declared slogan of the regime of "science and religious faith. (al-ilmwa-l-iman) has remained empty – People kept waiting for its implementation by rulers but to no avail. Instead poisonous corruption is enveloping new generations which do not know about Islam except the name. then came the so-called Infitah only to compound the previous ills initiated a new wave of compromising our honor. Land and wealth under the pretext of attracting foreign investors and tourists.
The MB’s attack on Sadat ’s socioeconomic policy is nearly identical with that of the secular left. Even its prescription of alternatives is not much different. The latter include self-reliance. Nationalization of major utilities and production enterprises, and taxation of the wealthy through zakat for welfare subsidy of the poor ’s basic needs. The MB adds an eradication of usury or interest on savings and lending of all kind.
On the question of democratization, sadat ’s second major domestic policy. The MB is equally skeptical. Not that it does not welcome democracy, but rather because it perceives the regime as halfhearted in this regard. In an editorial following the 1980 US presidential election al-Itisam wrote, under the heading, "A Slap to Those Who Pride Themselves with False Election Results in the Arab-Islamic World, that for Jimmy Carter to lose while in power should be a lesson in real democracy. Egypt’s rulers. The editorial continued, do not really recognize or respect our people. Nevertheless, they go through the empty exercise of plebiscites. The result is always 99,9 percent. The last American election is not only a lesson but it is also a slap in the faces of those who take pride in election results which falsify the will of our people. These rulers deceive no one but themselves. God the Great says "God strikes falsity with truth Superficiality fades away but that which benefits the people remains on earth … and so God demonstrates his wisdom.
Sadat ’s regime has often counterattacked by contending that the very fact that opposition groups, including the MB, are allowed to exist and to have their press is evidence of the regime’s regime commitment to democracy. Such groups should therefore be grateful. Both al-Da’wa and al-’Itisam have repeatedly rejected this on the grounds that freedom of organization or _expression is not a grant bestowed by the ruler but a birthright stipulated by Islam and should be exercised and guarded by the community of believers (the umma)
The MB has Joined other secular opposition groups in resisting the regimes attempt to curb or retract what is already perceived as limited democratic freedoms. Cases in point include the government sponsored law on shame (al-ayb) and press regulation. Both al-Da’wa and al-’Itisam opened their pages to secular critics of the regime on these and other issues.
Probably the most vehement debunking what the MB considers Sadat ’s façade democracy is in the area of civil rights. On the tenth anniversary of the 15 May 1971 Corrective Revolution, Which the regime celebrates annually, al-Da’wa published an article entitled The Corrective Revolution is in Dire Need of Correction the author. Muhammad Abd al-Quddus, listed the major violations committed by the regime against its opposition, especially Islamic groups. In the first decade of Sadat ’s Corrective Revolution. Which declared "rule by law" as one of its principles, Muslim citizens were harassed, arrested, and detained unlawfully by the regime ’s security forces. The author listed major collective arrests involving several thousand persons who after detention and interrogation were found innocent by civilian courts. The article provided extensive data on those suspected by Sadat ’s regime to be Islamic militants. For example, incidents of collective arrests spanned the entire country, from Alexandria to Aswan. The data also revealed the youthful composition of suspect Islamic groups, most of whose members were college and secondary school students.
All in all, then the MB considers the regime ’s claims of democracy and respect for law to be a thin veneer hiding a despotic authoritarianism. The alternative by the MB is the shura system as stipulated by Islam. In essence, that system is a democracy based on a truly free election of the umma representatives who are bound in their legislative functions by rules of God (Shari’a) as to the head of the umma itself, he must be similarly chosen by the believers, must adhere strictly to the Shari’a and consult with the representatives of the umma. The ruler is held accountable and is removable from office should he violate the shari’a or jeopardize the interests of the umma.
More immediate demands of the MB are the expansion of all civil and political freedoms to their maximum limits, including the right to form a political religious party. Under the current law on national unity a right is impermissible on the grounds that it threatens national unity since it would exclude citizens of other religions.
