Since the Muslim Brotherhood’s founding in 1928 by schoolteacher Hassan al-Banna, it has not only been influential in Egypt, but has also had an impact on lives and societies in many other parts of the world. The organization’s international popularity and widespread support has been seen and demonstrated in nations including Jordan, Syria, Bahrain, Tunisia, Algeria, Iraq, Sudan, Somalia, Yemen, Qatar, Turkey, and many others.
On October 26 1954, Egypt’s former president Gamal Abdel Nasser was shot at eight times in a failed assassination attempt. Soon after, it was revealed that the person who had attempted the assassination was a member of the Muslim Brotherhood. As a result, thousands of Brotherhood members were arrested, imprisoned and six were executed. In the following 1950’s and 1960’s crackdown on the Brotherhood, the organization began to fall apart.
Yet, as an unexpected result, with many core leadership members being imprisoned, support for the Brotherhood increased, and beliefs of some of the members in the organization radicalized. This new hardened sense of dedication made them determined to challenge Nasser’s regime.
Sayyid Qutb’s inspiration
With the death of the Brotherhood’s founder, al-Banna, in 1949, and the deterioration of his Islamic revivalist ideologies, many members were inspired by the writings of Egyptian author, Sayyid Qutb, who became successor to al-Banna and further reinforced hard-line elements and militant action in the Brotherhood. By 1965, more divisions were seen among the organization with ‘Qutbists’ forming their own group known as Organization 1965.
After the death of Qutb, and the continued crackdown on Brotherhood members and activities, the organization fell into even deeper disorder. With different strands within the Brotherhood being unable to agree on one united mission, internal crisis followed. This led to the breaking off of more radical groups, who took different approaches to their problems with the government. Remaining moderates within the organization were led by Hassan al-Hudaybi, who took them down a more peaceful course as conceived by al-Banna.
Leniency from President Anwar Sadat
When Egypt’s President Gamal Abdel Nasser died in 1970 because of a heart attack, he was succeeded by Anwar Sadat, who was a much more lenient president. Sadat freed imprisoned Islamists and lifted the ban on the Brotherhood, allowing it to preach and advocate in exchange for its support against his political rivals.
As the Brotherhood was now able to operate above ground – something it had not been able to do since the early 1950’s – it expanded its membership into the middle and upper classes. With its newfound reputation, the Brotherhood’s militant aspirations gradually disappeared, and it began to focus more on drafting out its political goals.
On October 6, 1981, Anwar Sadat was assassinated. His assassination led to the rise of Hosni Mubarak, who did not share Sadat’s sentiments with the Brotherhood, and subsequently began a major clampdown on the organization, causing many of its key members to become imprisoned or exiled. The clampdown, however, did not break the Muslim Brotherhood, and many of its reformists grew increasingly inspired to lead the group down the path of political participation.
President Hosni Mubarak’s clampdown
By 1984 the Brotherhood had made an alliance with Egypt’s nationalist liberal political Wafd Party, and some of the organization’s members ran as candidates who obtained 8 seats in government. With their increased confidence and determination, the brotherhood formed an alliance with the liberal Party again in 1987, and members won an increased 36 seats.
In the 1990’s the Brotherhood was being re-oppressed by Mubarak’s government for expressing its views against Egypt’s participation in the Second Gulf War. Further resentment by the government towards the Brotherhood was sparked by the country’s 1992 Cairo earthquake, when the Brotherhood was able to provide more care for victims in comparison to the government. This led to an increase in the organizations popularity, causing a number of its offices to be raided, its members to be arrested, and its ban from participating in parliamentary elections.
Government repression resulted in the resurfacing conflict within the Brotherhood, but after several years of reorganization the organization recovered in 2000, and its members ran in the elections as independents and won 17 seats. By 2005, the organization had won 88 seats and seized control of 20% of parliamentary seats – despite the continued arrests of hundreds of its supporters.
The Arab Spring and its effect on the Brotherhood
After the self-immolation of a Tunisian fruit vendor on December 17 2010, his frustration with the government was demonstrated to thousands of Arabs who were also tired of corruption in their governments. The fury quickly turned into a revolution that spread across the Arab world, which led to the toppling of many long reigning monarchs. Protesters called for free elections, republics based on democratic principles, and they also prompted thousands of Egyptians to take to the streets in protest for Mubarak’s resignation.
Although the Brotherhood had no role in the initial outbreak of the demonstrations, it used the opportunity to issue a statement to the Mubarak regime laying out several key demands, which included the immediate dissolution of parliament and the holding of free and fair elections. The Brotherhood began to play a key role in organising demonstrations and portrayed Mubarak’s regime in a negative light. On February 10, 2011, President Hosni Mubarak resigned and all presidential power was left to Vice President Omar Suleiman.
Egypt under President Mohamed Morsi
After the revolution, the brotherhood formed a legal political party known as the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) and ran in the successive parliamentary elections. In 2012, the Party secured the largest number of seats and placed its leader Mohamed Morsi as Egypt’s new president.
In a very short period of time, the Brotherhood had risen to unexpected power. Subsequently, it struggled with its leadership role. Morsi granted himself a substantial amount of powers. Millions of protestors demanded Morsi’s resignation and on July 3, 2013, senior members of Egypt’s armed forces arrested him, along with many of his supporters.
In the months that followed, Morsi and many of his supporters were placed on trial and on December 25 2013, the Muslim Brotherhood was once again declared a banned and terrorist organization. Hundreds of supporters were sentenced to death for their participation in riots.
The Muslim Brotherhood after Morsi
After his coup, Morsi refused to acknowledge his removal as valid and continued to maintain that only he could be considered the legitimate president of Egypt. Despite this, Adly Mahmoud Mansour, Chief Justice of the Supreme Constitutional Court of Egypt, was appointed the interim-president by the military until an election could take place, and on 8 June 2014, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi was sworn into office as President of Egypt with more than 93% of the vote.
Present day members of the Brotherhood insist that Morsi was robbed of his rightful authority as Egypt’s first-ever elected President. They have vowed to stage mass protests until he is restored into office. Pro-Morsi and anti-Morsi crowds have had face-offs in the streets, and the military has been quick to use brutal forces as a tactic to maintain order.