History and ideological foundations of the Muslim Brotherhood
The Muslim Brotherhood was founded in 1928 by Hassan al-Banna, an egyptian schoolteacher. The central goal of the organisation was to promote the implementation of traditional Islamic sharia law and a social renewal based on islamic principles. Moreover, the ideology of the Brotherhood had a clearly anti-imperialistic subtext, directed against British imperial rule. Hassan al-Banna´s ideological principles rested on the previous works of salafi (fundamentalist) intellectuals. While they had regarded the islamic renewal as an elite affair, Hassan al-Banna transformed their concepts into a broad movement. In order to garner support among the masses, the brotherhood also focused on educational and charitable work. Other important principles were the Egyptian nationalist cause and the attempt to restore the links between Islam and modernity.
During WW II, the Brotherhood cooperated with the Third Reich, involving agitation against British rule, espionage and sabotage.
In November 1948, the police seized documents and plans of what allegedly was the Brotherhood’s `secret apparatus` with names of its members. Previously, some bomb attacks and assassination attempts had been linked to the militant wing of the Muslim Brotherhood. As a consequence, the offices of the organisation were raided and 32 of its leaders arrested. Some weeks later, the government ordered the dissolution of the Brotherhood. On December 28, 1948 Egypt’s prime minister was assassinated by a Brotherhood member in what was thought to have been a retaliation for the government crackdown. Six weeks later, unknown gunmen – allegedly governement agents – killed Hassan Al-Banna in Cairo.
In 1952, the Brotherhood initially supported the coup against the monarchy, but the military junta proved unwilling to share their power or to lift martial law. After an assassination attempt aganist General Gamal ‘Abd al-Nasser in 1954, the Brotherhood was accused of being behind the attack. Nasser outlawed the Brotherhood and imprisoned thousands of its members. One of the Brotherhoods most important thinker, Sayyed Qutb, was among the prisoners. Later he was accused of being part of a plot to overthrow the government and was executed on August 29, 1966. Sayyed Qutb´s works are widely held to be an important cornerstone of Al-Qaeda´s ideology.
As a consequence of the harsh crackdown, the Brotherhood´s mainstream became more reformist and political. Under the rule of Anwar al-Sadat, i.e. in the 1970s, the Muslim Brotherhood became a tolerated part of Egyptian society and a political counterbalance to leftist groups. Still, the organisation remained technically illegal and subject to periodic crackdowns.
Eventually, after the assassination of Anwar al-Sadat by a member of an islamist terror group that had been affiliated with the Brotherhood, Hosni Mubarak ordered mass arrests, police harassment and repeated cracksdowns, Still, students and professionals joined the Brotherhood en masse, leading to the election of some Brotherhood candidates (who officially ran as „independent candidates“) in several parliamentary elections. In 2000, there were 15 Brothers in the Egyptian parliament. At the time, the Brotherhood focused on calls for democratization and on expanding its influence on the cultural life in Egypt.
In 2005, the Brotherhood joined pro-democracy demonstrations of the Kifaya („enough“) movement.
In the 2005 parliamentary elections, they won 88 seats (20%) in spite of an allegedly rigged election. After another harassment campaign before the second and third round of the election, the Brotherhood leadership changed tactics. The started a „charm offensive“ towards the West, depicting themselves as a force of modernization, democratization and tolerance. The government reacted by banning independent candidates from parliamentary elections and by systematically delaying local council elections. Moreover, thousands of Brothers were arrested in another round of police crackdowns.
In the 2010 election, only one Brotherhood member gained a seat in the lower house of the Egyptian parliament. In the early days of the revolution in 2011, the Brotherhood stood by and played no active role. After the resignation of Hosni Mubarak, the Brotherhood leadership seized the initiative and founded its own political party, the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), only to find itself surrounded by a whole array of other parties with „islamic“ agendas. Still, having achieved a major success in the parliamentary elections, Mohammed Morsy was elected President of Egypt in summer 2012. On July 3, 2013, President Morsy was ousted by the military and on September 23, 2013, the Muslim Brotherhood was – once again declared illegal.
The Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood is probably the strongest and most important driver of the organization both in the Arab world but is also pursuing the efforts to spread the network throughout the world. Muslim Brotherhood related organizations and exist throughout the Isalmic world.