It is a fact that the possibility to write, in one or two pages, about an organization that created in 1928 is very low. While keeping in mind this fact, first two series of this article aims to analyze the political experience of Muslim Brotherhood during the period Hosni Mubarak until 2000s.
Islamic movements, Muslim Brotherhood and Salafis in Egypt and Al Nahda in Tunisia became majority after elections in Tunisia and Egypt. They were imprisoned, tortured, expelled and even executed by their regimes. Today there is a big debate going on whether their ability of governance in politics and their ideologies and even sometimes goals about the future of their countries. There are a lot of questions that we can hear today; how did they gain so much support from the elections? Is it because of religion? Or are they really working in the social activities as well? What are their understandings of democracy? Are they doing Taqiyah (hypocrisy) or did they change their understanding about doing politics?
Fears of Egypt becoming an Islamic county, such as Iran under Khomeini or Afghanistan under Taliban, are the most basic arguments that you can always here if there is an Islamic movement comes to power by democratic elections. This was also the case with AK Party in Turkey coming to power after 2002 elections as Daniel Pipes stated in 2003;
“There is no such thing as a moderate Islamist, for all Islamists share the same long-term goals; they differ only over means. For example, the Justice and Development Party in Turkey is very different from the Taliban in its means, but not so different in its ends. If the party gained full control over Turkey, it could be as dangerous as the Taliban were in Afghanistan.”
In order to make a better judgment for the future of Arab and Muslim majority countries one should overcome the belief that Islamic movements are homogenous and have only one goal; going back to 7th century. These kinds of arguments are also not useful to explain why these movements gain support in the democratic elections. I want to stress the point that Islamic movements today in the Arab world are the most significant political as well as social actors, and also they are no more in the opposition but they are ruling their country.
If we look to the case of Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, for example, it has a lack of experience in politics which is the result of their life long suppression and distance from governing position. However, this doesn’t mean that they have never participated in the elections or neglected the notion of democracy. On the contrary they were always in part of opposition in Egyptian politics and use elections whenever they were allowed by the state, starting from the 1984 elections when they made agreements with liberal Wafd Party. This was a sign to indicate that Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt is not a military organization which aims to overthrow the regime in what so ever. But their strategy was a change from bottom up rather than top down. While participating to the elections also they did not shy away from what they believed. This was one of the reasons why Muslim Brotherhood with other Islamic groups participated to the 1987 elections and raised the slogan “Islam is the solution”. They believed Islam is a belief that cannot be distanced from politics but it affects every aspect of life. This is the reason why Muslim Brotherhood believed that religion or establishing a state based on Islamic principles is the solution to the problem of corrupt and oppressive regime which will protect the rights of every citizen.
They also chose the way to use their democratic right and social power to gain the majority in the leadership in professional syndicates in 1990s. This was a positive sign for Muslim Brotherhood because; during the same years other Islamic groups such as “al Jihad” started an armed struggle against the Egyptian state. They were nearly in every section and syndicate in Egypt which made them the main opposition group against the regime. For example in 1992 Cairo Earthquake was a sample for the power of the Muslim Brotherhood in the society. They helped the injured people faster than Mubarak regime by setting up medical clinics and setting up tents to the disaster area. Mubarak looked for any small reason to crack down the Muslim Brotherhood members after this incident. A failed assassination attempt in Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa in 1995 was a big chance for Mubarak to prosecute Brotherhood where he also aimed at extinguishes the Muslim Brotherhood. But the regime was not able to dismantle the organization, which obviously seen in next elections up to January 25, 2011 Revolution in Egypt.
First ten years of 2000 must be analyzed by looking to the international conditions around Egypt by keeping in mind the “Democratization” process of Muslim majority countries starting with Afghanistan and Iraq.