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Change of Muslim Brotherhood from socio-religion to a political party Research Paper


Introduction

In a society where there exist perceptions of segregation coupled with inadequate addressing of all concerns of the society by the state, many organizations may emerge to solicit the government to take up its responsibilities. This is a major reason that led to the emergence of Muslim brotherhood organization. It has since then emerged as the largest social- religious organization in the modern era.

The main objective of initiating Muslim Brotherhood was to principally preach Islam, teach the population that was illiterate and launch various commercial enterprises that were believed would benefit the masses. However, as the organization’s influence continued to grow, the organization started to oppose the rule of British across Egypt in 1936.

In this context, the group started to change from being a religious-social organization to a political organization. Viewing the group from the perspective of political organization, Muslim Brotherhood was dissolved and banned by the government of Egypt following first Arab-Israeli war defeat. In 1952, the group’s political interests were clear since it give support to the Egyptian revolution.

A careful scrutiny of development of Muslim Brotherhood reveals that the group altered its original purpose: social and religious, to focus on political purposes. From this perspective, the purpose of this research paper is to outline various methods imposed by Muslim Brotherhood in transforming themselves from socio-religion organization to a political party.

It also introspect the challenges faced by the Muslim Brotherhood in their struggle for political posts. The main goal of the establishment of Muslim Brotherhood was arguably to provide political, social-economic and cultural response to the challenges of modernity spread by concepts of westernization in both a genuine manner and in non-violent way.

The liberation of Egypt and Palestine land from foreign rule, re-establishing Islamic rule, and reunifying the Muslim nation were also central to the concerns of the organization at inception.

The paper gives a brief history of the Muslim brotherhood besides making a review of various strategies deployed by Muslim Brotherhood while attempting to move from the socio-religion organization to political organization or party.

It also discusses the challenges faced by the members of Muslim Brotherhood while juggling their goals in addition to the outcome of the Muslim Brotherhood after achieving their goals.

History of Muslim brotherhood

The society of Muslim brothers or simply “The Brotherhood” was formed in 1928 in Egypt: Ismailia city, by Hassan-Al-Banna alongside with other six workers of Suez Canal Company. The group was constituted as political, social, pan-Islamic and religious movement (Owen, 2000, p.183).

The Suez Canal Company aided Al-Banna in the establishment of the movement by helping him to put up a mosque at Ismailia city. This mosque was to serve as the main headquarters of the organization (Quintan, 2001, p. 4). With regard to its founder, “contemporary Islam had lost its social dominance, because most Muslims had been corrupted by western influences” (Mitchell, 1993, p.5).

Sunnah and Quran based Shariah law was principally viewed by the organization as laws that were passed on by Allah and needed being applied in every part of life without negating the government coupled with taking care of all daily problems (Quintan, 2001, p. 11). Al-Banna spoke eloquently about his massage.

He held principle positions on social issues including rights of women coupled with placing a hefty emphasis on the opposition against inculcation of equal rights for women. The reign of the organizations, leader Al-Banna, ended when assassination of the Egyptian president: Gama Abdel Nasser was attempted. Al-Banna was assassinated in what was believed a sequence of retaliations.

Later a sequence of activities of malicious destruction prompted banning of the organization. For instance, Takeyh and Gvosdev (2004) posit, “in 1952 members of the Muslim Brotherhood are accused of taking part in the Cairo fire that destroyed some 750 buildings in downtown Cairo — mainly night clubs, theatres, hotels, and restaurants frequented by British and other foreigners” (p.97).

Arguably, this way, the organization changed from principally being concerned with social religious issues to political issues. In fact, since 1970’s the Egyptian version of the Muslim Brotherhood disavowed violence. It endeavored to engage in politics of Egypt.

As Brynjar (2006, p.53) puts it “The aftermath was release of members of the organization who were imprisoned followed by tolerance of the organization in varying degrees often characterized by periods of crackdowns and arrests”. This continued up to the 2011 organization’s revolution.

Since inception, the membership of the organization grew immensely. Before the end world war II, the organization had an estimated membership of about two million people (Leiken, & Brooke, 2009, p.18). The numbers of members continue to grow even to date. This makes the Muslim Brotherhood the globe’s most influential and mega Islamism movement (Brynjar, 2006, p.53).

Indeed, the society of Muslim brothers entangles one of the biggest opposition organizations within the Arabian states. In this context, Davidson (1998) reckons that the organization’s ideas “had gained it supporters throughout the Arab world and influenced other Islamist groups with its model of political activism combined with Islamic charity work” (p.97).

