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Aims and Objectives
The aim of the paper is to understand the reasons – domestic and international – that may have attributed to the rise of MB in Egypt even when the party did not garner support from neighboring Islamic states like Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain.
The paper will delineate the reason why these Islamic states felt threatened with the rise of MB in Egypt. Further, understanding which international country has extended support to MB and why. Finally, the main aim of the paper will be to understand if MB will succeed as a political party in Egypt.
MB was formed in March 1928, a brainchild of an Egyptian schoolteacher and father of political Islam, Hassan al Banna (Ehrenfeld 71). It was a religious, political organization, which stressed on the return to the precepts of the Quran and denouncing secularism in Islamic nations. The slogan of the organization was “Islam is the solution” (Ehrenfeld 71). The growth of the organization as rapid as they spread their wings in the nations’ education, military, and political system.
The organization started operating in Egypt in the late 1980s after they publicly denounced the use of violence. Many members of the organization had been elected as members of the Egyptian Parliament, and in the 2005 Egyptian elections, candidates from MB won one-fifth of the seats in the Parliament.
However, in 2006-07, the Egyptian government started making amendments in the constitution, banning all religious-based political parties in the country. In 2010 elections, the organization won no seats in the Parliament, and they participated actively in the 2011 protests to overthrow President Mubarak.
US foreign policy towards MB has changed drastically under President Obama (Cohen). This was an unlikely US policy, which had consistently supported Hosni Mubarak, who relentlessly campaigned against MB. Some believe that this was a good strategy undertaken by the US politicians to communicate more openly and peaceably with the Islamist parties in the Middle East.
While others believe that US policy has been passive in handling Islamist countries, and they should have taken sterner economic control over these nations (Cohen). Some even believe that the conditions in Egypt may worsen and it can turn into the next Iran (Akhtarkhavari).
Some scholars believe that the Islamist movement had gained momentum in the Arab world (Abed-Kotob 321). The parties, which are more radically Islamist, insist on a more revolutionary change within the masses and the political system of the country. However, groups, which are moderate, tend to follow a more gradual step towards change. MB is such kind of a moderate Islamic group (Abed-Kotob 329).
Another study aimed to understand the Islamic party’s compatibility with liberal democratic parties, used a case study of MB in Egypt and Sudan. Their study demonstrated that MB is potentially a hopeful option for Egypt (Zahid and Medley, 701).
Though MB has gained US support, it has gained no backing from neighboring Islamic nations like the UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Bahrain. The reason may be due to the belief that MB radicalizes Muslims in the Middle East and Europe (Leiken and Brooke 110). The aim of the Brotherhood is to preach the message of non-violence to youths, but they denounce radical jihad (Scott 132).
The other Islamic countries like the UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Bahrain, who have closer ties with the western world believe that the rise of the Brotherhood in the Middle East, and especially in Egypt can be dangerous. The reason is two-fold – first, Egypt’s strategic position and influent over middle eastern trade and politics and second, the Brotherhood’s closeness with Iran.
Egypt holds an important position in the Middle East historically for it controls the Suez Canal, which is the channel through which 7.5 percent of the global trade is conducted (Ehrenfeld 79). In a 2011 interview of a senior MB leader, Muhammad Ghanem in an Iranian television stated that they would close down the Suez Canal as soon as they have the power to do so.
This statement had an immediate impact on world trade, and oil prices immediately increased. Further, he even mentioned that Egypt should declare war against Israel did not gain applaud from neighboring nations (Ehrenfeld 80).
Some researchers believe that the Brotherhood is one of the largest opposition parties in Egypt has a unique position to help in transitioning the political system in Egypt (Wickham 206).
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Though many have questioned MB’s role in creating an environment of pluralism and democracy, some are positive of their success. The areas where the key differences in the argument arise are related to the group’s aim and ideology, support from the masses, and most importantly the ghost of their past radical history haunts their present status.
Statement of significance
With the current political upheaval in Egypt with the ouster of President Mubarak in 2011, gaining control over the political machinery in the country soon after, and ultimate fall from grace of the democratic forces has demonstrated a plethora of tension and drama in the political scenario of the country. In 2014, Saudi Arabia, which had earlier, supported, and sheltered Brotherhood members, has labeled the party as a terrorist organization (Kirkpatrick).
However, under President Obama, the United States had changed its foreign policy to extend support to the MB. This is an oxymoronic situation wherein an Islam state has taken away support from an Islamic organization branding it a terrorist organization while the United States, which has been suspicious of Islamic bodies since 9/11 has extended support to MB. This essay will shed some light on nature and reason for contradiction.
Why has MB been successful in establishing a political party in Egypt?
The primary research question, mentioned above, delineates why MB was successful in establishing the political party in Egypt even after they faced tremendous pressure and backlash from the Mubarak government. The secondary questions that the essay will answer are what are – (1) what are the reasons that have led to the MB losing support from neighboring Islamic countries, and (2) why the US has extended its support to the party?
The hypothesis that the paper takes is that the Brotherhood has transformed into a moderate Islamist organization that strives for change in Islamic society and political system. I hypothesize the Muslim Brotherhood will succeed in establishing a political party in Egypt.
Research Design and Data
The sources I will use for the research are mostly secondary sources from various news articles and editorials in newspapers, political magazines, and academic journals. The primary source for the research will be interviewed.
The paper will first produce an extensive understanding of the historical background of MB and the recent developments in the political stage in Egypt. The source for this part will mostly be academic journals, books, and news articles. The next part will be a detailed analysis of the personal interviews and the articles to analyze the possibility of success of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt.
Abed-Kotob, Sana. “The Accommodationists Speak:Goals and Strategies of the Muslim Brotherhood of Egypt.” International Journal of Middle East Studies 27.3 (1995): 321-339. Print.
Akhtarkhavari, Nesreen. “A warning to John Kerry on Middle East trip: Egypt could become the next Iran.” 2013. Christian Science Monitor. Web.
Cohen, Roger. “Working With the Muslim Brotherhood.” 2012. New York Times. Web.
Ehrenfeld, Rachel. “The Muslim Brotherhood Evolution: An Overview.” American Foreign Policy Interests 33.2 (2011): 69-85. Print.
Kirkpatrick, David K. “Saudis Put Terrorist Label on Muslim Brotherhood.” 2014. New York Times. Web.
Leiken, Robert S. and Steven Brooke. “The Moderate Muslim Brotherhood.” Foreign Affairs 86.2 (2007): 107-121. Print.
Scott, Rachel M. “What Might the Muslim Brotherhood Do with al-Azhar? Religious Authority in Egypt.” Die Welt des Islams 52 (2012): 131-165. Print.
Wickham, Carrie Rosefsky. “The Muslim Brotherhood and Democratic Transition in Egypt.” Middle East Law and Governance 3 (2011): 204–223. Print.
Zahid, Mohammed and Michael Medley. “Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt & Sudan.” Review of African Political Economy 33.110 (2006): 693-708. Print.