THE SOCIETY OF MUSLIM BROTHERS
THE SOCIETY OF MUSLIM BROTHERS TIMELINE
1928 Hasan al-Banna founded the Society of Muslim Brothers in Isma‘iliyya, Egypt, and shifted the base of operations to Cairo in 1932.
1949 (January) Hasan al-Banna was assassinated, purportedly by government agents.
1952 Revolution led by the Free Officers.
1954 The new regime cracked down on the Society of Muslim Brothers and declared it an illegal organization.
1966 Muslim Brother ideologue, Sayyid Qutb, was executed for his involvement in a plot against the state.
1970 Anwar Sadat assumed power and began to improve government relations with the Society of Muslim Brothers.
1981 President Anwar Sadat was assassinated by Jihad, a radical Islamist group.
1981-2011 The Society of Muslim Brothers operated within Egypt’s limited civil society to voice its opposition to secular rule and strengthen its position.
2011 (January) The Society of Muslim Brothers joined street protesters in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, leading in February to the downfall of President Hosni Mubarak.
2011 (April) The Society of Muslim Brothers founded the Freedom and Justice Party in order to engage in post-revolutionary politics.
2011-2012 Freedom and Justice Party alliance won majority of seats in parliamentary elections.
2012 (July) The Muslim Brother and Freedom and Justice Party candidate Muhammad Morsi was elected president of Egypt in the nation’s first democratic elections.
The Society of Muslim Brothers (hereafter Muslim Brotherhood) took root in an Egypt rife with anti-imperialist sentiment, nationalist ferment, and domestic political infighting. It was a movement born of a particular political moment, and one that reinvented its operational practice, if not its ideology, time and again to adapt to changing circumstances. Indeed, the history and development of the movement parallels the broader Egyptian experience with political modernization—from national consciousness to authoritarian rule to (very recently) democratization.
Hasan al-Banna (1906-1949) founded the Muslim Brotherhood in 1928 in Isma‘iliyya, Egypt, the city to which he had been assignedas an Arabic instructor after graduating from Cairo’s secular teacher-training college, Dar al-‘Ulum. At the time, Isma‘iliyya, located along the Suez Canal, was the center of British colonial rule in Egypt, quartering a strong contingent of British troops and the British-owned Suez Canal Company. Al-Banna, according to Muslim Brotherhood accounts, felt compelled to accept the leadership post of a new organization dedicated to restoring glory to Islam and respect to Egyptians, both of which were suffering under the humiliation of foreign occupation and the accompanying loss of traditional identity; his upbringing as a pious youth, who had participated in activist religious groups and Sufism, prepared him to take on this task (Mitchell 1968:1-11).
The Muslim Brotherhood may have formed in Isma‘iliyya, but it witnessed its real birth as a movement in Cairo, where it established its main office in 1932. Typing the movement has proven difficult because it took on so many responsibilities, and because al-Banna, from the outset, imagined it as an exception to the activist types then-current in Egypt and the Islamic world: "Brethern, you are not a benevolent organization, nor a political party, nor a local association with strictly limited aims. Rather you are a new spirit makings its way into the heart of this nation and revivifying it through the Qur’an; a new light dawning and scattering the darkness of materialism through the knowledge of God; a resounding voice rising and echoing the message of the Apostle of God…If someone should ask you: To what end is your appeal made?, say: We are calling you to Islam, which was brought to you by Muhammad: government is part of it, and freedom is one of its religious duties. If someone should say to you: This is politics!, say: This is Islam, and we do not recognize such divisions. If someone should say to you: You are agents of revolution!, say: We are agents of truth and of peace in which we believe and which we exalt. If you rise up against us and offer hindrance to our message, God has given us permission to defend ourselves, and you will be unjust rebels" (al-Banna 1978: 36).
