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Farewell to Politics, Power: What’s Caused Muslim Brotherhood Demise?

Tuesday 2 August 2022
Farewell to Politics, Power: What’s Caused Muslim Brotherhood Demise?

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Alwaght- The Muslim Brotherhood (MB) movement found supporters among people of other Arab countries soon after its foundation in 1928 by Hassan al-Banna in Egypt as it defined for itself goals and ideals. Its main goal was political, economic, and social reforms in Egypt and Muslim world, with its thoughts rapidly catching attention in the Arab countries. Since its foundation coincided with anti-colonial struggles in Africa, the MB in the initial decades spearheaded the fight against French and British colonizers. Also, after foundation of the Israeli regime, the Palestinian cause and liberation of Palestine took a center stage in the political mindset of the movement and continued for a long time. This agenda bought the movement popularity in the Muslim world, to an extent that by the early 21 century it was the largest Islamist movement in the region. 

The beginning of the Arab uprisings in 2011 became a turning point in its history, increasing the power and influence of the MB in the Arab countries, to a degree that it managed to take over the government in some of the most important Arab and Islamic countries and move towards the formation of a new alliance in the region. But with the changes that took place following popular revolutions and the subsequent transformations in political structures of some countries, the MB also entered a new phase of crisis and gradually lost its former clout, and now it has reached a stage where its leaders openly talk about their permanent departure from power structure. Ibrahim Munir, the deputy leader of the Egyptian MB, announced in an interview in recent days that after removal them from power in Egypt, Tunisia, and Sudan, they will never enter into a new struggle over power in Egypt. This official said that the MB will never engage in a conflict of parties during elections or any other political process, and these issues are completely rejected in its opinion. 

The change in the MB's policies at the present time shows that the conditions for this group to regain power in Egypt and other African countries have become extremely difficult, and since the current leaders in Egypt, Tunisia, and Sudan are working to weaken and isolate them, they choose self-isolation after 94 years of the movement's foundation. 

From peak to demise in Egypt 

Although the popular uprisings of 2011 were bloody and deadly for the Arab world, they provided the best opportunity for the MB to gain political power, though for a short period of time. After the ouster of Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak in 2011, the leaders of the movement, with their influence in the society, managed to gain popular favor and win the presidential elections. In the 2012 elections, Mohammad Morsi, one of the leaders of the MB, won the vote to become the first president representing the movement in Egypt, and with his inauguration, the supporters of the MB across the region grew optimistic and hoped for Cairo's political support. But one-year experience of power did not have a happy ending and disappointed many, and after the removal of Morsi's government by an army coup, this movement went under severe pressures. In addition to Morsi, many senior leaders were arrested and sentenced to death and life imprisonment. 

There are several reasons why the MB could not last long in power. One was its departure from its stated policies and ideologies regarding support of Palestine and confrontation with the Israeli occupation. In line with American policies in the region, Morsi refused to take a stance against Israel so that he might be able to maintain his presidency with the help of the West, and this caused a negative view of the movement among the people in the Arab world. After all, groups like Hamas, which have Brotherhood roots and tendencies, hoped that Cairo would support them against the Israeli occupation. But this did not happen in practice, causing a split between the mother MB in Egypt and its affiliates in other countries. 

On the other hand, Morsi was elected by the people who had paid a high cost to eradicate dictatorship in their country and expected the new government to distance itself from the previous structures and implement the democratic process in Egypt. But, to their frustration, Morsi's embarked on a policy of closeness to despotic regimes in Saudi Arabia and the UAE. Actually, he made new Egypt a puppet in the hands of the Saudis and the Emiratis. Riyadh and Abu Dhabi, which saw the presence of the MB in power a threat to their shaky thrones, tried to deviate the new Egyptian government to another direction by paying some sweeteners, and this divided the Egyptians from the movement. Although at the time of the coup, a number of people opposed it, but pro-Morsi protests were not massive and subsided after a short time as the post-Mubarak government could not fulfill the demands of the revolutionaries. 

In addition to Egypt, they suffered a similar fate in such countries as Tunisia and Sudan where the MB held the power. Omar al-Bashir, the long-serving dictator of Sudan who held power in this country for three decades, was removed from power by an army coup in 2019, and in a way, with his departure from the political arena, the MB became history also in Sudan. In Tunisia, the Brotherhood-affiliated groups gained a lot of power after the 2011 revolution, but they also failed to maintain their power. Rached Ghannouchi, head of the Ennahdha movement in Tunisia, who after the power gain described the separation of religion from politics as a "mafia heresy" which causes damage to religion and the government, finally quitted from this position and in 2016, he said he distanced himself from the ideology of political Islam and emphasized that religion should be kept away from political struggles. This ideological and political shift caused many Tunisians to distance themselves from him and his party, and the support base of the MB in Tunisia, like in the Egyptian society, shrunk drastically. The lack of popular base of this movement was observable in the dissolution of the Tunisian parliament where Ghannouchi was a speaker. He observed well that there was not much opposition from the people to sidelining his party in the politics. A look at the experience of MB in power in the three North African countries gives the notion that power not only did not help them enhance their base but also stood as a cause to their demise. 

Turkey cuts support to MB 

Changes in behavior and policies of the MB should be blamed as the main factor behind its decline, but diplomatic transformations in West Asia aggravated the challenges for the movement. Turkey and Egypt that have so far been a safe haven for MB exiles and supporters mended ties with Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and the UAE, three of which keenly working to uproot the MB. Turkey was the biggest supporter of the MB in the region and all groups from Palestine to North Africa have always been under the political umbrella of Ankara. Until recently, the Turkish officials saw escalated tensions with the Israeli regime and Arab countries for supporting the movement. But in the last two years, Ankara has changed its behavior like the MB leaders and reduced its support for this movement. Due to the normalization of relations with Tel Aviv, Ankara closed down the office of Hamas in Istanbul, and on the other hand, due to its proximity to the UAE and Saudi Arabia, it has made fundamental changes in its position towards the MB, and now it has little support for them. 

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey reviewed his MB support policy to make allies in the region, though he every now and then makes remarks in their advocacy. Next year, Erdogan has elections to win. His opponents are mobilizing and uniting to oust him and if he loses, the MB loses its only remaining state backer. 

As a conclusion, it can be suggested that as a result of MB's retreat from its ideals and mindset and amid formation of Arab-Israeli-Turkish triangle, the movement is heading to its death after nearly a century. With its leaders separating from politics and power, its supporters especially in Palestine review their policies and move to Axis of Resistance, a regional power pole whose strength is increasing fast. 

 

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