The Muslim Brotherhood: Between Survival and Progress

The Muslim Brotherhood: Between Survival and Progress

Manuela Paraipan: Could the guiding Islamic principles of the Muslim Brotherhood be integrated into a successful governance program?

Kareem M. Kamal
: There has been much criticism directed towards the Muslim Brotherhood for what many analysts and government officials have assumed is their lack of a coherent governing program. The notion that all the Muslim Brotherhood can offer is the much publicized slogan  – “Islam is the solution” –  has tended to shape the views of many officials towards the movement.    

Nevertheless, it is noteworthy to mention that the Muslim Brotherhood has evolved its political and social thought and the writings of their prominent ideologues and members have constantly reflected changes within the socio-political context within which mainstream Arab and/or Islamic societies have gone through.

In comparison to many other Islamist movements, on the scene, the Muslim Brotherhood is considered to be one of the most flexible and it appears to be willing to address contemporary issues with a high degree of openness. Issues like “democracy in Islam”, “Islamic economics”, the qualities of leadership, state-society relations, the role of civil society, minority rights, women’s rights etc. have all had a place in the new evolving socio-political lexicon of the Muslim Brotherhood. 

However, given the pervasiveness of authoritarian practices by incumbent regimes in the Middle East, and the limited space within which opposition movements are allowed to operate in the first place, it remains to be seen whether the Muslim Brotherhood can actually be given a chance to synthesize their writings into a cohesive governance program or whether they will simply direct most of their effort at survival amidst systematic government crackdown. The problems of governance in the Middle East are immense and it is very difficult for a movement that is considered illegal to be expected to be automatically ready to produce a cohesive program for governance.  

MP: Muslim Brotherhood is not a monolith. How do you see the younger generation of the Brotherhood members and activists?  

KMC: The Muslim Brotherhood is definitely not a monolith. There are multiple directions within the Muslim Brotherhood and there is evidence to suggest that the younger generation has been resentful of the inaction and hesitancy of the older leadership of the movement and its inability to articulate a definitive position with regards to many contemporary issues. Many younger members of the movement want a more charismatic, decisive, creative leadership that is more capable of addressing mainstream issues rather than one which is more interested in striking short-term side deals with the government in return for the possibility of political survival.  

During the 1990s some moderate Islamist intellectuals and activists belonging to the younger generation of the Muslim Brotherhood tried to establish a political party called Hizb al-Wasat or The Middle Party. Unfortunately, they were denied a license to operate by the Egyptian government and all their attempts at gaining legitimate status were blocked.

It remains to be seen whether the attempts by the younger generation of the movement would be able to materialize in the form of an officially-recognized party or systematic attempts by the government to exclude even moderate Islamist activists would lead to their marginalization or even their subsequent radicalization.

Dr. Kareem Mahmoud Kamel, Assistant Professor, Political Science Department, The American University in Cairo  (AUC)


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