Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt
Tuesday, 10 June 2008
The Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, Egyptian largest opposition movement, was the target of a detention campaign by Egyptian police and said the aim is to disrupt Islamist preparations for local elections in last April 8th
Here are some facts about the Muslim Brotherhood, often cited as a model for Islamist movements in Arab countries.
-- The Brotherhood once had a secret paramilitary section but it now says it is committed to promoting its policies through non-violent and democratic means.
The Egyptian government, which sees the Brotherhood as the greatest threat to its survival, has failed to prove any serious act of violence by the Brotherhood leadership for more than 50 years.
-- Brotherhood leaders argue that after social and economic reforms and given the freedom to choose most Egyptians would willingly embrace a form of Islamic law.
-- Egypt’s government has repeatedly denied the Brotherhood the right to form a political party, arguing that the constitution, which the Egyptian government wrote, bans religious parties.
The Brotherhood in turn has said it will not seek recognition as a party under procedures which it rejects as authoritarian.
-- The Egyptian government banned the Brotherhood in 1954 after accusing the group of trying to assassinate President Gamal Abdel Nasser, a charge the Brotherhood has always denied. A long period of repression began to ease under President Anwar Sadat in the 1970s.
The ban formally remains in place but the Brotherhood operates openly within limits that vary at the whim of the authorities. It has an office in Cairo and its members can stand in elections without disguising their affiliation.
-- In the parliamentary elections of 2005, which took place under U.S. pressure for political liberalization, members won one fifth of the seats in parliament, more than any opposition group has held since the overthrow of the monarchy in 1952.
-- In the absence of systematic polling in Egypt, no one has a clear idea how much popularity the Brotherhood enjoys. But the group does have an extensive and well-organized network of committed organizers and has won public support through the charitable work of its professional members. They are also influential in professional organizations such as the doctors' and lawyers' syndicates.
-- Government and ruling party officials have been looking for legal ways to reduce the political role of the Brotherhood, official sources say. But in the absence of a workable plan, the government has relied on the police to disrupt the movement's activities. Members can expect to be detained for long periods without trial or charge, especially when elections are imminent.
-- About 450 members of the Brotherhood are now in custody, most of them held over the last few months.
Hassan Banna, founder of the Muslim Brotherhood
Hassan al-Banna (October 14, 1906 – February 12, 1949,) was an Egyptian social and political reformer, best known for founding the Muslim Brotherhood, one of the largest and most influential 20th century Muslim revivalist organizations.
Al-Banna's leadership was critical to the growth of the brotherhood during the 1930s and 1940s.
He was born in Mahmudiyya, in southern Egypt. His father, Shaykh Ahmad al-Banna, was a respected local imam (prayer leader) and mosque teacher of the Hanbali rite, educated at Al-Azhar University, who wrote and collaborated on books on Muslim traditions, and also had a shop where he repaired watches and sold gramophones.
Though Shaykh Ahmad al Banna and his wife they were not wealthy and struggled to make ends meet, particularly after they moved to Cairo in 1924.
They found that Islamic learning and piety were no longer as highly valued in the capital, and that craftsmanship could not compete with large-scale industry.
When Hassan al-Banna was twelve years old, he became involved in a Sufi order, and became a fully initiated member in 1922.
At the age of thirteen, he participated in demonstrations during the revolution of 1919 against British rule.
The Dar al-Ulum Years
In 1923, at the age of 16, Al-Banna moved to Cairo to enter the Dar al-Ulum college. Life in the capital offered him a greater range of activities than the village and the opportunity to meet prominent Islamic scholars (in large measure thanks to his father's acquaintances), but he was deeply disturbed by effects of Westernization he saw there, particularly the rise of secularism and the breakdown of traditional morals.
The four years that Al-Banna spent in Cairo exposed him to the political ferment of the Egyptian capital in the early 1920s, and enhanced his awareness of the extent to which secular and Western ways had penetrated the very fabric of society. It was then that Al-Banna became particularly preoccupied with what he saw as the young generation's drift away from Islam.
He believed that the battle for the hearts and minds of the youth would prove critical to the survival of a religion besieged by a Western onslaught. While studying in Cairo, he immersed himself in the writings of the founders of Islamic reformism, including the Egyptian Muhammad 'Abduh, under whom his father had studied while at Al-Azhar. But it was 'Abduh's disciple, the Syrian Rashid Rida, who most influenced Al-Banna. Al-Banna was a dedicated reader of Al-Manar, the magazine that Rida published in Cairo from 1898 until his death in 1935.
