The Muslim Brotherhood of Egypt
Last month President George W Bush told the Arab world to democratise and allow opposition parties to take part in the political process. It was a pointed remark to make in
This week, the history of the Muslim Brotherhood: where it came from, why it has been banned and just what it stands for today.
Professor of Islamic Studies at
Professor and Chair of
Doctoral Fellow at
German author and a political scientist. He is a research associate at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and a member of Scholars for Peace in the
Annabelle Quince: Welcome to Rear Vision here on ABC Radio National. I”m Annabelle Quince, and this week a look at the Muslim Brotherhood.
Tony Eastley: The
George W. Bush: Too often in the
Ben Knight: It was a pointed remark to make in
David Hardaker: The question now in
Annabelle Quince: The Muslim Brotherhood in
In Rear Vision today we”re taking a look at the Muslim Brotherhood, where it came from, why it”s been banned, and just what it stands for today.
Joshua Stacher is a Doctoral Fellow at
Joshua Stacher: The Muslim Brotherhood is a product of the inter-war period between World War I and World War II. You have the
The emergence of the Muslim Brotherhood, which what we”re talking about is a large social movement; it”s founded in 1928 by a schoolteacher, called Hassan al Banna. Hassan al Banna grows up in the rural government in the delta, called Buhayra, which is pretty close to
Annabelle Quince: According to Gilles Kepel, Professor and Chair of Middle East Studies at the
Gilles Kepel: In the late 1920s the Middle East was experiencing a very peculiar moment, because this was the time when the Ottoman Empire had just disappeared and when Ataturk in Turkey dissolved the Caliphate and the Sultanate in 1924, then the Muslim world was left without any actual political reference, and that allowed for a number of movements, the Muslim Brothers being one of them, but then you also had something called the Caliphate Movement in Muslim India, that tried to fill the vacuum, al-ikhwân al-muslimûn, or the Society of the Muslim Brothers, was founded in 1928 by a schoolteacher named Hassan al-Banna. His aim was to bring together Muslim Egyptians, in order not only to gain independence for
Tariq Ramadan: I think that he decided from the beginning, he said, “I”m not going to talk within the mosque; I”m going to talk within the streets, and in front of coffee and restaurants, and just to reach the average ordinary Egyptian Muslim.
Annabelle Quince: Tariq Ramadan, the grandson of Hassan al-Banna, and Professor of Islamic Studies at
Tariq Ramadan: So he started from the very beginning something which was a new methodology as the way he was preaching towards the people focusing on essential issues as to what it means to be a Muslim. So this was the very beginning. And he was following in the footsteps of Mohamad Adu. Mohamad Adu had this idea that we need to go towards education and education is the key factor to changing the society and the mentality.
Annabelle Quince: Through the 1930s and “40s, while
Gilles Kepel: Well success was a combination of both Banna”s immense charisma and the organisation that was largely modelled on authoritarian parties of 1920s and 1930s, whether they be Fascists or Communist at the time. It was organised on the systems of cells, which were called families, and then you had regions, and then the general command, different groups that were in charge of propaganda, of education, of benevolent work and charities, and also a military wing, or a special branch which was in charge of organising demonstrations and fighting against other movements on the Egyptian sidewalks if you wish, and something which actually would later on get some autonomy and be incriminated for a number of violent activities in the late 1940s and early 1950s.
Joshua Stacher: Many critics of the Muslim Brotherhood are very quick to point out that the Muslim Brotherhood had a paramilitary wing. This is true, they did have a paramilitary wing and they did carry out violent attacks particularly in the “30s and in the “40s. And all that will culminate in the assassination of a sitting Egyptian Prime Minister, Nuqrashi, in 1948 or 1949. Now while this is completely true, the fact of the matter is, almost every single Egyptian political party and political wing within the Egyptian political establishment from the very left to the very right all had paramilitary wings.
Annabelle Quince: By 1948 the Muslim Brotherhood was seen as a threat, by the Egyptian elite. In December, the government ordered the dissolution of the Brotherhood. Many members were arrested an al-Banna was kept under close police surveillance. One brother responded to the crackdown by assassinating the Egyptian Prime Minister, Nuqrashi. Hassan al-Banna condemned the assassination and the use of violence, but two weeks later, al-Banna was also killed.
Gilles Kepel: They did not really shun away from violence. They were not obsessed with violence, but they considered that violence could be used when necessary, and also when violence was used against them, because in 1949 Hassan al-Banna, the Supreme Leader or the Supreme Guide, was assassinated in all probabilities by King Farouk”s Secret Police.
Annabelle Quince: The death of Hassan al-Banna threw the Muslim Brotherhood into disarray.
Gilles Kepel: Well Banna in a way was a personality that was able to encompass almost everything under his wing, from the radical and the violent militants who would be in the secret apparatus, to the other members of the organisation that were in close contact with the palace, and with King Farouk. So he managed to have a rather wide constituency that was conflicting in terms of internecine fights but he was able to encompass the two. After he died, then the whole consensus sort of exploded, and on the one hand the official supreme guide, successor Hassan al-Banna, whose name was Hassan al-Huidaybi, was much weaker and he was really unable to rein in the radicals.
