This paper is part of a series: Political Islam in Focus
Preludes of the Current Crisis Escalation:
The escalation of disputes between the leaders of the international organizations in Ankara and London marks a new stage, which will certainly affect the path and future of the Muslim Brotherhood. The disputes represent a new earthquake that has shaken the leadership of the international organization of the group; it can be expected that this earthquake will be felt in the regional Brotherhood organizations, not only in Egypt, but also in North Africa and the Arab East.
These new conflicts arose after mutual accusations and mistrust between two factions of the international organization leadership: the faction led by Ibrahim Munir in London, and the faction led by Mahmoud Hussein in Ankara. Having lost an election in unknown circumstances, Hussein and some of his supporters considered it a "conspiracy" to overthrow him and an attempt by Munir to tighten his control over the organization both in London and Ankara. These accusations resulted in mutual decisions to dismiss the group’s leadership, especially since Hussein accuses some Muslim Brotherhood leaders residing in Turkey of siding with Munir, which reflects the balance of power between the two factions that tends to favor Munir.
The new earthquake that shook the Muslim Brotherhood, and its emergence into the public, which resulted in the exchange of dismissals and suspensions of membership by both factions, was just a new episode in a series of events. It began with the Egyptian popular revolution and the overthrow of the Muslim Brotherhood from power in 2013, and the flight of their leaders to Turkey, Qatar, Malaysia, and Europe. Leaks reiterated regarding disputes within the Muslim Brotherhood in two references, the first of which comes in the context of a broad self-criticism to assess the reasons for their failed experience in Egypt; and the second is what is known as generational conflict within the Brotherhood, between the youth and the elders, and currents that refuse to submit the Brotherhood to the sheikhs and their vengeful and revolutionary discourses and approaches, which belong to the fifties and sixties of the last century. These approaches are sometimes referred to as "the Qutbi movement" in reference to the historical symbol figure of the Brotherhood, Sayyid Qutb.
However, the escalation of disputes in the form in which they appeared raises a number of questions about their contexts, including the circumstances that paved the way for them, whether according to external references which call for changes that occur on the Brotherhood’s alliances and the organization’s support, especially the broad umbrella provided by Turkey through the ruling Justice and Development Party; or by internal organizational contexts that intend to compete for leadership positions and hold onto power, including the organization’s financial capabilities that amount to billions, and the failure of the Brotherhood’s model after it came to power in a number of Arab and Islamic countries.
The Muslim Brotherhood at the core of international and regional transformations
On the level of international transformations, the Muslim Brotherhood has undergone a rigorous assessment by the security and political decision circles in America and Europe. After assessing their performance in governance, it was concluded that the US administration's approach, which included backing the Brotherhood to gain power after the so-called "Arab Spring", was not objective. The United States, along with European countries, also found that Muslim Brotherhood organizations, through their Da'wah-related associations and institutions, which are linked to charitable and humanitarian activities, are incubators of extremism and terrorism. This was revealed by security observations of the Brotherhood associations and institutions in London, Paris, Brussels and other European capitals. In addition the Brotherhood's dual discourse with the West before coming to power was exposed; while it pledged respect for minorities, freedom of religion, and women's rights, they allied themselves with takfiri and extremist groups in Egypt and employed hate speech that is reminiscent of the rhetoric of terrorist organizations, whose manifestations were more common in Europe.
Nevertheless, the Turkish leadership position to “dismantle” its alliance relationship with the international organization through a series of measures taken by the Turkish government, long with the policies of openness to the Arab countries, contributed to the Brotherhood's crisis escalation. As part of these policies, the Turkish government shut down the media platforms of the Muslim Brotherhood, transformed Ankara's relations with Cairo, Riyadh and Abu Dhabi, and reconciled Doha with its neighbors.
Furthermore, the Muslim Brotherhood's popularity has declined significantly in Muslim public opinion, as evidenced by a the volume of votes it received during the elections to "civil" institutions, such as labor union elections, parliament elections, and student union elections in universities. This is what led the West to realize the real power of the Muslim Brotherhood, considering the results of the polls, while the Brotherhood presented itself as the only force capable of controlling the Arab and Islamic population.
Aggravating internal crises
Internally, the revelation of international disputes coincides with what can be described as “failure” in managing and directing regional organizations that came to power in Egypt, Morocco (Justice and Development Party), Tunisia (Ennahda Movement), as well as Sudan. Moreover, some regional organizations witnessed divisions, like the case of the Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan, besides the ambiguity of their relationship with Hamas, and subjecting its relationship with the international organization to its negotiations with the United States and Europe. Internally, the revelation of international disputes coincides with what can be described as “failure” in managing and directing regional organizations that came to power in Egypt and Morocco (Justice and Development Party), Tunisia (Ennahda Movement), as well as Sudan. Moreover, some regional organizations witnessed divisions, like the case of the Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan, besides the ambiguity of their relationship with Hamas, and subjecting its relationship with the international organization to its negotiations with the United States and Europe.
