The effect of Muslim Brother to Arap Spring
Muslim Brotherhood (Ihwan-i Muslimin) is the oldest and most influential Islamic movement in the Arab world. It was founded in 1928 by Hasan al-Benna in the city of Ismailia in Egypt. The Muslim Brothers is represented in almost all the countries in the Middle East. The Muslim Brotherhood was one of the forerunners of the Arab Spring. Over the years, the Muslim Brotherhood had been subjected to the pressure of state leaders. The overthrow of the leaders in North Africa and the Middle East, which had exerted pressure on the Brothers, was a great opportunity for the MB. During this period and afterwards they gained strength and became important political actors in the states. Even after the uprising, the movement either came to power or rose to the position of one of the strongest power alternatives.
During and after the Arab Spring, there are various reasons for the Muslim Brotherhood to gain influence and become the most important actor of the process. The most important of these are that they have a good organization and they promised a better life for people who had lived under dictatorial regimes for many years and suffer from corruption and injustice. Of course, it is not right to restrict their success to these. In order to understand their successful policy during the uprising period and afterwards, we must first look at the values, ideologies, and past that, they possess. This study will hopefully try to explain the influences of Muslim Brotherhood on the future of the Middle East as a supra state, regionalist and interstate political thought, focusing especially on the influences of the Muslim Brotherhood on the Arab Spring on their empowerment after the Arab Spring.
The first part gives general information about the Muslim Brotherhood. From the past to the present, the organization, development and gradually changing ideology of the Muslim Brotherhood will be addressed. In the second part, the effect of the Muslim Brotherhood on the Arab Spring will emphasized. Considering the countries that the Arab Spring took place, the activities of the Muslim Brotherhood in Arab countries in the Arab Spring will be mentioned. In addition, it will also give information about the process of legitimation of the Muslim Brotherhood. In the third chapter, focusing on the relations of the Muslim Brotherhood with regionalist countries, it will be mentioned whether MB is a regionalist and supra-state or it is a terrorist organization? It will also be mentioned how the Brotherhood movement will affect the future of the Middle East.
In order to better understand why the MB was founded, it would be appropriate to look at Egypt at that time. Egypt had been a British Protectorate until 1922 when he left the Ottoman Empire. Egypt had declared its independence in 1922, and Ahmet Fuad Pasha became the king of Egypt by taking the title of I. Fuad. Although Egypt declared its independence, the dependence on the English continued. There was a constant controversy between the British side and the Vafd in the country. All the governments that were not pro-UK were collapsing one by one. The MB believed that the Egyptian problems were caused by the departure of the Egyptians from Islam. They thought that the solution of the problems would be realized by returning to the Islamic values. Under these circumstances, the MB began to organize against British colonialism.
“The ideology of the Organization of Muslim Brotherhood is based on a reformed Islamic understanding. Reformists, essentially, are the intellectuals seeking answer to the questions of why Islamic countries are backward and where they made mistakes. In this framework, it is questioned why Islamic countries cannot pursue universal developments in science, technology, economics and social life, and why the West is directly or indirectly under the sovereignty.” (Ülger 2016, 145)
Moreover, it is also not a coincidence that the establishment of the Muslim Brotherhood was established in the period when the foundation Caliphate was abolished. Perhaps, the Muslim Brotherhood was in search of an institution that could replace the Caliphate. Because the presence of a religious authority allows Islamic countries to act together. Recognizing that religion is an important part of human and community life, they were paying attention to the caliphate. MB accused Turkey of being Atheist because of abolishing Caliphate and accepting secularism.
In August 1987, Murat Bardakci interviewed Muhammad Hamid Abu'l-Nasr, leader of that period of the Muslim Brotherhood in Cairo. In this interview, Abu Nasr stated that Brotherhood would come to power in Egypt in the near future, emphasizing that they were always opposed to violence. He stated that they used the gun only for legitimate defense purposes. Abu Nasr stated that Islam ordered to act with love, charity and cooperation for the development of humanity and civilization and he also stated that Turkish people were also on this way. He claimed that, eventually, an Islamic State would be established in Turkey. Abu Nasr also talked about the Caliphate.
The Khilafah will surely be reestablished in the future and will direct the Islamic world. If Ronald Reagan is responsible from the West today and Mikhail Gorbachev from the east, the caliph will be responsible for the world of Islam, and the Caliphate will decide the decisions of the Muslims. Why do others decide about Muslims rather their own leaders. We do not insist on Egypt to be the Caliphate. It could be Turkey, Saudi Arabia or any other state. (Bardakçı 2013)
So far, Brothers have seen Egypt and Turkey as the most important actor of the Middle East.. As we know, Egypt is the country that they were established and Turkey is the potential leader of Islamic states and Middle East. Although they had close relations with Welfare Party in Turkey, they saw the Motherland Party's coming of power in 1983 as a chance to return to Islam. In the interview with Bardakci, Abu Nasr expressed this situation.
