The Muslim Brotherhood (MB) is a movement that was founded in 1928 by Hassan al-Banna (Tadros 23). Its main objective is to indoctrinate the Quran and the Sunnah as the source of the principles that should guide the life of a Muslim at the individual, family, community, and state level. Thus, it articulates religious, political, and social issues that face the Arab world. Even though the MB originated in Egypt, its ideologies have since become popular in many Arab countries.
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Concisely, members of the MB are the main opposition leaders in most Arab governments (Zahid 43). Even though the movement discourages the use of violence to achieve its goals, it has occasionally been involved in acts of terror. Nonetheless, the group is still popular in the Arab world due to its quest for social justice and democracy.
This paper focuses on the leadership of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. In particular, it will discuss the movement’s ascent to power, and the possible benefits of its leadership to the Egyptians. Additionally, the paper will discuss the relationship between the media and the MB.
The Muslim Brotherhood’s ascent to power in Egypt is one of the most controversial political events in the history of the country. The debate on the legitimacy of the movement has polarized the Egyptian community and political scientists. Political analysts and scholars who support the movement believe that it rose to power through honest and legitimate means.
Those who oppose the movement, on the other hand, believe that it rose to power by tricking Egyptians to vote for its presidential candidate. Generally, some scholars support the Brotherhood’s leadership, whereas others are skeptic of its ability to lead Egypt (Intelligence Analysis). In this context, it is important to analyze the factors that led to the victory of the Muslim Brotherhood in the 2012 presidential elections.
The major factors that led to the movement’s victory include the following. To begin with, the Muslim Brotherhood believes in democracy. The past regimes in Egypt, especially, President Mubarak’s government did not believe in a democratic system of governance (Rutherford 69). The presidents had too much power that enabled them to serve their interests at the expense of the public. This involved corruption, limiting the rights of the citizens and discouraging divergent political opinions.
Due to these malpractices, the MB launched its political activism to sensitize the public on the need to establish a democratic system of governance. The political ideologies of the movement rapidly gained popularity among the citizens. However, the incumbent regimes were not happy with this development. Thus, they repressed the movement’s activities. Nonetheless, the movement became the first opposition party in Egypt after winning more than 20% of the parliamentary seats in the 2005 elections (Sharp 13).
Since 2007, the movement has been pursuing a democratic political agenda rather than a theological one (Tadros 74). In particular, the movement opposed the extension of Egyptian emergency law, which eliminated the citizen’s constitutional rights, legalized censorship, and gave the police unlimited powers. Moreover, the movement lobbied for the transformation of the parliament into a real legislative institution that represents the citizens, and ensures accountability within the government (Tadros 75). These efforts clearly indicate that the Muslim Brotherhood was committed to serving the interests of the public rather than pursuing a secret Islamist agenda.
The Muslim Brotherhood has also gained popularity among Egyptians due to its social agenda. Inequality has always been high in Egypt in terms of the distribution of wealth and access to basic services (Hansen). Generally, the ruling elite controlled the largest percentage of the country’s resources.
Consequently, the Muslim Brotherhood focused on charity work in order to improve the living conditions of the poor. This involved constructing schools and hospitals, as well as, donating funds to the needy (Hansen). In this regard, most Egyptians considered the movement as an organization that was committed to fulfilling their needs and aspirations. Concisely, Egyptians became convinced that their socio-economic conditions would improve if they voted for the Muslim Brotherhood.
Apart from charity work, the movement has made deliberate efforts to promote gender equality and to eliminate religious discrimination. In the run up to the 2012, presidential elections, the movement promised to include women in its leadership. Concisely, women were to play an integral role in decision making by being members of the cabinet and holders of key positions in the government. However, only one woman is serving in the current cabinet (Saman).
Additionally, the law does not allow a woman to become the country’s president. Nonetheless, the current President promised to appoint one woman and a Copt Christian as the country’s vice presidents (Saman). The movement has clearly stated that it will protect the rights of women and children in the society. The Muslim Brotherhood has also discouraged discrimination against Christians. In this regard, Christians will no longer need to acquire permits in order to build their churches.
Finally, most citizens identify with the Muslim Brotherhood because of its close association with Egypt’s history. The movement has successfully positioned itself as a pragmatic entity rather than a fanatical organization (Zahid 81). Since its inception, the movement has focused on teaching its religious principles.
It has been determined to ensure socio-economic change despite recurrent persecution and torture of its members by past regimes (Al-Kheleej). Moreover, the leaders of the movement are not associated with the corrupt practices that were rampant in the previous regime (Zahid 83).
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These characteristics improved the popularity of the Muslim Brotherhood and led to the election of its candidate as Egyptian president. The aforementioned factors indicate that Egyptians made an informed decision to elect the Muslim Brotherhood regime. The movement is yet to fulfill all its pre-election promises due to the limited time in which it has been in control of the country. In this context, the movement came to power with honesty rather than tricking Egyptians to vote for it.
Even though the Muslim Brotherhood through its political wing, the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), rose to power on a change platform, its leadership might not benefit the Egyptians. After its first 100 days in office, the FJP regime is yet to fulfill most of its pre-election campaign promises (Saman).
One of the most important promises that have been broken by the regime is the formation of an independent Constituent Assembly (CA) to draft a new constitution for the country. According to FJP’s pre-election promise, the assembly would consist of representatives of all interest groups in the country.
