Transformations Within The Muslim Brotherhood
Saturday, September 9,2006 00:00
By Democracy Now

The Muslim Brotherhood is experiencing a state of transformations which wrenches from the minds the “stillness” state that the researchers and analysts used to observe in the MB. Such transformations can turn the MB into a new movement despite the fact that many advocates or even the opponents strive to keep in minds the old image of MB.

The most prominent characteristics of these changes lie in two issues:
 
First: these changes are not scheduled or predefined as much as they are self-motivated and consistent with the logic of social development. In fact, these changes come in accordance with pragmatism which characterize the MB course and enriching it with an effective power to react with changes and developments especially in political and public work. The participation in such a work was the impetus to those changes in general.
 
Second: these changes encompass the whole group and cover its diverse aspects including the MB project, organization and members; they also cover the spiritual aspect but to various degrees. Such changes came essentially as a result of remarkable and intense participation in political and public work, but they extended beyond the political field to include many different fields.

Based on this, we are going to approach the matter of changes from a social aspect, which is imposed by the logic of MB transformations that cannot be fully comprehended by reviewing and studying MB stated and publicized literature as much as by scrutinizing the unpublicized literature.
 
 
The Project: From Caliphate State to National State

Following up the MB project, one can easily discover the major change in this project.  This change lies in directing attention to modern regional state instead of the world Islamic state. The researcher will not find a clear cut stance in terms of the caliphate and world Islamic state. The declarations and statements of MB leaders clearly show that the “Big Story” which MB believed in and took as the ultimate objective of its project has been vanished and overlooked without pausing for review or even for declaring this change. This can be easily realized by anyone following up the MB course especially in the recent years.
It will be sufficient as a proof in this respect to mention that the most important MB literature in the political field was void of any mention concerning the matter of caliphate. For example, the MB initiative for reform, issued in 2004, did not tackle the matter of caliphate. Actually, the primary focus of this initiative was on the domestic issues. The paradox is that the most prominent amendments to this initiative, which represented development of MB program in 2000 parliamentary elections, lied in the omission of external dimension including the two central issues of Palestine and Iraq . Moreover, during the 2005 parliamentary elections, the MB excluded any reference to the matter of caliphate from the election campaign. The amazing paradox is that core of election campaign in 1987, symbolizing the MB lifeboat while leading the nation in surging sea, has been changed. They focused in their election campaign on the six stages of MB project “Preparing the righteous Muslim individual, then the righteous Muslim family, the righteous community, the righteous Muslim government, the Islamic state, the Caliphate and finally the stage of leading the world). But a change has happened and the six stages became four after the two stages of Islamic state and caliphate had been dropped.

Actually the intense involvement in political work and the related public work limited the MB project to the boundaries of national state which become the ultimate objective of this project. Consequently, the primary concern of this project was directed to domestic issues; its items and subjects became merely local and its discourse resembled that of national parties or groups. 

There has no longer been any mention of the Islamic state. Rather, new terms appeared such as Democratic state with religious authority. The MB has changed its view from the religious conception of state to the civil conception. They even went further beyond the official religious institution discourse.

The MB stance on citizenship issue has a great significance in this respect. They adopted the legal foundation of this issue and some of their cadres talked about full citizenship even if that would lead to a Christian president coming into power through fair elections, the thing which cannot adopted by the ruling party itself. Moreover, some of them find no problem in accepting a Christian political party; the thing which has never been declared by an effective political or religious trend even within the church.
Actually, a brief review of MB stances on political, economic and social issues in Egypt reveals that the MB group became a regional national party, even a rightist party with liberal inclinations in terms of economic and social matters where it does not find any problem in privatization, free trade and adopting market economy. As for the religious presentation, it may be limited to ethics.
 
 
The group: From an open group to the MB peculiarity
 
Along with the above mentioned change in MB project. There is another important change, but this time, in the group itself. After being an open group presenting itself as the sole representative of Islamic ideology, a new image has appeared in which the group has an extent of peculiarity which differentiates the group from others.
The MB was the basic Islamic ideology that spread all over Egypt and the Arab world in 1970s and reached its peak in 1980s.  The institution of caliphate represented at that time the MB slogan or ultimate objective. This slogan attracted various sections of society at various ages. Moreover, the MB ideology attracted the marginalized and destitute classes which saw in this group a means of salvation. Similarly, it attracted people of the middle and bourgeois class who were in sought for their interests, ethical needs and an opportunity of social moving in an attempt to win a place in authority. Moreover, this ideology attracted rebels and revolutionists. Actually, the MB intense pragmatic involvement in politics which resulted in abandoning their ultimate objective of instituting caliphate, in addition to their new platform which does not differ a lot from that of other groups and parties especially liberal ones, all these things came among the major factors behind the disassembly of this ideology and the consequent revealing of contradictions concealed by it. This contributed to Islamic plurality in which the MB has been distinguished from other Islamic ideologies whether Jihadyyah, Salafyyah, reformists, independents, Islamic Leftists, etc.  
Then came the economic and social changes, that Egypt along with a lot of Arab countries witnessed, to emphasize this dissociation by highlighting the big differences among social classes, which reflected on the group itself due to the requirements of structure and membership as a representative of religious middle class more than the destitute and marginalized class. The MB concern about the marginalized and needy class was nearly limited to some networks of aid and support in addition to charitable organizations. The group became closer to Egyptian religious bourgeoisie and separated from the marginalized classes.
The most effective factor behind the prominence of MB peculiarity lies in the shrinking of Islamic Institution role. This phenomenon resulted in the emergence of individual religiousness and the appearance of new religious activists outside the formal or informal institutions. This very important change emphasizes the vanishing of MB dominance and shows the variation of Islamic activists who may be more effective than MB in some fields. In fact, there are a lot of independent Islamic intellectuals who have a powerful effect in addition to the new Islamic preachers who became a phenomenon taking the pride of place in Egyptian Islamic scene. Those new preachers have a graet impressive effect in developing Islamic awareness. All these factors highlight the MB peculiarity which differentiates it from other Islamic ideologies.
 
