News / Middle East

    Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood: Its Agenda

    Senior members of Egypt's  Muslim Brotherhood Mohamed Morsi,  right,  and  Essam el-Erian  hold a press conference on the latest situation in Egypt in Cairo, Egypt, Wednesday, Feb. 9, 2011.  (AP Photo/ Mohammed Abou Zaid)
    Senior members of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood Mohamed Morsi, right, and Essam el-Erian hold a press conference on the latest situation in Egypt in Cairo, Egypt, Wednesday, Feb. 9, 2011. (AP Photo/ Mohammed Abou Zaid)
    Cecily Hilleary

    The Society of Muslim Brothers is Egypt’s largest and most well-organized group. Its activities are divided between social services, political advocacy and religious reform. The Society is admired by some, feared by others and, now that Hosni Mubarak has resigned the Egyptian presidency, analysts will be taking a closer look at the hitherto banned organization and seeking to understand its political agenda.

    Sharia is a collective group of laws which governs all aspects of Muslims’ lives, from marriage and family life to conduct in society and business.  Based both on the Quran and the customs and sayings of the Prophet and other early Muslims, Sharia varies by region; in some countries, it is the basis for all laws.  Other countries have adapted and blended it with secular legal systems.

    On its English-language website, the Brotherhood states that the Western concept of “secular liberal democracy” is undemocratic, because it rejects religion in public life. In its published guidelines, the Brotherhood states goals that include spreading Islamic teachings, bring Islamic sects closer together, improve the lives of the poor and otherwise marginalized; and secure the Islamic state against foreign rule and internal enemies.

    Nathan J. Brown
    Nathan J. Brown

    Nathan J. Brown is a Professor of Political Science and International Affairs at George Washington University in Washington, D.C. and Director of its Institute for Middle East Studies.  He has written extensively about the Muslim Brotherhood.  He says that since the group’s founding more than 70 years ago, it has been committed to seeing Sharia implemented in Egypt.  However, their ideas about Sharia have evolved over time: The group has clearly come to terms with political rights—that is, freedom of expression, freedom of the press and free and fair elections--however, the Brothers have not yet come to terms with what Brown calls “social rights”—or freedom of expression in the "artistic sphere."

    “When it comes to women and non-Muslims, they are increasingly comfortable with the idea of citizenship,” Brown said.  “If you are a member of the Egyptian community, you’re a full member—with one very important exception, perhaps a symbolic one, but one that is important in Egyptian debate, and that is the position of head of state; the Brotherhood still says that if you want their support to become a head of state, you have to be a Muslim male.

    Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood: Its Agenda
    Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood: Its Agenda

    What about that other controversial and confusing concept of Islam—jihad?  Muslims have alternately used the word to describe the struggle for spiritual enlightenment or perfection--or a holy war against enemies of Islam.  

    There’s no doubt, says Brown, that the Brotherhood has historically talked about jihad and used military metaphors to present itself—for example, the movement’s official symbol consists of two swords crossed under the image of the Holy Quran.  Exactly what jihad means, Brown said, is not clear.  

    “Is it supposed to be peaceful?” Brown asked.  “When is it okay to use force?  Who has the authority to use force?  Is this something that individual Muslims or a group has the right to do?  All those are places where there’s considerable ambiguity.”

    Brown says the Brotherhood believes that the best path to change in a Muslim society is that of peaceful change and talk, not force.  But the group also believes that jihad is legimate in cases of foreign occupation.  Thus, he says, the stronger the role of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, the worse for Israel.

    “That said,” Brown said, “I think that anybody who has studied the Brotherhood in recent years knows that the Brotherhood is not in a position to rule Egypt by itself, and it doesn’t even seem interested in making a move in that direction. What the Brotherhood wants to do is participate in politics and to have a voice.”

    Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood: Its Agenda
    Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood: Its Agenda

    Rashid Khalidi is Edward Said Professor of Arab Studies at Columbia University in New York.  He's also the author of Sowing Crisis: The Cold War and American Dominance in the Middle East.  He believes the West has allowed fear and misunderstanding of Islamic movements like the Muslim Brotherhood to justify their support of repressive regimes

    “We are sleeping in the bed that decades of mistaken policy have made for us,” he said.  “We were sold a bill of goods by Arab regimes which told Americans and the world that they were the only bulwark between their countries and unrestrained fanatical Islam, that if you did not support dictatorship, repression and systematic violation of human rights, you'd have bearded fundamentalists raving from the top of every minaret in every one of these countries--and taking over.”

    Khalidi points out that regardless of how one feels about the Muslim Brotherhood, the group has a valid role in Egyptian history and society.  He says it would be arrogant for any outside government to work to keep the Brotherhood out of power in Egypt - if in fact they should ever make it that far. “The last thing that the Egyptians would tolerate would be any form of foreign interference.”

    "One is either in favor of democracy and allowing people to make choices or not,” Kahlidi added.  “Whether they are wise ones is another matter.”

    You May Like

    South Sudan Sends First Ever Official Olympic Team to Rio

    VOA caught up with Santino Kenyi, 16, one of three athletes who will compete in this year's summer games in Brazil

    Arrest of Malawi's 'Hyena' Man Highlights Clash of Ritual, Health and Women's Rights

    Ritual practice of deflowering young girls is blamed for spreading deadly AIDS virus

    Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Process

    VOA finds things Americans take for granted are special to foreigners

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Processi
    X
    Katherine Gypson
    July 27, 2016 6:21 PM
    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Process

    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video A Life of Fighting Back: Hillary Clinton Shatters Glass Ceiling

    Hillary Clinton made history Thursday, overcoming personal and political setbacks to become the first woman to win the presidential nomination of a major U.S. political party. If she wins in November, she will go from “first lady” to U.S. Senator from New York, to Secretary of State, to “Madam President.” Polls show Clinton is both beloved and despised. White House Correspondent Cindy Saine takes a look at the life of the woman both supporters and detractors agree is a fighter for the ages.
    Video

    Video Dutch Entrepreneurs Turn Rainwater Into Beer

    June has been recorded as one of the wettest months in more than a century in many parts of Europe. To a group of entrepreneurs in Amsterdam the rain came as a blessing, as they used the extra water to brew beer. Serginho Roosblad has more to the story.
    Video

    Video First Time Delegate’s First Day Frustrations

    With thousands of people filling the streets of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for the 2016 Democratic National Convention, VOA’s Kane Farabaugh narrowed in on one delegate as she made her first trip to a national party convention. It was a day that was anything but routine for this United States military veteran.
    Video

    Video Commerce Thrives on US-Mexico Border

    At the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia this week, the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, is expected to attack proposals made by her opponent, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Last Friday, President Barack Obama hosted his Mexican counterpart, President Enrique Peña Nieto, to underscore the good relations between the two countries. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Tucson.
    Video

    Video Film Helps Save Ethiopian Children Thought to be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at effort of African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video Recycling Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    In a small Lebanese coastal town, one family is preserving a craft that stretches back millennia. The art of glass blowing was developed by Phoenicians in the region, and the Khalifehs say they are the only ones keeping the skill alive in Lebanon. But despite teaming up with an eco-entrepreneur and receiving an unexpected boost from the country’s recent trash crisis the future remains uncertain. John Owens reports from Sarafand.
    Video

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border from Mexico

    In his speech Thursday before the Republican National Convention, the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, reiterated his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if elected. Polls show a large percentage of Americans support better control of the nation's southwestern border, but as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from the border town of Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora, the situation faced by people trying to cross the border is already daunting.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Calm the Waters: US Doubles Down Diplomatic Efforts in ASEAN Meetings

    The United States is redoubling diplomatic efforts and looking to upcoming regional meetings to calm the waters after an international tribunal invalidated the legal basis of Beijing's extensive claims in the South China Sea. VOA State Department correspondent Nike Ching has the story.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora