The Development of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood

2008 - 2014
Konrad-Adenauer-Foundation (2008–2011)

Al-Sharq Centre for Regional and Strategic Studies, Cairo, Egypt



Research Questions

  • How has the Muslim Brotherhood’s behaviour and ideology evolved under the rule of Mubarak (from 1981 to 2011)?
  • How has the portrayal of the Muslim Brotherhood in the state-affiliated media (under Mubarak, from 1981–2011) affected the group?
  • How has the Brotherhood’s political behaviour and programme evolved under Mubarak and after the fall of the Mubarak regime in 2011?

Contribution to International Research
Most of the literature analysing how and why Islamist groups have developed in a certain way has focused on material aspects in regime-Islamist-relations. Authors have often concentrated on repressionand political inclusion or exclusion as aspects that particularly shape an Islamist group, since they impinge on its rational decision-making and forms of mobilisation. This is reflected in two theses that have become prominent in the literature: (i) the repression-radicalisation thesis, that argues that repressionexerted by the regime on an Islamist group and a group’s exclusion from formal political processes lead to its radicalisation, i.e. the group’s taking up of arms; (ii) the inclusion-moderation thesis, that argues that the absence of repression and a group’s political inclusion lead to its moderation. Here Moderation is understood to consist, at first, of a change in behaviour as Islamist groups abandon the use of violence and embrace electoral politics instead. In the second step, it is argued that this Change in behaviour may lead to a more moderate ideology, as a group gradually discards uncompromising Islamist views and successively adopts liberal-democratic concepts into its political thought.

While most of the relevant literature has, thus, overtly focussed on material aspects of regime-Islamistrelations, several authors have argued that also other factors might be at work impinging on Islamist development. A few authors have drawn attention to the – at least empirical – relevance of ideational forms of repression where a regime disseminates a negative image of an Islamist group throughout the state-run media in order to undermine the group’s efforts to portray itself as a viable and attractive alternative to the incumbent regime. In many Middle Eastern countries, including Egypt under Mubarak, regimes have levelled considerable propaganda against Islamist groups, which have often been their most potent political rivals. However, although several authors have drawn attention to that fact, they have neither studied this propaganda in depth nor have they looked at how this propaganda has affected the respective Islamist organisations.

This project aims to fill that gap. It analyses the Mubarak regime’s depiction of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood – as articulated in the state-run media utilised by the regime as platforms to disseminate a specific image of the Brotherhood – and the Brotherhood’s engagement with it. Further, it traces how these ideational aspects of regime-Brotherhood-relations have combined with the material aspects of state-repression, political exclusion and inclusion in shaping the group’s behaviour and ideology.

Research Design and Methods
The project draws on approaches within social movement theory, especially on framing and the political opportunity structures approach, including the concept of discursive opportunity structures.

Preliminary Results
The Muslim Brotherhood has seen a moderation of its political thought over the period studied. This moderation has however remained selective. Political inclusion alone has not sufficed to produce this kind moderation, much more it was in moments in which inclusion was coupled with regime-Propaganda against the Muslim Brotherhood within the state-media, that moderation took speed. However, it was also the content of regime-propaganda that has shaped the specific moderation the group has seen, i.e. why it has moderated its positions in some issues but not in others.