The antagonism of the MB toward Israel long predates Sadat ’s conciliation policy with the Jewish state. The MB was probably the first organized political group in Egypt to draw attention to the creeping dangers of Zionist designs in Palestine in the 1930s. it was also the first Egyptian organization to send volunteers and military assistance to the Palestinian resistance in the 1940s. several months before Arab armies were dispatched to fight the newly created state of Israel (May 1948).
To the MB, Israel is one of the three archenemies of Islam-the other two being the never-ending crusade of the West (al-salibiya al-gharbiya) and communism. In most of its literature, the MB alleges that the Jews are behind both Western imperialism and international communism, there is a tacit alliance among all three to usurp or weaken the homeland of Islam (Dar al-Islam). A content analysis of al-Da’wa and al-’Itisam in the last four years shows the persistence of this line. In no single issue of both periodicals would the reader fail to encounter two or three articles about the Jewish danger or the atrocities of Israel.
Understandably, therefore, President Sadat ’s peace initiative has come under bitter attack from the MB right the start. The MB was the only credible political force in Egypt which dared to take sadat on, at least for the first year following his trip to Jerusalem. It was this open attack which emboldened other opposition groups to gradually come out against Sadat ’s policy of conciliation with Israel.
The MB arguments revolve around the impossibility of peaceful coexistence with the Jewish state. It is an aggressor villain on the abode of Islam. It is directly or indirectly behind the major calamities befalling Muslims everywhere, especially in Palestine. It has desecrated Muslim shrines in the Holy Land. As an "evil" it be eradicated. These assertions are echoed in nearly every issue of al-Da’wa and al-’Itisam. A sample of article titles illustrates the point: "To avoid Another Andalusia "Israel Present and Future, Begin: We Fight Therefore we Exist, " Jabotinsky: the Old Testament and the Sword are our Gifts from God, "Peace a la American-Jewish Mode, " Israel Present and Future: in Order that the Arabs do not Forget, Muslims of the World, Liberate the Captive (Aqsa) Mosque, Jews and False Claim to Civilization, Zionist Danger to our Economy, Economic Cooperation with the Zionist Enemy by Force, Israel Has Destroyed 388 Palestinian Villages Since 1948, Loss of Palestine is a warning for Muslims to go Back to their Religion, How to Their Religion, "How to Turn Around the war Between Us and the Trinity of the Crusaders, Zionists, and Marxists, "Zionism in America Leads Writers and Publishers to Smear the Arabs and Islam, "International Zionism Controls Major TV and Radio Networks in the United States, The Jews are Behind the Usury System in the World, " What Awaits Muslim Egypt after Normalization with the Jewish state? A Destructive Jewish Cultural Invasion of Muslim Egypt, "The Normalization Process Destroys Egypt’s Links with Islam, "Know Your Enemy, Weizman Speaks: Land, Migrants, Settlements, and Jewish Culture Are Pillars of the Zionist Scheme, "Normalization or Penalization? " Hidden Invasion and Not Normalization, " a New slap in the Face for the Egyptian Negotiator, when Do we Carry the Banner of Jihad to the Promised Land?
The MB condemned Sadat ’s visit, the Camp David Accords, and the Egyptian – Israeli Peace Treaty and has sustained its vehement attack on Israel and the sadat regime at a time when other nationwide publication dared to even express polite reservation on Sadat ’s peace initiative. The MB often prefaces its attack with the assertion that it is speaking for Islam and that it fears no one but God. The following is a typical example. Under the heading " treaties Based on Usurpation are egitimate, al-’Itisam wrote:
Whatever Islam does not allow we must reject and struggle to eradicate. We fear no one but God. Prisons and hanging do not frighten us. Dying for the sake of God is our dearest dearest aspiration. Form. This vantage point we consider the shameful peace produced at camp David and the treaty with the enemy of God, the Prophet, the believers, humanity, and justice to be an illusion. We believe from the depth of our hearts that that it is a false peace. The Zionist existence on the land of Muslim Palestine at the expense of the Palestinian people is totally illegitimate. It is based on usurpation and pillage. Any treaty with a usurper, therefore, is itself false. Any outcome based on falsity is itself false and must be done away with sooner or later. As the treaty with Israel is false, so are all its consequences, Normalization, therefore, is not only religiously condemned but it also entails rampant dangers to Muslim Egypt. It is a disguised Jewish invasion of the Egyptian society which hitherto was the fortress of Islam. Egypt has been the last line of defense against the three enemies of Islam: Western crusaders, communists, and Jewish Zionists.