Besides being a Pan-Islamist movement, MB is the perfect alternative to the understanding of the social state. “The Brotherhood started off as a grassroots religious social organization, preaching Islam, teaching the illiterate, setting up hospitals and launching small enterprises for the poor and down-trodden, a religious response to despair.” (Kerckhove 2012) An important reason why the MB received great support from the people in the Arab Spring period was that the Brotherhood had served people for many years in health, education and social issues.
The main objective of the MB has always been to ensure that the reference objects of Muslim life are Quran and Sunnah. They argue that states must have Islamic law. Despite their close proximity, Recep Tayyip Erdogan was severely criticized by the Brothers when he said that secularism was not something to worry about during his visit to Egypt. This is an indication of how sensitive Brothers are about Sharia.
Muslim Brothers has made it possible for Islam to emerge as a political ideology in modern sense beyond being a religion. In addition to influencing the state policies, it has also been the basis for the Islamic movements that emerge in different parts of the Islamic world. Osama bin Laden, for example, is a student of Sayyid Kutup, one of the forerunners of the Muslim Brotherhood.
The organizational structure of the Muslim Brotherhood is another important influence in its success. The brothers, who had been subjected to state pressures for a long time, could only keep their assets with a solid structure. This organizational structure, when included in the democratic system, allowed them to adapt immediately to political life. The structure of the Muslim Brotherhood consists of two main institutions. These are The Shura Council and Executive Office. The Shura Council has the duties of planning, charting general policies and programs that achieve the goal of the Group. (Sulami 2003, 60) The decisions taken at the Shura Council are binding. The Council acts in accordance with its programs and ideology. It has the right to veto and change the decisions taken by the Executive Office. “Executive Office or Guidance Office (Maktab al-Irshad), which is composed of approximately 15 longtime Muslim Brothers and headed by the supreme guide or General Masul (murshid) Each member of the Guidance Office oversees a different portfolio, such as university recruitment, education, or politics. Guidance Office members are elected by the Shura Council.” (Trager 2015) The sub-units of Executive Office are executive leadersip, organizational office, sectariat general, educational office, political office and sisters office.
The Muslim Brotherhood aimed to establish a supra state and transnational organization. For this reason, MB is not limited to Egypt only, has opened 1,500 branches in 71 countries, and has more than one million members. The number would be much more if we consider the ones who support the organisation although they are not the member. It should be noted that if there were only one state in the Middle East, the Muslim Brotherhood could be the ruling party.
It can be said that the Muslim Brotherhood, which defended radical Islam in its establishment and later periods, is pursuing a more moderate policy today. It may be argued whether it is a cover to conceal the underlying aims or a new consortium according to the changing world order. Today, Brothers are closer to the idea that democracy and Islam can live together. This change of understanding was best observed in Morsi power, which came to power in Egypt for a while. This change in the ideology of the MB has been observed simultaneously in all the political parties where the MB is influential. Considering the example of Turkey, while Welfare Party, which can be considered as the representative of Brotherhood in Turkey, adopted more radical Islam, Justice and Development Party, which can be accepted as the successor of the Welfare Party, follows a more moderate policy. It may be wrong to see this as a contradiction to their own values. If we look at it from a realistic perspective, state security and societal security in connection with it are priority issues. Politicians can change their political understanding as long as they do not conflict with their core values. Moreover, Islam involves human rights, tolerance and equality at least as much as democracy.
Muslim Brothers in Arab Spring
On December 18, 2010 Muhammad Bouazizi, who was an engineer and forced to sell fruit because he could not find a job, was confiscated and humiliated by counterpoints. As a result, Bouazizi's burning himself in front of the Tunisian Municipality was the beginning of Arab uprisings. The Muslim Brotherhood came to power in Egypt in the Arab Spring with its political arm, Freedom and Justice Party. Muhammad Morsi's victory, supported by the Brothers, has crowned the Brother's success in the presidential election. However, Morsi's power was overthrown by coup made by Sisi. Although not an official part of the Brotherhood in Tunisia, En-Nahda, who had close associations with them and had similar ideologies, won a great victory in the first elections after the uprising and became the party with the most right of representation in the General National Congress. In Libya, the Brother’s Justice and Constitution Party is still an important actor in Libyan politics, although it has not won victory. In Syria, the Brothers constitutes a major opposition to the regime.
Tunisia is the country where the Arab uprisings began. The Ennahda Party, known in Tunisia as being close to the Muslim Brotherhood, was founded in 1981 long before the uprisings, unlike other countries. It would not be right to call the Ennahda as the branch of Brothers. The Ennahda was inspired by the Iranian revolution and is known as the most democratic Islamic Party. The Ennahda Party founded the government as the first party in the first elections after the uprising, but could have been the second party in the 2014 elections. At this point, it should be reiterated that The Ennahda did not become a branch of the Brotherhood, but became two allies, acting together in line with the same ideals.
Egypt is one of the countries where the Brotherhood is strongest because it is the country where the Muslim Brotherhood was born. Although Egypt's population is growing day by day, natural resources are limited. For this reason, poverty is increasing. In addition, the political influence of the military in Egypt is very high. After the overthrow of Mubarak's rule, the country was ruled by the military regime until democratic elections were held in July 2012. The Brothers, who have been pushed out of politics since the day they were founded in Egypt, attracted public attention during the Arab Spring and became the most influential actor during the rebellion. The Brothers formed the Freedom and Justice Party and in the first election, the FJP candidate Mohammed Mursi was elected as president. However, although the MB received a great deal of support from the public, the Egyptian bureaucracy, which had previously been organized, was not warm to the Brothers. For this reason, Mursi, who rose to power in the country, had little effect on the bureaucracy. The fact that the military and bureaucracy were against Mursi also prevented the reforms. In the country where the uprising was yet to come, and the country had suffered demolition, the urgency of reforms was of critical importance. Mursi came to power with the promise of making social reforms and offering people a better life. In all these negativities, the Mursi rule lasted a little more than 1 year and was overthrown by the coup in Sisi control. The Muslim Brotherhood, which experienced power less than two years, was forced to live a period of liquidation from political and social life, as history repeats itself. (Güvenilir Çelik 2016) The Egyptian army heavily sanctioned Muslim Brotherhood with the support of the countries of the region. Thousands of Muslim Brotherhood members were murdered in the Adevviya Square and the leader of Muslim Brothers in Egypt, Morsi, was imprisoned and sentenced to death.
If an analysis of this period were to be made, a political party that came to power with democratic elections encountered military and bureaucratic obstacles and eventually was overthrown by a coup. In Egypt, governed by the Mubarak administration for many years, democratic institutions have lost their function. Unfortunately, it was not enough time for these institutions to be re-established for 1 year. The underlying reason for the Mursi rule to be handed down by coup is, of course, not only that democracy did not occur in Egypt. In addition, the MB is seen as a terrorist organization by some Middle Eastern countries and powerful countries. So the coup was supported by the USA and the Gulf States. After the coup, the MB was declared a terrorist organization by Egypt, Syria, Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates. The bill, which calls for the MB to be defined as a terrorist organization, was adopted in February 2016 in the United States.
From a realistic point of view, it can be said that the Egyptian coup is not just a blow to the internal dynamics of the country. The fact that the kingdoms of the Gulf saw these democracy movements and the Brothers as a threat to them caused these kingdoms to support the coup. As a matter of fact, Saudi Arabia provided military and economic aid to Egypt after the coup. Moreover, a stable Middle East, governed by its own internal dynamics, is not a desirable situation by strong countries. Just as powerful states did not allow Egypt when Gamal Abdel Nasser wanted to nationalize the Suez Canal, when the Middle Eastern states are powerful and want to nationalize especially oil resources the countries that operate these resources would not let it. In Egypt, the most concrete example of the controversy between Pro-American and Regionalists was seen. Because Mursi's ruling Egypt was involved in the bloc of Regionalist states and being the important actor in the Arab world, Egypt’s being a part of this bloc conflicted with the Gulf States and the USA. More detailed information on this topic is included in the last section.
In short, the overthrow of the Mursi administration was based on the destruction of the rising understanding of the ruling of the region in its own dynamics in the Middle East. After the overthrow of Mursi management BBC published a news titled Turkey was alone anymore. As we know, before the fall of Mursi, Both Egypt and Turkey were two leaders of the Middle East and the Political parties in power in these states had close relations with Muslim Brothers. This made it easier for the two states to act together and contributed to the region's security and development. From this point of view, the BBC's news is meaningful.
The ideology of the Muslim Brotherhood came to Libya through the refugees who escaped from the crackdown by Gamal Abdel Nasser in 1950. However, the Brothers could not operate in Libya for a long time. The reason for this is that King Idris and Muammer Gaddafi saw them as the archenemies of the state and that they encountered oppression. Gaddafi forbade all Islamic movements in the country. With the beginning of the Arab uprisings, the Brothers, who continued their activities secretly for a long time, began to pursue an effective policy.
