Media and Communication Activities of the Muslim Brotherhood Vision, Goals, and Future
The Muslim Brotherhood (MB) has attached great significance to the media since the organization's establishment in 1928. Media is regarded as one of the most vital pillars of its advocacy and organizational structure. The functions of media are represented in MB's objectives, which encompass spreading the MB's ideology, calling for mastery or comprehension of the world, promoting the concept of reviving the Islamic caliphate, and calling for the application of Islamic Sharia.
The MB has developed its media practice in order to meet its requirements in terms of mass publicity and engaging in political struggles. The MB understood the significance of discourse duality, endeavoring to refine its discourse and pragmatically exploit tragic events in the nation's history as well as the epic struggles of its historical leaders since the Mohammedan mission to establish a conceptual system consistent with the ideological reference of its political organization and aspirations.
The MB has taken into account the gradual development of its media performance. It has shifted from the advocacy stage to the political stage, and then from the phase of political opposition to that of political rule or leadership. Accordingly, these shifts have been reflected on the level of its media discourse. Despite of these shifts, two main concepts remain constant in the MB's media discourse and summarize its ideological vision for religion and state; first, the concept of "supremacy of advocacy and sanctity of the message", and second, the concept of “interdependence of religion and politics.”
The concept of "supremacy of advocacy and sanctity of the message" has provided the MB with an opportunity to win Islamic public opinion over to its side, expand its popularity, and infiltrate state institutions
to the extent that such institutions would act in service of religion or as a caretaker of its interests. Furthermore, it embodies renewal in the practice of religiosity, which constitutes a paradigm for contemporary generations of Muslims. This is unproblematic in principle if the MB does not deviate from the legitimate vision of the Islamic call and the message of Muhammad, as unanimously agreed upon by Islamic scholarship. Such vision or messaging calls for "what is known from religion by necessity." The danger, however, lies in the MB's strategy, which transforms the Islamic call into ideological inputs that are exploited in a partisan context. This exploitation seeks to influence public consciousness, especially in regards to creating a state of consciousness wherein the public identifies the MB with religion, or even equates or conflates the two.
The concept of "interdependence of religion and politics" has provided the Muslim Brotherhood with an opportunity to access politics through religion and religion through politics. Indeed, the concept of this interdependence can be ascertained through the slogans promoted by the MB through its media and communication channels. For instance, the slogan: "Islam is the solution" has been associated with its ideological discourses. Thus, this concept facilitates the MB in its practice of piety and pragmatism in the context of its path towards political change. The organization is thus able to conceptualize Sharia rule or governance and societal ignorance in a language that is acceptable to Muslim communities.
The MB has taken advantage of the available means of media and communications, primarily the paper press, with the aims of spreading its ideas, achieving its goals of mobilization, gaining favor in public opinion, and penetrating Egyptian and other Arab and Islamic societies.
The MB has not missed the opportunity to promptly utilize (and excel at utilizing) the modern tools and means of communication, namely social media and digital media. Indeed, the MB has discovered that
modern communications tools are effective tool in contributing to breaking the state monopoly over media, and more rapidly spreading its ideas in Arab societies. Moreover, social and digital media platforms can be used to defend the MB and promote its image as a moderate group that believes in democracy and public liberties.
In regards to its ability to mobilize the masses through the media, the MB is perhaps one of the most influential of groups, movements, and organizations. It has thus often played a role in inciting the outbreak of demonstrations against ruling regimes.
The MB has harnessed all possible means, including traditional and modern media, to achieve its main goals. These goals include recruiting new members, gaining public sympathy, and spreading and promoting the MB's ideas, in addition to the goal of the Islamic advocacy.
The MB's media has dealt with its opposition in a variety of ways, some of which involve belittling or even ridiculing opponents, or spreading rumors that malign such opponents and thus can detract from the opponents' influence.
The MB has excelled in utilizing the media to feign or exaggerate their heroism, especially during the period in which the organization ruled Egypt. The MB managed to portray its members as heroes who took charge of public affairs, in contrast to its opponents or competitors, who were portrayed by the MB as unable or unwilling to exercise a similar level of heroism and leadership.
The MB's media discourse is inseparable from its core values, which the MB seeks to instill among its adherent. These values include loyalty, receptiveness to listening and learning, and obedience; as such values constitute the basis for sustaining the organizational and administrative structure of the MB.
The MB's media discourse is known to rely primarily upon sheikhs, preachers, and religious scholars rather than other experts and specialists who are perhaps more neutral or less biased towards the MB The MB favors professionals who are partisan or more sympathetic to its viewpoints over more objective or maybe disaffected individuals who also possess experience and competence.
The MB's media has paid excessive attention to current political issues and conflicts, neglecting people's concerns and scrutinizing the competent authorities, which is one of the main reasons for its declined popularity.
Pragmatism was a key feature of the MB's media, as various MB- affiliated media outlets or platforms became tools for advocating its actions or decisions, even if such actions and decisions were in contradiction with the foundations upon which the organization was based or the principles that informed its literature.
The MB deviated from ethical, accurate, and objective media work. Its media instead lacked credibility and the organization persisted in broadcasting fake, sensationalist, and threatening media output. Moreover, following the June 30th Revolution and the ouster of the MB-affiliated Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi, the MB incited violence against the regime in Egypt, as well as against some institutions and professionals. The organization supported armed groups that practiced violence and terrorism in the country, and it also sought to enflame tension in Egyptian society.
The MB's media has used inappropriate language against its opponents and rivals, which was associated with severe criticism, especially as it was considered unprofessional and unethical in terms of media work.
The MB's deviation from the ethics of media work and its reliance on intimidation, incitement to violence, and inappropriate language contributed to its loss of credibility, diminished influence, and inability to achieve any of the goals for which it was founded.
A set of indicators proves that the MB's media incapacity continued after the year of 2013, including the internal conflicts and divisions that were reflected in its media, and the spread of corruption. A case that exemplifies this is “El Sharq” channel; as proven by its weakness and inability to compete with the other Egyptian channels. The channel became a tool in the hands of Turkey.
Currently, the MB's media faces a major and genuine crisis, which sets it on the path to oblivion or "clinical death" as a result of a number of factors. These factors include losing its original operational environment in Egypt combined with losing the Egyptian people's sympathy, its loss of the sanctuary provided by Turkey and its difficulty in finding another sanctuary, its degeneration into a meager platform politically funded for defaming opponents These factors were exacerbated by the internal disputes from which the MB suffers, as well as the organization's failure to achieve its goals.