What is the Muslim Brotherhood?

The Muslim Brotherhood began as a movement in Egypt back in 1928, as the means of booting out the British and purge the country from foreign imperialism. Hassan Al-Banna, an Egyptian schoolteacher and imam, sought to unify the Egyptians through religion.

Written by Express Web | Published:June 5, 2017 5:34 pm
Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Arab countries cut ties, Qatar Airways A map of Qatar is seen in this picture illustration June 5, 2017. REUTERS/Thomas White/Illustration

Saudi Arabia, UAE, Bahrain and Egypt severed ties with Qatar claiming that the latter supports terror organisations. This would be a big blow to Qatar as it strains the country’s international relationship with other nations in the Middle East, with countries like the UAE and Egypt even in favour of blocking all air, land and sea routes.

In a Guardian report, Saudi Arabia said that its decision to severe links with Qatar were based on the latter’s willingness to embrace “various terrorist and sectarian groups aimed at destablising the region”. The Muslim Brotherhood (along with ISIS and al-Qaida) is a part of the said groups. Egypt too, believes that Qatar is “supporting terrorist groups”.

But what is the Muslim Brotherhood anyway? Here is a snapshot.

What is the Muslim Brotherhood?

The Muslim Brotherhood is a political organisation, known as one of the most prominent political Islamic revivalist groups. Of late, the Brotherhood is alleged to to be associated with terrorist activities orchestrated in the Middle East.

Why was the Muslim Brotherhood formed?

It came about as a movement in Egypt back in 1928, as the means of booting out the British and purge the country from foreign imperialism. Hassan Al-Banna (1906-1949), an Egyptian schoolteacher and imam, sought to unify the Egyptians, using religion as the means to bind them together. Transforming into a prominent voice for Islam, he became a religious activist and formed the Muslim Brotherhood. At that time, the Brotherhood’s motto was “Islam is the solution”.

Initially established to focus on religion and education, as the group grew in number and popularity, it forayed into the realm of politics. Over two decades since its formation, in the 1940s, the group was accused of instigating and proliferating violence. In 1948, the Egyptian Prime Minister Mahmud Fahmi al-Nuqrashi was assassinated. He had dictated that the Muslim Brotherhood should be dissolved. Slightly over a month later, Al-Banna was murdered in Cairo, by men thought to be supporters of the government.

Soon after, the movement was forced to go underground as the succeeding Egyptian leaders arm-twisted the group into submission. This saw the imprisonment and torture of many members; some were killed, while others escaped and scrambled for refuge to other countries. Even then, the Brotherhood managed to survive, remaining low-key.

The Muslim Brotherhood spawned in international branches – its offshoots taking root across the Middle East, including Kuwait, Syria, Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

The Resurfacing of the Muslim Brotherhood – to present

In the 1980s, the Brotherhood began growing again, particularly gaining support from middle-class Egyptians, due to the group’s “pure” Islamic identity. When the United Stated invaded in 2003, its membership burgeoned, which helped the organisation in winning 20 per cent seats in the country’s parliamentary elections in 2005, running as independent.

In 2011, the Muslim Brotherhood’s legal political extension, The Freedom and Justice Party, came to be formed. It managed to win the elections in 2012 and saw its presidential candidate Mohamed Morsi come to power, as Egypt’s first democratically-elected leader. But Morsi was eventually outed by the military. At that time, the Brotherhood called this overthrow as “a massacre” and organized violent protests against the action, leading the interim Egyptian government to declare the group as a “terrorist organization”.

In 2014, the Muslim Brotherhood was recognized and announced as a terrorist organization by other countries as well like UAE, Saudi Arabia and Russia.

In 2016, Egyptian court sentenced Morsi to 25 years of imprisonment, along with giving a death sentence to six others (as well as two Al Jazeera employees), for allegedly leaking confidential documents pertaining to Egypt’s national security to Qatar during Morsi’s governance.

But Egypt and Saudi Arabia have repeatedly voiced Qatar’s unbiased support of the Muslim Brotherhood. The former countries claim that the Brotherhood’s spokespersons are given platforms to speak on Qatar’s nationally-run media organizations.

In May 2017, a court in Egypt gave Muslim Brotherhood’s supreme leader, Mohamed Badie life imprisonment sentence for “planning violent attacks” in 2013. Badie was held responsible for allegedly rallying protests following the 2013 military coup against Egypt’s President, Morsi. In response, Qatar’s foreign ministry had said that Egypt’s charge of espionage was baseless, not grounded in justice.

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