I’ve never liked to use the term “banned” when talking about the Muslim Brotherhood in the past. I’ve always preferred to use terms like “illegal” or “illegitimate” because I’ve always believed that the Brotherhood’s problem with the law and with respecting it leads to a natural vacuum for a proper organization to emerge. An organization that expresses itself on the condition that it operates within the context of respecting the law and society.
The Brotherhood has always preferred to resort to illegal means when dealing with this issue. They’ve done so to achieve several aims. The most important of them is to maintain the freedom of he who operates outside the law. Such a person, or organization, can continue doing as they wish so long as their actions are being overlooked by the state and as long as they comply with a fait accompli even if it’s not codified. The Brotherhood, through this illegal situation, guarantees the biggest amount of sympathy from the public opinion. This provides it with popularity for free. The freedom to operate outside the law also helps it in not abiding by the state’s regulatory laws. This means that it has a lot of freedom regarding the level of financial and economic transactions since it is not subject to any legal supervision. This is important for a party which is linked to foreign groups and interests and which has a commanding center outside the country - a center that acts as the group’s mastermind.
The situation changed after Hosni Mubarak’s regime was toppled. The Brotherhood seized the opportunity and hijacked the country. It was proven to them that their previous stance in not codifying the group was beneficial as they harvested what they expected and succeeded in ruling Egypt.
Despite the decision banning the Brotherhood, parties within the political Islam movement maintain that the decision to ban the Brotherhood won’t be influentialAbdel Latif el-Menawy
Legal debates however emerged after many Egyptians mobilized against them. Demands to codify, or officiate, the group’s situation increased. Back-then, the Brotherhood strongly resisted these calls. Due to pressures, however, we woke up one day to learn of a governmental decision announcing the recognition of the Muslim Brotherhood and the legality of its organization. I do not know how those who agreed to that back then feel now. Do they feel like they’ve committed an offense? This is not a contradiction. What was in fact required a while ago is that the Brotherhood submits to the law. But what happened was going around the law and placing the group above it in an unprecedented manner.
On Monday, the Cairo Court for Urgent Matters issued a verdict banning the Muslim Brotherhood organization and its non-governmental arm. It banned all its activities and ordered the seizure of the group’s funds. The verdict was issued in response to the case brought forward by a lawyer from the Tagammu party. The Brotherhood was thus banned for the third time since its establishment.
Tracing the Brotherhood’s history
The Brotherhood was founded in March 1928 when six people voted for the seventh founder, Hassan al-Banna. When they asked what the name of the group will be, he said: “The Muslim Brotherhood.” In 1939, on the tenth anniversary of establishing the group, Banna said: “the group is a comprehensive reform one which has a comprehensive understanding of Islam. Its concept includes all aspects of reform in the nation.” The group’s internal system stipulated that the organization does not work in politics. This continued even after the law was amended in 1932.
The Brotherhood was first banned on Dec. 8, 1948 when then-Prime Minister Mahmoud Fahmi al-Nukrashi ordered banning it over accusations of “inciting and operating against state security.” Back then, the Brotherhood’s members considered Nukrashi’s decision as a “treacherous decision issued by treacherous parties.” On Dec. 28, 1948, Nukrashi was assassinated by Brotherhood member Abdelmajid Hassan, a student at the College of Veterinary Medicine. Hassan admitted to the crime and said he committed it because the Brotherhood was banned. Back then, the Brotherhood condemned what happened and Hassan al-Bana said that murderers “are not Brotherhood and are not Muslims.”
Following the July 23, 1952 revolution, the latter’s command council issued a decision banning all political parties in the country. They excluded the Brotherhood since it presented itself as a “dawaa religious group.” Back then, the group’s General Guide Hassan al-Hodeibi told then-Interior Minister Suleiman Hafez that the “Brotherhood is a dawaa religious organization whose members, supporters and components do not work in the field of politics and do not aim to achieve their aims via means like elections.” But as usual, the Brotherhood attempted to seize control. So it clashed with late President Gamal Abdel Nasser following an assassination attempt against him in al-Manshya Square in Alexandria. The Brotherhood was thus banned for the second time on Oct. 29, 1954. The decision against the Brotherhood remained in effect until Abdel Nasser passed away in 1970. The Brotherhood thus launched a new era as Anwar al-Sadat assumed presidency. Sadat began releasing Brotherhood members from prison in 1971, and they were all released in 1975. This is one of the mistakes that Sadat later admitted to.
The Brotherhood was banned for the third time on Monday. But the situation is different today. Despite the decision banning the Brotherhood, parties within the political Islam movement maintain that the decision to ban the Brotherhood won’t be influential considering it remained banned during the thirty years of Mubarak’s governance but still managed to take over the scene during the past three years following the Jan. 25 revolution. But I disagree with this point for a very simple and obvious reason. This time, the court’s decision has decided what’s already been established. The Brotherhood, through its behavior and aggressive stance, has imposed a reality that pushed people themselves to ban it. The Brotherhood has thus been banned based upon a popular decision.
This article was first published in al-Masry al-Youm on September 25, 2013.
Abdel Latif el-Menawy is an author, columnist and multimedia journalist who has covered conflicts around the world. He is the author of “Tahrir: the last 18 days of Mubarak,” a book he wrote as an eyewitness to events during the 18 days before the stepping down of former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. Menawy’s most recent public position was head of Egypt’s News Center. He is a member of the National Union of Journalists in the United Kingdom, and the Egyptian Journalists Syndicate. He can be found on Twitter @ALMenawy