Muslim Brotherhood Encyclopedia

The Muslim Brotherhood Between Expansion and Decline: The Egyptian Case

30 Nov 2021

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Executive Summary

The Muslim Brotherhood witnessed a rapid expansion within a few years of its founding in 1928. After the group moved to Cairo in 1932, it managed to open more than 100 branches by 1936, and by the late 1930s, it went up to 400 branches. The rate of expansion and influence doubled during the 1940s, bringing the number of branches to 2,000 by 1949, and the number of affiliates to around 300,000 to 600,000.

Several factors helped the MBG to expand within the Egyptian society in its different segments and components. On the other hand, the group took advantage of the political opportunities offered by the successive Egyptian regimes, and devised a unique administrative system characterized by centralized decision-making and based on loyalty and secrecy, and linking ideology with practice.

The MBG adopted social engineering through which it made sure to win the hearts and minds of the working class, which helped it mobilize and recruit them for its goals, using several means, the most important of which are Da'wah, education, media, social services, economic institutions, and even violence.

The MBG managed to use civil society to serve its political goals, to attract new members on the one hand, and to achieve mass mobilization in the elections that the group run for, whether at the level of local, parliamentary or presidential elections on the other hand.

The group adopted a policy of proximity by trying to get closer to people in residential areas, labour centers and markets, in order to consolidate relations of solidarity and support, and to fill the void left by the state, by establishing a network of charities targetting the fields of education, health and social services.

In the seventies of the twentieth century, Egypt witnessed major political transformations, and President Sadat adopted a policy of reconciliation with the MBG. It was a strategy he used to confront the leftist and Nasserist political movement at a time when the MBG was in dire need of expansion in society following the ban imposed on it by the regime of President Gamal Abdel Nasser.

The political and economic activities of the MBG intensified during President Sadat's regime, and it started building a wide network of charities and social institutions, such as schools, community services, charitable organisations, hospitals and clinics.

Under President Mohamed Hosni Mubarak, the MBG started acting according to specific rules, and although it was banned, it managed to control large sectors of society. It was then the first political force and the strongest competitor to the National Democratic Party. By the same token, it managed to build legitimacy through service delivery and to influence Egyptian society.

President Mohamed Morsi, a leader in the MBG, assumed the presidency on June 30, 2012, after the first elections Egypt had held in the wake of the resignation of President Mohamed Hosni Mubarak. Morsi became the first president after the January 25, 2011 revolution, and the fifth president to take power in Egypt in the modern era.

Once the MBG took power in Egypt, it became obvious that it was seeking to divide society and had no clear vision for development. Even the charities and volunteer work that the group provided to the broad grassroots of society was not reflected on government performance. Their party "Freedom and Justice", after having seized power, failed to carry out a national rationalization process of human and material resources. The opposition accused the MBG of betrayal and of trying to control the main portfolios in government.

The people's opposition against Morsi's government increased. They considered that it had neither a vision nor an experience in ruling the country, and was unable to understand the need of people for freedom and diversity in society.

On June 20, 2013, which was the first anniversary of Morsi ascension to power, the country witnessed large-scale protests that ended up with the intervention of the army and the toppling of the MBG president.

The decline in popularity of the MBG is attributed to many factors, some of them are related to the social fabric of the group, some are related to the fast political events that characterized that period, and others are related to changes in the values among Arab society.