What alternative does the Muslim Brotherhood provide to Sadat ’s policy regarding Israel? In a four-article series, al-Da’wa concludes that war is the way to liberate Palestine. After a detailed analysis of the Arab-Israeli conflict, and more than three years of Sadat ’s quest for a "gust peace" al-Da’wa reminds its readers that the whole exercise is utterly futile as it had predicted all along. It says:
War is the authentic means stipulated by god in his Holy Book for those whose rights, honor, or wealth have been encroached upon by an aggressor. God addressed the faithful. Fighting is your lot despite its hardship. "Muslims do not seek fighting if they can protect or restore their rights through other means. If the aggressor ceased his aggression and opted for peace then opt for peace rely on God" Thus when we assert that war is the authentic means for liberating Palestine it is because for more than half a century Israel and its western supporters have neither ceased their aggression nor showed any real inclination for peace. Israel has usurped the land of Palestine and expanded beyond. It has continued to build an awesome destructive arsenal including nuclear weapons. It has terrorized the Arabs, divided their ranks, plotted against their unity, and sapped their resources….
The Arabs have tried the West to see if it would help them restore their rights but to no avail. If anything, the West has persistently supported Israel with money and weapons to attack more and expand more. There is no hope for the Arabs out of this predicament except through fighting.
The MB outlined the necessary measures for war preparations. They include: strengthening the internal front through the institution of justice and eradication of social and moral ills; (2) The formation of a broad Arab-Islamic front with plans serious contribution to the actual battle with Volunteers, arms, money, and diplomatic pressure; (3) severing ties with and terminating the interests of those who support Israel with money, arms, and diplomacy; and (4) sustained military, economic, and spiritual Mobilization of Arab material and human resources for a protracted war, until victory. Finally, the MB has been no less vehement in its criticism of Sadat ’s global alliance with the west. His break with the Soviets was heartily endorsed initially. But as he began tilting toward the west, the brunt of the attack shifted from communism and USSR to the west and the United states. As noted earlier, a close analysis of MB literature over the years reveals that its perceived foreign enemies are the West, Zionism, and communism. But the relative weight of its attack has been conditioned by whichever of the three enemies is gaining a strong hold in Egypt. Thus, while the Soviets were the major target in the 1960s and early 1970s. now it is the West and Israel.
The MB’s antagonism toward the West is predicated on several grounds: the West’s continuous encroachment on Dar al-Islam and the humiliation of Muslims, its support its support of Israel, its secular influence which dilutes Islamic culture, and its alleged role in the persecution of the MB in Egypt during the 1940 and 1950s.
The West is perceived as still carrying its crusade against the Muslim world which started in the eleventh century. Until the Second world War, Great Britain was seen as the spearhead of this crusade. Since then the spearhead has been the United States. In a recent issue of al-Da’wa, its editorial says.
The United States is the leader of the international crusade and neo colonialism. The Muslim world in general and the Arab region in particular are considered a prime target for American designs because of their energy resources, strategic location, and tremendous markets. The United States would not permit competition from any rival in its quest to monopolize the pillage of Islamic wealth. It may allow other partners a small share so long as they enhance the strategic objectives of the American imperialist crusade against Islam and the Muslims …. The United States implements its scheme through both its own CIA and client Muslim rulers. Who sold out their religion, country, nation, and honor. The price for selling out is for these client rulers to stay in the seats of power….
