Tuesday,24 October, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1287, (17 - 23 March 2016)
Tuesday,24 October, 2017
Issue 1287, (17 - 23 March 2016)

Ahram Weekly

The Muslim Brotherhood: Falling apart at the seams

At home and abroad, the Muslim Brotherhood is on the verge of collapse, writes Amany Maged

Al-Ahram Weekly

Despite attempts on the part of some Muslim Brotherhood leaders to halt the movement’s disintegration, the Jordanian chapter of the Brotherhood has announced that it no longer has any links with its mother organisation.

The break, first mooted a year ago, was formalised during a recent meeting of the Jordanian Brotherhood’s Shura Council. Though the Brotherhood in Jordan espouses the same ideology as the Egyptian organisation, the decision to break ties with the Muslim Brothers in Egypt appears to have been motivated by apprehensions that the organisation in Jordan could face the same fate as its Egyptian counterpart and end up being labelled as a terrorist group by the Jordanian government.

The Jordanian secession is not the only blow to shake the Brotherhood. In the US, the House of Representatives Judiciary Committee has approved a bill calling on the State Department to label the Brotherhood as a terrorist organisation. The committee voted along party lines and the decision reflects the anti-Islamic tendencies of the Republican Party.

Inside Egypt, generational conflict continues to rage through the Brotherhood’s ranks. Ali Bakr, a researcher on Islamist movements, says the conflict has two causes. The first is the sharp divergence of opinion between the group’s elders and its younger members over the use of violence in the ongoing confrontation against the authorities. The old guard argues that the future of the organisation is dependent on avoiding all violence.

Younger members of the Brotherhood, however, argue that since the group is already being subjected to violence it must respond in kind. This, they say, will strengthen the Brotherhood’s position in future negotiations with the regime.

The second cause is relates to the Brotherhood’s ideological and organisational rigidity. The Brotherhood’s “doctrinal framework” is in a crisis, says Bakr. It has remained immune to any revisions that might enable it to acclimatise to current realities, but has deviated from the course set by the group’s founder Hassan Al-Banna. Meanwhile, the Brotherhood’s managerial system is more than 80 years old. All leadership positions are held by older members. Younger Brothers are systematically excluded from the upper echelons of the hierarchy.

Bakr predicts competition between the old and new guards will continue for some time and could result in organisational collapse. This will lead to several possible scenarios. Small splinter groups could emerge, each espousing a slightly different doctrine. Takfiri, jihadist and Salafist ideas will jostle for control, and young Brothers will join whichever group is closest to their own predilections.

The second, related, consequence is the likelihood of an increase in individual acts of violence. Most young Brothers believe they are engaged in a battle of right versus wrong, with the state in the wrong. It is a reading of the situation that could lead some to undertake suicide bombings targeting security personnel, government facilities or public utilities.The ongoing conflict within the Brotherhood could also contribute to a resurgence of the more traditional wing of the Salafist trend. If the Brotherhood implodes and vanishes from the scene it could be followed by the radical Salafist groups that have allied themselves to the Brotherhood. This would create a proselytising vacuum, furnishing the Salafist Calling with an opportunity to expand.

The Alexandria-based organisation is the only proselytising group to remain relatively cohesive. It could harness the situation to halt its declining popularity, as manifested in the recent parliamentary elections. Another possibility is that the Salafist Calling’s leadership might take the opportunity to return to the group’s original policy of focussing all its energy on proselytising activities. In the face of the threats to Brotherhood unity, Sheikh Yusuf Al-Qaradawi, the group’s spiritual guide, has exhorted all members to mend their rifts. He has issued a statement calling for elections in all Brotherhood organisations in Egypt and abroad to be held as soon as possible. This, he said, will strengthen the confidence of the group and rally its members behind their leaders.

Al-Qaradawi acknowledges the deep divisions in Brotherhood ranks. He has called for an end to public quarrels and the issuing of statements that only inflame sensitivities and deepen divisions.

In his own statement, Al-Qaradawi revealed the names of the members of the committee that has been formed to attempt to resolve crisis. It includes Ahmed Al-Risouni (Morocco), Mohamed Al-Hassan Al-Dadu (Mauritania), Abdel Razzaq Qassoum (Algeria), Ali Mohyeddin Al-Qara Daghi (Kuwait), the president of the Sudanese Ulema Organisation, Mohamed Saleh Othman (Sudan), Abdel Wahab Al-Dailemi (Yemen), Abdel Madjid Al-Najjar (Tunisia), Nur Al-Din Al-Khademi (Tunisia), the head of Al-Jamaa Al-Islamiya in India, Jilal Al-Din Al-Omri, Salman Al-Nadawi (India), Abdel Ghaffar Aziz (Pakistan), Abdel-Hadi Awang (Malaysia), Omer Farouk (Turkey), Salem Al-Sheikhi (Libya), Mohsen Abdel-Hamid (Iraq), Gamal Bedawi (Egypt) and Marwan Abu Ras (Palestine).

Despite this initiative all the signs point to the Brotherhood in Egypt crumbling further. It is reeling beneath the blows it has sustained at home and abroad, and the resulting loss of balance has weakened its ability to avert divisions.

If the situation continues in this manner the Brotherhood will break into a host of splinter groups, the idealogical and organisational nature of which will be difficult to predict.

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