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

China Investigates Former Powerful Security Chief

Former security chief and member of Politburo Standing Committee, Zhou Yongkang, under investigation for suspected 'serious disciplinary violation' More

India, US Look to Reset Ties During Kerry Visit

This week's talks will be first high level interaction between two countries since Prime Minister Narendra Modi took charge More

Video Young African Leadership Program Renamed to Honor Mandela

YALI program, launched by President Obama in 2010, aims to build skills in business, entrepreneurship, public management and civic leadership More

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.
Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spati
X
Reasey Poch
July 28, 2014 7:18 PM
China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video ESA Spacecraft to Land on a Comet

After a long flight through deep space, a European Space Agency probe is finally approaching its target -- a comet millions of kilometers away from earth. Scientists say the mission may lead to some startling discoveries about the origins of the water on earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Africans Arrive in US for Leadership Program

President Barack Obama's Young African Leadership Initiative has brought hundreds of young Africans to the United States for a six-week program aimed at building their knowledge and skills in fields such as public administration and business. Out of the 50,000 young Africans who applied for the program, just one percent was accepted. VOA's Laurel Bowman caught up with some of those who made the cut and has this report.
Video

Video In Honduras, Amnesty Rumors Fuel US Migration Surges

False rumors in Central America are fueling the current surge of undocumented young people being apprehended at the U.S. border. The inaccurate claims suggest the U.S. will give amnesty to young migrants from the region. As VOA's Brian Padden reports from Honduras, these rumors trace back to President Obama's 2012 executive order to halt deportations for some young undocumented immigrants already living in the United States.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid