With the passing of yet another Muslim Brotherhood symbol, Yusuf al-Qaradawi, the movement loses one of its key propagandists. With the absence of most of its leaders and its loss of power in the states it had controlled, the Muslim Brotherhood is suffering enormous losses on nearly every level. So, has the movement died with the death of al-Qaradawi? Has the time come to turn the page on the Muslim Brotherhood?
The Brotherhood is an extremist political religious group that began as an idea in the new world order that emerged at the beginning of the last century. It brought new political and ideological tides and gave rise to the concept of national states, new regional maps and local identities, and the League of Arab States.
The Brotherhood competed with various groups, including the Arab Ba’ath, which was established in the 1940s and took the reins of power in Iraq. It fell when Saddam was at the helm. It was marginalized by Bashar al-Assad in Syria. Another competitor was Communism, which had branches in most Arab states but only ruled southern Yemen, also dissolving into nothing in the world and the region with the USSR’s collapse. There was also Nasserism, Qaddafism, and other individualist leaderships that also disappeared with their leaders’ death, as happened with Maoism and Stalinism.
What distinguishes the Muslim Brotherhood from Baathism, communism, and nationalism is that the Brotherhood is a fascist political group founded on the idea of exploiting religion, and therefore, it cannot die.
The Muslim Brotherhood’s danger lies in that it upholds and promotes a romanticized idea of reviving the Islamic State, which never really existed in the past in the picture they paint for their followers. Historically, all Islamic caliphates were family monarchies, ever since the Umayyad State and up until the Ottoman State.
The Brotherhood used everyone, and everyone used them. They are often accused of having enjoyed support from the British rule in Cairo when most of the Arab world and Islamic communities were under the British Crown’s rule. Surely, at the time, no partisan project could have emerged without British recognition or support.
The British were known to closely follow local developments in their colonies, and some documents mention their interest in the Muslim Brotherhood as a movement since its emergence in the 1930s. It’s said that the first mosque to be built by the Brotherhood in Ismailia received funding from the British-owned Suez Canal company.
It is only natural for London to have done this. For decades, Britain supported every action against its rivals, be it the Turkish, the Nazis, or the Communists. It used the Muslim Brotherhood as a mouthpiece to promote its political rhetoric against communist “atheism” in the region and distributed their leaflets as far as in Indonesia to counter Sukarno.
The movement’s ties with Britain are not evidence to be held against them. After all, the Arab League may have been a British suggestion that then-Undersecretary of State for Foreign Affairs Anthony Eden made to Arabs in 1941 to arrange an alliance against Nazi Germany. However, leaving sensitivities about the past aside, even if London hadn’t suggested it, the League was a natural and somewhat inevitable idea in the era of alliances while countries gradually gained their independence.
Had the Muslim Brotherhood been a secret office in the British Foreign Office, it would have been easier for the states of the region to close it down, but it is rather a naive, conspiratorial thought. What’s more, the Brotherhood is a fascist religious political group that is capable of emerging in every Islamic country and willing to work with all its opponents, be it the West, Communists, or extremist Shia groups, if that gets it to power.
It masters propaganda and selling the ideas of democracy, coexistence, and modernism, though these were debunked when the movement took the reins of power in Egypt in 2012. It became clear that the movement is run by extremists, while moderates are only a façade. It emerged as a serial organization, from Sudan to Tunisia, Yemen, and Libya, all the while seeking to stir trouble in other countries, and the danger it poses on the region was exposed when it rushed to link with Iran as soon as it got to power.
In Egypt, it gradually turned from an elected party to a totalitarian group by trying to take over posts in the judiciary, general investigation department, police, and media.
The Muslim Brotherhood does not die with the death of its leaders or its prohibition. The Muslim Brotherhood is an idea.
This article was originally published in, and translated from, Pan-Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat.