A fatwa was recently issued by the highest religious body in Saudi Arabia calling on the public to be careful against the Muslim Brotherhood and to stay away from joining it, or showing sympathy to it. Although there is no organization explicitly under this name, it exists under the guise of other religious labels, in the same way that breakfast cereals are all “Corn Flakes” regardless of their brand name.
The Brotherhood is an age-old group that was established in 1928. But despite its long history, it did not achieve any notable popular presence until after the Iranian Revolution. Khomeinism was the first religious movement to come to power in the region. It was that spark that woke up the sleeping beast and let it loose into the streets. Prior to this, the Brotherhood existed within the political spectrum of Arab societies and remained so for decades, much like communism, an elitist group with no popular base.
As part of his venture to eliminate the socialist legacy of Nasserism in Egypt, the late Egyptian President Anwar Sadat released the detainees, including Muslim Brothers and leftists, and embraced the open-door policy. I don't think his objective was necessarily to strike Nasserism, which was half-dead by then, and receded by the end of the 1960s as a result of the 1967 defeat.
Sadat thought he would be able to politically domesticate the group, so he allowed them to publish their newspaper and be active. He granted them a comeback under the name of the “Islamic Group.” But it wasn't long before they attempted to overthrow him in 1974, killing 17 people in the incident.
The Brotherhood claimed that the attackers came from a splinter group, but their hostile actions against him escalated on the Egyptian streets. In 1981, Sadat came to the final realization that: “There is no such thing as two different groups; the Muslim Brotherhood and the Islamic group, they are all the same.” This revelation of truth came too late, as he was assassinated shortly thereafter.
He was succeeded by President Hosni Mubarak, who chose to coexist with them and gave them more leeway. Yet, they treated him no better than they did Sadat, and it seemed to them that he feared them. They tried to assassinate him several times, most notable of which was the attempt that took place in Ethiopia. During his reign, they became even more dangerous, infiltrating bureaucracy from within. They snuck into the parliament, education, media, social services, unions, investment, Islamic banks, charities, etc. Mubarak's fall in the 2011 “Arab Spring” revolution was merely the final chapter of the story. They had defamed him and stirred up public opinion against him.
Egypt became the Brotherhood's biggest arena, where, as an organization, they multiplied like mushrooms all over the place under different names.
They turned against the Government of Sadiq al-Mahdi in Sudan, against the Palestinian Authority in Gaza, and penetrated Jordan, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Algeria, Tunisia and Yemen.
They were able to sneak into Saudi Arabia, which was impenetrable to them, using different tactics; they came in preacher robes, changed their appearance, name and symbols. Traditional Salafism was the only ideology in the kingdom, its guiding principle was that religion is worship, and that political matters should be run by the state, and that the ruler is accountable to God.
In Saudi Arabia, the Brotherhood took off the suit and the tie, entered in short thobes, long beards and under a different name, Sururiya, and became active deep in the rural parts of the Kingdom. The Sururi Trojan horse finally made it into the castle, followed by violence. The role-division game of having an intellectual-political arm and a military one, was just a facade. The truth is they are all the same group just like Sadat said. The same group became present in Austria, France, Britain and elsewhere. Wherever it found a fertile land, it entered and took control like a fascist movement, blaspheming others under the cloak of Islam, the Quran, and Prophecy to isolate and abolish moderate Muslims.
The Brotherhood is basically an idea. It views religion and the Quran as merely means to the end of attaining power at all costs. Political Islam took the form of many similar religious groups, often interconnected: Khomeinism, al-Qaeda, Hezbollah, Hamas, Qassam, the Sudanese Islamic Nationalism, the Tunisian Renaissance, and others.
They spread from Jakarta to Vienna, and Europe became their biggest incubator. Europeans contradict themselves when they complain about “Islamic” terrorism while allowing extremist Islamist groups to spread their ideas, raise funds, run communities, and receive government support for their so-called charities. The conclusion is that extremism breeds terrorism.
This article was originally published in, and translated from, Saudi Arabian outlet Asharq al-Awsat.