RECOMENDED READING: “One Expert’s Thorough Examination Of The Brotherhood”


The Egypt Independent has published an article titled “One expert’s thorough examination of the Brotherhood” that looks at a new book analyzing the internal politics of the Muslim Brotherhood. The article begins:

Noha El-Hennawy Mon, 31/12/2012  A submission to Salafi thought, wishy-washy attitudes vis-à-vis social protests, the adoption of a rural culture. With these three inflammatory headlines, a remarkable book had hit the market in summer 2012 highlighting the internal politics of the Muslim Brotherhood on the eve of the January 2011 revolution.In eight academic articles, ‘The Muslim Brotherhood: Pre-revolution Years’ provides an intricate dissection of the social dynamics and power struggles that had rocked Egypt’s oldest Islamist organization in the last decade. At certain points, Hossam Tammam, a seasoned expert on the group who died in October 2011, goes further back in time to explain certain contemporary traits of the country’s largest sociopolitical organization and de facto ruling group. One of the text’s compelling stints is a chapter that traces how Salafi doctrines have penetrated the 84-year-old organization. The author’s main argument is that the Brothers had deviated from the initial doctrines of the group, as laid out by founder Hassan al-Banna, with their submission to Wahhabi Salafi thought. Tammam begins his chapter with a flashback on the organization’s early days, drawing an intriguing portrait of Banna. He contends that he showed more tolerance of the other and more openness to different Islamic schools of thought. Banna never meant for the organization to draw on Wahhabi intransigent thought, according to the book. To prove his point, Tammam highlights the Sufi component of the Muslim Brotherhood’s identity in the first half of the twentieth century. This Sufi element is enough to convince readers that Banna did not envisage a Salafi organization as Sufism and Salafism are two dichotomous paradigms. For, Salafis, Sufism bears several heretical elements. Besides, the book says, Banna had discouraged his followers from adopting a special appearance that would distinguish them from the rest of the society. While Salafis have to grow their beards, Banna advised his Brothers against beards, out of fear that such an appearance would contribute to building a psychological barrier between them and their peers outside the organization. Meanwhile, Muslim Sisters of the early days did not use to dress so differently from other women. A headscarf was the only addition to their modern outfit, according to the book.For Tammam, this relative openness had faded away since the 1950s, in wake of former President Gamal Abdel Nasser’s ruthless crackdown on the organization. While thousands of Brothers languished in Nasser’s prisons, many others had to flee. ‘Saudi Arabia represented the main refuge to Muslim Brotherhood leaders and cadres who fled Nasser’s regime,’ wrote Tammam. ‘The Brothers who settled in [Saudi Arabia] were not immune to the influence of the Wahhabi Saudi environment. It was a closed environment that left no room for religious pluralism, let alone ideological pluralism,’ adds Tammam.

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