A history of banning the Brotherhood

Abdel Latif el-Menawy

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A Cairo court last week issued a verdict banning the Muslim Brotherhood and its non-governmental organization and ordering the seizure of the group’s funds. The Brotherhood was thus banned for the third time since its establishment.

The group leadership's reaction was not different than the group's reactions the first time it was banned. Some described the decision as a war on Muslims and Islam and said it targeted Islamic preaching, as if Islam is exclusive to their party. The group was first banned in 1948. Back then, they also considered the decision a war on Islam and an aggression against religion and Sharia. They also considered that the decision to ban them could not be issued by a Muslim believer and thus considered it a "treacherous decision made by treacherous parties." This was an introduction to the assassination of Egypt's prime minister back then.

I will briefly highlight the repercussions of the first decision against them in order to compare between the current and the previous behavior of the group that has always claimed that its aim is Islamic dawaa (preaching).

Revisiting 1948

1948 was the year of disasters for the Muslim Brotherhood. On Feb. 27, a coup against the regime in Yemen was carried out. Yemen's ruler Imam Yehya Hamideddine was assassinated during the coup by the opposition led by Abdullah al-Waziri. Hassan al-Banna and the Brotherhood had a prominent role in this coup in cooperation with Al-Badr, Imam Yehya's grandson. The coup aimed to prepare Yemen to be the first of the Caliphate countries. However, the coup did not last longer than 26 days. As a result, tensions emerged between Egypt's king and cabinet on one hand and the Muslim Brotherhood and its leader, Hassan al-Bana, on another. On March 22, 1948, the Brotherhood's secret organization assassinated Judge Ahmad Beik Al-Khazndar. The latter was assassinated by two Brotherhood members after he issued a verdict in a case in which one of its parties was a Brotherhood member. Following the assassination, Hassan al-Banna delivered a speech during his weekly meeting with the group and denied that the Brotherhood assassinated Ahmad al-Khazndar. However, it was proven that the Brotherhood was involved in the assassination, Banna was thus exposed as a liar and a verdict against the perpetrators was issued five months later.

The Brotherhood was banned for the third time a few weeks ago. But the Brotherhood was already banned by popular will.

Abdel Latif el-Menawy

On November 25, 1948, the police seized a Jeep that carried documents which belong to the Brotherhood. The documents were on schemes to blow up the American and the British embassies in addition to other places. The police also found some explosives and bombs in addition to documents on all the explosion operations carried out in the past phase. The most important event back then is that the police arrested three Brotherhood men. The most famous of them was Mustapha Mashhur, one of the five establishers and leaders of the secret organization.

On December 4, 1948, a protest was held at the Faculty of Medicine at Fouad's University in Cairo. Major General Salim Zaki, then-chief of Cairo's police, led security forces to disperse the protest. A Muslim Brotherhood student dropped a bomb on Zaki from the fourth floor. The bomb landed right in front of Zaki and immediately killed him. The situation between the government and the Brotherhood thus escalated. On the same day, Hassan al-Banna called on parliament speaker Hamed Jouda to mediate with then-prime minister Mahmoud Fahmi an-Nukrashi to turn the page and thus launch a new relation between the Brotherhood and the cabinet. Jouda however did not meet his request. Banna attempted to contact King Farouk or Ibrahim Abdel Hadi, chief of the royal court, in order to contain the crisis. His attempts however went in vain. Two days after the incident, a decision to shut down the Brotherhood's daily was made. On the same day, the ruling party's daily, al-Asas, was released with headlines stating: "Good news will soon be announced."

On December 8, 1948, that is two days later, and particularly at 10:00 pm., Abdelrahman Ammar, an interior ministry official called Hassan al-Banna to tell him that good news will be broadcast on the radio in a while and that these news may save the situation. Banna thanked him, and the group's leaders and most of its members gathered at the Brotherhood's headquarters in Al-Darb al-Ahmar, in the heart of Cairo, to listen to the news which will be broadcast via the radio. At 11:00 p.m., the Cairo radio station announced the general military ruler's decision to ban the Brotherhood with all its divisions across the country and confiscate its funds and property. Less than ten minutes after the announcement was made, the Brotherhood members and leaders who had gathered at the headquarters walked out of the latter to realize that the entire building had been besieged and that they had fallen in a trap. They were all arrested except for Hassan al-Banna, the Brotherhood's founder and general guide.

Therefore, the Muslim Brotherhood decided to avenge from Nukrashi as they saw that the decision to ban them was an aggression against religion and sharia. They also saw that the decision to ban the Brotherhood could not have been issued by a Muslim believer - as Mahmoud al-Sabbagh, one of the secret organization's leaders said. They also saw that someone like Nukrashi must be eliminated at any price On December 28, that is twenty days after the decision to ban the Brotherhood was made, a Brotherhood member disguised as a police officer, entered the interior ministry and shot Nukrashi dead among the presence of his bodyguards. Nukrashi thus paid the price for the decision to ban the Brotherhood.

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 Brotherhood was banned for the third time a few weeks ago. The difference between this time and the previous times is that the previous decision has come to decide what's already been established: that the Brotherhood was already banned by popular will.

This article was first published in al-Jarida on Sept. 28, 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

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