For al-Banna, the mission of the Brotherhood spanned the range of human needs, material and spiritual. It was a mission rooted in faith, in Islam’s capacity to address the worldly challenges facing Egyptians and all Muslims. It was also a mission, as al-Banna recognized, that was competing with other “missions” (i.e., ideological systems) of a more secular variety that held sway in the West and had made inroads within Muslim society.
In the 1930s and 1940s, the Muslim Brotherhood competed against an array of political parties and factions, most of which advanced a form of nationalism that reflected European patterns of nation building, including an appeal to religion (Islam) to shape cultural identity and create unity. The Brotherhood, however, was not content with the notion of religion as cultural gloss on an otherwise civic political structure, for it believed that Islam offered a practical system of political and social organization—a claim that lies at the heart of Islamism or political Islam. (Fuller 2003:xi) As a movement, then, the Muslim Brotherhood defined itself over and against expressions of political unity that had come to shape modern peoples, such as patriotism and nationalism, along with the political economies favored by modern states, such as socialism, communism, and capitalism. All these modern “isms” were, in al-Banna’s estimation, lacking in Islamic authenticity and therefore incompatible with Muslim attempts to modernize and develop. But it was not simply modernization theories that al-Banna and the Brotherhood rejected; they were also protesting against Egypt’s political status quo that had empowered a class of notables who ruled over the masses (Lia 1998:chapter 7).
The Muslim Brotherhood distinguished itself not only in its understanding of modern political identity but also in the way it engaged in influencing public opinion and winning hearts-and-minds. Unlike other political movements, the Brotherhood established an array of welfare, publishing, and business ventures: it set up health clinics; distributed food and clothing; assisted students with study guides, supplies, and transportation; published books, pamphlets, and magazines; founded businesses and helped organize labor unions. These activities reflected the Brotherhood’s commitment to make practical contributions to the life of the nation, and to demonstrate what Islam, rightly understood and instituted, could accomplish. Here the Brotherhood’s activism also went beyond the famous reformers Jamal al-Din al-Afghani and Muhammad ‘Abduh, the intellectual predecessors of Islamism, who demonstrated Islam’s compatibility with modernity through the written word and public statements. The success of the Brotherhood’s outreach can be measured, at least in part, by its membership, which by the late-1940s was estimated at 500,00, not including sympathizers (Mitchell 1969:328). It was the popular base of the movement that made it so attractive to the Free Officers who led the 1952 revolution in Egypt, overthrowing the monarchy and establishing a modern republic.
Prior to the revolution, the Muslim Brotherhood had become involved in a number of confrontations with the state, the most dramatic of which was the assassination, in December 1948, of the then prime minister Nuqrashi Pasha. Public conflict brought added public attention, both positive and negative. In February 1949, al-Banna was assassinated, in what most observers regard as an act of government retaliation. While Egypt’s nationalist politics could sometimes be bloody, the period marking the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood (in the 1920s) to the 1952 revolution has been referred to as “the liberal experiment,” because it was a time of free-flowing debate and political activity. With the revolution, the experiment came to an end, and a new phase of national
consciousness and purpose began. Military men by training, the Free Officers had a troubled relationship with the Muslim Brotherhood, but they recognized the utility of tapping into a movement with such a broad base of popular support and grassroots organization. Following the revolution, a law was passed prohibiting political activism. The Muslim Brotherhood, however, was initially allowed to continue its operations, under the pretext that the group had a religious agenda. Attempts to entice the Brotherhood into supporting the newly-minted regime failed, and a harsh crackdown on the movement occurred, in 1954, after a Muslim Brother was implicated in an assassination attempt on Gamal Abdul Nasser, a leading figure among the Free Officers and the first president of Egypt.
