HSPI | Policy Work | Issue Brief: Egyptian Crosscurrents: The Muslim Brotherhood and Democracy on the Nile

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.”[1] 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.”[2] 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.