According to Usman, "The true strength of the Muslim Brotherhood lay not so much in its ideology as in the energy, devotion, and ruthlessness of its leaders. In its early years the Muslim Brotherhood maintained an active program of social welfare and agricultural cooperatives; in its later years it became more militant" (1680). The original goal of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt was focused on reshaping society into one that mirrored Hasan al-Banna's rigid concept of early Islamic life.
Not surprisingly, the Egyptian government was alarmed at this movement because not all of the group's activities were considered benign social efforts, but were rather viewed as threats to the existence of the legitimate Egyptian government:
Reprisals, pressure, assassination, and armed gangs gave the Muslim Brotherhood power, and its actions attracted youth yearning for an active course to follow. The secular Egyptian government found the Muslim Brotherhood a serious threat and took measures against it, leading to the assassination of the prime minister in 1948. When Hasan al-Banna was murdered, the government took no serious steps to identify his assailants. In 1951 permission was given to reactivate the Brotherhood on the condition that its semi-military activities be discontinued. (Usman 1680)
Despite these assurances, the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt has emerged as one of the leading organizations in the Middle East calling for substantive changes in the status quo by whatever means are necessary. These observations are also congruent with those made by Stark (2004), who advises, "Since the fall of communism a new world order is emerging in which political Islam develops into one of the major players: Islam not only provides a new stimuli for the re-definition of political models as well as social and cultural identity but also constitutes a crucial part of globalization as one of its most outspoken critics" (51). Likewise, Moussalli (1999) reports that the activities of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt "range from liberating the Muslim world and establishing a free Islamic state to eliminating poverty and crime. All of this requires a deep religious belief, strict organization, and constant activism" (55). Such constant activism requires a great deal of intellectual and political staying power to be successful, and the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt has actively recruited those with the knowledge and expertise to help them accomplish their goals. In this regard, Zeidan (2003) maintains that "modern educated professionals were actively involved in the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt since the 1940s" (66).
Although the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt focused its intellectual reinterpretation of Islam on a return to the fundamentals, the group also carefully selected recognized major Western political concepts such as constitutional rule and democracy as requisite tools for revamping the doctrine of an Islamic state (Moussalli 114). This author adds, though, that "the Brotherhood's extremely antagonistic dealing with the Egyptian government led some Brothers to splinter off under the leadership of Sayyid Qutb" (Moussalli 114). In fact, it was Sayyid Qutb who would go on to introduce the ideological basis of Islamic activism that became the model used by the more radical and violent Islamic groups to accomplish their respective goals. As Moussalli points out, "Qutb, who was imprisoned for over a decade and finally hanged in 1966, viewed societies as being responsible for the 'un-Islamic' actions of their government and, therefore, as paganist as their rulers. He called for a total revolution against all human systems" (21).
In her essay, "A Fury for God," Pires-O'Brien points out that, "Qutb admired the Quran as a literary work and later used this aesthetic approach to seek the meaning of the world. He spent some time in America and there he began to show signs of paranoia and other aspects of mental disturbance. In 1954 he was arrested along with other members of the Brotherhood, after a botched attempt to overthrow the government of Gamal Abd al-Nasser" (244). While the group's leadership has changed over the years, their basic goals have remained unchanged. According to Mcgregor (2007), "In and out of the political process over the decades, the Brotherhood has remained committed to a vision in which Egyptian civil society is subordinated to Islamic religious principles and legal precepts. The Brotherhood produced the single most important modern Islamic fundamentalist thinker, Sayyid Qutb, who was hanged by the Egyptian state in 1966" (37).
In reality, the radical Islamic movement has a lot of political and religious fodder to feed its adherents. The United States is actively prosecuting shooting wars in two Arab nations, Afghanistan and Iraq already, and the saber-rattling against Iran and its involvement in Iraq is growing louder by the day. In this environment, recruiting religious zealots to the cause of Islam has apparently become easier for such groups and the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt is no exception. In this regard, Nusse (2002) reports that, "The Jih-d against the enemy would continue as long as one day follows the other. This was not a political choice, but a religious duty and therefore cannot be negotiated. Hamas got support for this attitude by various religious institutions" (Nusse 148).
This position was further reinforced by ongoing activities by the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt: "The parental organisation, the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt reminded every male and female Muslim of his or her religious duty to work for the liberation of Palestine which would only be possible through 'all forms of Jih-d'" (quoted in Nusse at 148). From the perspective of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, though, "all forms of Jihad" would potentially include legitimate and lawful political initiatives. In this regard, Stark cites the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt as an example of an Islamic group that attempts to change the political system by working within its institutions (52). Given its recent successes in gaining parliamentary seats in the Egyptian government, the tactic appears to be working well. This point is also made by Massoulli who advises, "The Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt focused more on the political aspect of Islam as the cornerstone in promoting a modern Islamic revival. It called urgently for establishing an Islamic state as the first step in implementing the sharia [Islamic code of law]" (114).
As to whether the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt can be regarded as a terrorist organization today is a matter of perspective. According to Cook (2007), the Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt first appeared in Gaza in 1974 and has been active there ever since. According to Kaplan, the group initial adopted terrorism as a tactic but following open dialogue with the administration of former president Anwar Sadat, the group forewent terrorist activities for at least 25 years. Notwithstanding the group's sponsorship of other known terrorist organizations, the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt appears to have adopted a "change-from-within" approach to its operations in Egypt. As Greenblum (2007) points out, the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt is "emerging as a powerful political force" (55). In fact, this approach appears to be paying dividends in Egypt and elsewhere in the Middle East for the organization. In this regard, Mishal and Sela (2000) report that, "Islamic movements tend to be reformist rather than revolutionary, generally preferring to operate overtly and legally unless forced to go underground and use subversive or violent methods in response to severe repression. Islamic political movements operating in Arab regimes in which they are tolerated have been willing to accept the rules of the political game and to refrain from violence, as in the case of the Muslim Brotherhood groups in Jordan and Sudan" (8).
The research showed that the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt was established by Hasan al-Banna and a few followers in 1928 or thereabouts, depending on the source. From these humble beginnings, the organization has grown to become a political force to be reckoned with in Egypt and other countries in the Middle East. Today, the fundamentalist Islamic trend is clearly a growing political force in the Middle East and the European Union is slowly but surely becoming Islamized as well. While it would be premature to assert that the Muslim Brotherhood has been transformed into a completely political rather than a terrorist organization, it is reasonable to maintain that the group's leaders are sufficiently savvy to recognize what works best and what does not. By foregoing terrorist activities in favor of working from within the legitimate political frameworks of these Arab nations, the group has acquired a significant amount of power and influence. It is therefore reasonable to assert that these same approaches can be expected in other Arab nations as well as in the West where these trends are being witnessed today. In the final analysis, only time will tell if the West possesses the wherewithal and resolve to withstand these assaults on its political, social and legal institutions, and the day may well come when a clash between these two civilizations results in yet another crusade, only this time, the whole world will be engulfed in what will likely be a…