By Mohammed Nosseir*
The Muslim Brotherhood’s struggle with the Egyptian state due to its involvement in violence since its foundation in 1928 should have eliminated the organization from the political scene a long time ago — yet it has persisted for 90 years. This should prompt us to contemplate the reasons behind its endurance. Surprisingly, the organization, although currently malfunctioning, is still vibrant among many of its members.
Learning about the Muslim Brotherhood’s strengths may help us to defeat them.
The Muslim Brotherhood, still functioning according to its obsolete internal bylaws, is celebrating its 90th anniversary this year, ensuring it has outlived many progressive political entities that have been established and effaced in that time. The relationship between the Egyptian state and the Brotherhood has gone through many difficult phases and it is presently in the most challenging period since its foundation.
Nevertheless, to claim that the organization has been abolished entirely is certainly an overstatement.
The current marginalization of the Muslim Brotherhood from Egyptian politics does not mean that it has dwindled (that may happen, but not in the near future). While the measures applied by the Egyptian state vis-a-vis the Brotherhood over the past few years have certainly weakened the organization, they have not altered its members’ allegiances and beliefs, which continue to spread silently across Egyptian society. The Muslim Brotherhood has always relied on three main pillars, which have succeeded in maintaining the vitality of the organization.
Islamic ideology has been the backbone of the Brotherhood, managing to sustain its members and sympathizers for almost a century with smooth handovers from one generation to the next. Placing Islam as the core value and overall theme of the organization has helped to evade the kinds of political debate that all political parties engage in. Sadly, this proposition has strengthened the Muslim Brotherhood at the expense of our religion.
The Brotherhood’s second active dimension is its organization, not in terms of hierarchy, but in terms of functional organization — it works on erasing any individual ambition or egoism. The markedly individualistic behavior that is common in our society does not exist among members of the Muslim Brotherhood; the organization works to attract the middle-class mainly, ignoring the elite (who often aspire to taking on superior roles). Each member of the organization is called upon (falsely) to serve Islam. In reality, this translates into serving the Brotherhood with no expectation for personal reward.
The Muslim Brotherhood’s third supporting pillar is an external one that consists of simply highlighting the Egyptian state’s failure to uplift the masses from poverty. The ineffectiveness of government projects and the irresoluteness of efforts to fight corruption and reduce bureaucracy are easily exploited issues. They have bolstered the Brotherhood, which has refrained from developing an alternative economic program of its own, claiming that the application of Islam will solve our challenges.
The strengths of the Muslim Brotherhood are often counteracted with various fabricated, weak measures offered by the Egyptian state and by other political parties.
The state provides Egyptian society with preachers that are not sufficiently convincing and that keep their audiences at a distance, and our political parties are established to serve their presidents, not to engage citizens effectively. Meanwhile, the state’s political affiliates tend to be dominated by opportunists rather than by citizens who want to serve their country.
In fact, the tools used by the Egyptian state to combat the Muslim Brotherhood have been benefiting the illegitimate organization at the expense of our country. The Egyptian government should always remember that “political Islamists” garnered roughly three-quarters of Egyptians’ votes in the 2012 parliamentary elections.
Correctly assessing the magnitude of the political Islam factor in our lives is better than underestimating it. In addition, using religion for political purposes has served the Brotherhood substantially better than the Egyptian state.
Egypt needs sound political entities capable of replacing the Muslim Brotherhood’s role by effectively engaging millions of citizens. This is the best means to fragment and weaken the Brotherhood. The current policy of assuming that the Muslim Brotherhood has been eliminated, that the economy is doing well and that Egyptian citizens support the state blindly is a fragile one that won’t last. Continuing to pursue this policy will bring the Muslim Brotherhood back to power sooner or later.
*Mohammed Nosseir, a liberal politician from Egypt, is a strong advocate of political participation and economic freedom.
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