What are the goals of the Muslim Brotherhood, the long-standing and often-controversial Islamic organization from Egypt?
The Muslim Brotherhood, a Sunni organization, was founded in Egypt in 1928 as a reaction to both a perceived decay in modern society, and as a resistance to British colonial occupation, according to Georgetown University’s center for religion, peace, and world affairs.
In the decades following its founding, the goals of the Muslim Brotherhood were to engage in resistance against both British occupation and Egypt-native autocrats, through both non-violent grassroot action and through violent acts by more extremist members. The organization was outlawed for most of its existence because of the latter.
The movement inspired offshoots in many countries and territories, most notably Hamas in Palestine.
However, these groups should not necessarily be conflated with the main, Egyptian organization, according to Islam scholar Jeffry R. Halverson at Arizona State University.
In fact, the goals of the Muslim Brotherhood are often much more moderate, he writes.
The organization exists in many other Arab countries, including Syria and Jordan, but “The Brotherhood has no clear organizational structure or political agenda at the international level,” according to Georgetown University.
The goals of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt are to achieve political reform.
According to a Q&A on their website, this “… includes the termination of the state of emergency, restoring public freedoms, including the right to establish political parties, whatever their tendencies may be, and the freedom of the press, freedom of criticism and thought, freedom of peaceful demonstrations, freedom of assembly, etc.”
However, the goals of the Muslim Brotherhood also include “the introduction of the Islamic Shari’ah as the basis controlling the affairs of state and society” and “work to achieve unification among the Islamic countries and states, mainly among the Arab states, and liberating them from foreign imperialism.”
This would mean the creation of two separate systems within a nation, where Muslims follow Shari’ah law, and non-Muslims follow the laws they believe in.
Like all mass political movements, the goals of the Muslim Brotherhood are not monolithic, despite a rigid hierarchy. There are both hardliners, reformers, and centrists voicing different opinions within the movement, according to the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR).
The Muslim Brotherhood runs many different institutions in Egypt, including hospitals, schools, banks, businesses, foundations, day care centers, thrift shops, social clubs, and facilities for the disabled, according to the CFR.
There are approximately 300,000 members in the organization. Egypt’s total population is around 81 million, the UN says.
While not directly involved in electoral politics, the Muslim Brotherhood is considered to have founded Egypt’s Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), the BBC reports.
Before 2011, the Brotherhood had no legal status – until President and FJP member Mohamed Morsi granted it status as a non-governmental organization.
This, as well as the new constitution the FJP approved, led to the backlash and the July 2013 removal of President Morsi.
Regardless of electoral politics, however, the Brotherhood will remain part of Egyptian and Arab society as a force for conservative Islamism.