The awareness of the existence of the organization was enhanced through its slogan- “Islamism is the solution” (Brynjar, 2006, p.53). The concerns of the organization were pegged on the idea that the government did not serve the interests of the society, especially shielding the population from the impacts of westernization. Hence, reforms were vital.

However, the organization knew it too well that violence was not the way out to push for the reforms in the government. Specifically, the organization stated that its main goal was to ensure that Sunnah and Quran were instilled as the main “sole reference point for…ordering the life of the Muslim family, individual, community… and state” (Owen, 2000, p.187).

This goal was deemed realizable through non violence means despite the fact at times the paramilitary wings coupled with members’ engaged in massacres, assassinations of various political opponents and also bombing activities.

The assassinated people included the founder of the movement, Hassan Al-Banna and Prime Minister Mahmud an-Nukrashi Pasha. According to Leiken and Brooke (2009, p.61), “…the decision for the organization to engage in democratic election was criticized by al-Qaeda claiming that it ought to have engaged in armed jihad”.

Muslim Brotherhood both randomly and quickly spread in Cairo, Egypt. Its main purpose was pegged on the need of serving workers who were exiled by British rule. The Muslim achieved a social service network. This network give an opposition room that facilitated in setting avenues for making Muslim Brotherhood came into power.

The organization was ideally flexible in many aspects. In 1949, the organization disapproved the British thought of overwhelming them by assassinating one of the regime leaders. This had the repercussion of resulting to death of Hassan al-Banna through assassination as revenge from the British rule (Campo, 2010, p.88).

The support offered by the free officials motivated the Muslim Brotherhood into juggling their goal. However, when Nassers treaty with the British over Suez Canal was signed, the organization’s leaders and activists begun to get tortured.

Consequently, division of the Muslim Brotherhood into factions was experienced, partly because of inadequate leadership. Difference akin to holding differing opinions among the various factions resulted in the cropping of armed struggle as an interception to the challenges experienced by the Muslims, and punishing of Muslims who failed to support the organization.

Sayyid Qutb was executed in 1966. The aftermath was imposing Islamists violent teachings acquired from him. This later resulted in creation of Al-Qaeda. Four years after the execution of Qutb, Sadat acquired power. He influenced the Muslim Brotherhood into loving politics.

Indeed, he ordered the release of the activists of the movement. During his term in power as a leader, Sadat rejuvenated the Muslim Brotherhood. At this time, the organization had an immense leadership thirst. It was during this same period that Islamic activism acquired extraordinarily strength.

Sadat was assassinated in 1981 during his attempt to hit back on the attempt by the government to hit Muslim Brotherhoods infrastructure, coupled with arresting of the organization’s activists. This made Islamists fight tirelessly against the Egyptian regime.

Arguably, in fear of Islamic terrorism, President Mubarak permitted the organization coupled with other opposition parties to reunite (Zahid, 2012, p.26).The Muslim Brotherhood kept on stepping into the government’s bodies including public institutions such as trade unions and student’s organizations.

They also made efforts of breaking into the army, media, police, and law apparatuses. During mid 1990s, the organization made a significant achievement in apprentice organizations and university teaching bodies (Zahid, 2102, p.46).

All along, the organization had been playing an audacious game in the sense that they largely kept at bay confrontations as much as possible while penetrating into political scenes from their social support pivot. The group members even took part in election of official associations.

Within the same year, the Muslim Brotherhood fully possessed official political establishments. In 1992, Islamists took victory over Algeria. On the other hand, the Muslim Brotherhood presented their documents full of strategies on the manner in which they endeavored to take over Egypt.

The release of Muslim Brotherhood members coupled with their leaders in 2000 give rise to the call for establishment of new political triumph. During 2005 election, the Muslim Brotherhood won by securing a majority of the seats that were contested.

In the short life span spent in power, the movement in cooperation with other opposition elements took part in political protest against the regime (Testa, Lemoine, & Strickland, 2004, p.600).

Arguably, this clearly indicates that the Muslim Brotherhood had shifted from being concerned with religious-social affairs to political issues. Upon administration of the interview questions and reviewing various literatures on the Muslim Brotherhood version of Egypt, a number of results were obtained. The remaining part of this paper discusses these results.

Methods imposed by Muslim Brotherhood in transforming themselves from socio-religion organization to a political party

The results reveal that Muslim brotherhood in Egypt has struggled to ensure that it is placed in the realm of political life of Egypt as a moderate force. Although it has been banned in various occasions, the organization still expressed the perception that it had no criminal intents.