Annabelle Quince: Today we”re looking at the history of the largest opposition group in
The Brotherhood also played a critical role in politics of the region, sending members to fight alongside the Arab armies in the war against the newly-formed State of Israel. Matthias Kuntzel is a political scientist from
Matthias Kuntzel: and it”s very interesting to see their influence in fighting
Annabelle Quince: The military coup led by Gamal Abdul Nasser in 1952 ended the rule of King Farouk, and diminished British influence in
Matthias Kuntzel: Then the development took a turn, because
Joshua Stacher: In 1954 somebody who is a member of the Muslim Brotherhood shoots a couple of shots at
Matthias Kuntzel: There were two consequences of this very important step. One consequence was that many, many members of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt emigrated into other Muslim countries in the Arab region, for example, Saudi Arabia, and the other effect was that those members who got imprisoned in Egypt and got tortured, they had a real procedure of radicalization within the prisons. Sayyid Qutb was the most famous and most important prisoner during those years, and he wrote his very radical scripts during those years, and now he saw in every Muslim like
Annabelle Quince: Sayyid Qutb is considered the father of radical Islam. He believed that Muslim societies were no longer truly Islamic and that they must be transformed by violent revolution. Another section of the Brotherhood, however, renounced violence in prison and reaffirmed the path of compromise set out by Hassan al-Banna.
Gilles Kepel: Sayyid Qutb built on the Brothers original core ideology but he pushed it much further, whereas Banna himself was more of a man of political compromise, and he was not really interested in seizing power, much more influencing it. So from then on, there was a split in Muslim Brothers” ideology which we still see today. The radical wing spearheaded by Qutb and his successors after he was hanged in 1966, and on the other hand the Brothers remained faithful to Hassan Isma”il al-Hudaybi, the second supreme guide”s way, which was trying to build the organisation to do as much benevolent work and the like, as possible, but they were trying to widen their constituency, but they would not confront the powers that be directly. They would rather consider that elections were the solution.
Annabelle Quince: It wasn”t until
Gilles Kepel: When Nasser died in 1970, and when his successor, Anwar Sadat came to power, Sadat was threatened by the Left, and so he freed the Brothers from their jails and their concentration camps, allowed those who were in exile to come back and he wanted to some extent, to co-opt the Brothers into the system. He also displayed of his signs of piety, called himself the Believing President, al-Mu”min in Arabic, and particularly on university campuses, they were given a free hand to develop their activities so as to nip the Leftist in the bud, to a large extent. And that allowed them to develop under the shadow of the State until Sadat made peace with Israel and made his famous trip to Jerusalem in November 1977 and that was when they parted company with him, and they started to attack him and ultimately the radical elements in the Brothers, the ones who were outside the Muslim Brotherhood organisation, but they traced back to Qutb”s ideology, ultimately killed him in the military parade in October 1981.
Anwar Sadat: Let there be no more war or bloodshed between Arabs and the Israelis.
Annabelle Quince: The Muslim Brotherhood disbanded its military wing in the 1960s, and since then, no violence has been committed in its name. But suspicion still lingers about their connection with more radical groups, such as the one that assassinated Sadat 25 years ago.
Hosni Mubarak became President after Sadat”s death and has remained in power ever since. The Muslim Brotherhood”s relationship with the Mubarak government is somewhat contradictory. They are tolerated, but officially they are illegal and frequently subject to arrest.
Gilles Kepel: Well nowadays they are the most significant part of the opposition to Mubarak”s regime and they are halfway between co-optation and repression, and to a large extent the political system has already accepted a number of their demands for the re-Islamisation of society, nevertheless, Egypt remains in the hands of the military establishment which has patched an alliance with the entrepreneurial class and the Brothers, because they also nowadays represent some sort of upwardly mobile Egyptian middle class, are perceived as a threat not only on the political but also on the social level. And a number of them were elected to parliament, ironically enough under American pressure on the aftermath of 9/11 but routinely their members are now being rounded up and detained and there is a constant pressure which is exerted on them.
Annabelle Quince: Despite being banned from standing for election, in 2005 a number of Muslim Brothers stood as independent candidates for the Egyptian parliament.
Reporter: Students, doctors lawyers, Islamic groups, you name it, they”re here. Their rallying cry is “Kefaya”, “Enough”. Enough of President Hosni Mubarak and enough of 24 years of a State of
Hosni Mubarak has been
Condoleezza Rice: For sixty years, my country, the
Joshua Stacher: The Muslim Brotherhood in
I was just sitting at a panel at
Matthias Kuntzel: Well this is always the same question with the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, or in Hamas or even within the leadership of Iran, is there any hope, do we see any moderate opposition we can build on? Of course it would be great if we could see really such signs, but it”s mainly the kind of delusion I think in the West. You have just to look the programs of such movements; you have to look at what their leaders say. Of course there is a big temptation to say Well these are masses of people, they are educated, they have doctoral positions and everything like this. But the universities were the main centres of anti-Semitism during the “20s in
Tariq Ramadan: I think if we are serious about democracy you don”t dialogue only with the people you like or with whom you share principles and projects and political projects, all the people who are knowing the
Annabelle Quince: Today”s guests have been Tariq Ramadan, Matthias Kuntzel, Joshua Stacher, and Gilles Kepel.
Thanks to sound engineer Jenny Parsonage, and to ABC Archives. I”m Annabelle Quince and this has been Rear Vision on ABC Radio National.