The different points of view from the articles I read, allowed me to gain insight regarding the Muslim Brotherhood. In many ways the different interpretation of events has left me with more questions, pondering the differences in groups and states, and considering the complex nature of it all. Watching the documentary, The Square, gave me a visual representation of what I was reading in articles. I had such difficulty distinguishing the Muslim Brotherhood as being good or bad. On a moral level, I had many questions regarding the different players which included: the view of a member, the view of an Egyptian seeking democracy, and the view of the Egyptian government who made a distinct and open desire to restrict and dissolve the brotherhood in the political sphere.
As seen in The Square, the Muslim Brotherhood played a significant role in the elections following the removal of Mubarak. When Mohamed Morsi came into power with ties to the Brotherhood, even prior to his election, there was extreme mistrust and anger directed at them. Many of the youth that had been part of the revolution, and the many that had taken over and occupied Tahrir square from the very beginning, were threatened by the Muslim Brotherhood. This type of contradictory nature is what left me very confused. The Muslim brotherhood’s early years, focused on action that was geared at promoting health, and services for the people, but in the documentary, it has become violent in order to make the Quran the only way for everyone.
The Square, placed many things into perspective, especially with the relationship between Magdy Ashour and Ahmed Hassan. In the film you witness what appears to be two individuals that are supposed to be polar opposites, yet they are united by the desire to establish an Egyptian government that promotes justice and freedom. There are several moments within the documentary that often left me referring to the individuals as characters, because their complexity seemed unreal. . Magdy, clearly seeks change because he has been subjected to unjustified abductions, and torture, because of his association with the banned Muslim Brotherhood. The article on NPR titled Egypt Targets Journalist in Crackdown on Muslim Brotherhood mentions a group of 15 journalist that had been jailed for their association with the Muslim Brotherhood and being seen as a terrorist organization that grealty threatens Egypt and potentially other countries. Within the article, it was stated that “Egypt is among the top jailers of journalist.” In this way, I recognized that the Egyptian government viewed the Muslim Brotherhood as a threat to their established way of life that was separate from Islam. The history of the Muslim Brotherhood also includes an earlier ban on the group. According to a CNN article, “In the 1940s, an armed wing of the Brotherhood was blamed for a string of violent acts, including the assassination of Egyptian Prime Minister Mahmud Fahmi al-Nuqrashi in 1948 — shortly after he had ordered the dissolution of the Muslim Brotherhood.” This greatly impacted the way the Muslim Brotherhood was viewed by the government. The association with violence continues today. It seems very strange that the Muslim Brotherhood was originally founded on the “desire to oust the British from control in Egypt, and to rid their country of what they saw as ‘corrupting’ Western influences.”
Initially, the Muslim Brotherhood was “the group concentrated on religion, education, and social services, and with the growing number of members, it shifted towards the political sphere, and began to organize protests against the Egyptian government.” It is important to note that 6 years following the start of the group, the Muslim Sisterhood was founded, and the women involved, were initially given the task of preaching, and assisting the community by providing support. The ultimate goal of riding western influence, was to be achieved by following the Quran,and making Islam “the” way of life, and women were expected to share the message of the Quran.
Women played a key role in the running of the Freedom and Justice Party prior to 2014 when it was dissolved. It was shocking for me to discover that the Muslim Brotherhood did not agree with the U.N. declaration on women’s rights. The declaration included the potential access women would have to travel, work, money, and contraception without the approval of their husbands. The Brotherhood held the belief that women’s rights would result in the destruction of Egyptian society. American female, who believes strongly that women should have equal rights all around, found this to be very disturbing. My perception of what equality should consist of is heavily influenced by western ideas.
Aware that the group was founded on the rejection of “corrupt western influence” and who also seeks to have a society that is governed by the Quran, I identified the group as Radicals. Radicals according to Peter M. Haas, and John A. Hired, authors of Controversies in Globalization, “believe that globalization is primarily a set of economic and social forces that consolidate political control in the hands of northern multinational corporations” and interpret globalization as “imperialism by another name” (pg. lxi).
The Muslim Brotherhood has stated that they do not encourage violence, yet they have consistently been connected (and at times blamed) for violent acts. In The Square, the viewer is able to witnesses the Muslim Brotherhood partaking in violent acts against their fellow Egyptians. The contradictory nature of the Muslim Brotherhood, left me very confused. As seen with the relationship between Magby Ashour and Ahmed Hassan, the Brotherhood does not completely advocate for violence, but rather seeks to establish a country that is grounded on promoting and ensuring justice, and to remove corruption. Magby partook in events at Tahrir Square that he did not completely agree with, but due to his loyalty to the Brotherhood he stood by his fellow members. This does create conflict between the two friends. There was also a seen within the documentary that showcased a conversation between Magby, his son, and Khalid, where Magby’s son is told to “throw rocks at me now” as though to say, I am a human that sits before you and your father, I do not deserve to be treated as anything less. This scene not only put into perspective the complex nature of Magby’s life as he identifies with the Brotherhood but also shares similar ideas with non-brotherhood members. What was shown in The Square was also stated in The Arab Springs on page 304, which stated: “That initial surge in early 2011 was not about religion but was an expression of anger over elite corruption, economic inequalities, widespread injustice and geriatric leaders who are out of touch with reality. Yet by the end of the year, Islamist parties had exploited those early revolutionary gains to emerge triumphant from elections in Tunisia, Egypt, Morocco.” This very statement was depicted in The Square, in which Muslim Brotherhood members took over Tahrir square, and forcibly removed protestors, and who were working with the government/military, to ensure their own political agenda.
The Muslim Brotherhood values a government that is reflective of Islam, and other Egyptians desire democracy. A major concern and question that arose after Mubarak was remove, regarded the steps towards democracy, and the rewriting of a constitution for Egypt. The ideas of democracy did not appear to meet the needs of the people. According to Edward D. Mansfield and Jake Snyder who argue that democracy should not be encouraged to promote democracy :“The earlier the elections come during the process of democratization in deeply divided societies with weak political institutions, the worse this problem is” (509). The problem, the authors are referring to is the outcome of violence, and corruption. This very idea was relevant in Egypt when Morsi won the election due to the Muslim Brotherhood’s strong presence. The Brotherhood strongly rejects the ideas that are associated with democracy. Democracy in their eyes of brotherhood members is considered to be a western way of living. Throughout the readings, and other material that I found, I began to recognize that the American way of governing does not meet the needs or wants of Egyptians who seek democracy. I have discovered throughout my research that the brotherhood seeks some of the underlying values of democracy, but not all. The Muslim Brotherhood is a key member in a very complex situation in Egypt, and other areas in the Middle East. The brotherhood will most likely continue to push for their agenda in various ways, and will likely continue to receive consequences for their ideas. The brotherhood’s members and leaders continue to be seen as a threat. The recent events that have taken place in the Sinai, point the finger at the Muslim Brotherhood for being at fault for the terrorist acts, yet the Brotherhood has made public announcements addressing the events, and their condolences for the victims, and their family, and seeks to provide support for Sinai. As mentioned, the leaders of the Brotherhood have also be subjected to consequences for their actions. One of the articles I read mentioned the recent arrest of the Muslim Brotherhood’s deputy head, Zaki Bani Rushaid. He was arrested in Jordan for criticizing the United Arab Emirates. Zaki Bani Rushaid, stated that the UAE had supported terrorism and questioned its leaders.
Such actions leave me to believe that the Muslim Brotherhood will continue to make efforts, regardless of the consequences, to promote their beliefs and establish a government that reflects their values. I recognize now towards the end of my research the very complicated nature that Egyptians face, regarding the different ideas of what their government should be.