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history of the Brotherhood group, its goals, how the Muslim Brotherhood acted as a either a catalyst or just a participant in the uprisings, what the group has done since Arab Spring, and the concerns of Western governments (including Israel) regarding the Brotherhood.
Catalyst or Participant
Post-Arab Spring Actions
The Muslim Brotherhood
The Arab Spring of 2011 began when citizens in Tunisia and Egypt organized peaceful protests in the capital cities of Tunis and Cairo. The protests ranged in both size and expectation, but they shared a common goal. All of the protestors, regardless which country they were protesting in, wanted to see regime change. The primary reason for this was that they saw the then current regimes as catering to their own needs rather than those of the people. The protests did, in some cases lead to the desired changes, but they also had other outcomes also. One of those which was somewhat disturbing to the West was that a group called the Muslim Brotherhood started to gain support from people in many of the countries, and they were seen as possible leaders of the groups. This paper details the history of the Brotherhood group, its goals, how the Muslim Brotherhood acted as a either a catalyst or just a participant in the uprisings, what the group has done since Arab Spring, and the concerns of Western governments (including Israel) regarding the Brotherhood.
The Muslim Brotherhood is not an organization that has been newly formed during the events of the Arab Spring as many Westerners may think. This is a group of individuals, initially formed by Hassan al Banna (White, 2012, 266), that was organized in the 1920's in Egypt (Teitelbaum, 2011). The group was originally formed to throw off an early oppressor of the natives in Egypt that had been ruling from afar for more than two centuries -- the English. Al Banna organized the group as both a political and a minor terrorist front that would cause confusion in the ranks of the English and also begin to organize political aspirations in Egyptian leaders. The Brotherhood was partially successful in this is initial endeavor, because the British did allow the people to have more of a say in the politics of the country (Teitelbaum, 2011). However, the British did not relax control over their various territories until after World War II (for the most part), so the people of Egypt had to wait for self-rule.
The organization also has a significant history in other countries such as Syria and Jordan where they also attempted to throw off imperialist, Western rule (Teitelbaum, 2011). The Syrians had a monarchy that was endorsed by the European governments, so it was not interested enough in the welfare of the people. The Muslim Brotherhood have worked for the past 60 plus years to turn Syria back to its fundamentalist roots which is a major goal of the organization.
White (2012), in his book Terrorism and Homeland Security, writes that the Muslim Brotherhood was "designed to recapture the spirit and religious purity during the period of Mohammed and the four rightly guided caliphs. The Brotherhood seeks to create a single Muslim nation through education and religious reform" (266). These are the two primary stated goals of the organization. The Muslim Brotherhood believes that the different countries that make up the Middle East will one day become a single nation which is guided by the fundamentalist teachings of Allah.
From the beginning the group has worked behind the scenes in Egypt to obtain its two major goals. The group is funded by wealthy fundamental imams and religious zealots (much like Osama bin Laden) to organize a political organization which operates within the established government of Egypt (Stilt, 2010). The goal here is to influence the government through the use of political power rather than through terrorist means. As a matter of fact "in the November-December 2005 lower house parliamentary elections, independent candidates from the Muslim Brotherhood running with the slogan "Islam is the Solution" gained eighty-eight of 454 seats in those elections, many more than the other opposition groups combined" (Stilt, 2010). This was a triumph of the organization that the Brotherhood had formed over a period of more than 80 years of activity among the people of Egypt. The group was successful because the people did not see the affluence that Mubarak had promised them, so they started to believe that they would be better served by a group that espoused closer government ties to their religion. This was the precursor for the uprisings that began in December of 2010 in Tunisia and would spill into Egypt in January of 2011.
Catalyst or Participant
Watching the beginnings of the Arab Spring in Tunisia, the Western powers became somewhat alarmed because they had been successfully conducting business with the government there for many years. But, Tunisia was not as critical as Egypt, and it was easy to see that the uprising could easily spread to that country. Mubarak had been in power form more than 30 years, since the assassination of Anwar Sadat, and he had remained in power through any means necessary. The reason that the Western democracies believed that Mubarak was vulnerable was that he was not popular among the fundamentalist groups which were becoming more popular with the people.
The Muslim Brotherhood apparently watched what was occurring in Tunisia, and the group's leaders realized that they could take advantage of this sentiment among the people in Egypt. Because of recent elections, the Muslim Brotherhood was more state sponsored than any other single group even though they were not an acknowledged political party (Stilt, 2010). The people knew who the members of the party were and the message of the Brotherhood was more welcome than it had ever been. Mubarak was backed by the Western governments, but he did not keep his promises to his people. He was more interested in currying favor with the democratic governments of the West and lining his own pockets, or so it seemed to the people.
The Muslim Brotherhood made its first appearance at the square after a formal protest had been arranged by the group. They were seen by the established government and by many of the Western governments as the instigators of the uprisings, but it is still unknown whether the group fomented the protests or just used them to their advantage. Early in February, people started realizing that Mubarak had lost much of his governmental support when
"Egyptian Vice President 'Umar Suleyman hosted meetings with six opposition groups, including the Muslim Brotherhood, in an attempt to end the uprisings. After the meetings, Sulayman's office released a statement which declared that the government offered to form a committee to examine proposed constitutional amendments, pursue allegedly corrupt government officials, "liberalize" media and communications, and lift the state of emergency in the country when the security situation was deemed to be appropriate" (Middle East Journal, 2011).
The gathering proved that the protests had not been initiated by the Brotherhood, but that they sought to take advantage of the situation to make sure that their demands were heard. The Egyptian leaders acquiesced to this as well as the wishes of other groups.
Post Arab Spring
The Muslim Brotherhood does not appear to be what many of the Western countries once feared which is another burgeoning terrorist organization. However, this is not a comfort to many Western powers because other groups began as relatively peaceful political parties and became more militant later. The goals of the Muslim Brotherhood have remained consistent, as far as researchers can determine, throughout their history. They are a group which seeks to enact change through non-violent protests and governmental action. This is exactly what the leaders of the group have tried to do since the Egyptian protests resulted in the ouster of Mubarak and the temporary military-controlled government. Speaking of these groups, Etzioni (2011) said "Illiberal moderate" also pertains to several Islamist groups, associations, and political parties in the region, such as those parts of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and Jordan that currently reject violence even as they seek to base governance on Shari'a." The term that Etzioni uses here speaks of a group that does not espouse the tactics of their more radical fundamentalist brothers (such as overthrow through violence), but they do want the new governments to take a more conservative stance. The religious goal is one that is paramount to the Muslim Brotherhood, and they would have the country return to strict Sharia law rather than the Westernized version of legislation.
The Muslim Brotherhood has also been a prominent actor in the struggle that continues in Syria. The Syrian government has refused to bow to the wishes of the people like those which have instituted regime change, and they have used harsh tactics to quell any uprisings. The Muslim Brotherhood from other areas has come to the aid of members in Syria to…[continue]
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