Eighty years later, the fall of Hosni Mubarak paved the way for the dream to come true; the Brotherhood won both parliamentary and presidential elections and formed the government of Egypt. Barely a year after the election, president Mohamed Morsi was arrested and the government toppled by the people, aided and abetted by the army.
The Brotherhood refused to accept their defeat and launched a series of violent protests with their Salafi allies, followed by terror operations that have already caused the death of 350 members of the police and military forces. The interim regime first banned their activities and when that did not help, declared the Brotherhood a terrorist organization.
Interestingly, the West – and the Western press – put their own spin on what they saw as a military coup against the legitimate government of a movement they persist in calling “moderate” or “pragmatic,” insisting that the Brotherhood acted in nonviolent ways.
History tells otherwise. The Brotherhood has been banned before; president Gamal Abdel Nasser tried to eliminate it after being the target of a failed assassination attempt. He threw 60,000 members – 60,000! – in detention camps and had their leaders executed, including Sayyid Qutb, considered the father of modern fundamentalism and the man who advocated imposing Shari’a by force. A few years earlier, in 1949, King Farouk had Hassan al-Banna, the founder of the movement, executed after the “secret organization” he had created assassinated the prime minister and a number of judges.
The Brotherhood created sister branches in Arab countries in the ’40s; starting in the ’60s it launched so-called cultural centers and mosques in Western Europe and the US to propagate its brand of Islam. The world organization of the Muslim Brotherhood has members in Great Britain, Switzerland, Turkey, Qatar and elsewhere, coordinating and aiding local branches, though these branches are largely autonomous.
With the influx of immigrants from Muslim countries into Europe in the ’80s, more specialized organizations were created to deal with different sectors: students, women, culture, professional unions and more. There are now thousands and thousands of such front organizations affiliated with the Brotherhood in the EU and the States.
Documents seized in Europe and the US expose the strategy of the Muslim Brotherhood in the West; they demonstrate that the movement intends to undermine the regimes from within by using democratic values and freedom of speech.
When Anwar Sadat became president in 1970, he thought he would need the Brotherhood to get rid of what was left of the pro-Soviet supporters of his predecessor, Nasser; he set its members free upon their solemn promise not to go back to violence.
Yet some of the newly released Brothers set up jihadist organizations like Takfir wal-Hijra and al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya, which immediately launched terror operations against the regime, such as the bloody attack against the military academy in 1974, the assassination of a former endowments minister in 1977. Sadat himself was their next victim.
These movements advocated Qutb’s goal of imposing Islam on the world by persuasion or force, and reviving the caliphate. Al-Qaida and other Salafi movements were created by former Brothers and are at work today in Iraq, Syria, Sinai and North Africa, as well as in the rest of Africa and Asia.
They continue to launch terror attacks in the West, from Spain to England to the US, and their spiritual leaders preach that not only non-Muslims but even Muslims may be killed to achieve their supreme goal.
As for the Brotherhood, its activities were forbidden under the Mubarak regime, but the movement has tried to advance through nonviolent means. It seized its chance when the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), which ruled after the fall of that regime, let it act openly. Its parliamentary and presidential candidates were elected by millions of Egyptians, who put their trust in Islam and believed that the movement, which had been persecuted for so long, would usher in a new era of economic progress and freedom without infringing on the Islamic nature of the country.
This did not happen. Instead of dealing with Egypt’s pressing economic and social problems, the Brotherhood made an all-out effort to turn the country into a religious dictatorship. Morsi betrayed the Salafi parties which had helped him achieve power – such as al-Nour – and did not hesitate to use extreme force to quell the rising swell of opposition, including opening fire on the demonstrators.
In fact, this is one of the crimes he is accused of today.
However, such was the disenchantment of the masses that they protested in ever greater numbers until, with the help of the army, they managed to stop the Brotherhood – just in time to prevent it from taking over the security apparatus.
What the millions of Egyptians who rebelled against the Brotherhood wanted was to put the revolution back on track, in the hope that a new regime would fulfill their expectations.
The West, sticking to a narrow definition of democracy, protested the ousting of a “democratically elected president” and condemned what it saw as a military coup. This led some to comment that had the people of Germany, with the help of the army, ousted democratically elected leader Adolf Hitler from power in the ‘30s, 50 million people would not have died and the world would be a different place today.
With the Brotherhood and their supporters turning more violent, staging deadly attacks against the army and security forces as well as civilian targets, the interim regime had no choice but to ban the movement – as King Farouk, Nasser and Mubarak had done in their time – and declare it a terror organization.
But the West is not ready to follow suit. The US and the EU, representing the so-called enlightened world, are turning their back on Egypt, though it is fighting their common enemy, radical Islam – thus tacitly encouraging the Brotherhood to keep up their fight.