Egyptian Crosscurrents: The Muslim Brotherhood and Democracy on the Nile
HSPI Issue Brief 09
“The Muslim Brotherhood (Al Ikhwan al Muslimeen) is the world’s oldest and most influential Islamist movement. Founded in Ismailiya in 1928 by Hassan al Banna, the Brotherhood, like most of the grassroots movements that sprang up in Egypt at the time, was strongly opposed to colonial rule and advocated Egyptian independence. But while most anti-British movements took inspiration from an array of Western-imported ideologies, the Brotherhood based its discourse on Islam. Creating what would become the motto of generations of Islamists (‘Islam is the solution’), al Banna saw the answer to the Western ‘military-political-ethical-social invasion’ of the Muslim world as ‘resistance to foreign domination through the exaltation of Islam.’ Al Banna viewed Islam as complete and all-embracing, governing all aspects of private and public life. For him Islam was not just ‘empty acts of prostration’ but ‘politics, society, economy, law and culture.’ Solutions to all problems of Egypt and, more broadly, the entire ummah could be found in this complete system: only when Muslims had fully implemented Islam would they regain their natural and God-given position of prominence in the world.”
The Global Muslim Brotherhood: Myth or Reality?
HSPI Issue Brief 10
“Like any movement that spans continents and has millions of affiliates, the global Muslim Brotherhood is hardly a monolithic block. Personal and ideological divisions are common. Divergences emerge on how the movement should try to achieve its goals and, in some cases, even on what those goals should actually be. Issues such as the First Gulf War or the hijab controversy in France have spurred strong internal debates, which in some cases have degenerated into personal feuds. Senior scholars and activists often vie with one another over theological issues, political positions, access to financial sources, and leadership of the movement. Despite these inevitable differences, their deep belief in the inherent political nature of Islam and their adoption of al Banna’s organization-focused methodology in order to implement it make them part of the informal global movement of the Muslim Brotherhood.”