Those put on trial for the assassination attempt were sentenced to death or jail. Hundreds wound up in prison, and the Muslim Brotherhood was declared an illegal organization. Its members were tortured in prison and hounded in the streets. The crackdown lasted throughout the Nasser years, 1952-1970, when collectivist socialist development policies and authoritarian rule became mainstays of the regime. The prison period served as an occasion for Brothers to debate Islamist means and ends. (Kepel 2003: chapter 2) For the majority, under the leadership of Hasan al-Hudaybi, who had inherited the mantle of General Guide of the Muslim Brotherhood after the death of al-Banna, the most viable way forward was to focus on preaching, teaching, and whatever social outreach activities the state would permit. Hudaybi was sentenced to death in 1954, though his sentence was later commuted to life in prison. While in prison, he wrote Du‘ah…la qudah (Preachers not Judges), in which he argued for moderation and against radical tactics. For other Islamists, the Nasser regime’s brutality, treachery, and unIslamic policies demanded a militant response - jihad or holy war was the answer. Sayyid Qutb, a Brotherhood ideologue serving a fifteen-year sentence, outlined the case for meeting the violence of the secular state with God-ordained violence in his now-famous book Ma‘alim fi’l-tariq (Signposts along the Road, sometimes translated simply as Milestones). Qutb seemed an unlikely radical, getting his start as a literary critic and earning a reputation as moderate who provided intellectual grounding for Islamist ideals. His transformation - from moderate to reluctant militant - speaks to the link between authoritarian governance and radicalization in Egypt and elsewhere in the Islamic world. Released early from prison, he was soon rearrested after discovery of an Islamist plot against the regime; he was tried and executed in 1966. Hudaybi and Qutb came to symbolize the contrasting methods of moderate and militant Islamism, even though their goals remained largely the same: the formation of an Islamic state that implemented Islamic law.
The treatment of the Brothers shifted dramatically after Nasser’s death in 1970 and the succession of Anwar Sadat to the presidency. Sadat, one of the original Free Officer leaders, released many Islamists from prison and allowed the Brotherhood to resume its outreach efforts, with the stipulation that the organization keep out of politics and denounce Islamist militancy. And there was a good deal of militant action to denounce. Throughout the 1970s, a series of independent Islamist groups emerged that directly or indirectly challenged the authority of the state and turned to violence. True to its word, the Brotherhood spoke out against violence, but it supported those Islamist groups that demonstrated against the regime and questioned the Islamic authenticity of the state and its leadership class. Demonstrations increased as Islamists grew frustrated with Sadat’s policies and their impact on Egyptian society. In the economic and political spheres, Sadat had reversed course on Nasser’s socialism and embrace of the Soviet Union, shifting to market capitalism (the “open door” policy) and friendship with the United States. The influx of goods and investments created a new moneyed-elite and led to concerns about unequal distribution of wealth and corruption involving state contracts. Sadat’s new openness to the outside world also brought signs of corruption that Islamists found unacceptable, such as nightclubs, casinos, alcohol consumption, and prostitution. Islamist criticism became even more acute after Sadat signed the Camp David Accords and the subsequent peace treaty with Israel—a foreign policy change that shocked many Egyptians who had been exposed to anti-Zionist, anti-Israeli propaganda in the state-owned press for decades.
By the late-1970s, the Muslim Brotherhood, despite its tacit agreement with Sadat, began to take a more active part in the
protests against the regime. And it was not just Islamists who had grown frustrated with developments in Egypt; Christians (Copts), communists, journalists, and business factions took to expressing their anger. By 1981, Sadat found himself beset by opponents across the political spectrum, and he responded by rounding up leaders from among the opposition. How Sadat intended to resolve these tensions became moot in October 1981, when members of an Islamist group called Jihad assassinated Sadat as he reviewed Egyptian troops during a national celebration. His successor, Hosni Mubarak, was seated on the same reviewing stand. It is important to note that, although Sadat granted the Brotherhood permission to operate in Egypt’s limited civil society, he did not overturn the law that had declared the organization illegal. In this way, the president could suppress the Brotherhood at will, whenever it seemed to step beyond the proper bounds. In fact, Sadat maintained much the same authoritarian control as his predecessor, and he was just as prepared to suppress his critics if the need arose. Hosni Mubarak continued this policy of dealing with the Brotherhood, but he also, like his predecessor, found himself negotiating with the movement as much as he confronted it. In fact, the relationship between the Egyptian state and the Brotherhood had evolved, over time, to one of pendulum swings of conflict and cooperation. It was a relationship rooted in a grudging acknowledgement that both needed the other in order to survive in Egypt’s authoritarian political environment.
