Western governments, including the government of the United States, are considering the MB and other “moderate Islamist” groups as potential partners in helping to advance democracy in their countries, and perhaps also in eradicating Islamist terrorism ...
Altman writes about a generational shift in thinking within the MB. He doesn't view the organisation as an ideological monolith.
For almost two decades, two distinctive age groups within the MB have been waging an internal ideological struggle. The first group—the “old guard”—was formed during the harsh experience of the MB’s repression under the former Egyptian ruler Gamal ‘Abd al-Nasser ... are generally more zealous, conservative, and committed primarily to long-term religious missionary work (dawa) and to preserving the movement’s unity.
By contrast, the second or middle generation is made up largely of the student leaders of the 1970s, when Anwar al-Sadat allowed the MB to take over the university campuses. Several of its representatives are more open to change. They assign greater importance to the political work of the MB, rather than its missionary activities. The also see Egypt—rather than the Muslim world — as the MB’s real frame of reference, and show interest in building alliances with other political organizations. The old guard, meanwhile, remains deeply suspicious of other political groups and unforgiving toward such former political rivals as the Nasserists, Arab-Nationalists and Marxists.
The MB has been the subject of an ideological and political split out of which a new party formed.
The dominance of the old guard in the MB leadership caused some second-generation members to leave the movement and form the al-Wasat Party, often described as the “Center Party,” in 1995. But others stayed, including ‘Abd al-Mun’im Abu al-Futuh, one of the most dynamic and articulate spokesmen of the second-generation reformist faction and a member of the MB’s supreme decision-making body, the Guidance Bureau (Maktab al-Irshad). He asserts that Islamic discourse is not holy; rather, it is based on human judgment (ijtihad) and can be revised and updated. The Islamists’ arguments are therefore the products of their human understanding, not of Islam. And unlike traditional Islamists, Abu al-Futuh sees democracy as more than just an unavoidable means of reaching power: It is a unique fruit of human experience that has intrinsic value. He rejects, moreover, the religious component of democracy. To him, democracy simply means rule by the people, not “the people ruling by Allah’s law.”
So who is this Abu al-Futuh? And what does he believe in?
Abu al-Futuh considers the Caliphate to be a purely political, nonreligious matter. In modern times it is akin to other types of political unity, such as the European Union ...
... Abu al-Futuh and his allies advocate true political pluralism, equal citizenship for all the country’s nationals, regardless of religion, and rotation of power in accord with the people’s choice. It would even be acceptable to them if a Christian were elected to power in a Muslim-majority country. Abu al-Futuh seeks, furthermore, to eliminate the MB in its present form and to terminate all its covert and external activities, including its involvement with the International Organization of the Muslim Brotherhood. He wants it to become instead an Egyptian political party, fully open to public scrutiny. Abu al-Futuh asserts that resistance to this change comes not only from the MB’s old guard, but also from the regime itself. He also claims that government repression of MB activists has been directed primarily against potential reformers, suggesting that the regime is colluding with MB hardliners to block the movement’s evolution in a more democratic direction ...
The MB did organise some rallies in 2005. For some reason, these collapsed after a deal was allegedly struck with the Mubarak regime.
... On March 27, 2005, the Muslim Brotherhood organized a street demonstration in Cairo to call for political reforms. It was the first demonstration on domestic issues since President Mubarak came to power, and it triggered a series of other protests in both Cairo and the countryside that led to the arrest of as many as 1500 MB members, including senior ones. This development broke a long-standing informal truce between the regime and the MB — a truce that allowed the movement to practice its missionary or dawa activities as long as it refrained from challenging the regime in the political arena. The demonstrations indicated to many that the MB was abandoning its traditional strategy of avoiding outright confrontation with the state.
Yet by the summer of 2005, the MB demonstrations were over.
Here is a nice succinct summary of the Emergency Laws.
... the Emergency Laws (which were implemented in 1967, lifted in 1980, and re-imposed in 1981, following Anwar al-Sadat’s assassination. These laws grant authorities power to detain people considered a threat to national security without charge and practically indefinitely, to try people before military tribunals, and to ban public demonstrations).
The MB, according to Altman, isn't sure about exactly where it stands ideologically and politically. In this sense, it could probably enter into a workable coalition with the Parliamentary wing of the Liberal Party of Australia.
... the movement’s continuing oscillation between two competing orientations: its political orientation that led it, at least temporarily, to join other opposition groups in an attempt to force political change; and its dawa orientation that makes it unwilling to risk the long-term endeavor of Islamizing society for short-term political gains.
... Nervous about sliding into a fatal confrontation with the regime, the old-guard leaders have undercut repeated attempts by second-generation leaders and their impatient younger supporters to confront the regime directly. In securing the movement’s survival, the MB’s missionary endeavor and its commitment to the Islamic state and implementation of sharia take preference.
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