Established By: Hassan al-Banna
Also Known As: Society of the Muslim Brothers
Country Of Origin: Egypt
Leaders: Mohammed Badie
Key Members: Mohammed Badie, Yusuf al-Qaradawi, Muhammad Morsi, Mohammad Riad al-Shaqfeh, Khairat al-Shater, Mahmoud Ezzat, Mohamed Mehdi Akef, Mohammad Farouk Tayfour, Ali Sadreddine al-Bayanouni
Operational Area: Egypt, Bahrain, Iran, Turkey, Iraq, Palestine, Jordan, Qatar, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Syria, United Arab Emirates, Yemen, Algeria, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, Somalia, Sudan, Tunisia, Germany, United Kingdom, Indonesia, Malaysia, United States
Number Of Members: 2.000.0000-2.500.000
Involved In: Violence Against Civilians, Terror Financing, Overthrowing Governments, Funding Atrocities [assasinations, suicide car bombings, drug trafficking, counterfeiting of coins, racketeering]
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The Muslim Brotherhood is a transnational Islamist organization founded in Egypt by Islamic scholar and schoolteacher Hassan al-Banna in 1928. The organisation gained supporters throughout the Arab world and influenced other Islamist groups with its “model of political activism combined with Islamic charity work”, and in 2012 sponsored the first democratically elected political party in Egypt. However, it suffered from periodic government crackdowns for alleged terrorist activities, and as of 2015 is considered a terrorist organization by the governments of Bahrain, Egypt, Russia, Syria, Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates.
The Brotherhood’s stated goal is to instill the Qur’an and Sunnah as the “sole reference point for … ordering the life of the Muslim family, individual, community … and state.” Its mottos include “Believers are but Brothers”, “Islam is the Solution”, and “Allah is our objective; the Qur’an is the Constitution; the Prophet is our leader; Jihad is our way; death for the sake of Allah is our wish.” It is financed by members, who are required to allocate a portion of their income to the movement, and was for many years by Saudi Arabia, with whom it shared some enemies and some points of doctrine. As a Pan-Islamic, religious, and social movement it preached Islam, taught the illiterate, set up hospitals and business enterprises.
The group spread to other Muslim countries but has its largest, or one of its largest, organizations in Egypt despite a succession of government crackdowns in 1948, 1954, 1965, and 2013 after plots, or alleged plots, of assassination and overthrow were uncovered. Over the years it also developed branches in other Muslim countries. The Arab Spring brought it legalisation and substantial political power at first, but as of 2013 it has suffered severe reversals.
The Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood was legalized in 2011 and won several elections, including the 2012 presidential election when its candidate Mohamed Morsi became Egypt’s first democratically elected president. One year later, however, following massive demonstrations, Morsi was overthrown by the military and arrested. As of 2014, the organization has been declared a terrorist group both in Egypt and by its erstwhile ally Saudi Arabia, and is once again suffering a severe crackdown in Egypt as well as pressure in other Arab countries. The Brotherhood itself insists it is a peaceful, democratic organization, and it leader “condemns violence and violent acts”.
The Brotherhood’s English language website describes the principles of the Muslim Brotherhood as including firstly the introduction of the Islamic Sharia as “the basis for controlling the affairs of state and society” and secondly, work to unify “Islamic countries and states, mainly among the Arab states, and liberating them from foreign imperialism”.
Its founder, Hassan Al-Banna, was influenced by Islamic modernist reformers Muhammad Abduh and Rashid Rida (attacking the taqlid of the official `ulama, insisting the only the Quran and the best-attested ahadith should be sources of the Sharia), with the group structure and approach being influenced by Sufism. As Islamic Modernist beliefs were co-opted by secularist rulers and official `ulama, the Brotherhood has become traditionalist and conservative, “being the only available outlet for those whose religious and cultural sensibilities had been outraged by the impact of Westernisation”.
Al-Banna believed the Quran and Sunnah constitute a perfect way of life and social and political organization that God has set out for man. Islamic governments must be based on this system and eventually unified in a Caliphate. The Muslim Brotherhood’s goal, as stated by its founder al-Banna was to drive out British colonial and other Western influences, reclaim Islam’s manifest destiny—an empire, stretching from Spain to Indonesia. The Brotherhood preaches that Islam will bring social justice, the eradication of poverty, corruption and sinful behavior, political freedom (to the extent allowed by the laws of Islam).