Neither Sadat nor his successor, Mubarak, intended to open the political system, to democratize, despite rhetoric to the contrary. Lacking the popular support that comes from elections, the state depended on the authority of social institutions - some government affiliated, some not - to lend it legitimacy with the masses. Since the Nasser period, the Egyptian state often looked to al-Azhar, the center of Islamic learning in Egypt (and famous throughout the Muslim world), to provide religious sanction for political decisions. But al-Azhar found its reputation compromised the more it became a voice of the state, a view the Brotherhood itself helped to nurture because it disagreed with al-Azhar over Islam and its proper role in Egyptian politics. The widespread growth of Islamist groups (violent and nonviolent) starting in the 1970s, the increasing religiosity of Egyptian society overall, and the ongoing outreach activities of the Brotherhood, gave the movement religious cachet with the masses and, by extension, the state. The Brotherhood, then, leveraged its position vis-à-vis the state “on the assumption that the state elite is modernist in attitude and is not able politically and ideologically to represent the conservative mood of the middle classes, much less subdue the radical Islamists" (Auda 1994:393). For its part, the Brotherhood, an illegal organization, depended on the latitude of the state to continue its work. The Brotherhood had learned that it was no match for the power the state and its instruments of violence. The only alternative was to live within the stipulated boundaries and to push those boundaries as much as possible. The relationship between the Brotherhood and the state remained strained and fraught with tension, because both sides realized the weakness of the other, understood their own limits, and yet longed to remove the other from the political equation. The result was, as one observer has noted, a “normalization process” that entrenched ongoing rounds of “conflict, concession, and cooperation” (Auda 1994:35).
This situation continued throughout Mubarak’s rule, 1981-2011, until the Arab spring disrupted the status quo. In January, 2011, when protesters first took to the streets in Cairo, Egypt’s capital, the Muslim Brotherhood remained on the sidelines, reluctant to risk a loss of its property and limited operational freedom in the event of a government crackdown. Once the transformative potential of the street opposition became clear, the Brotherhood joined the protests in force, contributing disciplined cadres and organization. Much to the chagrin of the original, secular-minded leaders of the uprising, the Brotherhood proved a seminal ally inthe fight against Mubarak. By February, 2011, Mubarak was forced from office and an interim military regime, commanded by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), took power, promising to hold free elections. Two months later the Muslim Brotherhood founded the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) to compete in Egypt’s new electoral politics. As many commentators predicted, the Brotherhood’s vast organizational and administrative experience translated into electoral success: after several rounds of parliamentary elections, the FJP alliance emerged with around 45% of the seats; and in June, 2012, the FJP candidate, Muhammad Morsi, became Egypt’s first freely-elected president. Before taking office, Morsi formally resigned from the Muslim Brotherhood and the FJP, stating that he was committed to representing all Egyptians. He is still negotiating, in public and behind the scenes, with SCAF over the extent of presidential powers in Egypt’s post-revolutionary, democratic politics.
