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The Muslim Brotherhood, also called Muslim Brethren (Arabic: جميعة الإخوان المسلمين jamiat al-Ikhwan al-muslimin, literally "Society of Muslim Brothers"; often only الإخوان المسلمون, Ikhwan ul Muslimoon ("Muslim Brothers") or simply الإخوان Ikhwan ("the Brothers") is an Islamic organization with a political approach to Islam.
The Muslim Brotherhood opposes secular tendencies of Islamic nations and wants a return to the precepts of the Qur'an and the rejection of Western influences. They also reject extreme Sufism. They organize events from prayer meetings to sport clubs for socializing.
The organization's motto is as follows: Allah is our objective. The Prophet is our leader. Qur'an is our law. Jihad is our way. Dying in the way of Allah is our highest hope.
An article published in the Washington Post on September 11, 2004 states the group has fomented Islamic revolution in Egypt, Algeria, Syria and Sudan. Additionally, the Brotherhood was responsible for the creation of Hamas, "which has become known for its suicide bombings against Israel." Nevertheless, the Post reported that the group is a "sophisticated and diverse organization that appeals to many Muslims worldwide and sometimes advocates peaceful persuasion, not violent revolt. Some of its supporters went on to help found al Qaeda, while others launched one of the largest college student groups in the United States." However, its main representative in Algeria, the Movement for the Society of Peace, has in fact been notable for its support for the government against Islamist insurgents during the Algerian Civil War.
The Brotherhood has branches in 70 countries. They claim to have taken part in most pro-Islamic conflicts, from the Arab-Israeli Wars and the Algerian War of Independence to recent conflicts in Afghanistan and Kashmir. Currently, the Egyptian Brotherhood exists as a militant clandestine group, and has been connected to many underground political operations. In other countries, they have more prominent roles, including parliamentary seats. They have not supported movements like al-Jihad and al-Gama'a al-Islamiyya in Egypt and mujahedeen movement of Muslim communities in Europe and the United States.
Initially a youth organization aimed at spiritual, moral, and social reform, the Muslim Brotherhood was founded in Egypt in 1928 by Hassan al Banna and five like-minded followers, all of them in their early twenties. An Egyptian school teacher at the time, Hassan wrote that the Brotherhood was created after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire and in consideration of the 1924 abolition of the caliphate by Turkish reformer Kemal Ataturk and after much contemplation of "the sickness that has reduced the Ummah [the Muslim community] to its present state". Brotherhood members regarded Islam as a way of life.
During the 1930s, the Brotherhood great at astonishing speed and many Syrian supporters founded their own branches in Syria, one of which was the Aleppo branch, founded in 1935. The Aleppo branch eventually became the Syrian headquarters of the Brotherhood. The Brotherhood expanded its political involvement as the Party of the Muslim Brotherhood, Hizb Al-Ikhwan Al-Muslimoon.
The Muslim Brotherhood became more political in nature and an officially political group in 1939.
In 1942, during World War II, Hassan al Banna set up more Brotherhood branches in Transjordan and Palestine. After World War II, the Brotherhood had grown to approximately 500,000 members in Egypt alone and had many branches throughout the Middle East. Egyptian members took violent action against King Farouk's government. The Brotherhood was banned from Egypt and hundreds moved to Transjordan. The headquarters of the Syrian branch moved to Damascus in 1944. Many Muslim Brothers, including Hassan al Banna, participated in the Arab-Israeli War of 1948–1949, fighting against the State of Israel.
In 1952, Egyptian King Farouk was deposed in a coup led by Gamal Abd an-Nasser. The Brotherhood initially supported Nasser's secular government and cooperated with it, but resisted left-wing influences.
On October 26, 1954, Muslim Brother Mahmoud Abd al Latif failed in an attempt to assassinate Gamal Abdel Nasser. At close range, Mahmoud shot eight times at Nasser as he was delivering a speech. All shots missed and Nasser continued speaking without pause, delivering a fiery and instantly legendary oration: "Let them kill Nasser. What is Nasser but one among many? My fellow countrymen, stay where you are. I am not dead, I am alive, and even if I die all of you is Gamal Abdel Nasser." Nasser outlawed the Brotherhood and over 4000 of its members were imprisoned, including Sayyid Qutb, who later became the most influential intellectual in the group and wrote highly influential books while in prison. More members moved to Jordan, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, and Syria.
Jordanian members of the Muslim Brotherhood supported King Hussein of Jordan and against Egypt's Gamal Nasser's attempts to overthrow him. King Hussein banned all political parties in Jordan in 1957 with the exception of the Muslim Brotherhood.
When Syria joined Egypt in the United Arab Republic (UAR) in 1958, the Muslim Brotherhood went underground; when Syria left the UAR in 1961, the Muslim Brotherhood won 10 seats in the following elections; the Ba'ath coup in 1963, however, forced them underground once more.
The organization opposed the alliance Egypt was developing with the USSR at the time, and opposed communist influence in Egypt, to the extent that it was reportedly supported by the CIA during the 1960s.
Nasser's successor in Egypt, Anwar Sadat, promised reforms, and that he would implement Sharia. However, Sadat's peace treaty with Israel in 1979 angered the Brotherhood again and most of the Egyptian people, which led to his assassination in 1981.