The Muslim Brotherhood is a movement, not a political party, but members have created political parties in several countries, such as the Islamic Action Front in Jordan and Hamas in Gaza and the West Bank and the now disbanded Freedom and Justice Party in Egypt. These parties are staffed by Brotherhood members but kept independent from the Muslim Brotherhood to some degree, unlike Hizb ut-Tahrir which is highly centralized.
There have been breakaway groups from the movement, including the Al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya and Al Takfir Wal Hijra. Prominent figures of the Brotherhood include Sayyid Qutb, a highly influential extremist and anti-Semitic thinker of Islamic supremacism, and the author of Milestones. Osama bin Laden criticized the Brotherhood, and accused it of betraying jihad and the ideals of Qutb.
The Brotherhood has been described a “combination of neo-Sufic tariqa” (with al-Banna as the original murshid i.e. guide of the tariqa) “and a political party”. The proptype Egyptian MB has a pyramidal structure with “families” (or usra, which consists of four to five people and is headed by a naqib, or “captain) at the bottom, “clans” above them, “groups” above clans and “battalions” or “phalanxes” above groups.
Potential Brethren start out as Muhib or “lovers”, and if approved move up to becomes a muayyad, or “supporter,” then to muntasib or “affiliated,” (who are nonvoting members). If a muntasib “satisfies his monitors”, he is promoted to muntazim, or “organizer,” before advancing to the final level — ach ‘amal, or “working brother”. With this slow careful advancement, the loyalty of potential members can be “closely probed” and obedience to orders assured. At the top of the hierarchy is the Guidance Office (Maktab al-Irshad), and immediately below the Shura Council. Orders are passed down through a chain of command:
– The Shura Council has the duties of planning, charting general policies and programs that achieve the goal of the Group. It is composed of roughly 100 Muslim Brothers. Important decisions, such as whether to participate in elections, are debated and voted on within the Shura Council and then executed by the Guidance Office. Its resolutions are binding to the Group and only the General Organisational Conference can modify or annul them and the Shura Office has also the right to modify or annul resolutions of the Executive Office. It follows the implementation of the Group policies and programs. It directs the Executive Office and it forms dedicated branch committees to assist in that.
– Executive Office or Guidance Office (Maktab al-Irshad), which is composed of approximately 15 longtime Muslim Brothers and headed by the supreme guide or General Masul (murshid) Each member of the Guidance Office oversees a different portfolio, such as university recruitment, education, or politics. Guidance Office members are elected by the Shura Council. Divisions of the Guidance/Executive Office include: executive leadership; organizational office; secretariat general; educational office; political office; sisters office;
The Muslim Brotherhood aimed to build a transnational organization. In the 1940s the Egyptian Brotherhood organized a “section for Liaison with the Islamic World” endowed with nine committees. Groups were founded in Lebanon (in 1936), Syria (1937), and Transjordan (1946). It also recruited among the foreign students in Cairo where its headquarters became a center and meeting place for representatives from the whole Muslim world.
In each country with an MB there is a Branch committee with a Masul (leader) appointed by the General Executive leadership with essentially the same Branch-divisions as the Executive office. “Properly speaking” Brotherhood branches exist only in Arab countries of the Middle East where they are “in theory” subordinate to the Egyptian General Guide. Beyond that the Brotherhood sponsors national organizations in countires like Tunisia (Nahda), Morocco (Justice and Charity party), Algeria (Movement of Society for Peace). Outside the Arab world it also has influence, with a former President of Afghanistan Burhanuddin Rabbani having adopted MB ideas during his studies at Al-Azhar University, and many similarities between mujahideen groups in Afghanistan and Arab MBs. Angkatan Belia Islam Malaysia in Malaysia is close to the Brotherhood.
Campaign of violence:
Hassan al-Banna founded the Muslim Brotherhood in the city of Ismailia in March 1928 along with six workers of the Suez Canal Company, as a Pan-Islamic, religious, political, and social movement. The Suez Canal Company helped Banna build the mosque in Ismailia that would serve as the Brotherhood’s headquarters. According to al-Banna, contemporary Islam had lost its social dominance, because most Muslims had been corrupted by Western influences. Sharia law based on the Qur’an and the Sunnah were seen as laws passed down by God that should be applied to all parts of life, including the organization of the government and the handling of everyday problems.
