Lessons for Muslim majority countries | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, January 14, 2015 / LAST MODIFIED: 01:53 AM, March 08, 2015

Lessons for Muslim majority countries

Lessons for Muslim majority countries

The Brotherhood is a Sunni political and social movement with 2.5 million supporters, founded in 1928 by Hassan al-Banna. After the Egyptian revolution of 2011, the Brotherhood launched a political party named 'Freedom and Justice Party' to contest the election with the same mission and goal but under a different role. In 2011, they won half of the seats of the parliament. Its candidate Mohammed Morsi in June 2012 won the presidential election but was overthrown on 13 July 2013. In the presidential election of 26 and 28 May 2014, General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi received 23.78 million votes (96.91%) and his opponent HamdeenSabahi received 751,511 (3.09%) of the casting votes.

Egypt Court banned Muslim Brotherhood (MB), its associates and seized its assets. In December 2013, the military government declared the Brotherhood as a terrorist group.

The analysis of failure of the Brotherhood can be a reference for other emerging democracies of the world. Only three years ago, with a powerful ideological organisation, the Brotherhood appeared to be the strongest political power in the country and inheritor of former military ruler Hosni Mubarak. Under changed circumstances, this organisation is now discredited by a large segment of the Egyptian population, many of whom voted them to power.

The popular uprising of Egypt gave an opportunity to the Brotherhood to come to power by democratic means, but they misread the popular demand for democracy and socio-economic reform. During the election, the Brotherhood gave a projection of democratisation and moderation to the voters but on assuming power they failed to interpret the realities of society correctly. They failed to understand post-Mubarak political realities. They also failed to reach out to institutional power bases of the old government and the forces conducting movements against Mubarak. The hollowness of their rhetoric on meritocracy, inclusiveness and transparency in running the government was evident. They were failing to engage the forward-looking Egyptian youth who played the most vital role in the 2011 uprising. The diversity of Egyptian society was ignored. They ignored the need of the hour in the form of democracy, pluralism, individual freedom and equality before law.

The Brotherhood failed to communicate with other political forces and engage with them as the party became overconfident about their electoral success, forgetting that popular mandates are reversible. Their ideological zeal failed to study and assess the political environment of society and politics. People by and large were apprehensive about the ideology of the Brotherhood, which they considered was being usurped by anti-democratic components of the organisation. It had its leadership and ideology which was rigid and could not adapt to social changes. The party was considered by social forces an introvert, unable to build commonality of network of social support.

After coming to power, the Brotherhood could have restrained its power, moderate political objectives, engage with other political and ideological groups with an aim to establish political freedom, democracy, improving civil-military relationship, administrative checks and balances, calculated power sharing etc. This would not have led to their alienation from the forces of the movement, reforming groups and secular forces. Their leaders were in a hurry to seize the golden opportunity and assume power, maximise political gains and dominate the political arena but they disregarded Egyptians' desire for democracy. The Brotherhood was largely trying to follow the footsteps of Turkish Prime Minister RecepTayyip Erdoğan of AKP but failed to follow their steps on flexible combination of Islamic ideology, engagement of social forces, economic liberalism and a centre right coalition. In Egypt, the military, police, bureaucracy, public sector organisations and judiciary are in the process of rule-making. The Brotherhood developed a confrontational relationship with these old actors, unable to understand that the real power was resting on the old state with military at its core.

The Brotherhood failed to evaluate the social resentments for its leaders' hate speeches, threats against freedom and secular life style. They were also unsuccessful in addressing economic problems and improving living standard, public services etc.

While Morsi was in power, the Brotherhood engaged with radical Salafists and Jihadists to build a solid base of support. This resulted in their further alienation from possible allies at home and abroad, including Egypt's longtime allies, the Gulf States.


A parallel centre of power in the rural areas was being formed by inflexible leaders who focused only on religion-based education and established youth camps and learning centers where they demanded blind obedience and criticised other religions. The youngsters were fed with ideological propaganda. The regime discouraged independent thinking and intellectual diversity.

Interesting to note is that, in Egypt, like many other Muslim majority countries, Islamist movement will remain a key political actor and a popular ideology. In the next elections, if allowed to participate, they may again gain a sizeable core constituency. However, with renewed programmes, the Brotherhood may try to utilise the narrative of victimised political group and appeal to people if the present leadership does not deliver well to the people. Egyptians like many others have also a short historical memory.


The writer is a Freedom Fighter, recipient of Swadhinata Padak and a researcher on Liberation War.

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