Muslim Brotherhood -- Oldest International Islamist Organization

Muslim Brotherhood Relinquish Violence for Electoral Politics

Muslim Brotherhood
The Muslim Brotherhood.

Muslim Brotherhood: Roots of Modern Jihad?

The Muslim Brotherhood is not on the U.S. Foreign Terrorist Organizations list. It renounced violence in the 1970s and has no active militia (although a provocative martial arts demonstration in December 2006 raised some alarm that they may be regrouping a militia.)

Nevertheless, the Muslim Brotherhood or Ikhwan Al Muslimun in Arabic, is frequently mentioned in relation to groups such as Hamas and Al Qaeda.

And, although today they may be best known as the largest independent bloc in the Egyptian parliament, they are nearly always invoked as the origins for extremist visions of Islam that root today's jihadist movements.

Founded In: 1928 by Hassan Al Banna

Home Base: Egypt

Objective: The establishment of a democratic state grounded in Islamic precepts. Quoting members from the mid 1990s, Sana Abed-Kotob, wrote that:

Muslim Brother Isam Al Aryan, for example, [says] "The Brothers consider constitutional rule to be closest to Islamic rule … We are the first to call for and apply democracy. We are devoted to it until death. Similarly, Brother Fahmi Huwaydi comments, "the Brothers support pluralism and reject democracy . . ." (from International Journal of Middle East Studies 27 (1995)).

Attitude toward Violence:The group has declared its renunciation of violence in Egypt. In the early 1940s, the group created a secret paramilitary wing known as the "secret apparatus," which operated somewhat independently of the main organization.

In 1948, the group assassinated the Egyptian prime minister; group members fought in the 1948 war against Zionist forces in mandate Palestine.

Organization: The Muslim Brotherhood has gone through several incarnations. It was founded as a youth group that used education and propaganda to spread its messages.

In 1939, the organization was organized as a political party. In 1942, the group created a created a militia called the "Secret Apparatus." that used terrorist tactics within Egypt. It was outlawed by the Egyptian government in 1948, recognized in 1950 as a religious group, and banned again in 1954. In 1984, it was recognized as a religious organization but it still has not been recognized as a political party (members in parliament ran as independents).

A number of groups and figures who espouse terrorist tactics were taught or influenced by the Muslim Brotherhood, such Ayman Al Zawahiri, who founded the Egyptian Islamic Jihad (in part because he wanted an organization that would make more effective use of violence in the service of jihad), and Hamas, the Palestinian group that began as a branch of the Muslim Brothers.

However, currently, as Robert Leiken and Steven Brooke point out in the March/April 2007 Foreign Affairs magazine, "jihadists loathe the Muslim Brotherhood … for rejecting global jihad and embracing democracy."

A Powerful Social Welfare Organization: The Muslim Brotherhood has always provided social welfare to poor Egyptians, from health care to books and subsidies for university students.

The power of the Muslim Brotherhood is such that every political leader of Egypt has outlawed the group. Following a Brotherhood assassination attempt in 1954, Gamal Abd Al Nasser outlawed the group and made Egypt extremely inhospitable to members. During his presidency, which lasted until 1970, many members in Egypt were imprisoned and tortured, which shaped their worldview. Many others left for surrounding states, in the Gulf or the Levant which helped spread the group's influence. Despite their illegality as a party, Brotherhood members won 20% of political seats in 2005 parliamentary elections.

Founder: Hasan Al Banna

Hasan Al Banna was born in 1906 in the Egyptian village north of Cairo. His father, an imam (prayer leader) was trained as a religious scholar by one of the most famous Islamic reformers of the time.

Islamic reformers sought to make sense of new ideas of governance, such as democracy (which was a new idea in Western Europe as well, at the time), and figure out how they were compatible with Islamic ideas of governance.

Hasan was religious from an early age, and played substantial roles while still a teenager in groups seeking to make sure people adhered to Islamic ways. He was also opposed to the Christian missionaries and British occupiers he grew up with in his town. Hasan, training to be a schoolteacher, arrived in Cairo in the early 1920s, then went on to teach Arabic in a city near the Suez Canal, Ismailiya, in 1927, where he founded the Muslim Brotherhod.

Affiliations: The Muslim Brotherhood has branches throughout the Arab/ Islamic world including Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, the Palestinian territories, Kuwait, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, Algeria, Libya and Sudan as well as Eurasia and Africa. There are Muslim Brotherhood supporters in the United States.

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Zalman, Amy, Ph.D. "Muslim Brotherhood -- Oldest International Islamist Organization." ThoughtCo, Aug. 22, 2016, Zalman, Amy, Ph.D. (2016, August 22). Muslim Brotherhood -- Oldest International Islamist Organization. Retrieved from Zalman, Amy, Ph.D. "Muslim Brotherhood -- Oldest International Islamist Organization." ThoughtCo. (accessed November 19, 2017).