He shared Rida's central concern with the decline of Islamic civilization relative to the West. He too believed that this trend could be reversed only by returning to an unadulterated form of Islam, free from all the accretions that had diluted the strength of its original message. Like Rida at the end of his life — but unlike 'Abduh and other Islamic modernists — Al-Banna felt that the main danger to Islam's survival in the modern age stemmed less from the conservatism of Al-Azhar and the Ulema (which he nevertheless criticized) than from the ascendancy of Western secular ideas.
He was equally disappointed with what he saw as the failure of the Islamic scholars of al-Azhar University to voice their opposition to the rise of atheism and to the influence of Christian missionaries.
In his last year at Dar al-Ulum, he wrote that he had decided to dedicate himself to becoming "a counselor and a teacher" of adults and children, in order to teach them "the objectives of religion and the sources of their well-being and happiness in life". He graduated in 1927 and was given a position as an Arabic language teacher in a state primary school in Ismailia, a provincial town located in the Suez Canal Zone.
Banna and establishment of the Muslim Brotherhood
It was to spread this message that Al-Banna launched the Society of the Muslim Brothers in March 1928. At first, the society was only one of the numerous small Islamic associations that existed at the time. Similar to those that Al-Banna himself had joined since he was 12, these associations aimed to promote personal piety and engaged in charitable activities. By the late 1930s, it had established branches in every Egyptian province. A decade later, it had 500,000 active members and as many sympathizers in Egypt alone, while its appeal was now felt in several other countries as well. The society's growth was particularly pronounced after Al-Banna relocated its headquarters to Cairo in 1932.
The single most important factor that made this dramatic expansion possible was the organizational and ideological leadership provided by Al-Banna.
In Ismailia, in addition to his day classes, he carried out his intention of giving night classes to his pupils' parents. He also preached in the mosque, and even in coffee-houses, which were then a novelty and were generally viewed as morally suspect. At first, some of his views on relatively minor points of Islamic practice led to strong disagreements with the local religious élite, and he adopted the policy of avoiding religious controversies.
He was appalled by the many conspicuous signs of foreign military and economic domination in Ismailia: the British military camps, the public utilities owned by foreign interests, and the luxurious residences of the foreign employees of the Suez Canal Company, next to the squalid dwellings of the Egyptian workers.
He endeavored to bring about the changes he hoped for through institution-building, relentless activism at the grassroots level, and a reliance on mass communication. He proceeded to build a complex mass movement that featured sophisticated governance structures; sections in charge of furthering the society's values among peasants, workers, and professionals; units entrusted with key functions, including propagation of the message, liaison with the Islamic world, and press and translation; and specialized committees for finances and legal affairs.
In anchoring this organization into Egyptian society, Al-Banna relied on pre-existing social networks, in particular those built around mosques, Islamic welfare associations, and neighborhood groups. This weaving of traditional ties into a distinctively modern structure was at the root of his success. Directly attached to the brotherhood, and feeding its expansion, were numerous businesses, clinics, and schools. In addition, members were affiliated to the movement through a series of cells, revealingly called usar (families. singular: Usrah).
The material, social and psychological support thus provided were instrumental to the movement's ability to generate enormous loyalty among its members and to attract new recruits. The services and organizational structure around which the society was built were intended to enable individuals to reintegrate into a distinctly Islamic setting, shaped by the society's own principles.
Rooted in Islam, Al-Banna's message tackled issues including colonialism, public health, educational policy, natural resources management, Marxism, social inequalities, Arab nationalism, the weakness of the Islamic world on the international scene, and the growing conflict in Palestine.
By emphasizing concerns that appealed to a variety of constituencies, Al-Banna was able to recruit from among a cross-section of Egyptian society — though modern-educated civil servants, office employees, and professionals remained dominant among the organization's activists and decision makers.
Last Days and Assassination
Between 1948 and 1949, shortly after the society sent volunteers to fight in the war in Palestine, the conflict between the monarchy and the society reached its climax. Concerned with the increasing assertiveness and popularity of the brotherhood, as well as with rumors that it was plotting a coup, Prime Minister Mahmoud an-Nukrashi Pasha disbanded it in December 1948. The organization's assets were impounded and scores of its members sent to jail. Less than three weeks later, the prime minister was assassinated by a member of the brotherhood. This in turn prompted the assassination of Al-Banna, presumably by a government agent, in February 1949, when Al-Banna was still only 43 and at the height of his career.