They have been instruments for the American Zionist to consolidate Israeli aggression in Palestine. The latest of this American is to concoct a false peace among the Arabs and the Jews. The American intention is to get the Arabs to shift their hostility away from Israel to a Hostility toward the soviets. True are all enemies… But to frighten Arab rulers by an impending Soviet threat is only a trick to make them accept a false peace with the Jews, the archenemies of God, his Prophet, and the faithful. How naïve our rulers would be if they swallow the bait.
The message of the MB is an unequivocal denunciation of President Sadat ’s current policy of drumming up support for an alliance with the united States to ward off the "Soviet threat. To appreciate the daring assault of the MB on this particular pillar of Sadat ’s quest, suffice it to observe that none of Egypt’s three daily newspapers have carried a single criticism of the United States since 1976. the United states is always portrayed most positively in Egypt’s official media.
The MB’s alternative to Sadat ’s allegiance weth the West is nonalignment vis-à-vis the two superpowers. The only alignment which Egypt must engage in is with the rest of the Muslim world. as a matter of fact. The MB perceives Egypt as having a divine a divine mission in forming and leading such an alliance of all Muslims against the three archenemies of the faith. The MB firmly believes that such an alliance would have enough spiritual. Ideological and material resources to be both self-sufficient and victorious.
The Muslim Brotherhood publicly attacks Sadat ’s regime with unusual vehemence. Why has the regime tolerated the MB so far when it has not allowed other secular opposition groups to go that far? Is the MB capable in the foreseeable future of taking over power, say in the Iranian mode?
As to the first question, Sadat ’s regime is understandably annoyed with the MB. Sadat is embarrassed by the escalating attacks of al-Da’wa and al-’Itisam. But is in a predicament as to how to deal with them. He staked his quest for legitimacy on his "democratization" drive and on adopting religious faith (al-iman) as one of the regime’s slogans. The MB has so far refrained from acts of violence of the kind committed by other fringe Islamic groups on its right and its left. Thus for Sadat to ban the MB or its publications would expose him as both antidemocratic and anti-Islamic. Nevertheless, he has not been totally helpless vis-à-vis the MB. On several occasions he counterattacked Muslim (and Christian) fanaticism and insisted that religion and politics should remain separate. He does not allow the formation of religious political parties. When one of the fringe Islamic groups engages in violence the regime uses the occasion as a pretext to go on an all-out overkill against all Islamic groups. Another regime tactic is occasional appeasement of the MB. Recently, for example, Sadat appointed two Muslim figures (one a former MB member and the other an MB sympathizer ) to prominent state positions. A special committee in the People’s Assembly (Egypt’s parliament) has been formed to look into the adoption of the Shari’a as a framework for Egypt’s legal system.
Judging from recent MB political writings, Sadat ’s appeasement tactics seem to have little or no effect in toning down its attacks. In fact, following the above-mentioned appointments of two MB sympathizers, al-’Itisam made a point of warning them against cooptation by the regime, and alerting its readers not to be duped by such tokenism.
It has been much easier for Sadat ’s regime to discredit and outmaneuver its secular opposition. The latter have been subject to sustained attacks by his mass media. The leftist opposition has been labeled as " atheists" communists" importers of foreign ideologies" " agents of Moscow" clients of receptionist Arab States, "and so forth. The secular liberal and conservative opposition (for example, the New Wafd party) is labeled "reactionary" " counterrevolutionary" and former bootlicker of the king and British it has been difficult to engineer a credible smearing campaign against the Muslim Brotherhood.