Al-Banna was populist in his message of protecting workers against the tyranny of foreign and monopolist companies. It founded social institutions such as hospitals, pharmacies, schools, etc. Al-Banna held highly conservative views on issues such as women’s rights, opposing equal rights for women, but supporting the establishment of justice towards women. The Brotherhood grew rapidly going from 800 members in 1936, to 200,000 by 1938 and over 2 million by 1948. As its influence grew, it opposed British rule in Egypt starting in 1936, but was banned after being accused of violent killings including the assassination of a Prime Minister by a young Brotherhood member.
Post–World War II:
In November 1948, following several bombings and assassination attempts, the Egyptian government arrested 32 leaders of the Brotherhood’s “secret apparatus” and banned the Brotherhood. At this time the Brotherhood was estimated to have 2000 branches and 500,000 members or sympathizers. In succeeding months Egypt’s prime minister was assassinated by a Brotherhood member, and following that Al-Banna himself was assassinated in what is thought to be a cycle of retaliation. In 1952, members of the Muslim Brotherhood were accused of taking part in the Cairo Fire that destroyed some 750 buildings in downtown Cairo – mainly night clubs, theatres, hotels, and restaurants frequented by British and other foreigners. In 1952 Egypt’s monarchy was overthrown by a group of nationalist military officers (Free Officers Movement) who had formed a cell within the Brotherhood during the first war against Israel in 1948.
However after the revolution Gamal Abdel Nasser, the leader of the ‘free officers’ cell, after deposing the first President of Egypt, Muhammad Neguib, in a coup, quickly moved against the Brotherhood, blaming them for an attempt on his life. The Brotherhood was again banned and this time thousands of its members were imprisoned, many being tortured and held for years in prisons and concentration camps. In the 1950s and 1960s many Brotherhood members sought sanctuary in Saudi Arabia. In the 1970s after the death of Nasser and under the new President (Anwar Sadat), the Egyptian Brotherhood was invited back to Egypt and began a new phase of participation in Egyptian politics. Imprisoned Brethren were released and the organization was tolerated to varying degrees with periodic arrests and crackdowns until the 2011 Revolution.
During the Mubarak era, observers both defended and criticized the Brotherhood. It was the largest opposition group in Egypt, calling for “Islamic reform”, and a democratic system in Egypt. It had built a vast network of support through Islamic charities working among poor Egyptians. It formed “an old established party which has earned much respect with its steadfastness in the face of recurrent persecution, torture, mass arrests and occasional executions. Its leaders are untainted by the prevalent corruption, and admired for their commitment to social work.” It also developed a significant movement online.
In the 2005 parliamentary elections, the Brotherhood became “in effect, the first opposition party of Egypt’s modern era.” Despite electoral irregularities, including the arrest of hundreds of Brotherhood members, and having to run its candidates as independents (the party being technically illegal), the Brotherhood won 88 seats (20% of the total) compared to 14 seats for the legal opposition. During its term in parliament the Brotherhood “posed a democratic political challenge to the regime, not a theological one,” according to one The New York Times journalist, while another report praised it for attempting to transform “the Egyptian parliament into a real legislative body”, that represented citizens and kept the government “accountable”.
In December 2006, a campus demonstration by Brotherhood students in uniforms, demonstrating martial arts drills, betrayed to some such as Jameel Theyabi “the group’s intent to plan for the creation of militia structures, and a return by the group to the era of ‘secret cells’”. Another report highlighted the Muslim Brotherhood’s efforts in Parliament to combat what one member called the ‘current US-led war against Islamic culture and identity,’ forcing the Minister of Culture (Farouk Hosny) to ban the publication of three novels on the ground they promoted blasphemy and unacceptable sexual practices. In October 2007, the Muslim Brotherhood issued a detailed political platform.
