The Middle East, North Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa are home to many different types of terrorist and pseudo-terrorist organizations. While they all function differently, with overlapping interests and ideologies, they all function to terrorize the populace. Importantly, terrorist organizations attack Christians, Muslims, Jews and other minority religious groups, with their end goal to establish a particular set of political or religious ideals. I intend to outline the political and religious ideology of these terrorist and pseudo-terrorist groups, and what nations they particularly exist and function within. This week, I will discuss the Muslim Brotherhood.
Encyclopedia Britannica describes the Muslim Brotherhood as a “religio-political organization founded in 1928 at Ismailia, Egypt.” (1) The main nation where the Muslim Brotherhood operates is in Egypt; however, “The Brotherhood [exists] throughout Egypt, Sudan, Syria, Palestine, Lebanon, and North Africa.” The Muslim Brotherhood, while existing as a political organization, acts in such a way that they could conceivably be defined as a pseudo-terrorist group, using both fear and violence tactics to establish itself in a powerful position in the nations that it has influence in.
Due to its Islamic roots, the Muslim Brotherhood has had wide appeal throughout the Arab World. According to some estimates, “At its height in the late 1940s it may have had some 500,000 members.” (2) The Muslim Brotherhood has one main goal: “It [advocates] a return to the Qurʾān and the Hadith as guidelines for a healthy modern Islamic society.” (3) This form of political Islam advocates for rules such as the Sharia Law to be implemented, with harsh capital punishments for anyone who wrongs Islam. However, the Muslim Brotherhood’s appeal is not for all Muslims. The Muslim Brotherhood and people affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood have actually attacked Islamic mosques in some situations.
The Muslim Brotherhood’s main goal is to establish states with Islam as the state religion. An Islamic nation, in their view, must express Islamic ideology through enforcement of Islamic law: for example, Sharia Law. In nations where Islamic Law is not official law, the Muslim Brotherhood must use terror tactics to create a notable presence in countries. They do this by attacking places of Christian and Coptic worship. According to France 24, “Egypt's interior ministry on Monday accused fugitive Muslim Brotherhood leaders who have fled to Qatar of training and financing the perpetrators of the bomb attack on a Cairo church that killed 25 people.” (8) Attacks on the Coptic Church are commonplace in Egypt. As the Atlantic reports, “Gunmen killed at least 24 Coptic Christians as they made their way via bus to a monastery in Minya, south of Cairo.” (9) The Muslim Brotherhood publically utilizes its militant wing to attack and intimidate Christians and other religious minorities. However, Christians are not the only targets of the Muslim Brotherhood.
According to the Associated Press, in an article titled, “Egypt official: Home-made bomb explodes near mosque, 3 hurt,” the author describes a bomb that targeted a mosque in the Cairo district of Giza. As the AP reports, “An Interior Ministry statement blamed members of the Muslim Brotherhood for the attack, which it said targeted a security checkpoint. The Islamist group has been banned in Egypt since 2013.” (4) Although Egypt is a largely Islamic nation, it has banned public operations of the Muslim Brotherhood due to their violent rhetoric and dangerous ideology, coupled with actual violence to back up their rhetoric and ideology.
One of the most prominent figures of the Muslim Brotherhood is former Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi. As the New Yorker reports, “The [Muslim Brotherhood announced that they would field a candidate after all. Their initial choice, Khairat el-Shater, was disqualified on a technicality. After that, they put forward Morsi” (7) Following one year as President, Mohamed Morsi was ousted by the Egyptian people of all socioeconomic levels, and put on trial. As the BBC reports, “Four months after he was toppled, Morsi went on trial alongside 14 senior figures from the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood movement, accused of inciting his supporters to murder a journalist and two opposition protesters, and ordering the torture and unlawful detention of others.” (8) Mohamed Morsi’s rhetoric and apparent affiliation with the Muslim Brotherhood emboldened Muslim Brotherhood members and could have encouraged and inspired terrorist attacks. However, the Muslim Brotherhood is actually rejected by many Middle Eastern nations.
Many Arab nations have targeted operations of the Muslim Brotherhood. As Reuters reports, “the United Arab Emirates’ outspoken opposition to the Brotherhood since 2011...Saudi Arabia formally designated the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization in 2014 and banned it in the kingdom.” (5) The UAE, as well as Saudi Arabia, are both highly Islamic nations, and they’ve targeted operations of the Muslim Brotherhood within their respective nations. Additionally, the United States has also targeted the Muslim Brotherhood: “[The United States government] is working to designate the Muslim Brotherhood as a foreign terrorist organization.” (6)
The Muslim Brotherhood is an extremely complex organization with historical roots in the Islamic Arab world. The Muslim Brotherhood, while claiming to be an Islamic organization, contrasts starkly with many Islamic nations in the Arab world. Although it can be described as a religious or political organization, given its particular endorsement of violent activity and violent political ideology, it is more accurately described as a “Political Terrorist Group.”