The Muslim Brotherhood was often criticized for being or behaving like the Kharijites, a militant sectarian group that had emerged in the 7 th century and had been roundly condemned in classical sources. This accusation emerged in the political give-and-take of public discussions of Islamism, radical and moderate, and reflects the propagandistic uses to which the Islamic tradition has been put in modern discourse (Kenney 2006). In a strict sense, the Brotherhood always held to the mainstream doctrinal views associated with orthodox Sunni Islam. But the movement’s notion of doctrine went beyond the usual essentials of the faith, the so-called “five pillars” of Islam. The Brotherhood transformed doctrine and practice into ideology and political activism, though it claimed this transformation was in keeping with patterns established by the Prophet Muhammad and the Rightly-Guided Caliphs (the first four leaders after the death of Muhammad in Sunni Islam). “The believer,” according to al-Banna, is “any person who has faith in our mission, believes in what we say, approves of our principles, and sees therein some good in which his soul may take satisfaction…” (1978:11). Thus the Brotherhood gave the impression that being a Muslim meant adopting the ideologically infused worldview the movement espoused - a suggestion that upset many Egyptians who felt the movement was accusing them of an insufficiency of faith.
The ideology/doctrine of the Brotherhood was tied to its reading of the modern experience of Muslim peoples, to their reversal of historical fortune signaled by foreign occupation, lack of development, and a weakened faith. The response to this situation took the form of an assertion of Islam’s capacity, as a total system, to provide Muslims with real world solutions, an assertion that became the banner for Brothers running in parliamentary elections from the 1980s on: “Islam is the solution.” Belief in Islam, then, was the starting point of Brotherhood “doctrine,” but it was an Islam that, as al-Banna put it in one of his tracts, fulfilled the multiple needs of the “renascent nation”: hope, national greatness, the military, public health, science, morality, economics, minority rights, and relations with the West (al-Banna 1978:107-22). The content of the Islamic solution resided in the twinned sacred sources of the tradition - the Qur’an and sunna (sayings and deeds of the Prophet Muhammad and his early companions) - both of which al-Banna quoted often as proof text of Islam’s compatibility with modern matters of governance, social organization, and economic development. The ultimate doctrinal condition of the Brotherhood, and Islamists in general, was, and still is, Islamic law (shari‘a): an Islamic society does not exist without it, and it is the duty of an Islamic state to implement it. Without Islamic law in place, according to the Brotherhood, a Muslim is not able to live a truly Islamic life.
Critics of the Brotherhood have often accused it of offering vague Qur’anic passages to address complex issues and catchphrases in place of clear-cut policies. But it is precisely the vagueness of Brotherhood doctrine that has served it well as the movement adapted to changing circumstances. Al-Banna, for example, rejected capitalist economics, Arab unity, party politics, and democracy, yet the Brotherhood later came to embrace these ideas (Aly and Wenner 1982). This may appear to be inconsistent, but movements maintain their relevance in volatile contexts by changing course, and Egypt’s political field has certainly had its share of volatility. It is also worth noting that, while the implementation of Islamic law has remained a constant demand of the Brotherhood, opinions within the organization have always differed on precisely what Islamic law would look like when implemented. For some, it means an open political system, with judicial independence and oversight, that implements the will of the people; for others, it means that leaders will seek the advice of religious experts; and for still others, it requires a complete overall of the current secular system of law. This range of possible meanings frustrates critics (and some Brothers), but it has historically allowed the organization to speak to different audiences and temper its demands according to what the context would bear.
The Muslim Brotherhood has always adhered to traditional Islamic rituals: prayer, fasting (during the month of Ramadan), charitable giving, and the pilgrimage to Mecca. It required observance of these rituals to achieve the third highest level of membership, that of the “active” member (Mitchell 1969:183). Its own ritual activities, as a movement, were intended to create a sense of unity and purpose among the members. These activities included an oath of loyalty, given either to the person’s immediate superior or in a group setting; mass rallies, where lectures were delivered to the public; and, for a brief time, night vigils led by al-Banna for a special “battalion,” during which he would preach on a range of subjects. Religiously-oriented chants and slogans were commonplace at Brotherhood gatherings (Mitchell 1969:188-97). The Brotherhood established a number of mosques, and other mosques were sometimes used for recruitment purposes, but no Brotherhood-specific ritual was involved there.
