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

Senior Data Scientist (Data Mining, RSPSS, R, AI, CPLEX, SQL)

£60000 - £70000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Senior Data Sc...

Law Costs

Highly Attractive Salary: Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL - This is a very unusual law c...

Junior VB.NET Application Developer (ASP.NET, SQL, Graduate)

£28000 - £30000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Junior VB.NET ...

C# .NET Web Developer (ASP.NET, JavaScript, jQuery, XML, XLST)

£40000 - £50000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# .NET Web De...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Ellen E Jones
Scientists have discovered the perfect cheese for pizzas (it's mozzarella)  

Life of pie: Hard cheese for academics

Simmy Richman
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

Europe's biggest steampunk convention

Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

The atomisation of culture means that few of those we regard as stars are universally loved any more, says DJ Taylor
She's dark, sarcastic, and bashes life in Nowheresville ... so how did Kacey Musgraves become country music's hottest new star?

Kacey Musgraves: Nashville's hottest new star

The singer has two Grammys for her first album under her belt and her celebrity fans include Willie Nelson, Ryan Adams and Katy Perry
American soldier-poet Brian Turner reveals the enduring turmoil that inspired his memoir

Soldier-poet Brian Turner on his new memoir

James Kidd meets the prize-winning writer, whose new memoir takes him back to the bloody battles he fought in Iraq
Aston Villa vs Hull match preview: Villa were not surprised that Ron Vlaar was a World Cup star

Villa were not surprised that Vlaar was a World Cup star

Andi Weimann reveals just how good his Dutch teammate really is
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef ekes out his holiday in Italy with divine, simple salads

Bill Granger's simple Italian salads

Our chef presents his own version of Italian dishes, taking in the flavours and produce that inspired him while he was in the country
The Last Word: Tumbleweed through deserted stands and suites at Wembley

The Last Word: Tumbleweed through deserted stands and suites at Wembley

If supporters begin to close bank accounts, switch broadband suppliers or shun satellite sales, their voices will be heard. It’s time for revolution