Amongst other things it called for a board of Muslim clerics to oversee the government, and limiting the office of the presidency to Muslim men. In the “Issues and Problems” chapter of the platform, it declared that a woman was not suited to be president because the post’s religious and military duties “conflict with her nature, social and other humanitarian roles.” While proclaiming “equality between men and women in terms of their human dignity,” the document warned against “burdening women with duties against their nature or role in the family.” Internally, some leaders in the Brotherhood disagreed on whether to adhere to Egypt’s 32-year peace treaty with Israel. A deputy leader declared the Brotherhood would seek dissolution of the treaty, while a Brotherhood spokesman stated the Brotherhood would respect the treaty as long as “Israel shows real progress on improving the lot of the Palestinians.
2011 revolution and after:
Following the 2011 Egyptian revolution and fall of Hosni Mubarak, the Brotherhood was legalized and was at first very successful, dominating the 2011 parliamentary election and winning the 2012 presidential election, before the army overthrew President Mohamed Morsi a year later, and cracked down on the Brotherhood again.
On 30 April 2011, it launched a new party called the Freedom and Justice Party, which won 235 of the 498 seats in the 2011 Egyptian parliamentary elections, far more than any other party. The party rejected the “candidacy of women or Copts for Egypt’s presidency”, but not for cabinet positions. The Muslim Brotherhood’s candidate for Egypt’s 2012 presidential election was Mohamed Morsi, who defeated Ahmed Shafiq—the last prime minister under Mubarak’s rule—with 51.73% of the vote. Some high level supporters and former Brotherhood officials have reiterated hostility toward Zionism, although during his campaign Morsi himself promised to stand for peaceful relations with Israel.
Within a short period, serious public opposition developed to President Morsi. In late November 2012 he ‘temporarily’ granted himself the power to legislate without judicial oversight or review of his acts, on the grounds that he needed to “protect” the nation from the Mubarak-era power structure. He also put a draft constitution to a referendum that opponents complained was “an Islamist coup.”These issues—and concerns over the prosecutions of journalists, the unleashing of pro-Brotherhood gangs on nonviolent demonstrators, the continuation of military trials, new laws that permitted detention without judicial review for up to 30 days, and the seeming impunity given to Islamist radical attacks on Christians and other minorities—brought hundreds of thousands of protesters to the streets starting in November 2012.
By April 2013, Egypt had “become increasingly divided” between President Mohammed Morsi and “Islamist allies” and an opposition of “moderate Muslims, Christians and liberals”. Opponents accused “Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood of seeking to monopolize power, while Morsi’s allies say the opposition is trying to destabilize the country to derail the elected leadership”. Adding to the unrest were severe fuel shortages and electricity outages—which evidence suggests were the result of Morsi’s mismanagement of the economy.
On 3 July 2013 Mohamed Morsi was arrested and detained by the military, following a popular uprising of millions of Egyptians demanding the resignation of Morsi. There were also limited counter-protests in support of Morsi. On 14 August, the military declared a month-long state of emergency and commenced raids against Brotherhood protest encampments. Violence escalated rapidly and led to the deaths of over 600 people and injury of some 4,000, the worst mass killing in Egypt’s modern history. In retaliation Brotherhood supporters looted and burned police stations and dozens of churches. The crackdown that followed has been called the worst for the Brotherhood’s organization “in eight decades”.
By 19 August, al Jazeera reported that “most” of the Brotherhood’s leaders were in custody. On that day Supreme Leader Mohammed Badie was arrested, crossing a “red line”, as even Hosni Mubarak had never arrested him. On 23 September, a court ordered the group outlawed and its assets seized. Prime Minister, Hazem Al Beblawi on 21 December 2013, declared the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organisation after a car bomb ripped through a police building and killed at least 14 people in the city of Mansoura,which the government blamed on the Muslim Brotherhood, despite no evidence and a Sinai based terror group claiming responsibility for the attack.
On 24 March 2014, an Egyptian court sentenced 529 members of the Muslim Brotherhood to death, an act described by Amnesty International as “the largest single batch of simultaneous death sentences we’ve seen in recent years anywhere in the world.” By May 2014, approximately 16,000 people (and as high as more than 40,000 by one independent count), mostly Brotherhood members or supporters, have been imprisoned since the coup.On 2 February 2015, an Egyptian court sentenced another 183 members of the Muslim Brotherhood to death.