Rather, it was a religious-social organization held by its founder. In its attempt to form a political party, it used this premise to disguise its political intents, which were ideally conspicuous.

In this context, Hoover (2007) reckons, “the movement provided the country with clinics, youth camps, and other services that earned the organization support among the poor and provided a civic model for armed violence-based Islamic movements such as Hezbollah and Hamas” (p.5).

Winning the support of the general population is particularly significant in aiding the organization to achieve its political ambitions. This support was drawn from the middle class population of Egypt via its ever-growing dominance in professional and technical unions.

Unfortunately, as the organization endeavored to garner more political power , president Mubarak responded by enacting amendments in the constitution to ensure that the organization’s strong holds were quelled. Nevertheless, it is significant to note that the Muslim Brotherhood is bigger than any other political party is.

To ensure success in quenching its political thirst, “…the organization performed the activities of the Islamic call including involvement in politics and economics as well as social and cultural issues” (BBC, 2007, p.2).

From this perspective, Muslim Brotherhood was able to initiate a political party program and distributed it in 2007. Initially, the program was given to intellectuals and politicians with the intention of getting their take and comments on its contents.

Precisely, the program put forth queries on the Muslim Brotherhood’s political agenda. The intent of coming up with a political party sprang in 1984 when the movement made up its mind to fight people’s assembly organizations.

The idea resurfaced gain in 1989 and was ardently discussed “ when the Shura Council, which is the highest body of the Muslim Brotherhood, met and adopted a decision to establish a party”(Hoover, 2007, p.13). In the quest to solicit the release of the movement’s members held in prison, military courts and detention counters, the need to establish and political party was retaliated in the 1995 Shura’s council meeting.

The most latest attempts was witnessed in the year 2007 when Akif made it open that the Muslim Brotherhood had the intention of becoming a political organization. In this context, Hoover (2007) argues out that “they believed that the platform shows a tremendous amount of regression in comparison to the series of documents previously issued by the movement, including their document on reform issued in March 2003” (p.17).

However, is it critical to emphasize that the Muslim Brotherhood change from being religious- social organization to a political organization and hence constituting a party was a central and chief concern of the organization.

However, the organization continued to claim that its main goal was to serve religious functions throughout the state so that to make the force of morality prevails.

With appreciation of this line of argument, Azarva and Tadros (2007) reckon, “using the values concerning ‘zeal and protection of religion,’ the group strived to protect the future of the Islamic state and secure the practice of religious rights” (p.135). Indeed, the organization threatened to ensure that all the obstacles along its path of implementation of its objectives were cleared.

While in real sense seeking tirelessly to endorse political motives, the organization’s quest to place an immense emphasis on the sacred perception of the Brotherhood was disadvantaging to the organization. This is because the group seemed to deploy double standards.

Hence, its practices got undermined coupled with erosion of its credibility as a religious social organization (BBC, 2007, p.1). Another aspect that is equally harming to the Muslims Brotherhoods political agenda was the employment of specific terms that were implemented within the organization quest to form a political party platform.

For instance, the organization deployed the terms Islamic state more frequently. “This is an elastic term that arouses numerous doubts regarding the Brotherhood’s stance on the nature of the relationship between the nation-state and the “theoretic state” (Andersen, Seibert & Wagner, 2004, p.137).

Arguably, ambiguity in usage of the terms provided a substantive room for the organization to enhance implementation of various ruling via diverse methods. However, in spite of the fact the Muslim brotherhood proactively determined to spell out its political quests, the organization neglected largely to formulate a stance that was clear and well defined especially on the issues surrounding equality among various groups of people across Egypt.

This acts as one way in which the group sort to get outright go ahead to make a political party by creating the feeling that the group sought to fight for the rights of the people. In this end, Andersen, Seibert, and Wagner (2004) posit, “Based on Islamic ideology, it is the nature of the party to establish the principle of citizenship focusing around the idea of non-discrimination” (p.141).

Indeed, the Islamic Shariah law stipulates that none of the forms of intolerance needs to take place among citizens based on sex, religion and race. This implies that all Egyptians need to choose rulers in a manner that ensured that pluralism was integrated.

Challenges faced by the members of Muslim Brotherhood while juggling their goals

In the previous section, it was argued that the Muslim Brotherhood had an intense desire to ensure that it attained political goals as opposed to its sacred religious-social goals. To do this, the organization must have constituted a political party.

However, this gave the mixed feeling by the government about the nature and the intention of the organization. Consequently, the organization faced a number of challenges to make this quest a dream come true.