 
Organization: From International organization to Local organization
 
In addition to the above mentioned changes, there is another important change, but this time, in the MB organizational frame or its international organization. This international organization was intended to help in instituting Islamic caliphate. Actually, observers and MB members talk about this international organization as if it is a world organization that fully controls all regional organizations and adopts one policy leading the worldwide group towards achieving one objective. But the reality is totally different. In fact, this organization has no authority of guiding or obliging the regional MB organizations which became independent in taking decisions no matter how critical they were. For example, when the Algerian chapter of MB took its decision to present Sheikh Mahfouz as a candidate in presidential elections, they did so without consulting the international organization leadership. Moreover, the Iraqi organization accepted participation in the interim governing council under the control of US government represented by Paul Primer, without consulting the international organization leadership. Worse still, the Iraqi MB organization insisted on its decision in spite of the international organization refusal and despite the statement issued by the Jordanian MB organization in which they denounced this Council and condemned those participating in it regarded this an act of betrayal. As for the MB chairman, he did not comment on this matter and left it for the estimation of Iraqi MB. Similarly, he did not comment on the alliance between Syrian MB and Abdul Halim Khaddam to topple Syrian president under the auspices of America .
 
Actually, MB overestimates the international organization, while some opponents use this international organization as a means of terrifying and frightening people from MB.
In fact, the intense involvement in political work gave priority to the notational interest whether that of regional organization or its national project without giving a lot of attention to the world dimension except to a very limited degree. Therefore, when the late president, Yasser Arafat, asked the Egyptian MB to intervene for pressure on Hamas in its negotiations with Fath Movement, Hamas refused this intervention and gave priority to its internal interests.
 
 
Grassroots: From Ideological purity to normality
 
Besides the change in the MB project and its organizational frame, there is another important change in the MB grassroots. The MB cadre has no longer been this cadre characterized by closed ideological makeup or pure MB culture. The MB grassroots became more receptive to other different cultural, intellectual and even legal authorities, thus we have to think about the myth of MB purity. We found Sayed Qutb’s saying “A unique Quranic generation” circulating among MB grassroots in the period from 1970s to the late 1980s. This saying had a very impressive effect that stimulated MB leaders to work for developing the intellectual unity taken as a principle in dealings and even in outer appearance. But the social and economic changes made this saying no more than a romantic dream or a great memory for which the MB members long, but without taking upon themselves to bring it into reality.
Sayed Qutb’s saying has been substituted with many other sayings reflecting a variety of ideas and authorities without paying attention to peculiarity or intellectual and dogmatic separation.  Because this saying has no longer been suitable for the new MB cadres who became more receptive to new ideas and visions, many other saying substituted it. Among these sayings are: “Seek knowledge even in China ”, “Wisdom is an object of pursuit, whenever the believer finds, he should do his best to get.”
Nowadays, we find the MB cadre reading in Islamic heritage less than he reads in the literature of life affairs. His library is full of Stephen Kofi’s collections in Management Science; he did not find any wrong in quoting western non-Muslim philosophers and intellectuals and may regard that as the epitome of culture in contrast to the case with MB cadres in 1970s.  
 
This new cadre became interested in the way in which he spent summer holiday; he may go to cinema and discuss the latest movies; he is interested in means of recreation and entertainment as long as this does not contradict ethics from his point of view. We found the MB chairman issuing a statement congratulating Egyptian football team on winning Africa Cup.  The new cadres of MB became more liberal and receptive to new ideas, they participated in the details and battles of life so that they became nearer to normality and lost the feeling of supremacy, uniqueness and the exaggerated feeling of being people of mission. This interest in details of life besides the involvement in public work and the consequent relationships, emotions and feelings led to some mistakes whether they are moral, financial or administrative corruption. Consequently, we heard about the MB leader who is accused of sexual molestation, and the MB cadre whose son fell in love and married the daughter of Adel Imam, the famous artist who is known for his sever criticism and attack against Islamic trend and whose movies are full of  eroticism and sexual scenes. This cadre then invited the MB chairman and leaders to the wedding celebration.
Among the factors that resulted in the MB turning to normality is the nature of MB discourse which stayed away from the details, consequently we found a lot of discourses and inclinations that may be contradictory within the group itself and hence we saw MB groups not a single group, in spite of the so-called intellectual unity. There are a lot of visions within the group that vary remarkably and adopt different political visions. We find some supporting the view calling for a regional political party that is suitable to modern state, while some others still seek after a vague image of World Islamic state and caliphate. Due to this variation, the sorting and categorization become difficult or even undesired because the group insists on opening the door for all those who work for Islam under its umbrella as long as those people stick to the principle of “Hear and obey” and denounce violence. Thus we find among the MB cadres a lot of people who began in other political parties or groups and their relationship with MB is limited to the fact that this group represents a link with Allah. In addition, the developments in terms of religiousness including the appearance of independent Islamic intellectuals and new Islamic preachers besides the shrinking of religious institutions came to end any talking about Ideological Purity.
 