Furthermore, Egyptians would be given amble time to discuss the criteria for joining the assembly, as well as, the laws to be included in the new constitution. On the contrary, the Muslim Brotherhood has since amended the laws that constitute the interim Constitutional Declaration so that it can have monopoly in the selection of the Constituent Assembly members (Tadros 113). Moreover, the MB excluded the representatives of trade unions, academic institutions and the judiciary from the assembly.
The regime decided to select its loyalist to draft the new constitution (Saman). In this regard, the opinions and aspirations of the citizens are not likely to be included in the new constitution. FJP has tried to dispel these fears by claiming that Egyptians will have a chance to adopt or reject the constitution through a referendum. However, most Egyptians believe that the government might fail to fulfill this promise too.
The Muslim Brotherhood promised to punish the members of Mubarak’s regime who tortured rioters during the 2011 revolution. However, the government has since released all the suspects from detention without any charges. These acquittals have led to violent protests in Cairo.
In response to the public’s concerns, the president promised a retrial of the suspects in order to ensure justice (Zahid 152). The president has also released the political activists who participated in the 2011 revolution. However, the public is still dissatisfied with the president’s efforts to ensure justice.
The decision by the president to control the judiciary is also a sign of a bleak future for Egyptians. The president has the ultimate power that enables him to control all arms of the government (Saman). Following the dissolution of the parliament by the judiciary, the president has the freedom to formulate and to enact his own laws. These laws cannot be overturned by the judiciary or any other organ of the government. Additionally, the president has quashed the judiciary’s power to dissolve the upper house of the parliament. Consequently, the Brotherhood that dominates the upper house has great control of the legislative arm of the government. In this regard, Egyptians are not likely to realize the constitutional reforms that they need.
The Muslim Brotherhood is yet to demonstrate its commitment to strengthen the relationship between Egypt and the international community. For instance, the government was not able to control the September 2012 protests that were caused by the anti-Islamic video (Saman). The president did not issue any order to end the riots that led to the destruction of the American Embassy in Cairo.
The Muslim Brotherhood, on the other hand, encouraged the citizens to continue with the violent protests. Some leaders of the Brotherhood are pushing for the dissolution of the 32-year peace treaty with Israel (Sharp 21). However, some leaders believe that Egypt should only respect the peace treaty if Israel improves the socio-economic conditions of the Palestinians.
These tensions are likely to have negative effects on the relationship between Egypt and the external community. Some of these effects include trade sanctions and withdrawal of foreign aid (Myers). These effects will have severe impacts on the economic development of the country.
Economists and political analysts believe that the Muslim Brotherhood will facilitate moderate improvements in Egypt’s economy. The MB is pursuing two contradicting economic ideologies. On one hand, the government is pursing interventionist policies by increasing its investments in prime sectors of the economy.
On the other hand, industry and trade leaders who belong to the Brotherhood are calling for a liberal and market-oriented economy that promotes free trade (Hansen). These leaders are also in charge of the strategic plan that will facilitate the transformation of the country’s economy and public sector. One factor that is likely to ensure rapid development is the implementation of effective economic policies.
These policies include export substitution, reducing budget deficits, rationing public spending, and raising the minimum wage. Furthermore, the government intends to strengthen the anti-trust laws and to introduce a progressive tax system. These policies will promote rapid economic development and equal distribution of wealth (Hansen). Similarly, the free-market tendencies have improved the confidence of investors in the financial sector.
Concisely, the Brotherhood is not likely to replace the conventional banking system with Islamic finance since the later accounts for only 4% of the country’s financial sector (Shubber 191-193). Finally, the government has promised to improve tourism by opening new markets and developing new infrastructure in the industry.
Despite making efforts to improve the country’s economy, the media portrays the Muslim Brotherhood as a dishonest organization whose main intension is to oppress Egyptians (Kheiry). For instance, in August 2012 a local newspaper accused the Muslim Brotherhood of intending to create an ‘emirate’.
The newspaper also claimed that the Brotherhood was planning to massacre innocent Christians and influential public figures. In this regard, the newspaper advocated for the strengthening of the military’s power in order to prevent these atrocities.
The Brotherhood considers most media criticisms to be propaganda whose authors intend to destabilize the government (Kheiry). This is because the media often fails to substantiate its criticisms to the government (Kheiry). Furthermore, journalists have periodically made inflammatory statements to insult the president and his regime. In some cases, the media attacks the government by inciting the citizens rather than using facts to criticize it (Kheiry).
Generally, the Muslim Brotherhood dislikes the media criticisms. It has always reacted to the criticisms by detaining journalists and controlling the freedom of the press. Critics believe that the current crackdown on journalists is an indication that the Muslim Brotherhood is determined to control every aspect of Egyptians’ lives.
Political scientists believe that attacking journalists is part of the Brotherhood’s plan to threaten and to censor the media from disclosing its Islamist agenda (Saman). Additionally, they accuse the Muslim Brotherhood of using propaganda to cover its malpractices and to gain public sympathy.
The Muslim Brotherhood is one of the most influential political movements in the Arab world. The movement combines Islamic religious teachings with political activism and charity work, thereby making it attractive to most Muslims (Rutherford 34). In Egypt, the movement rose to power in 2011 after the fall of Mubarak’s regime. The Muslim Brotherhood ascended to power on a platform of social, political, and economic change.
Concisely, the movement had promised to promote democracy and to protect the rights of women and the minority communities. However, the MB is yet to fulfill most of its pre-election promises. In this regard, most political analysts believe that the Muslim Brotherhood regime might not be beneficial to Egyptians. These sentiments are shared by the media, which has always portrayed the movement as a dishonest entity that is not committed to fulfilling the needs of Egyptians (Kheiry).
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