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What is the Muslim Brotherhood?

Egypt recognized the Muslim Brotherhood as a religious group in 1948.
The Muslim Brotherhood supports Palestine in its conflict with Israel.
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  • Written By: Jessica Hobby
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 28 July 2014
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Founded in Egypt in 1928 by Hasan al-Banna, the Muslim Brotherhood, also referred to as the Brotherhood, is the world’s oldest and largest religious-political organization, formed to resist the secularization of areas that were formerly under Islamic Ottoman rule. The core principle of the Muslim Brotherhood is that Islam is not only a religion, but a way of life. Initially, the Muslim Brotherhood was a movement that included education and religion, however when the organization disagreed with the Egyptian government’s passive treatment of Zionists, it ventured into political territory when it began to support the Palestinians in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Al-Banna’s brother, 'Abd al-Rahman al-Banna, was responsible for the creation of the Muslim Brotherhood in Palestinian territories.

At this time the Brotherhood used terrorism within Egypt as a tool of expression, causing the Egyptian government to ban the organization for a short time. When the ban was lifted in 1948, the Muslim Brotherhood was recognized only as a religious group. In stark opposition to the policies of secularization being pursued by the Egyptian government, the Muslim Brotherhood assassinated the prime minister of Egypt in late 1948 and was responsible for future assassination attempts against President Gamel Abdel Nasser.

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Additionally, they successfully assassinated Nasser’s successor, Anwar Sadat. After years of tension between the organization and the Egyptian government, it became permanently banned in 1954, after the first attempt on Nasser’s life. Even though the Brotherhood was banned, members of the group were still able to remain politically active in Egypt by running for Parliament as independents. In 2005, they won approximately 20 percent of total Parliamentary seats in Egypt.

After the Muslim Brotherhood was permanently banned, many of the “brothers” fled to other parts of the Arab Levant, such as Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Saudi Arabia. Now there are more than 70 branches worldwide. The group is also the root of other wings that have pursued a more violent role in implementing a pure Islamic society.

In an effort to end the perceived occupation of Palestinian territories by Israel, the Islamic Resistance Front, more commonly referred to as Hamas, was created in 1987. Hamas and other wings of the Muslim Brotherhood have been largely seen as terrorist organizations in the West, whereas most Muslims, although they may disagree with terror as a means to political ends, agree with the agendas of these groups.

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