Evolving Perception of the Muslim Brotherhood by the Egyptian government

Since its founding in 1928, the Muslim Brotherhood has been viewed with an ever-changing eye by the Egyptian government, despite several attempts to disband the Brotherhood by the government, and an untold number of killings and political imprisonments. The Muslim Brotherhood has experienced several period of relative peace and have wielded significant political power on more than one occasion.While the Muslim Brotherhood has maintained a fairly constant ideology, the ever changing landscape of the Egyptian government has caused their power to shift from electing a president, to being persecuted to the point of basic non-existence. The Brotherhood has been in a near constant state of flux since the rise of Nasser.
With the October 1954 assassination attempt of Nasser by a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, it came as no surprise that Nasser’s next move was to execute or imprison every member of the Brotherhood the military could get its hands on. In 1964, it seemed like Nasser had warmed slightly to the Brotherhood with the release of Sayyid Qutb from prison. Qutb was a very influential scholar in the Brotherhood, who mourned the loss of Islamic influence in Muslim culture, and preached the need for a revolution to return Egypt to it’s former glory. Qutb was later indicted for supposed plans to assassinate Nasser. Despite the lack of proof for the allegations against him, Qutb was executed in 1966 after a year long imprisonment.
Following the political and communal backlash to the pro-violence revolutionary ideology of Qutb and his followers, the Muslim Brotherhood stuck to a more non-violent reform approach. After the sudden death of Nasser in September of 1970, the Muslim Brotherhood was in a precarious state. Nasser’s successor could easily maintain the ban on the Brotherhood and ride the massive wave of Nasser support, despite growing support for the Brotherhood itself from the egyptian people. Fortunately for the Muslim Brotherhood, Anwar Sadat, the new President, used the Brotherhood as a tool to erode the power Nasserist’s who opposed him. Sadat freed many brothers who had been imprisoned, and while he did not upright lift the ban on the Brotherhood, Egyptians began to join the Muslim Brotherhood in large numbers.
With the signing of the Camp David Accords in 1978 by Sadat and the Prime Minister of Israel, a tentative peace was formed between Egypt and Israel. This cease-fire of a decades long war angered many Egyptians, gave the Muslim Brotherhood unprecedented support, and seriously damaged support for Sadat. After the assassination of Sadat in 1981 by Tanzim al-Jihad, a violent Islamist group, the Muslim Brotherhood began to gain political clout, having significant support from the working class and student reformation groups.
For the next twenty years, the Muslim Brotherhood would continue to gain political and social influence, despite measures taken by Hosni Mubarak, Sadat’s successor, to repress the Brotherhood. Mass arrests occurred during every election, yet the Brotherhood’s representatives were still getting votes and even if they weren’t getting enough for control of the parliament, this represented growing faith in the Brotherhood’s idea of a new Egypt. In 2000, 17 seats were won by Brotherhood members who ran as Independents. In 2005 that number grew to 88. While still not a majority, those seats represented one fifth of the parliament, which was a major boon for the Brotherhood.
The Muslim Brotherhood chose a rare path after their electoral victory. There seemed to be a progressive movement growing inside of the brotherhood. The Egyptian government was so wary of the success the Brotherhood had in the 2005 elections that they revised Article 5 of the Egyptian Constitution. The revised article not only outlawed the formation of any political parties with religious ties, it banned any political activity by organizations with a religious basis. The government followed up by banning “independent” parties from running in the election that they then pushed back to 2008. Coinciding with more mass arrests, the Brotherhood lost all but one seat in the parliament in the 2008 elections. Fortunately for the brotherhood, all of this push back from the government was just a sign of how popular the Brotherhood was becoming with the people.
After the people’s revolution in January, 2011, the Brotherhood formed the Freedom and Justice Party. The Muslim Brotherhood went on the win 235 Parliament seats and the Chairman of the FJP won the Presidency, Mohammed Morsi. Under Morsi the brotherhood was legalized and gained greater political traction. However the people soon began to call for the resignation of Morsi because of his brutal tactics taken toward anyone who opposed him, and political clashes with the military left the brotherhood’s public reputation tarnished.
By the end of 2012, Morsi had granted himself almost complete control over the government, becoming a dictator in everything but name. In July of 2013, the Egyptian Armed Forces staged a coup and forced him from office. The following two months resulted in the arrest of almost every high ranking official in the Brotherhood, and the outlawing and collapse of the Freedom and Justice Party. The two year period from 2011 to 2013 had done more damage to the Muslim Brotherhood than any actions taken against them since Nasser outlawed the brotherhood after his assassination attempt.
For almost ninety years the Muslim Brotherhood grew in numbers and political power. Despite several rounds of mass arrests and being technically outlawed for over 57 years (1954-2011), the Brotherhood remained ever resilient. Growing in strength during the end of the 20th century, the Brotherhood entered the 21st century as a legitimate political contender with a strong relationship with the Egyptian people. They overcame the damage done by Nasser and his supporters, going so far as to elect the first ever democratically elected President in Egypt. After facing serious political and public backlash after the ousting of Morsi, every prominent member of the Brotherhood was either executed or imprisoned. The year 2013 marked what very well could be the end of a party that lasted almost a century. If the Muslim Brotherhood is not able to reconstruct itself this time, it will be the first time despite endless persecution and political repression. It will be the end of a group that persevered through a half-century of oppression, and had managed to brush off and survive every change in the constantly evolving landscape that is the Egyptian government and its people.