With the overthrow of the Muammar Gaddafi regime, the Brotherhood established the Justice and Construction Party to be effective in Libyan politics. The party is also known as the Justice and Development Party. At this point, it is appropriate to briefly mention the party names without leaving the subject. It is seen that the names of political parties having the ideology of the Muslim Brotherhood include the concept of "Justice". Justice and Construction Party was established in Libya when the Freedom and Justice Party was established in Egypt. It is also seen in the Justice and Development Party, established in Turkey in 2001. Actually, this name was raised before the JD Party. In an interview with Ismail Kahraman, he voiced that when the Welfare Party, which is known for its closeness to the Muslim Brotherhood, was closed down in 1998, he recommended Necmettin Erbakan that the newly formed party be named Justice and Development Party, but Erbakan named the Party as Virtue Party. (Kahraman 2012)
Libya is the country where rebellions are the bloodiest. The people could overthrow Gaddafi thanks to US coalition forces. In addition, the vast majority of Libya's oil resources are operated by western companies such as Statoil, OMV, Royal Dutch and Eni BP. Western states wanted to protect their oil resources. For this reason, it is natural that the western states look different from the uprisings in Libya and the uprisings in the other states.
The JDP did not really get the desired result in elections after the uprising. In the 2012 elections, the party that received 510 of the votes was the second party and could only have 17 of 80 seats. It was, actually, a natural result that the Muslim Brotherhood did not succeed in Libya, where the intervention of the Western states was so great. As a matter of fact, this continued in the following process. The Muslim Brotherhood of Libya, who could not produce political solutions to the problems, did not get the desired result in 2014 elections. Actually, this continued in the following process. The Muslim Brotherhood of Libya, who could not produce political solutions to the problems, did not get the desired result in 2014 elections. It has been voiced that the Brothers have close ties with extreme groups like Al Qaeda.
The Libyan Brotherhood proved more hawkish and less compromise-oriented than its Tunisian counterpart, and in seeking to grow its foothold in the Libyan political landscape, aligned itself with some of the more extreme groups operating there. (Roundtable: The Crisis of the Muslim Brotherhood 2017)
In view of the Libyan Muslim Brotherhood being treated as a terrorist organization, the explanation of the U.S Congress about MB’s acting with Al-Qaeda and ISIS was influential. Colonel Ahmed Al Masmary, the spokesperson of the Libyan National Army in 2017, made a similar statement. The failure of the Muslim Brotherhood in Libya has internal and external causes. The internal reason is that the Brotherhood has not developed an effective policy and has not cut its ties with radical extremist organizations. The external cause is that Western powers do not want the Muslim Brothers, who act together with the Regionalist states and are the most influential regionalist non-state actors in the region, to be effective in Libya.
The Muslim Brotherhood is more or less influential in Syria, Bahrain, Jordan, Yemen, Oman, Iraq, Lebanon and Morocco, where the Arab Spring takes place on a large or small scale. Brothers who sometimes rise in power in these countries are sometimes left in opposition. Nevertheless, the brothers were often part of state politics. Of course, the MB groups in all states are not under one roof. Therefore, these groups are not managed from a single centre. For this reason, there are differences between Brothers in different countries. While Brothers in one state adopts a more radical policy, it follows a more democratic policy in another state. Lack of coordination among groups in different countries has caused problems from time to time.
The Muslim Brotherhoods are not only in the countries where the Arab Spring takes place. At the same time, there are Brotherhood organizations in most Middle Eastern and North African countries. Examples include Iraq, Palestine, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Algeria, Morocco, Sudan, and so on. The brothers have organizations in 71 countries. While some of these countries support the Muslim Brotherhood movement, others are trying to prevent it. In fact, some countries have accepted this movement as a terrorist organization. Syria and Egypt in 2013, Saudi Arabia and BAE in 2014, declared the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization. After Egypt declared his Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization, it was putting pressure on Qatar to expel Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, one of the most important figures of the MB and other Ihvan members. (Başkan 2014) There is also the same reason in the origin of the embargo that the Gulf States imposed on Qatar in July 2017.
It is wrong to evaluate the states' view of the Muslim Brotherhood by simply responding to the question of whether the Brothers are terrorists. The Brothers, the forerunners of the Arab Spring, were perceived as a threat by the kingdom-governed Gulf States. The splashing of the Arab Spring to the Gulf countries could have caused the people to go out on the streets with the demand for democracy, causing the kingdoms to collapse. It is known that the kingdoms distributed millions of dollars to the people in order to prevent Gulf Spring. The brothers were not very active in these states, because both kingdoms did not allow them in the Gulf States and because the people in these states did not know the Brotherhood very much.
