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Muslim Brotherhood

Muslim Brotherhood, officially Jamiat al-Ikhwan al-Muslimun [Arab., = Society of Muslim Brothers], religious and political organization founded (1928) in Egypt by Hasan al-Banna. Early opposed to secular tendencies in Islamic nations and also anti-British and anti-Zionist, the organization has sought to foster a return to the original precepts of the Qur'an. It grew rapidly, establishing an educational, economic, military, and political infrastructure. Threatened by the group's popularity and its bombings and other politically motivated violence, Egypt's government twice banned (1948, 1954) the organization. It has since existed largely as a clandestine but often militant group, marked by its rejection of Western influences. The Muslim Brotherhood remains strong in Egypt, Syria, Sudan, and other Arab countries, and has organizations in most Islamic nations.

The group was permitted to operate openly in Egypt in the late 1980s and early 90s after disavowing violence in the 1970s, but the government again moved against the group beginning in the mid-1990s. Members have been elected to Egypt's parliament as independents, and in 2005 candidates linked to the group won a fifth of the seats in parliament, a record. Egypt subsequently mounted a new crackdown on the group, beginning in late 2006, and in 2007 the nation's constitution was amended to ban religious-based political parties.

Candidates linked to the group won almost no seats in 2010 amid government efforts to exclude them from the parliament. The group joined in the 2011 protests that led to President Mubarak's ouster. It subsequently established the Freedom and Justice party (FJP), which aligned itself with other opposition groups. The FJP won the largest bloc of parliamentary seats in the 2011–12 elections, but the parliament was dissolved by the supreme court for election violations in mid-2012. Mohamed Morsi, the FJP presidential candidate, won the June, 2012, runoff election, becoming Egypt's first democratically elected president, but he was overthrown a year later amid increasing unrest. Subsequently the Brotherhood was again banned and then declared a terrorist group; its leaders were arrested.

The Syrian branch of the group sought to drive Hafez al-Assad from power through a terror campaign and insurgency in the late 1970s and early 1980s, which culminated in the government's 1982 massacre in Hama. In Jordan the Muslim Brotherhood's political arm, the Islamic Action Front, is an important opposition party. The Muslim Brotherhood also has given rise to a number of more militant and violent organizations, such as Hamas, Gama'a al-Islamiya, and Islamic Jihad.

See studies by B. Rubin (2010) and C. R. Wickham (2013).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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