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The Muslim Brotherhood from within

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No other political group or movement has recieved the same attention or has had the same impact on Egyptian politics as the Muslim Brotherhood, since the ousting of Mubarak until now. The Brotherhood became an everyday reality for Egyptians.

We wake up to the statements of its leaders, we follow the news of its significant figures and we support, oppose or simply feel indifferent towards our president who belongs to the Brotherhood. There is a daily interaction that takes place between every Egyptian and the Muslim Brotherhood. Whether we like it or not, the Muslim Brotherhood shapes post-revolutionary Egypt.

While most of the time we focus on the external dimensions of the Muslim Brotherhood’s rule over Egypt, meaning their policies, statements, decisions and directions, we do not donate the same amount of attention to the group from within. I believe that the way in which the movement is organised from the inside has a lot to do with their current position within Egyptian politics.

The rigid internal structure of the Muslim Brotherhood is not very common among other political movements and groups in Egypt. If at any moment you stopped and asked yourself what it takes to become a Muslim Brother, here is the process shortly outlined.

Joining the Muslim Brotherhood is not an easy task; it is a process that takes years and years. It is not a matter of filling an application or attending a couple of meetings or even donating some money; it is a process that rids you of your individuality and turns you into another cog in the a machine, or in the words of Roger Waters, another brick in the wall.

It takes about five to eight years to transform from an aspiring member to a fully integrated Muslim Brother. During this period, the loyalty of the aspiring member is closely monitored and his dedication to the cause and the doctrine is closely watched.

Local members of the Brotherhood scout for potential candidates in universities, usually students who demonstrate significant signs of piety. These members do not usually identify themselves as Muslim Brothers, rather they conceal their identity to try and build relationships with the potential candidate and be able to assess his commitment to religion.

The Brotherhood also targets the children of the Muslim Brothers, starting their recruitment process around the age of 9. If you decide independently that you want to join the Brotherhood and you start seeking ways to do that, you need to know a member who will probably take you to another man to guide you and teach you. So like a vampire community, only a Muslim Brother can transform you into one.

Age is a crucial factor in the recruitment process; the Brotherhood usually directs its recruitment efforts towards young men. If the organisation feels that the potential candidate demonstrates sufficient commitment to their ideology, the long process of actually becoming a Muslim Brother then begins.

As soon as you are admitted into the Brotherhood, you become a muhib, a word that literally means lover or follower. This phase could last between six months and four years depending on the performance and the improvement of the aspiring member. During that phase the follower joins a local usra (family) which is a group of four to five people that meets regularly and where the piety, morality and ideology of the aspirant are closely watched

After the leader of the family decides that the follower has shown sufficient piety and knowledge of Islamic texts, the candidate is moved to a more advanced phase where he becomes a muayyed (supporter). During the “supporter” phase, duties towards the organisation must be fulfilled and a curriculum of study completed. Upon finishing that phase, you are moved to a higher rank and become muntasib (affiliated).

As soon as you become affiliated, you start donating a portion of your earnings to the organisation, usually five to eight per cent. In the “affiliated” phase your loyalty and commitment are closely probed. If you satisfy those who monitor you, usually over the course of a year, you are then allowed to the phase of muntazim or organised brother and you can assume lower levels of leadership. Finally, if you pass all the tests that the Brotherhood will subject you to; you are admitted into the final stage of membership which is ach amil or working brother.

This cult-like process is how our current leaders have been formed and how the Brotherhood is carefully forming future ones. This quasi-fascist structure where your loyalty is always put to question and your personal life is watched at every moment is the mechanism by which Muslim Brothers are produced.

Now, is it any wonder that all Muslim Brothers sound the same? Is it surprising that they all argue in the same way, share the same ideas and are obsessed with listening to their own voices? If for years your loyalty has been directed towards one entity, the Brotherhood and its ideology, can you be loyal to anything else? The Muslim Brotherhood is an organisation that tattoos your soul, molds your mind, brands your ideas and at every moment suppresses the free play of your powers. This is the Muslim Brotherhood from within, this is where our leaders come from!

About the author

Ziad A. Akl

Ziad A. Akl

Ziad A. Akl is a political analyst and sociologist. He is a senior researcher at the Egyptian Studies Unit in Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies.


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