Fawaz A Gerges: This Brotherhood has a real sense of purpose

Analysis: Since the 1970s, the Brotherhood has tried to position itself as a centrist religious mainstream political movement

Share
Related Topics

An examination of the Muslim Brotherhood suggests yesterday's events in Cairo are a logical extension of its history. It was founded in the 1920s by school teacher Hassan al-Banna. By the end of the 1940s, its numbers had swollen to more than 500,000 on the back of its three major causes: battling British colonialism, resistance to a new Jewish state and fighting corruption in Egypt. Now it is Egypt's most powerful opposition movement and has inspired Islamist movements worldwide.

Even though it was supposed to be apolitical and religious, in the 1930s al-Banna established a paramilitary wing. It carried out multiple operations against prominent Jews and targeted political leaders and judges in Egypt. In 1948, one of the Brothers assassinated the prime minister. As a result, the security services killed al-Banna, creating in the Muslim Brotherhood a chasm between the political and paramilitary wings.

The target for the Brotherhood remained the British-backed monarchy and it backed the three army officers, including Gamal Abdel Nasser, who led the Egyptian revolution.

The tactical alliance did not last more than a few months. They had divergent political goals: the Muslim Brotherhood believed in the establishment of a Koranic state and the officers a nationalist, secularist one. An attempted assassination of Nasser himself led to the brutal suppression of the Muslim Brotherhood and the imprisonment of Sayyid Qutb, one of its leading ideologues. When Nasser sent Qutb to the gallows in 1966, it led to the jihadist movement. A year after Qutb's death, Ayman al-Zawahiri, aged 16, set up a jihadist cell at his school and invited a few friends to join. He became, and remains, one of al-Qa'ida's most prominent leaders.

The birth of the jihadist movement cannot be understood without reference to this great clash between the Muslim Brotherhood and Nasser's forces. Mubarak's regime is an extension of this.

Since the 1970s, the Brotherhood has tried to position itself as a centrist religious mainstream political movement. It entered the last election against the wishes of other members of the opposition and now has also entered talks with the regime. This is all part of a goal to enter mainstream politics, as the ban remains in place. It is seen by many other members of the opposition as opportunistic and capable of back-door deals. Even with the hated Mubarak regime.

The author is director of the London School of Economics' Middle East centre

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

C#.NET Server Side Developer (C#, XML, WCF, Unit Testing,SQL)

£30000 - £40000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: C#.NET ...

Junior Database developer (SQL, T-SQL, Excel, SSRS)

£20000 - £30000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: Junior D...

Helpdesk Team Leader / Manager

£45000 per annum + pension,medical: Ashdown Group: A successful & reputable gl...

IT Systems Manager

£40000 - £45000 per annum + pension, healthcare,25 days: Ashdown Group: An est...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Letters: The West flounders in the Middle East morass

Independent Voices
David Tennant as Hamlet  

To vote no or not to vote no, that is the question... Although do celebrities really have the answer?

David Lister
All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

Robert Fisk: All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

Chuck Hagel and Martin Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise
Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

So claims an EU report which points to the Italian Mob’s alleged grip on everything from public works to property
Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

Once the poor relation, the awards show now has the top stars and boasts the best drama
French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

The ugly causeway is being dismantled, an elegant connection erected in its place. So everyone’s happy, right?
Radio 1 to hire 'YouTube-famous' vloggers to broadcast online

Radio 1’s new top ten

The ‘vloggers’ signed up to find twentysomething audience
David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

A blistering attack on US influence on British television has lifted the savvy head of Channel 4 out of the shadows
Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

Eden Hazard admits he is still below the level of Ronaldo and Messi but, after a breakthrough season, is ready to thrill Chelsea’s fans
Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

The Everton and US goalkeeper was such a star at the World Cup that the President phoned to congratulate him... not that he knows what the fuss is all about
Match of the Day at 50: Show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition

Tom Peck on Match of the Day at 50

The show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition
Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
Ebola outbreak: Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on the virus

Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on Ebola

A Christian charity’s efforts to save missionaries trapped in Africa by the crisis have been justifiably praised. But doubts remain about its evangelical motives
Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC

Not even Jeremy Clarkson is bigger than the BBC, says TV boss

Corporation’s head of television confirms ‘Top Gear’ host was warned about racist language
Nick Clegg the movie: Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise

Nick Clegg the movie

Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise
Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?

Philip Larkin: What will survive of him?

Larkin's reputation has taken a knocking. But a new book by James Booth argues that the poet was affectionate, witty, entertaining and kind, as hitherto unseen letters, sketches and 'selfies' reveal
Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?

Waxing lyrical

Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?