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Arnab Sen asked: What are the key political objectives of the Muslim Brotherhood movement and which are the countries where they have their branches or political affiliates?

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  • Adil Rasheed replies: The end of World War I led to abolition of the Ottoman Caliphate in 1924. In the wake of this major setback, an Egyptian school teacher by the name of Hassan Al Banna founded a religious and social movement called Muslim Brotherhood, or Gammat Al-Ikhwan Al-Muslimeen in Arabic, in the town of Ismailiya in 1928.

    The stated aim of the movement is to implement Islam’s Shariah law in all aspects of life, from solving everyday problems to running the government. Later, it added the unification of “Islamic countries and states, mainly among the Arab states, and liberating them from foreign imperialism” as an objective.

    Although principally based in Egypt, the organisation has spread its affiliate groups to other parts of the Arab world, such as in Syria, Jordan, Tunisia, Morocco, Palestine, etc. Its philosophy of political Islam influences Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party, the now banned Sahwa movement in Saudi Arabia, the defunct Al Islah group in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and allegedly Qatar’s famous news channel Al Jazeera. Many jihadist leaders and organisations have been offshoots of the Muslim Brotherhood, although the movement continues to deny being involved in terrorist activities.

    In its early years, Muslim Brotherhood mainly adopted a bottom-up approach of peaceful and gradual societal reform, but by the 1930s it started invoking the rhetoric of violent jihad not only against Western states and Zionists but also Muslim governments that it considered were allies of imperial forces. However, fearing military crackdown it has often resorted to accepting the existing political system for the perpetuation of its socio-religious activities.

    Following the 2011 Egyptian Revolution, Muslim Brotherhood first achieved great success. It launched a political party — the Freedom and Justice Party — which won both the parliamentary and presidential elections in 2012. However, its political fortunes flipped dramatically when President Mohammad Morsi was overthrown within a year and a military crackdown led to hundreds of its members getting killed and imprisoned. In 2013, an Egyptian court banned the Muslim Brotherhood and its associations, which was followed by the military-backed government of Abdel Fattah al-Sisi declaring it a terrorist organisation.

    Posted on June 17, 2019