For the Muslim Brotherhood to enact a political program, it needed to acquire a party license constitutionally. Unfortunately, on differing levels, this was enormously hard. Most importantly, President Mubarak refused to grant the organization a political status.

This is opposed to the provisions of the constitution of Egypt, which provides that all citizens have the noble right of constituting their own political parties. Commenting on the challenges that the Muslim Brotherhood needed to overcome to get authenticity of instituting a political party, Hoover (2007) laments, “his eminence the guide said that the Brotherhood would not apply to the Political Parties Affairs Committee because this committee is unconstitutional.”(p. 16).

Arguably therefore, the organization embarked on a move to create a program that would enable it to constitute a political party knowing it too well that the government needed to approve the resulting the party and presidents Mubarak’s government was not ready for it.

A query arises here- why embark on an endeavor that would not ultimately yield fruits? Apparently, Mubarak’s logic was not the main challenge that the organized faced in its quest to institute a party.

Additionally, “anything the government suspects has a popular base and which might have foundations among the average Egyptians will certainly be rejected, especially if such a party depends on Islamic principles” (Hoover, 2007, p.17).

However, in the quest for the organization to ensure that it get fairer hearing, and hence be allowed to institute a political party, the organization admitted that it would preach the Islamic concepts from a genuine dimension but is was not within its intents to dictate the population to wear hijab or even any other costumes consistent with its beliefs.

However, scholars on Egypt political matters argue, “the Brotherhood had clearly embraced the procedures of democracy, but it was unclear whether they had internalized the principles of democracy” (BBC, 2007, p.3). Arguably, this argument points at placing a limitation on the effectiveness of the organization within Egypt.

Furthermore, to ensure that democracy is fully embraced, equality for all Egypt’s people irrespective of the gender, age and race among other demographic factors needs being a major priority. Unfortunately, the Muslim Brotherhood does not embrace concepts of equality for women.

Even though, the organization faced incredible challenge, it insisted that it would fight for reforms that would ensure that it formed political party through non-violent approaches. From this line of view, Azarva and Tadros (2007) inform, “the citizens within the Islamic movement reject the issue of violence and are committed to a strategy of incremental reform through legal channels” (p.148).

Apparently, the main aim of the Muslim organization is to ensure that the modern society is collectively returned to region. However, this does not mean that Islamism automatically reject the notion of modernity. Hence, this does not imply that returning to pre-modern Muslim society is ideally the answer.

In this regard, Rosefsky (2002) suggests that the Muslim Brotherhood “embraced technology since it functions as a modern-style party organization, using schools, youth groups, news media, national congress, and social service provision to mobilize hundreds of thousands of active members.”(p.21).

Circumstances that lead to the emergence and subsequent rise of the Muslim Brotherhood: social, Political and economic exclusion, need being understood on their own individualized basis, rather than being collectively grouped as ideals of Islamists’ militia ideals. In particular, these misunderstanding amounts to one of the major challenge that the organization faced in the quest to establish a political party.

Challenges faced by the Muslim Brotherhood in their struggle for political posts

Muslim Brotherhood experienced a myriad of challenges in the attempt to get its share of political posts. The first challenge is that, in the President Mubarak’s regime, the members of the organization could not context for any seat since constitutionally; citizens are required to vie only through a registered party. There were difficulties for the organization to institute a political party.

However, its deputy guide, Muhammad Habib, announced that in 2007 that “there were substantial progression in “developments involving the Muslim Brotherhood Movement in Egypt and the unprecedented differences between this movement and the Egyptian authorities, as well as the idea of establishing a new political party and many issues connected with the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt” (Wright, 2008, p.243).

Nevertheless, the government desired to make sure that the organizations operations were contained coupled with being weakened in all aspects. This was evidenced by President Mubarak’s swift move to establish amendments to the constitution.

Arguably, even though the amendments were chiefly taken as reforms, evidently they were channeled at placing a barrier to the Brotherhood’s advances with its political aspirations. Consequently, any move for the Muslim brotherhood to gain political posts was immensely hampered.

With Mubarak being overthrown, the Muslim brotherhood having formed a political party and having acquired a say in the government, the organization’s quest to acquire political posts was still challenged.

In this context, Zahid laments that “while the era of dawn raids appears to be over for the Brotherhood, Egypt’s post-uprising politics have brought new challenges: new Islamist rivals, a more critical public, a degree of internal dissent and the revival of an old debate about the rights and wrongs of its mix of religion and politics” (2012, p.82).

Nevertheless, the group sufficiently believes that Egypt has immensely changed. Hence, incidences reminiscent of the 1954 endeavor to drive the organization underground by Gamal Abdel Nasser would not occur.