The Muslim Brotherhood’s survival and ultimate success have rested firmly on its organization and discipline. At the top of the organization is the General Guide, who oversees both the General Guidance Council (GGC) and the Consultative Assembly (CA). As the first General Guide, al-Banna set a high standard for probity, charisma, and humility. He was dearly loved by members, and respected even by those who disagreed with Islamist politics. The GGC is responsible for shaping and executing policy. The CA consists of members from different branches around the country and functions as means for members to make their voices heard within the leadership. Despite the structural importance of the GGC and CA, it was al-Banna, due to his oversized personality and influence, who set the agenda and style of Brotherhood activities. Daily administration was carried out by “Sections” that took care of matters related to ideology/training, and “Committees” that dealt with finance, policy, services, and legal issues. Directives from the General Guide or leadership committee/section passed through a “field apparatus” that organized members according to “district,” “branch,” and “family” (Mitchell 1969:164-80). Dues collected from members underwrite Brotherhood activities.
Members join the organization after an interim period during which they demonstrate their ability to fulfill the required obligations. In the early stages of the movement, these obligations included “physical training, achievement in Qur’anic learning, and fulfillment of Islamic obligations such as pilgrimages, fasting, and contributions to the zakat treasury” (Mitchell 1969:183). Members also take an oath of office that formalizes their admission to the Brotherhood, and that requires them “to adhere firmly to the message of the Muslim Brothers, to strive on its behalf, to live up to the conditions of its membership, to have complete confidence in its leadership and to obey absolutely, under all circumstances” (Mitchell 1969:165). The responsibility to discipline Brothers who fail to live up to the oath falls to branch leaders. That the Brotherhood takes membership discipline seriously became clear after the January, 2011 revolution. The Brotherhood party, the FJP, initially declared it would not run a candidate for the office of president, but a member of the Brotherhood decided to run for the office as an independent candidate. The man’s membership was promptly terminated.
While operations in Egypt have long been the measure of the Muslim Brotherhood, affiliate organizations and political parties exist across North Africa, the Middle East, and even in Europe. In Tunisia, where the Arab spring began, the Muslim Brotherhood-inspired al-Nahda or Renaissance Party survived decades of government suppression to win a majority of seats in the Constituent Assembly (October 2011). In Jordan, the current and former kings have had a rocky relationship with the Brotherhood: at times, the organization has freely participated in parliamentary elections and won; the rulers, however, has not hesitated to go after the group when its message and activities threaten government interests. The Muslim Brotherhood has operated in Syria since the 1940s, and its history there parallels the ups and downs of the organization’s experience in Egypt. The ruling Assad family has shown no tolerance for violent opposition and little tolerance for political dissent, yet the Brotherhood has managed to survive and is now participating in the widespread uprising that threatens the regime of Bashar Assad (Talhamy 2012). The Muslim Brotherhood in the Sudan channeled its activities through the National Islamic Front, which was led for a time by the Islamist thinker Hassan al-Turabi. Successive governments in the Sudan have inclined toward Islamist politics, including the implementation of Islamic law, creating conflict between the country’s Muslim north and its Christian and animist south.
The Muslim Brotherhood made inroads in Europe through students and immigrants. In England and France, Muslim communities reflect much the same diversity of attitudes toward Islamists as one might find in the Islamic world. Brotherhood affiliated groups and Brotherhood sympathizers in these countries have displayed moderate political leanings, much to the disappointment of Muslim militants who favor global jihad (Leiken and Brooke 2007:117-120). Muslim organizations in the United States have often been accused of being fronts for the Muslim Brotherhood, but such accusations are often part of a broader conspiracy theory about Islam and its “radical” nature. For some self-ordained “Muslim watchers,” whether in Europe or the United States, any public assertion of Muslim identity or questioning by Muslims of Western foreign policy in the Islamic world indicates a subversive element among the domestic Muslim population. In the post-Cold War, post-9/11 era, fear and suspicion of Muslims and Islam have become part and parcel of Western culture. The Muslim Brotherhood’s history of millennial politics and confrontations with secular regimes had made it a convenient focus of Western fears.