In the 1950s, Jordanian members supported King Hussein of Jordan against political opposition and against Nasser's attempts to overthrow him. When the King banned political parties in Jordan in 1957, the Brotherhood was exempted.
The Syrian branch was the next to be banned when Syria joined Egypt in the United Arab Republic (UAR) in 1958. The Brotherhood went underground. When Syria left the UAR 1961, the Brotherhood won 10 seats in the next elections. However, the Ba’th coup in 1963 forced them underground once more, alongside all the other political groups.
The appointment of Hafez al-Assad, an Alawite Muslim, as the Syrian president in 1971 angered the Brotherhood even more because the majority of Muslims do not consider Alawites true Muslims at all. Assad initially tried to placate them, but made very little progress. Assad’s support of Maronites in the Lebanese Civil War made the Brotherhood re-declare its jihad. They began a campaign of strikes and terrorist actions. In 1979, they killed 83 Alawite cadets in the Aleppo artillery school. Assad’s attempts to calm them by changing officials and releasing political prisoners did not help. Eventually the army was used to restore order by force.
An assassination attempt against Assad on June 25, 1980 was the last straw. Assad made the Syrian parliament declare Brotherhood membership a capital offense and sent the army against them. In the operation, which lasted until February 1982, the Syrian army practically wiped out the Brotherhood, killing an unknown but large number of people in the Hama Massacre. The Syrian branch disappeared, and the survivors fled to join Islamic organizations in other countries.
The Saudi Arabian branch convinced King Ibn Saud to let them start the Islamic University in Medina in 1961. After the Six-Day War in 1967, the movement as a whole split into moderates and radicals. The latter faction in Syria declared jihad against the Ba'ath party leaders. King Hussein allowed the Jordanian branch to give military training to Brotherhood rebels in Jordan.
In 1973, the Israeli government allowed local leader Ahmad Yassin to run social, religious and welfare institutions among Palestinian Muslims. In 1983, he was arrested for illegal possession of firearms and sentenced to prison. When he was released 1985, he became more popular than ever. When the first Intifada begun in 1987, he became one of the founders of Hamas.
In 1984, the Muslim Brotherhood was partially reaccepted in Egypt as a religious organization, but was placed under heavy scrutiny by security forces. It remains a source of friction.
In 1989, the Jordanian Brotherhood's political wing, the Islamic Action Front , won 23 out of 80 seats in Jordan's parliament. King Hussein tried to limit their influence by changing the election laws, but in the 1993 elections, they became the largest group in the parliament. They strongly opposed the Jordanian-Israeli Peace Treaty in 1994.
The resistance movement in Afghanistan formed in opposition to the leftist policies of King Zahir Shah. The movement had connections to the Muslim Brotherhood.
The Russian government alleges that the Muslim Brotherhood is a key force in the ongoing Chechen revolt. Russian officials accused the Muslim Brotherhood of planning the December 27, 2002 suicide car bombing of the headquarters of the Russian-backed government in Grozny, Chechnya.
Today, the Muslim Brotherhood is viewed by some people as a more moderate group than other Islamist organizations operation in the Middle East, such as al-Qaida. Others point out their continued ideological and personal participation in terrorism, however, and see the Ikhwan as both al-Qaida's progenitor and a key ongoing enabler in the Muslim ummah.
In countries where they are permited to stand for office, the Brotherhood has competed in and supported free elections.
Others disagree with the assessment of the Muslim Brotherhood as a moderate group. Ahmad Al-Baghdadi, a professor of political science at the University of Kuwait has recently criticized the U.S. for failing to put the organization on its list of terrorist organizations. He also critized the UN for doing the same thing.
In comments translated by the Middle East Research Institute (MEMRI) on January 7, 2005, Al-Baghdadi asserted that the Middle East "has no future" as long as organizations like the Muslim Brotherhood exist and called for the political and economic destruction of it and other groups like it.
"The day will come when the only solution for this will be confrontation, and it is better that this be now and not later. The solution is simple: to put [these organizations] on the international terrorist list and to force all the countries that have contacts with these organizations to dismantle them and to confiscate their funds. There is no other solution," Al-Baghdadi said.
Prominent Muslim Brothers
- Bradsher, Afghanistan page 91,218.
- Gilles Keppel: Jihad. Paris 2000
Fraternal groups and personalities
Groups also mentioned in relation
- Egyptian Islamic Jihad
- National Islamic Front of Sudan, also known as the Muslim Brotherhood in the 1970s
- Muslim Brotherhood Movement in http://www.ummah.org.uk/ikhwan/
- Muslim Brotherhood in http://www.fas.org/irp/world/para/mb.htm by the Federation of American Scientists Intelligence Resource Program
- Ikhwan Online in http://www.ikhwanonline.com/
- Russia Links Arab Millitants to Bombing in Chechnya by Michael Wines. The New York Times, December 28, 2002
[http://memri.org/bin/articles.cgi?Page=subjects&Area=jihad&ID=SP79404 Reactions to Sheikh Al-Qaradhawi's Fatwa Calling for the Abduction and Killing of American Civilians in Iraq]
- Islamism, fascism and terrorism (Part 1)
- Islamism, fascism and terrorism (Part 2)
- Islamism, fascism and terrorism (Part 3)
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