Hassan al-Banna is known to have great impact in the modern Islamic thought.
He is the grandfather of Tariq Ramadan and older brother of Gamal al-Banna.
The Muslim Brotherhood's Propaganda in Action
The Muslim Brotherhood (MB), the best funded Islamist organization is heightening its offensive in advance of the 2008 presidential elections, taking advantage of the political uncertainty and opposition to the current Administration’s defense policies against radical Muslim terrorist organizations and states.
Incredibly, “Hear Out the Muslim Brotherhood,” an op-ed in the Boston Globe on Sunday March 25, portrayed the outlawed Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood as a reforming tool to promote democracy and stability there and throughout the Middle East, and praises the MB for “surviving” decades of oppression by previous Egyptian regimes.
However, a referendum on March 26, 2007 in Egypt banned ”the creation of political parties based on religion.” The MB, the biggest opposition group boycotted the vote and later criticized the results because of low voter turnout.
The MB, illegal in Egypt, Libya and Syria, operates in at least 70 countries-- is busy preparing the grounds to establish Islamic global dominance, successfully using Western democracy to legally inject themselves into the political process, while using the free media to portray themselves as reformers, and protest any attempt to limit their subversive activities. Indeed, even the Wall Street Journal agrees that the MB “has become something of a default opposition. ” Criticizing Egypt’s president Hosni Mubarak, for the latest crackdown on the MB, the journal declared, “Not even a modern-day Pharaoh can forbid people from gathering in mosques.”
The Journal recognized that “free elections are no guarantee that liberals will win.” HAMAS takeover of the Palestinian Authority is a recent reminder. But since “[P]ast attempts to suppress the Brotherhood have only increased its popularity,” the Journal disapproves of Mubark’s crackdown, and laments the U.S. “weak criticism,” since “tolerating authoritarian regimes in the interest of "stability" ensures that liberals will always lose.” Similar arguments were made by Human Rights Watch, which also demanded the immediate release of hundreds of Muslim Brothers from Egyptian prisons.
In addition to the Globe, Foreign Affairs and the New York Times have lately also run apologias for the Muslim Brotherhood. In “Strategic Thinking about the Muslim Brotherhood,” published in the March/April edition of Foreign Affairs, Robert Leiken and Steven Brooke argued that “the differences between the Brotherhood and the jihadists abound, and it is imperative to differentiate them…[thus] we should begin to explore whether the moderate current of the Muslim Brotherhood is a worthy interlocutor.”
Meanwhile, The New York Times is busy whitewashing one of the MB’s most corrosive European leaders, Tariq Ramadan who was barred last September from the U.S. because he funded Hamas - the Palestinian brunch of the MB, and U.S. designated terrorist organization. Ramadan’s protest was published last October in The Washington Post. In it, Ramadan declared that unlike the enlightened Europeans who allow criticism, especially regarding the war on terrorism, "the U.S. government's paranoia has evolved far beyond a fear of particular individuals and taken on a much more insidious form: the fear of ideas.”
But Ramadan’s "ideas" and influence among Muslims are nothing to sneeze at. Indeed, his association to and direct involvement with al-Qaeda operatives in Europe, Africa and the Middle East is well documented by Spanish and French courts.
That information, however, seem to have escaped the attention of U.S. media outlets that keep singing Ramadan praises. Lately, The New York Times seems to be serving as Ramadan’s mouthpiece.
A lengthy favorable profile of Ramadan’s appeared in the February 4, 2007, NYT Sunday magazine. At the end of the 5,181 word article, “Tariq Ramadan Has an Identity Issue,” Ian Burama concluded: “Ramadan offers a different way… values that are as universal as those of the European Enlightenment… these values are neither secular, nor always liberal, but they are not part of a holy war against Western democracy either. His politics offer an alternative to violence, which, in the end, is reason enough to engage with him, critically, but without fear.”
