2011-07-20

The Muslim Brotherhood and the Arab Spring

The Muslim Brotherhood (for the Arabic al-Ihwan ul-Muslimuuna) through its history since the establishment in 1928 has demonstrated the high degree of adaption to the changing surrounding by revision of its tactical positions though being true to the basic ideas developed by its founder Egyptian theological intellectual Hassan al-Banna. Despite the changing rhetoric of the members from the Muslim Brotherhood the cornerstones of the its ideology have been always the same. As Hussein al-Banna formulated it, the Brotherhood is a genuinely Islamic movement inspired by the desire for the establishment truly Islamic society. This has always been seen possible by the following three different ways. The first one presupposed the struggle against the unwanted governments or external forces by the military means. The strategy of the open conflict with the existing government had been long used by the radically minded members of the Muslim Brotherhood, however this tactic didn’t prove to be fruitful in the era of the Abdel Nasser's strong regime. Instead of the resistance to the regime established after the Egypt's independence the Brotherhood focused its attention on the another two methods of the gaining its ideological goals, notably political participation and the social activity in the poor and uneducated population[1]. The first was doomed to be practically fruitful in the political framework of the post-Nasser's regime, however in the 1970-1980's the state loosened its grip following the political liberalization and the MB got the chance to challenge the system by political means that in fact led to new oppression in the first years of Mubarak's presidency.

So only the social engagement and work with people became the only possible chance to propagate the ideas of the movement what therewith was corresponding to the al-Banna's view on the BM as a social movement. And though it was forbidden in the constitution to form political parties on the basis of the religion or ethnicity the MB could easily nominated own members as the independent candidates (the result of this strategy can be clearly demonstrated by the results of 2005 elections when the MB's "independent" members could gain almost 20% of votes) and even form a coalition with other smaller parties like liberal Waqd-party under the tolerable oversight of the government.

The way how the MB has been evolving all these years shows the influence of the established political conditions in Egypt. Though the confessional party were prohibited the MB managed to push through its members in the parliament. Despite the fact that the MB has long been obscure in its intentions, since there was not clear how exactly the MB wants from the government and the politics at large and the more interesting how this movement wants to achieve its goals, it was at the same time clear that the mainstream of the MB was always true to the ideas of al-Banna on the establishment of the Islamic state following the gradual implementation of Sharia. It seems that vagueness and the universal character of its program enabled the MB on the one hand to survive in the anti-Islamist surrounding and on the other hand to attract as more supporters as possible. The dawa or the spreading of Islamic ideas in the society and thereby social work with the deprived people was the domain where  the MB was successfully gaining points on the state's losses. The education, medicine or employment were spheres where the MB got its support, and its work has long been seen positive even by the government due to its inability (and inefficiency) to provide these services.

Before the upheavals in January 2011 the MB had a well organized infrastructure throughout the country what made the movement the most influential political force after the Mubarak's resignation. Though the core of masses on the anti-governmental demonstrations was made up by the youth and there weren't any pro-Islamic slogans during the revolution (what has let to the presumption that the islamist have no power or that they are not leaders of this social uprising), the MB was an active participator in these events. Being one of the beneficiaries of the January revolution the BM tries to use the fruits of the new situation as much effective as possible. The movement has already claimed it intention not to run for the presidency (although there were attempts by its former members to do that) what proves the fact that in the future political system the post of the president (discredited by the Mubarak's regime) is going to be less influential. Though the ongoing debates within the movement on the set of issues like the status of the Copts, the necessity to participate in the Egypt's politics and the further development of the MB demonstrates the serious division between its members, especially tactical disagreement between the older generations preferring the nonparticipation of the MB in the political life and the younger (students of the 1970's) one who see the participation in the politics and the interaction with other political parties as a way to achieve the movement's conceptual goals[2]. Nevertheless, the announced plan of the BM to seek 45-50% of the seats in the future parliament can be interpreted as a unwillingness of the BM to share the inevitable mistakes and failures of the future government that in perspective can bring additional points to the islamist movement. Another interesting point to mention is that the more the MB was involved into the politics during the authoritarian regime the clearer (and more moderate) became its approaches to such issues as women and the religious minorities, but it will not necessary be the same trend of the evolution under the current circumstances, when the MB is regarded as the best organized political force in Egypt.

Concerning the perspectives of the political development in Egypt and the role of the MB in it could be said that being a very adaptive social force the future of this movement will be fashioned primarily by the slow evolution to the moderate Islamist party, however it must be an issue of further discussions whether this evolution is possible as the unfriendly conditions where the MB has emerged as the social political force with a broad moderate agenda have changed into the extremely favorable ones when there is no political force on the horizon capable of the competition with the MB. Moreover, the MB will definitely need to prove its moderate consciousness by introducing more distinct program and implementing into it missing issues on women and religious minorities as well. If the MB will succeed in the holding powers in Egypt in will have effect on the regional relations, the MB attention (or critic?) will definitely be directed on the Jordan and Syria, where its sister(brother?)-movements are restricted (and even suppressed - Hams 1982 in Syria) in their social and political engagement. However anti western rhetoric on such issues as Palestine will have its place in the MB's political activity, although there is a reason for the western governments to deal with the MB. Since its position are strong in the traditionally Muslim society the radical Islamist will unlikely have support in Egypt among electorate, thus making the MB important player in the War on Terrorism[3].


[1] http://www.kas.de/wf/de/33.22023
[2] Israel Elad Altman // Strategies of the Muslim Brotherhood Movement 1928-2007 // Research Monographs on the Muslim World Series №2, Paper №2, January, 2009 // Hudson Institute
[3] Middle East Review of International Affairs, Vol. 11, No. 2 (June 2007) p.108

1 comment:

  1. But the question is whether the Al Ihwan are ready to share the power in Egypt with other political parties? And how far they are ready to go in the establishment of the Turkish model?

    ReplyDelete