Muslim Brotherhood

Muslim Brotherhood - Reuters - 26/12/2011

The Muslim Brotherhood is a social and political Islamist movement, founded in 1928 in Egypt by Islamic scholar Hassan al-Banna. Currently based in Egypt, the movement has a presence in 70 countries.

Throughout its history, the Brotherhood has made several unsuccessful attempts to gain political control, and as a result, its activities have been repeatedly banned and its members oppressed. In the wake of the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, the Brotherhood was disbanded by the new Egyptian government and its members arrested. Brotherhood activities have also been suppressed in Syria, following an assassination attempt on Assad in 1980, and most harshly during the 1982 Hama Massacre, when Sunni Islamic groups, attempting to fight against Assad's regime were brutally put down. The death toll from the massacre is disputed, but estimates of victims (mostly civilian) range from 1-40,000.

In April 2011, following the 2011 Egyptian Revolution, the Muslim Brotherhood launched the Freedom and Justice Party. The party's political platform is based on Islamic law, and is in favor of free-market capitalism. Although neither Copts nor women can attain the post of Prime Minister according to the party's platform, they can serve in the cabinet.

In October 2011 following a prisoner swap between Hamas and Israel that released Gilad Shalit along with over 1,000 Palestinian prisoners, representatives of the Muslim Brotherhood visited the Gaza strip—the first Brotherhood delegation to do so. "We came to participate in the joy at the release of brothers. We are proud of them," said Brotherhood chief Goma Amin. "Resistance proved itself." Meeting with representatives of Hamas, the visit marked a major shift in relations between Cairo and the Palestinians since Mubarak's fall. In December 2011, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh in turn visited Cairo, to great fanfare.

In January 2012, speculation arose as to whether a Brotherhood government would bring the 1979 peace treaty between Egypt and Israel to a referendum. Dr. Rashad Bayoumi, the deputy head of the Brotherhood, was quoted as saying that he"will not recognize Israel under any circumstances" because "We are talking about an occupation entity and a criminal enemy." Representatives of the Brotherhood, however, have assured American officials that the group does not intend to revoke the peace treaty with Israel.

In the first stages of the Egyptian elections that began in November 2011, the Muslim Brotherhood garnered over 65 percent of the vote. Persecuted under Mubarak's regime, the Brotherhood is expected to dominate Egypt's new parliamentary government, a body whose primary task will be to draft Egypt's new constitution.