Modernizing the Muslim Brotherhood Mind

Khalil al-Anani
Khalil al-Anani Senior Fellow - Arab Center Washington DC

May 21, 2008

If Hassan Al-Banna, who founded the Muslim Brotherhood 80 years ago, were alive today, he would have issued a decision to force many of the old leaders in the group into retirement and would have given them the Medal of Honor for their dedication to the service of the da’wa (call to Islam) and the Brotherhood for more than 70 years.

The significance of forcing them into retirement is not only because change is a universal, changing of blood is a biological nature, and circulation and rotation are a political function, but also because the crises the group has been going through make their retirement inevitable. This is not only because of the old men’s inability to deal with the sensitivity of the group’s current critical situation, but also because they have become a major cause of recurrent and exacerbating crises, especially over the past three years.

The dilemma of the Muslim Brotherhood now is that it lacks genuine leaders, who can deal with the repeated crises the group has been facing since it reached the People’s Assembly in 2005. The current leaders, especially those who have a distinguished organizational status within the Muslim Brotherhood, seem to be practically unable to address these crises.

This necessitates a reconsideration of the internal promotion procedure, so that fresh blood can be injected to deal with the variables of the current stage.

The Brotherhood party platform crisis revealed the nature of the real organizational weights of both the conservative and pragmatic trends within the Muslim Brotherhood that gave dominance to the former to tighten its grip on the decision-making process within the group.

However, the puzzling question is: Why mainstream conservative supporters seem to be on the rise, despite the successive crises experienced by the group and the failure to deal with them consciously and rationally? Here we can say that the indoctrination culture within the group relies to a great extent on the consolidation of what we can call “the temple guards.”

Perhaps the most striking features of this pattern are: First, it generates Brotherhood members with solid minds that cannot think outside the framework (the temple) drawn up by their leadership, who are more of temple priests.

Secondly, it establishes the principle of amalgamation between the group and da’wa as well as religion and politics. Therefore, any attempt of criticism seems to be cessation from the da’wa (the group) and undermining of the pillars of religion (not politics). The result is that a Brotherhood member, who may carry views different from the mainstream, fears to challenging the opinion of the elders and becomes a victim of the fear of committing the sin of opposing the group.

Third, it establishes the principle of “he who is not with us is against us.” This is the consolidation of unilateral opinions coupled with intolerance to different views —breaching group rules. Therefore, whoever violates the unanimity of the group (tyranny of the majority) is either opposed to the coherence of the group or spellbound by its pundits.

Fourth, it imposes a kind of mental and organizational tutelage on the members of the Muslim Brotherhood and suppresses any individual initiative or personal desire to think outside the “Muslim Brotherhood” box — from theorization to application

At this stage the Brotherhood lacks a political mentality that is able to read the reality consciously without any religious or emotional redundancies, feels the sensitivity of the group’s current situation, and frees itself from any desire for personal gain.

The Muslim Brotherhood mentality needs to be “revolutionized” and revitalized, through the promotion of young cadres that carry a real reformist ideology and look for an area of influence within the group. By the way, these young cadres are numerous and need anyone who stretches a hand and listens to them.