The PJ Tatler

Egypt's Moslem Brotherhood

Samuel Tadros of the Hudson Institute has shared some thoughts on the Islam Brotherhood in Egypt. It’s always worth your while to read hi work. Here’s a sampling:

[S]even months after the revolutionary euphoria wore off, the Muslim Brotherhood remains at the forefront of Egyptian politics. In fact, the erosion of the state’s security apparatus gave Islamists an unprecedented opportunity to shape the country’s political debate. With elections now scheduled for a parliament that will form a constitution writing committee, many have begun to fear that the Islamists will not be merely one among many actors on Egypt’s new political scene. Instead, many fear that we may face a future when Islamists write the rules of Egypt’s new politics, putting their long-term mark on the new system to ensure their continued control.

The Muslim Brotherhood is at the center of the current struggle to shape Egypt’s future. Since the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood is the mother organization of Arab Islamism, the ramifications of the struggle in Egypt are likely to spill over to other countries in the region. For years, a fierce debate has taken place among Western scholars regarding the Brotherhood. Has the Brotherhood-which began in 1928 as a reactionary and sometimes violent ideological movement bent on constructing an Islamic State-changed its approach to politics and its principles? Should the United States open a dialogue with them? While some have argued that the Brotherhood has become moderate and have portrayed it as a socially conservative movement committed to democracy,[[1]] others have warned that the Brotherhood’s declarations on their commitment to democratic rule were a sign not of moderation but of pragmatism. The Brotherhood’s objectives had not, in fact, changed since its founding. What had changed was the movement’s overall ability to achieve its objectives as well as its ability to project and frame this project (especially in English) in a way that would win the sympathy of outsiders. Given the opportunity, the Brotherhood would seek to implement its long-term radical agenda to establish an Islamic State.

That opportunity has arrived. The breakdown of the state’s security apparatus and the opening in the political system has given the Brotherhood an historical chance to operate freely and position itself as the strongest player in a new Egypt. While several constraints on its power remain, the most obvious of which is the Egyptian armed forces, the Brotherhood’s newly acquired freedom of action has meant a new self-confidence in its strength and an increased willingness to elaborate more clearly and publicly on the kind of new society the Brotherhood aims to build. The new freedom has, however, not come without new challenges for the Brotherhood. Since the revolution, the Brotherhood’s leadership has been preoccupied with questions of how to retain the movement’s youth membership, how to structure its relationship with both the newly established Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) and the armed forces, and how the Brotherhood as a whole should deal with a changing and volatile political environment. Examining how the Brotherhood has shaped and been in turn affected by Egypt’s changing political environment helps us understand not only how the Brotherhood operates but also, more importantly, how it thinks.