Unlike many other scholars and organizations or government institutions that consider Muslim Brotherhood (Ikhwanul Muslimin) in Egypt as a radical-terrorist group, Barbara Zollner in her “Surviving Repression: How Egypts’s Muslim Brotherhood Has Carried On” article convinces that the organization is far from being radical, or even terrorist. She Admitted that Sayyid Qutub –one of muslim scholars who was known to introduce radical thought in muslim community— did indeed introduce radical ideas that could be interpreted as calls to violence and revolution, yet she claimed that, “But it would be a mistake to assume this is what divides Brotherhood members.”
Instead of calling the brotherhood as a radical or extremist group, Zollner consider them as an important group that has shown consistency in its call for nonviolent resistance. She went further explaining that labels like radical or extremist are not more than just an attempt of Egyptian regime to destroy the internal structures of the Muslim Brotherhood. The regime, she says, has also taken its battle into realm of ideas and ideology.
To her, it was President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi who associated the Brotherhood with extremism. The steps taken by President Sisi are said to have undermined the organization’s claims to epitomize the moderate Islamism and portrait the regime as the defender of the mainstream Muslim. Sisi also built a narrative that corners the Brotherhood by calling them a threat and a danger to state security, by which the President has a legal standpoint to proceed against the Brotherhood.
Here Are the Facts
Zollner’s explanation is certainly interesting because the general view of the Muslim Brotherhood tends to agree to label them as a radical group or even a terrorist. The Royal Saudi Council of Senior Ulema (Hay’at Kibar al-‘Ulama) in 2020 even designated the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist group and considered it not to represent the true values of Islam. The council described the Egypt-based organization as a heretical group that undermines coexistence within the state and promotes incitement, violence, and terrorism.
On that basis, the Council said any form of support, including funding, for the Muslim Brotherhood was prohibited. This determination is considered in accordance with the teachings of the Qur’an and Sunnah (the Prophet’s instructions). The Saudi government seems very serious about this ban and considers all those who do not comply with their move as dissidents. Shortly after this decision was announced, they fired 100 imams and preachers in Mecca for ignoring the threat from the Muslim Brotherhood.
In Indonesia, the Muslim Brotherhood is considered a dangerous group. Although not considered a terrorist group, the Muslim Brotherhood is aligned with the Khilafatul Muslimin group and the Islamic State of Indonesia (NII). In the past, the recruitment of members of the NII terrorist group led by Abdullah Sungkar and Abu Bakar Ba’asyir used the usroh pattern belonging to the Muslim Brotherhood. This process continued until the departure of the NII mujahideen to train in Afghanistan. The contact of the Indonesian mujahideen with Al Qaeda led by Osama bin Laden resulted in large-scale bombings targeting the symbols of America and its allies from 2002-2009. The main perpetrators were the NII splinter group known as the Jamaah Islamiyah group, which was assisted by a young group of NII.
Zollner, who seems so convinced that The Brotherhood is not as bad as most people imagine, chose to focus on bad results that will happen to the regime if they continue to undermine this organization. She says, “If the regime is unable to meet the expectations it created, its popularity will suffer. This could provide new political openings for opposition to the president, affecting Egypt’s stability.”
The hatred of President Sisi’s regime must be ended immediately for at least two reasons, first; The Brotherhood has such a strong foundation that it will be very difficult to disband them. Zollner mentions at least four factors that make the brotherhood have a very strong resilience. Second, the regime should also stop spreading slander against the brotherhood, because their accusation that there is “an alliance between the Muslim Brotherhood and militarism affiliated with al-Qaeda or the self-proclaimed Islamic State group is not based on any conclusive evidence, but merely on an inference that there must be an ideological relationship due to Sayyid Qutb’s legacy.”
All of Zollner’s explanations are interesting, I call them interesting because it is not easy for me to just believe. The data on the involvement of the Brotherhood group in the nursery and even acts of terrorism are certainly sufficient to link this group to a terrorist network. Arab governments, Indonesia, and many others are certainly not arbitrary in determining whether an organization as a terrorist or not.
Zollner should have been more critical by asking at least these questions –which is sadly not in this article; 1) Why is the Brotherhood generally considered terrorist? 2) Why does the Sisi regime anti-the Brotherhood? And, 3) What has the Brotherhood done to Egypt politically?
The absent of these questions leads Zollner to see what happens to the Brotherhood today as merely result of political contestacy between the late President Mohamed Morsi and Abdel Fattah el-Sisi who served as president after him.
Well, it is way more that only this.