Outcome of the Muslim Brotherhood after achieving their goals

The long sort goal of the Muslim Brotherhood became reality in the Arab republic of Egypt in 2011. This was preceded by the fall of Mubarak. This means that the major block was eliminated prompting legalization of the organization. As Zahid recounts, “…the Brotherhood supported the constitutional referendum in March which was also supported by the Egyptian army and opposed by Egyptian liberals” (2012, p.87).

Latter in April 30 2011, the organization formed Freedom and Justice Party. Consistent with the organization strong beliefs, the party was opposed to the election of Copts or women for the post of presidency. However, it supported their election at cabinet posts. Over sixty percent of all eligible voters voted during the last election in Egypt.

“Over a third of these people voted for the Freedom and Justice Party put forward by the Muslim Brotherhood” (Zahid, 2012, p.88). Currently, key positions in the party’s leadership have been assumed by the many former officials of the Brotherhood.

They have utilized the powers that come with their positions to ensure that they retaliate ardently to the long-standing Muslim Brotherhoods’ hostility geared towards Zionism. They also openly support all organizations that are opposed to Zionism. In 2012, the Muslim brotherhood, proposes to support Mohamed Morsy via the ticket of formed Freedom and Justice Party for presidency.

How Muslim Brotherhood tried to reform the government not by violence

Although Muslim Brotherhood had the thirst for political power, the organization endeavored to approach this noble goal from a non-violent dimension. Apparently, the incidences of violence in which the organization was accused of having involved in were reciprocated with intense intervention by the government before.

The only sure mechanism that would yield the group a success was through influencing the entire Egyptian population to support the organization through its ideologies pegged on the necessity of preserving Muslim religion believes and practices (Rosefsky, 2002, p.83). Indeed, people who subscribe to Muslim faith dominate the Arabs republic of Egypt.

By bringing in the ideas of the need to liberate the nation from the impacts of westernization, gave the organization a subtle strategy of ensuring that it ascended the political ladder without necessarily considering violent confrontation of with the authorities.

The fact that the organization made it clear that its principle aim were to provide social services to the people also give the organization a competitive advantage that clearly shrouded their political intents before the eyes of the public (Leiken & Brooke, 2009, p.20).

However, by participating in confrontation in early 1950s, the government knew that the organization had a political agenda. To prove that the organization was genuine before the eyes of the government, the Muslim Brotherhood to engineered a political party program, which was open for government officials’ scrutiny.

Additionally, the group was also willing and participated in elections peacefully. This implies that the organization sort to establish it political position in line with the demands of the constitution just like any other citizen would have been required to do.

Conclusion

Since when Muslim Brotherhood was formed by Sheikh Al-Bassan in 1928, the organization has emerged as the largest religious-social association in the modern era, in 1928. In Egypt, the organization has encountered a myriad of challenges including being banned by various regimes such as Gamal Abdel Nasser in 1954.

On the other hand, while President Mubarak never banned the organization, he made sure that the organization never got an opportunity to form a political party through enacting constitutional amendments.

However, the organization did not cut short its zeal to initiate its party through non-violence mechanisms despite the fact that it was on several occasions accused for being involved in violence activities that resulted to massacre and assassinations.

With this insight, the paper focused on scrutinizing methods imposed by Muslim Brotherhood in transforming themselves from socio-religion organization to a political party.

Other aspects scrutinized by the appear includes: Challenges faced by the members of the group while juggling their goals and challenges faced by the Muslim Brotherhood in their struggle for political posts and finally outcome of the Muslim Brotherhood after achieving their goals.

Reference List

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Takeyh, R., & Gvosdev, N. (2004). Rise and fall of Radical Political Islam. Westport, CT: Praeger Publishers.

Testa, D., Lemoine, F., & Strickland, J. (2004). Global History: Cultural Encounters from Antiquity to the Present. Armonk, NY: Sharpe Reference.

Wright, R. (2008). Dreams and Shadows: the Future of the Middle East. New Jersey, NJ: Penguin Press, 2008.

Zahid, M. (2012). The Muslim Brotherhood and Egypt’s Succession Crisis: The Politics of Liberalization and Reform in the Middle East. London: I.B Tauris.

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IvyPanda. 2019. "Change of Muslim Brotherhood from socio-religion to a political party." April 9, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/change-of-muslim-brotherhood-from-socio-religion-to-a-political-party/.

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IvyPanda. (2019) 'Change of Muslim Brotherhood from socio-religion to a political party'. 9 April.

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