The Muslim Brotherhood (jamiat al-Ikhwan al-muslimun, literally Society of Muslim Brothers) is an Islamic organization with a political approach to Islam. It was founded in 1928 by Hassan al Banna in Egypt after the collapse of Ottoman Empire.
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The Muslim Brotherhood opposes secular tendencies of Islamic nations and wants return to the precepts of the Qur'an, and rejection of Western influences. They also reject Sufi influences. They organize events from prayer meetings to sport clubs for socializing.
The organization's motto is as follows: ďAllah is our objective. The Prophet is our leader. Qur'an is our law. Jihad is our way. Dying in the way of Allah is our highest hopeĒ
The Brotherhood has branches in 70 countries. They claim to have taken part in most pro-Islamic conflicts, from the Arab-Israeli Wars and the Algerian War of Independence to recent conflicts in Afghanistan and Kashmir. Currently, the Egyptian Brotherhood exists as a militant clandestine group, and has been connected to many underground political operations. In other countries, they have more prominent roles, including parliamentary seats. They have supported (and founded) movements like al-Jihad and al-Gama'at al-Islamiyya in Egypt and mujahedeen groups in Afghanistan. They have also supported establishment of Muslim communities in Europe and America.
The Muslim Brotherhood begun as a youth organization aimed at moral and social reform in Egypt. They regarded Islam as a way of life. Many of its Syrian supporters founded their own branches in their country. One of these was the Aleppo branch, founded in 1935, which became the Brotherhood's Syrian headquarters. The Brotherhood grew as a popular movement as the Party of the Muslim Brotherhood, Hizb Al-Ikhwan Al-Muslimoon.
During the 1930s, the Brotherhood became more political in nature and an officially political group in 1939. In 1942, during World War II, Hassan al Banna set up more Brotherhood branches in Transjordan and Palestine. The headquarters of the Syrian branch moved to Damascus in 1944. After World War Two, Egyptian members took violent action against King Faroukís government. When the organization was banned in Egypt, hundreds moved to Transjordan. Many also participated in the Arab-Israeli War of 1948-1949, on the Arab side.
The Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood initially supported Gamal Abd an-Nasserís secular government and cooperated with it, but resisted left-wing influences. A Muslim Brother assassinated Egyptian Prime Minister Mahmud Fahmi Nokrashi on December 28, 1948. The Brotherhood was banned, and Al Banna himself was killed by government agents in Cairo in February 1949.
Muslim Brother Abdul Munim Abdul Rauf tried to kill Nasser on October 26, 1954. The Brotherhood was outlawed again and over 4000 of its members were imprisoned, including Sayed Qutb, the most influential intellectual of the group. He wrote influential books while in prison. More members moved to Jordan, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, and Syria.
In the 1950s, Jordanian members supported King Hussein of Jordan against political opposition and against Nasserís attempts to overthrow him. When the King banned political parties in Jordan in 1957, the Brotherhood was exempted.
The Syrian branch was the next to be banned when Syria joined Egypt in the United Arab Republic (UAR) in 1958. The Brotherhood went underground. When Syria left the UAR 1961, the Brotherhood won 10 seats in the next elections. However, the Baíth coup in 1963 forced them underground once more, alongside all the other political groups.
The Saudi Arabian branch convinced king Ibn Saud to let them start the Islamic University in Medina in 1961. After the Six-Day War in 1967, the movement as a whole split into moderates and radicals. The latter faction in Syria declared jihad against the Baíth party leaders. King Hussein allowed the Jordanian branch to give military training to Brotherhood rebels in Jordan.
The appointment of Hafez al-Assad, an Alawite Muslim, as the Syrian president in 1971 angered the Brotherhood even more because they did not consider Alawites true Muslims at all. Assad initially tried to placate them, but made very little progress. Assadís support of Maronites in the Lebanese Civil War made the Brotherhood re-declare its jihad. They began a campaign of strikes and terrorist actions. In 1979, they killed 83 Alawite cadets in the Aleppo artillery school. Assadís attempts to calm them by changing officials and releasing political prisoners did not help. Eventually the army was used to restore order by force.
An assassination attempt against Assad on June 25, 1980 was the last straw. Assad made the Syrian parliament declare Brotherhood membership a capital offense and sent the army against them. In the operation, which lasted until February of 1982, the Syrian army practically wiped out the Brotherhood, killing maybe 10,000 to 25,000 people. The Syrian branch disappeared, and the survivors fled to join Islamic organizations in other countries.
Nasserís successor in Egypt, Anwar Sadat, promised reforms, and that he would implement Sharia. However, Sadatís peace treaty with Israel in 1979 angered the Brotherhood again, and they apparently had a hand in his assassination in 1981.
In 1973, the Israeli government allowed local leader Ahmad Yassin to run social, religious and welfare institutions among Palestinian Muslims. In 1983, he was arrested for illegal possession of firearms and sentenced to prison. When he was released 1985, he became more popular then ever. When the first Intifada begun in 1987, he became one of the founders of Hamas.
In 1984, the Muslim Brotherhood was partially reaccepted in Egypt as a religious organization, but was placed under heavy scrutiny by security forces. It remains a source of friction.
In 1989, the Jordanian Brotherhoodís political wing, the Islamic Action Front, won 23 out of 80 seats in Jordanís parliament. King Hussein tried to limit their influence by changing the election laws, but in the 1993 elections, they became the largest group in the parliament. They strongly opposed the Jordanian-Israeli Peace Treaty in 1994.
The resistance movement in Afghanistan formed in opposition to the leftist policies of King Zahir Shah. The movement had connections to the Muslim Brotherhood.
The Russian government alleges that the Muslim Brotherhood is a key force in the ongoing Chechen revolt. Russian officials accused the Muslim Brotherhood of planning the December 27, 2002 suicide car bombing of the headquarters of the Russian-backed government in Grozny, Chechnya.
- Bradsher, Afghanistan page 91,218.
- Gilles Keppel: Jihad. Paris 2000