RECOMMENDED READING: “The Syrian And Egyptian Brotherhoods – Different Histories, Different Outlooks”


Journalist  Frederick Deknatel has written an article for the UAE-based newspaper The National titled “”The Syrian and Egyptian Brotherhoods – different histories, different outlooks” which looks at some of the differences between the two organizations. The article begins:

Jul 20, 2013  When those loyal to the regime of Hosni Mubarak besieged Tahrir Square on February 2, two and half years ago, charging through the crowds on camel and horseback, Egyptians battled side by side to defend their revolution. ‘The future of the Arab world, perched between revolt and the contempt of a crumbling order, was fought for in the streets of downtown Cairo,’ Anthony Shadid reported for The New York Times that day – and his words didn’t sound like hyperbole. Shadid, who died a year later from an asthma attack while sneaking out of Syria, scrambled around central Cairo with ‘a dentist in a blue tie who ran toward the barricades’, ‘a veiled mother of seven who filled a Styrofoam container with rocks’ and ‘a 60-year-old grandfather, [who]kissed the ground before throwing himself against crowds mobilized by a state bent on driving them from the square.’

Members of the officially banned but long-tolerated Muslim Brotherhood fought too alongside Egyptians now regarded as their political opponents. On February 2, at the so-called Battle of the Camel, Shadid noted that one protester’s ‘description of the uprising as a revolution suggested that the events of the past week had overwhelmed even the Brotherhood, long considered the sole agent of change here’. With hindsight, that line seems overstated. Or, rather, if the initial uprising outpaced the Brotherhood, the group caught up with events, seizing its chance, long sought, for political power in Egypt.

The Middle East’s oldest Islamist organisation, and the most significant opposition within Arab states, the Muslim Brotherhood, has re-emerged out of the upheavals stirring the region. They may share a name, but the Syrian and Egyptian Brotherhoods have different histories that have altered each inextricably, creating Islamist organisations with very different stakes and roles in their country’s struggles.

In The Muslim Brotherhood: Evolution of an Islamist Movement by Carrie Rosefsky Wickham, a densely packed, commanding study of the Brotherhood’s long history – framed as a comparative analysis across Arab states, but really a book about the ideological and political development of the original branch in Egypt – the author also focuses on the Brotherhood’s role in those 18 days of protest. Wickham cites a protester at the Battle of the Camel who was given ‘an impromptu lesson’ by a Brother on the use of a slingshot. ‘I didn’t like how aggressive the Brotherhood was,’ the protester says, ‘but I have to admit that they were more organised and ardent and their efforts were very important in protecting the square.’

Read the rest here.

The GMBDW reported in April that  the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood was planning to open offices inside Syria for the first time since it was quashed by then Syrian President Hafez Assad in 1982. In May , we reported that the Syrian Brotherhood had opened direct contact with opposition groups.

For a comprehensive account of the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood as of 2006, go here.

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