February 3, 2011


The Muslim Brotherhood After Mubarak: What the Brotherhood Is and How it Will Shape the Future (Carrie Rosefsky Wickham, February 3, 2011, Foreign Affairs)

The leaders of the Brotherhood learned very different lessons from their experience during the Nasser years. Some, like the Brotherhood ideologue Sayyid Qutb, became radicalized and concluded that the only way to confront the vast coercive powers of the modern state was through jihad. Hasan al-Hudaybi, who succeeded Banna as the Brotherhood's General Guide, or leader, advocated moving toward greater judiciousness and caution. Umar Tilmisani, who succeeded Hudaybi in 1972, renounced violence as a domestic strategy altogether when then President Anwar el-Sadat allowed the group to join the political fold.
Individuals affiliated with the reformist faction of the Brotherhood, whether still active in the group or not, appear to be the most involved in leading Egypt's popular uprising.

Beginning in 1984, the Brotherhood started running candidates in elections for the boards of Egypt's professional syndicates and for seats in parliament -- first as junior partners to legal parties and later, when electoral laws changed, as independents. Some of the group's leaders opposed participation, fearing that the Brotherhood would be forced to compromise its principles. But Tilmisani and others justified political participation as an extension of the Brotherhood's historic mission and assured critics that it would not detract from the Brotherhood's preaching and social services.

Although the Brotherhood entered the political system in order to change it, it ended up being changed by the system. Leaders who were elected to professional syndicates engaged in sustained dialogue and cooperation with members of other political movements, including secular Arab nationalists. Through such interactions, Islamists and Arabists found common ground in the call for an expansion of public freedoms, democracy, and respect for human rights and the rule of law, all of which, they admitted, their movements had neglected in the past.

By the early 1990s, many within the Brotherhood were demanding internal reform. Some pushed for revising the Brotherhood's ideology, including its positions on party pluralism and women's rights. Others criticized the old guard's monopoly of power within the Brotherhood's Guidance Bureau, demanding greater transparency, accountability, and stricter conformity with the internal by-laws governing the selection of leaders and the formation of policy.

In 1996, increasingly frustrated with the old guard's inflexible leadership, some prominent members of the "reformist" wing broke from the Brotherhood and sought a government license to form a new political party, Hizb al-Wasat (Center Party). Wasat leaders who used to be in the Brotherhood, along with a few reformers who remained in its fold, helped launch the cross-partisan Movement for Change, known by its slogan, Kefaya (Enough) between 2004 and 2005. They worked with secular democracy activists on such projects as creating a civic charter and a constitution, preparing for the time when a new democratic government came to power. During the past week of protests, members of these cross-partisan groups were able to quickly reactivate their networks to help form a united opposition front. These members will likely play a key role in drafting Egypt's new constitution.

Meanwhile, the Brotherhood itself has been stunted in comparison to its analogues in Morocco and Turkey because of its constant vulnerability to repression combined with the parochial mindset of its aging leaders. Nevertheless, important changes, representing a departure from the group's anti-system past, have occurred. Over the last 30 years, Brotherhood leaders have become habituated to electoral competition and representation, developed new professional competencies and skills, and forged closer ties with Egyptian activists, researchers, journalists, and politicians outside the Islamist camp. Calls for self-critique and self-reform have opened heated debates on policy matters that were once left to the discretion of the General Guide and his close advisers. And although the Brotherhood was never a monolith, its leadership is more internally diverse today than ever before.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at February 3, 2011 4:04 PM
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