The second question, the MB’s viability as a political alternative to Sadat ’s regime, is far more complex the MB s past history suggests its tremendous potential to become a grassroots mass movement. Its Islamic ideology has cultural legitimacy, its political stands on most current issues are in tune with both Egyptian patriotism (independence and nonalignment) and the Arab national struggle (anti-Zionism and anti-imperialism). The public image of Muslim Brothers is one of brilliant fighters in Palestine (1948) and against the British in the Suez Canal (1950-51). It is also one of martyrdom and long suffering for their beliefs. But this positive image is tainted in the pupils mind by the MB’s former acts of violence and assassination. Its persistent verbal vendetta against Nasser alienates part of Egypt’s public opinion. But it is safe to say that at present the MB’s public image is generally positive. This is evidenced by the landslide victories of MB supporters in student elections of nearly all Egyptian universities. Historically, the latter have been a sensitive barometer of Egyptian public opinion.
Organizationally, no one can speak with authority on the MB’s actual membership. Also little is known about its internal chain of command, middle leadership, or cadres. The MB’s top leaders who appear, speak, and write publicly are leftovers from the pioneer generation which worked with the founder, Hassan al-Banna. Most of them are in their sixties. Thus it appears that the MB is a movement of thousands of youngsters in their twenties led and inspired by figures forty years their seniors. In this respect. There is at least one external similarity with the Khomeini-led Iranian Revolution. Other militant Islamic groups on the Egyptian scene do not display this generation gap between leaders and followers. It is hard to assess the future implication of this structural feature. Another structural weakness is the absence of a charismatic leader. Since Hassan al-Banna ’s death (February 1949) no single leader has emerged as a towering figure. In this respect Egypt’s militant Islamic movement does not have a Khomeini as yet.
The MB at present has opted for nonviolence, and indeed has condemned violent fringes of the Islamic movement. We believe this to be tactical and provisional-until the movement rebuilds and consolidates itself. Its leaders seem to have learned well from past premature confrontations with the regime. They have also learned to engage in alliances and coalition-formation with other opposition groups-including secular liberals and leftists. This is evidenced by (1) allowing the latter to write in their periodicals on issues of common agreement (such as opposition to the peace treaty with Israel, alliance with the United States, and in defense of democracy and civil rights) (2) coordination with other opposition groups in local, trade union, and professional syndicate elections-usually against government-sponsored candidates.
In the short run, the MB will, along with other opposition groups, continue to discredit the sadat regime by exposing the futility of its policies, the blind alley of its vision, and the domestic corruption of its practitioners. The objective is to isolate the regime and undermine its public support.
The regime is vulnerable on all four major policies discussed above. Despite the oversell propaganda approach, the yield of each policy has been modest, and most of the benefits have gone to the upper stratum of society. The middle and lower classes have been hard pressed by rising inflation (averaging 20 – 30 percent annually). The reappearance of opulent wealth enjoyed by the few has intensified the feeling of "relative deprivation" among them. The growing Western, especially American, influence is touching the raw nerve of Egyptian patriotism and is perceived as a new threat to their cultural authenticity. The slow progress in restoring Palestinian rights and the relentless display of Israeli arrogance have dampened the enthusiasm of those Egyptians who initially supported Sadat ’s peace initiative.
These vulnerabilities give the MB the opportunity to discredit the regime and to expand the base of its own popular support. Should Sadat ’s major policies continue their meager yield, the MB would be in a position to drop its nonviolent tactics and stage a popular showdown with the regime. In so doing we believe the MB will act in a coalition with other secular opposition forces. Every time it was hit in the past it had acted alone, or was isolated by the regime beforehand.
President Sadat, however, is not going to be a sitting duck, waiting passively for all that to happen. He has shown an amazing tenacity and much political skill. Obviously he will do everything he can to make his major policies work. He will continue to sell his dazzling vision of Egypt-the strong, prosperous, stable democracy, reveling in ever considers stepping down.
In conclusion, the Islamic alternative spearheaded by the MB is there and it is quite viable. Its actualization, however, depends on (1) the ability of the MB to rebuild itself, produce a charismatic leader, and forge an alliance with other opposition groups; and (2) the conclusive failure of two or more of the regime’s policies.
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