The Muslim Brotherhood is a foreign movement to the Gulf. This is true even for Qatar, where the people are most influenced by religion perception and life. That is why the Muslim Brotherhood, in no Gulf country, has been transformed into an oppositional social movement that can threaten the regimes. (Başkan 2014) 9
Muslim Brotherhood as Supra-State And Regionalist Political Thought
We have already mentioned that the Muslim Brotherhood has been built in 71 countries. Before addressing the influence of the Muslim Brotherhood as a Supra-State and Regionalist Non-State actor in the Middle East and North Africa, it is necessary to evaluate the situation of the region.
We are in a period when the Middle East has been reshaped and a new world order has emerged. It can be said that the Middle East is divided into two blocs. Turkey, Iran and Qatar led one of the blocs and the other bloc was initiated by Saudi Arabia, UAE and other Gulf States. If we need to put these blocks in a concept, Muhittin Ataman calls this block "Regionalists". Because these bloc-led states have adopted the principle of the Middle East being governed by its own dynamics without being open to external intervention. The concept of “Native and National” on which the President of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan especially focuses is the main idea of the Regionalists. Russia now supports Regionalists. However, it is not right to call this block Pro-Russian. Although Regionalists act with Russia, their main aim is not to be part of a movement under the leadership of Russia. It can be said that it is an alliance between Regionalists and Russia. The reason why regionalists act with Russia is to balance the US. Turkey, as a Regionalist State, is more than middle power but less than a Global Power. Turkey is on the verge of becoming a global power. It is trying to be a country that has a say in the region. However, Turkey's aim is not only to have a say in the region itself. Its main purpose is to democratically ensure that regional states make decisions about the Middle East with the participation of all the states of the region. However, in the Middle East, where there are interests of many global powers, it takes a painful process to change. Iran is also part of this change. Iran tried to be active in the period of Arab Spring but could not be successful as Turkey. There are different reasons for this. Although Iran is a Shia state, most of the population of Middle Eastern countries is Sunni. Iran does not have a long history with much of the state Turkey. Another state of the regionalist block is Qatar. Qatar is act together with Turkey in recent years. It is the exceptional country of the Gulf. Like other Gulf States, it is a country rich in oil and natural gas. Qatar has been threatened with embargo and blockade by the Gulf States since 2014, when the Muslim Brotherhood was declared a terrorist organization.
The other group, the Gulf States that make up the Pro-American bloc, does not oppose the American intervention in the Middle East. Pro-American ideologies determine the views of this bloc on the issues of the Middle East, Israel and the Palestinian issue. Pro-American states view the Muslim Brotherhood as a threat. For this reason, the Brotherhood was recognized by these states as a terrorist organization. Indeed, the ideology of Pro-American is a way of putting the statues of these states. As long as these states support the Middle East policy of the USA, the US also helps protect the position of the kings in these states.
Turkey and Iran act with different non-state actors in order to imply their Regionalist ideology to the region. While Iran acts with Hezbollah Turkey and Qatar act together with Muslim Brothers. If we need to position the Muslim Brothers in the new Middle East order, in fact they are in the midst of the Regionalist thinking as a non-state actor. Today, Muslim Brotherhood, which is organized in almost all the Middle East countries, struggles to govern the region with its own dynamics, its own values, nationally and natively.
After coming to power of the Justice and Development Party in Turkey, it has begun to be focused on the concept of "the native and national". Necmettin Erbakan, the leader of the JDP's predecessor, the Welfare Party, was the person whom MB members called as Brother. Recep Tayyip Erdogan, leader of the JDP, grew up with the same ideology as Necmettin Erbakan. For this reason, the JDP has close ties with the Muslim Brotherhood. Even when JDP came to power, there were headlines such as “MB came to power in Turkey”. Turkey’s close relations with MB disturbed especially the USA, West countries and Gulf States. As this challenge means to be effective in the entire Middle East.
Today the organization of the Muslim Brotherhood in all the Middle East countries and its organizational structure is an important way to make the Regionalist idea effective in the region. Of course, Pro-American States and the United States are endeavouring to destroy this ideology. This is also the reason why the legitimate Mursi administration, which came to power in Egypt after the Arab Spring, was overthrown by a coup d’état. If Mursi's power had not been overthrown, Egypt would be one of the major actors of the Regionalist bloc today. The presence of Egypt in this block meant that the Regionalist thought would affect the region more than it does today.
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