Opinion

Think you know the Muslim Brotherhood?

Egypt’s rising political force has two faces — one young, the other old

The 2011 Egyptian revolution was staged by two parts of the Muslim Brotherhood. One old. One young.

Meet Mohammad Badi, 66 years old. He is your supreme guide of the Muslim Brotherhood. He’s what you would expect of the older members: bearded, taciturn, and lip-pursed. He looks like a conservative because he is a conservative. Badi continues to raise the banner of jihad. He views Israeli Jews as his foremost enemies, Americans his seconds. Badi stands by the Arab and Muslim people in resisting “Zio-American imperialism.” In the past, the more politically radical extremists have published anti-Israeli writings, funded the militant Palestinian organization Hamas, and voiced support of attacks against U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq. This is the Muslim Brotherhood we dislike.

Meet Moaz Abdel Karim, 29 years old. He is your coordinator of the winter protests that ultimately led to Mubarak’s ouster. He is high-spirited and a breath of fresh air. His political views are more modern. He champions human rights such as women’s rights, religious freedom, and fair elections. His values are different than — if not contrary to — those of the older members of the Muslim Brotherhood. Nevertheless, it is young members like Moaz Karim that reenergized the Brotherhood and galvanized older members to act synchronously to guide the revolution.

The Muslim Brotherhood was founded in 1928 by Islamic scholar and schoolteacher Hassan al-Banna. The organization’s mission statement was to instill Islam as a comprehensive way of life: “Islam is the solution.” The Muslim Brotherhood became an Islamist revivalist movement following the collapse of the Ottoman Empire and a unifying force in fighting British occupation. In the following twenty years, the Party of the Muslim Brotherhood was formed and a Brother assassinated Egypt’s prime minister. Later, a Brotherhood member allegedly attempted to assassinate Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser in 1952. Nasser responded with severe persecution of the Brotherhood, making some factions of the Brotherhood even more bloodthirsty. When Nasser’s successor, Anwar al-Sadat, signed a peace agreement with Israel in 1979, four army officers assassinated Sadat, who had links to former Brotherhood members. Since then, divisions of the Brotherhood have tied themselves with extremist groups such as Al-Jihad and Jamaat al-Islamiyya in Egypt, Hamas in Palestine, and the mujahideen in Afghanistan.

The Brotherhood has a long track record of violence, but the new youth may provide a glimmer of hope for change within group.

There are allegedly 600,000 members of the Muslim Brotherhood. But only a few dozen young leaders, including Karim, were key in planning the demonstrations in Egypt. They followed Tunisia’s example and met secretly to plot the protests. They used Twitter and other social media to stay in contact with each other. They did not wave banners or Korans. No, they actually acted like peaceful demonstrators, not jihadists. Their level-headedness and trust in each other were the keys to their success.

Although the younger and the older Brotherhood members have their differences in opinions, they both want democracy installed in Egypt. Beyond that, there is hope that the older generation will reconcile with moderates on more than just politics, and that the older members may adopt the Western values of their younger counterparts.

Currently, the Muslim Brotherhood is running for elections under the name of the Freedom and Justice Party. The party supports equal citizenship regardless of gender or religion. Badi has made a personal call to Pope Shenouda III of the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria addressing the fears Egyptian Christians (Copts) have of the Brotherhood’s role in the Egypt’s future. Indeed, much has changed.

7 Comments
1
Dane Skelton over 7 years ago

Dear Mr. Liang,

I hope you are right. But I would not hold my breath. Everyone should read Michael Oren's POWER FAITH AND FANTASY: America in the Middle East from 1776 to the Present. The problem is Islam itself. If the younger generation adheres to what the Koran and the Hadith actually teach they will ultimately pursue the same goals as the older.

2
Stephanie P over 7 years ago

Dane,

If we are to condemn the entirety of Islam for unsavory clauses in the Koran, then we must condemn Christianity as well. There are parts of the Bible that call for the persecution of pagans and heretics and were used as justification for the Crusades. The Bible, and the practice of Christianity in the past, are misogynistic.

However, the practice of Christianity today has become relatively tolerant. Societies and their practice of religion can evolve. The youth of the Middle East have greater access to a global network of information, and that is having a moderating effect on the practice of Islam.

3
Arafat over 7 years ago

Stepahnie,

I encourage you to read the following short article. It specifically addresses your mistaken views about Islam and Christianity.

http://www.meforum.org/2159/are-judaism-and-christianity-as-violent-as-islam

4
Arafat over 7 years ago

Andy writes "Although the younger and the older Brotherhood members have their differences in opinions, they both want democracy installed in Egypt."

This is just silly.

Andy could you explain for us how Islam --with its clear and unchangeable dictums against individual rights, against non-Muslims being treated equally, and all the other undemocratic aspects that are integral to the Qur'an and hadiths -- will ever pracitce democracy much less respect what democracy stands for?

5
Arafat over 7 years ago

Listen to what a devout Muslim says about democracy.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?vlT0_NyXdIoofeatureplayer_embedded

6
Marcus Aurelius over 7 years ago

Sucks to live in the Middle East (except in Iraq and Israel), where the only choices are to be oppressed by strongmen, or be oppressed by Islamist clerics who assume power through democracy. For the US, clearly the former is lesser of two evils. The people there will suffer regardless of who is in power. Might as well be somebody we can deal with and gradually nudge towards internal reforms.

7
Arafat over 7 years ago

The only way for the people of the Middle East (all of Islam for that matter) to experience true democracy is to free themselves from the shackles of Islam.

Islam and democracy are incompatible and anyone who says Indonesia is an example they are simply showing just how dire Islamic democracies are.

Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Jordan, Oman, Syria, Lebanon, Sudan, Mauritania, Niger, Algeria, Somalia, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Kirgizstan, etc...

Name one country from this or any list of Islamic dominated countries where one can freely criticize Islam, convert from Islam, proselytize for any other religion, draw pictures of Mohammed, criticize Saudi Arabia, openly practice homosexuality or Judaism, be a free woman with all this implies.

So please don't blame Muslim countries problems on America. I would bet money that if America could foster true democracy in any Muslim country it would, just as it fostered freedoms and democracy in Germany and Japan after WWII.

Quit blaming their problems on anyone but them and their backwards-looking religion.

Finally, let me say, Mohammed was Islam's first political leader. He refused to acknowledge a separation of mosque and state as Jesus did (Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar's...). Mohammed was a theocratic despot who killed, raped, enslaved and pillaged his way to power and wealth.

This is who Muslims look to for direction, no? Not to America, but to Mohammed and therein lies the tale of the tape.