Affiliate organizations and branches of the Muslim Brotherhood share common views about the need to revitalize Islam and implement Islamist ideals, but they lack an overarching institutional connection. In each case, national politics and issues have determined the way Islamist ideology is highlighted and acted upon. And leaders in different countries, and in different organizations in the same country, have been protective of their own authority and autonomy (Leiken and Brooke 2007:115-117).
The dramatic events surrounding the Arab spring have transformed the political environment in Egypt and created new challenges for the Muslim Brotherhood to reinvent itself. The Brotherhood has reinvented itself before, shifting is millennial expectations to accommodate changing circumstances (Kenney 2012), but it has never done so from such a position of strength and with such potential for influencing Egyptian society. The strength and potential of the organization were already on display in the election results following the uprising. Still, Egyptian political culture remains in its infancy, and perhaps the biggest test of the Brotherhood is whether it can contribute to the nation’s political maturation. Can the Brotherhood make the transition from underdog opposition movement to mainstream political actor? Can it make this transition while retaining its Islamist identity and helping to resolve Egypt’s pressing economic problems?
The new open political environment will require more openness on the part of the Brotherhood, a secretive and distrustful movement that honed its survival skills under three successive authoritarian governments. It will also require the Brotherhood to rethink its ideological commitments, and compromise on certain of them, in the give-and-take of public debates over policy. Suppressed movements operating outside the halls of power can easily voice ideas that have no hope of being implemented as policy; ones that are now part of the political system must be able to make real world decisions and compromises. Internal divisions within the Brotherhood, despite official denials, have filtered to the surface over the years, indicating disagreements over leadership and how best to interact with the government; these divisions have not been repaired since the Arab spring and may multiply as the organization tries to reshape its mission. All the while, the Brotherhood will be under the scrutiny of secular political forces and a journalistic establishment inclined to criticize the organization’s every move. For its part, the military establishment, long the power behind the authoritarian state, will wait in the political wings; power without the responsibilities of rule seems to be its goal, along with maintaining its broad financial holdings. Finally, the rise of the Salafi trend, demonstrated in its second-place showing (behind the FJP) in parliamentary elections, means that the Brotherhood will now be challenged by more conservative Islamists. In an interesting twist, the Salafis may allow the Brotherhood to position itself as a more moderate force in Egypt’s culture wars.
What is clear is that Islamist politics has become the new normal in Egypt, at least for the foreseeable future. Will the Muslim Brotherhood become just another political party vying for power? The integration of Islamism into the mainstream could indeed signal, as some scholars have suggested, a “post-Islamist turn” in Muslim societies - a period when Islamist movements have so reframed themselves and their role in society that they have lost their edge as instruments of change (Bayat 2007). Students of Islamism and social movements will certainly be watching to see what the future might bring. Keenly aware of its situation, the Brotherhood will attempt to create a new politics in Egypt and prove its critics wrong.
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Auda, Gehad. 1994. “The ‘Normalization’ of the Islamic Movement in Egypt from the 1970s to the 1990s.” Pp. 374-412 in Accounting for Fundamentalisms: The Dynamic Character of Movements, edited by Martin E. Marty and R. Scott Appleby. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.
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Fuller, Graham E. 2003. The Future of Political Islam. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.
Kenney, Jeffrey T. 2012. “Millennial Politics in Modern Egypt: Islamism and Secular Nationalism in Context and Contest.” Numen 59:427-55.
Kenney, Jeffrey T. 2006. Muslim Rebels: Kharijites and the Politics of Extremism in Egypt. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press.
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Lia, Brynjar. 2006. The Society of Muslim Brothers in Egypt: The Rise of an Islamic Mass Movement 1928-1942. Reading, UK: Ithaca Press.
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Talhamy, Yvette. 2012. “The Muslim Brotherhood Reborn.” Middle East Quarterly 19:33-40.
Jeffrey T. Kenney
23 August 2012