Spirit: From Combative to seeking enjoyment of life
 
These highlighted changes reflect a certain change in the MB spirit with which we have been familiar before two decades. The MB diversion from their ultimate objective and their big image of the world, and their involvement in details of reality resulted in the waning of combative and struggling spirit which was a peculiar feature of MB in 1970s.
The dream of 1970s generation was not limited to changing the regime; actually, changing the regime was a very simple step towards the great dream of instituting caliphate and declaring world Islamic caliphate. This generation saw this dream so near that they began to think about what comes after; they began to think about the headquarters of this caliphate and its frame. This dream was the subject matter of their daily talks. The University students aspired to no less than comprehensive change of the world. This MB generation has a strong desire for radical change in order to establish a new world. But this dream has no longer been present in the minds of the current MB generation. The aspirations of MB university students do not go beyond student candidacy and their utmost demand is amending student by-law. Actuaaly, before the last year reform demonstrations, the most important activity of MB students in Alexandria University was a demonstration denouncing nudity in Video Clip songs. Similarly, the most important activity of MB students in Cairo University was to organize a celebration on the occasion of Valentine’s Day; they called this celebration “Mohamed Day” and tackled the Islamic vision concerning Love. The struggling and revolutionary spirit has been subsided among MB even in Islamic chants which turned from soul-stirring chants calling for jihad and martyrdom to a mere recreation and entertainment means.
In the time of MB old generations, a spirit of asceticism, austerity and renunciation of worldly pleasures prevailed among them.  They had only the required level of subsistence; they stick to moderation and economization in expenses and clothing. They enjoyed a spirit of seriousness even in times of joy and happiness. But nowadays, the much admired exemplar of MB is the Muslim gentleman who wears stylish and fashionable clothes, has luxurious car and occupies important position but use all this for the sake of Allah!
The fact of MB dream has been changed and world has no longer been abode of trial and ordeals; it has no longer been as a tree where a believer seeks protection from hot sun for a short while then leaves to the hereafter. The MB members turned to worldly life and the MB awareness reviewed its stance; consequently MB school graduated a new type of cadres who loves worldly life, endeavors to get the capabilities required to meet life needs more than hereafter needs. Of course, they have a ground for this new vision in Islamic heritage. The new Islamic project is to be undertaken by people like Othman Ibn Affan and Az-Zubair Ibn Awwam (A symbol of richness) not by poor people like the People of Suffa (the poor immigrants).
The new MB spirit is a spirit of adaptation to the reality as it is without striving to change it, but only trying to give it an ethical touch under the umbrella of Islamization. It is a spirit that does not see any reality other than that we live; it wants the same reality but with more enhancements. This is clearly manifested in the MB recent literature. There is no call for radical and essential change; instead there are calls for more enhancements or amendments to this current reality. Anyone reads the MB platform for the latest parliamentary elections will not find big differences between this platform and that of National Democratic Party.
 
 
MB vision concerning the world: From seclusion to sociability
 
The MB vision concerning the other and the world has been changed. The world is not a jungle and people are not only Zionists and crusaders; there are friendly countries, United Nations, and international institutions that we can resort to and ask them to establish justice and not to adopt double standard policy. There has no longer been any talk about the reality of these institutions which are mere puppet institutions controlled by the international imperialism and Zionism in addition to other Anti-Islam powers.
During the crisis of insulting our beloved Prophet, the MB reaction came belated, after most or nearly all other Islamic and non-Islamic powers in Egypt and Islamic world. When the MB chairman issued his statement concerning this crisis, it was very short statement in no more than three lines in which the chairman denounced what happened emphasizing that “People of heavenly religions do not accept such an insult. Anyone reads this statement will be confused whether this is a statement of MB chairman or any official sheikh who grounds his denunciation on the stance of people of other heavenly religions.
The language of MB statement was similar to formal statements that try to keep away from any stirring up or incitement and come free of any reference to conspiracy or enmity of Zionist and anti-Islam powers.
 
  


submitted during a symposium titled “ Islamic movements participating in political institutions in Arab countries and Turkey’ held by the center of constitutional and political studies, in cooperation with faculty of economic, political and social sciences in Morocco in 16, 17 July, 2006.

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