Further arguments on Ramadan’s behalf were made in the April 1, 2007 New York Times Book Review, by Stephanie Giry. Praising Ramadan’s latest book -- tellingly titled “In the Footsteps of the Prophet” -- Giry recommends, “Taking him [Ramadan] literally could be one way to get beyond his critics' accusations, as well as the paranoid legalism of the State Department.” Moreover, she finds “Ramadan's universalist, apolitical view of Islam” as the “the pragmatic resolution of social frictions.”
This willful blindness to Ramadan’s agenda to globalize the Shari’a and establish the Caliphate is so prevailing, that the media apparently chose to ignore his arrest on March 13, 2007, at Charles de Gaulle International Airport, for “insulting a public agent.” The incident was reported only by this Blog, while the international media kept mum. A week later, a local Swiss newspaper Tribune de Genève, reported the story with Ramadan’s complain, “he had to spend the whole night in a dirty cell because of the police “overzealousness”.” Ramadan, who faces up to 6 months of imprisonment and a fine of 7,500, is expected to be sentenced by a criminal court on April 6.
And Ramadan does not work alone. Feeding his arguments, the MB’s Ikhwan English website, developed in late 2006, runs articles promoting the “benevolence” of the movement and the MB’s “ reform and moderation,” and praises multiculturalism as the way to proliferate Islam.
On the MB Arabic website, however, their leader Mahdi Akef, in his February 22 weekly address, reassured his followers that “the jihad will lead to smashing Western civilization and replacing it with Islam which will dominate the world.”
Moreover, Akef decreed that in the event that Muslims cannot achieve this goal in the near future, “Muslims are obliged to continue the jihad that will cause the collapse of Western civilization and the ascendance of the Muslim civilization on its ruins.”
Akef further declared that “the Western offensive against Islam,” is failing. His evidence: “the failure the American war machine to break the rock of the Iraqi opposition, the difficulties facing the coalition forces in Afghanistan, and the military defeat of the Israeli armed forces in Lebanon and against the Palestinians.” Hence, Akef called on the Arabs and Muslims to continue their terrorist attacks against the U.S. and Israel “until they withdraw completely from the Middle East.”
Akef’s decrees and ideas of global Islamic domination are not new. They were established by Muslim Brotherhood founder Hassan al-Banna in 1928, and can be found on ummah.net/ikhwan.
The MB states its goals under the heading “Establishing the Islamic government,” outlining the specific guidelines to achieve them. The MB instructions include: “Preparing the society is achieved through plans for: spreading the Islamic culture, the possible media means, mosques, and Da’awa [inviting others to Islam, an obligatory duty for Muslims], work in public organizations such as syndicates, parliaments, student unions.”
In January 2006, the Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood – Hamas, took over the Palestinian Authority and gave the MB its first field test of grabbing power via democracy, to then enforce Shari’a law.
Hamas’ “accommodation” of the unity government ratified on March 17, without recognizing Israel and reiterating the Palestinian’s “right” to “violently resist the occupation,” is akin to the Iraqi’s right to violently resist the U.S. and U.K. forces there. A ringing endorsement was published by the U.S. based pro-Hamas, virulently anti-American, al-Jazeerah Info, on March 26. Indeed, defeating Israel, the U.S. and the U.K. serve the overriding MB purpose of overthrowing all secular governments and imposing global Islamic law (Shari’a).
Evidence of Muslim Brotherhood violence, repression and authoritarianism upon taking power is abundant in the Hamas-controlled Palestinian Authority. A recent report by The Australian, documents the “Strict observance of Sunni Islam, through the rigid enforcement of radical Islamic law, espoused by the global jihad network that follows the bin Laden worldview,” which has taken hold there.
In February, six Rafah pharmacists were attacked for selling Viagra to youths. And in March, at least eight women accused of immoral behavior and fraternizing with men outside their immediate families were hunted down and assassinated because “death gave them honor that their conduct in life had not.”
A ninth victim who survived multiple gunshots stated from her hospital bed that she recognized her tormentors as members of the Hamas executive force. “So long as Hamas is in Gaza, the situation will keep developing,” she stated.
Since Hamas, apart from Al Qaeda, is the most active branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, stating, “The Brotherhood has consistently demonstrated a long-term commitment to working peacefully…” is evidently false and misleading. However, unless the funds for the MB cut off, their propaganda machine will keep getting better and bigger.
Alyssa A. Lappen, a Senior Fellow at the American Center for Democracy contributed to this article.