Although the international organization granted them a margin of movement according to the circumstances of each region, the factors that led to the failure of the Muslim Brotherhood organizations in the Arab world are related to structural problems that conflict with the requirements of development, change, and adapting to social and intellectual transformations in Arab and Islamic societies, which is not different from the problems of the international organization itself. Perhaps foremost of these problems is the inability of the Brotherhood organizations to separate between “politics and Da’wah" which is a problem where deeper issues fall within, including the issue of identity, position toward the other and how it was demonized by the statement the “infidel West", and the ambiguity of its position on terrorism and the approaches of terrorist organizations to the “Islamic Caliphate", the slogan that the Muslim Brotherhood presents in an equivocal form “Islam is the solution”, in addition to the position on the concepts of democracy and participatory governance, and how the Brotherhood in Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia and others allied with Marxists and liberals “infidels.” At the same time, leaks from Brotherhood circles revealed that there is a deep gap between the organization's declared stances towards “Israel” and normalization with it, and what is said behind closed doors and during meetings with American and European embassies, that Israel will not be an enemy if the Muslim Brotherhood assumes power.
Similarly, after coming to power, the Muslim Brotherhood was unable to come up with solutions to economic crises outside the framework of modern state concepts that have to do with the international system, including the “International Bank and the International Fund”, loans, and the expansion of taxation. This led a segment of the public opinion, including the Brotherhood popular bases, to criticize the organization’s ideas and programs, as “preventing” their ascension to power deprived them of achieving what they believed in, and establishing a state of justice and welfare.
Scenarios for the future of the current crisis
The certain truth about the current crisis may be that it emerged in the context of complex and escalating crises that the organization may have managed to contain relatively, especially with the mediation of figures who were not far from the interventions of intelligence services of countries that backed the Muslim Brotherhood, and had an interest in resolving conflict between factions of the international organization, so that their political agendas could be implemented. This raises the question of how stable their position is towards the Brotherhood, if those interests still exist or if they have been exhausted, and with them the reliance on the possibility of the international organization serving their strategies.
Below are some possible scenarios for the outcome of the Muslim Brotherhood severe crisis:
First: The crisis remains at the current level:
This is a likely scenario in the sense that the crisis will persist and the disputes will expand without any of the factions being able to resolve the issues to their advantage, especially since they both adopt the “all or nothing” approach, and have a common principle of total exclusion and eliminating the other. It appears that the conflict will proceed according to this approach in favor of Munir's faction. This is based on a critical factor in the recent history of disputes within the Brotherhood, which is that whoever owns the organization's finances will triumph, along with other investments in a number of companies and institutions that operate in both the global and local markets, including the real estate market. The Turkish faction lacks these resources, as it relies on the London leadership to fund its expenses, including the salaries and bonuses of its leaders and media platforms.
Second: Success of reconciliation mediations
Many reports indicate a reconciliation will be led by the Brotherhood's "sheikhs" and may involve Muhammad al-Qaradawi to achieve a reconciliation between the two factions in order to preserve the Brotherhood's unity and structure. Even if al-Qaradawi led reconciliation efforts, which is not certain, the chances of their success in ensuring the return of the organization unified seem unrealistic; especially since such reconciliations had previously taken place, but they were only able to temporarily extinguish the flames of the conflict, which promptly rekindles at higher levels, further confirming the depth of the conflicts. Moreover, it is evident that the conflict reached a dead end.
Third: An escalation and resolution of the crisis
One of the possible scenarios is that the crisis will continue, exacerbate and escalate to even higher levels. Regional and international circumstances appear to be besieging the organization internationally, in addition to the failure of their experiences in North Africa and the Arab East. Additionally, Ankara lifted the cover from the organization through an elaborate set of procedures and decisions, including controlling its media outlets and restricting its leaders' movements within the country under the supervision of the security services. Moreover, there are pressures and demands from within the organization, particularly in Egypt, where they made several mistakes during their time in power, which led to them being overthrown. As a result of all of these factors, this scenario appears more likely, and the scales are tilting in the London faction's favor, despite the Ankara faction’s insistence that Munir's leadership be rejected because he holds British citizenship, which violates the Brotherhood's internal regulations. There is another factor that is one of the criteria for predicting the outcome of the conflict, and that is the fact that the majority of leaders are Egyptian. In Egypt, however, the Muslim Brotherhood is facing severe hardship following the arrests of its members, its declining popularity, and the emergence of a youth movement that rejects the historic leaders represented by the Ankara faction, so that Munir is more likely to take over the leadership of the organization.
In conclusion, regardless of any of the scenarios that the Brotherhood crisis would be, such crisis reflects deep transformations within the organization, not far from other deep transformations that Arab societies are witnessing. This crisis is one of the stations that followed the so-called “Arab Spring” after the Muslim Brotherhood joined the protests, believing that they could bypass the reality of protests' demands related to the economy, democracy, and combating corruption, which the Brotherhood could not respond thereto due to the deep ideological structure of that organization, which does not belong to the spirit of the age. As the whole world today lives under the unified influence of one set of values, many ideologies have fallen because they could not adapt to the new reality, including its developments and novelties. This is something that the Muslim Brotherhood apparently did not realize, especially since the factors that will determine success for either faction of the organization and the chances of its survival will be the responses to demands for pluralism, and diversity, rather than the major ideas that are falling day by day, not only in the Arab and Islamic world, but also in the West, including the United States and Europe.
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