After more than eighty years of struggle, The Muslim Brotherhood came to rule in Egypt in 2012, in the first democratic election in the country’s history. – winning the presidential race in addition to a parliamentary majority. Yet those very achievements brought about the downfall of the movement.

After more than eighty years of struggle, The Muslim Brotherhood came to rule in Egypt in 2012, in the first democratic election in the country’s history. – winning the presidential race in addition to a parliamentary majority. Yet those very achievements brought about the downfall of the movement.

The movement, from the first day in power, started working on its ideological project to turn the Egyptian state into a Muslim Brotherhood state. And the elected president Mohammad Morsi appeared to work under the command of Mohammed Badie, the Brotherhood’s ideological director. For these reasons, the movement spent its first and last year in power struggling with aggravated political and economic crises.

The liberal and secular opposition forces claim that the Brotherhood’s authoritative and exclusionary policies and their abstaining from the much-needed consensual politics caused these crises. Moreover, the Brotherhood has engaged in quarrels with both media and judicial institution, and failed to meet the demands of the 25th of January revolution: ‘Bread, Liberty, Social justice’.

The final strike took place a year later when the Egyptian people went out in the millions to call for the Brotherhood’s removal from power.

The Muslim Brotherhood viewed the millions who went out against them on 30 June 2013 as a counter revolution administrated by the “deep state” under the Higher Military Council led by Lt. General Abdulfatah Al-Sisi. Al-Sisi back then took the demonstrations as a popular authorization to conduct the July 3 coup that not only deposed the Muslim Brotherhood from power but went further to yank their organization out of the political life by considering them a terrorist organization.

The crisis in which the movement is in today is fundamentally different from its two previous crises in the days of King Farouk and later in the days of Naser. In the current crisis, the Brotherhood was in power and its opponent was the Egyptian people— the military came at the end to capture power and maintain the status quo in a semi democratic state. Is the third time the charm?! Is this the end of the Muslim Brotherhood? Will they ever recover from this crisis the way they did previously? The answer to this question can only be provided by the Egyptian people and the basis on which they built their refusal of the Brotherhood rule. We can only say that the Muslim Brotherhood movement has ended, if the base to the popular uprising was a fundamental refusal of the Brotherhood ideology, rather than an uprising against a failed presidency.


In Tunisia, the country in which the ‘Arab Spring’ began, it appears to be that the Ennahda Islamic movement has abandoned the sphere of the Muslim Brotherhood after seeing how events unfolded in Egypt. To avoid the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood’s fate, Ennahda took tactical steps back in front of the momentous popular protestation lead by the liberal and leftist opposition parties along with other civil society organization against the Islamisation of the state Ennahda was engaged in. 

Protests in Tunisia followed Chokri Belaid’s assassination on 6 February 2013 and they intensified after the assassination of MP Mohammad Al-Brahmi in July 2013. Back then, one third of the National Convention members accused the Ennahda government of covering up the crime in which a number of Islamists were accused, triggering a serious political crisis.

In the face of this crisis, Ennahda in Tunisia took a rational stance, especially as it noticed the rising popularity of the Nidaa Tounis alliance. Therefore, it gave up its totalitarian project to change society and accepted the changes society demanded from the movement itself. Perhaps, this rational position taken by Ennahda did not come from a vacuum; this stance had many grounds on top of which is the fact that Rashed El-Ghannouchi and many other Ennahda leaders spent long years of exile in the west and they were open to western political values. Another reason for this stance is the role of Zaytuna Mosque and its university that are considered a fortress for the rational and moderate Islamic thought, let alone the fact that the Tunisian society itself, since the days of Bourguiba, has developed solid civil (if not secular) social tradition where women enjoy rights that are inconsistent with patriarchy.

For these reasons, the Ennahda movement conformed to the initiative presented by the Four Party Committee (The Tunisian General Labor Union, The Tunisian Confederation of Industry, Trade and Handcrafts, the Tunisian Lawyer Union, and the Human Rights Association). The initiative finally resulted in parliamentary and presidential elections in which the secular Nidaa Tounis Alliance won. 

Soon after the elections, Ennahda held its tenth convention under the notion of separating the religious from the political concerns following the Turkish model, or in Ghannouchi’s words “A move out of political Islam.” However, the Ennahda approach to this issue does not essentially imitate the Turkish Islamist experience, for that experience strictly followed the secular teachings of Atatürk in separating religion from the state, and unlike western secular democracies –except France- banned the headscarf in state institutions.

Moreover, unlike the situation in the Turkish Justice and Development Party, the head of Ennahda movement is a clergyman (74-year-old Ghannouchi), and he has been at the helm of the movement’s leadership since 1981. However, in an interview with the French newspaper Le Monde, a day before the movement’s convention, Ghannnouchi said that the movement is moving “out of Islamism and into Islamic democracy.”

The term ‘Islamic Democracy’ itself is taken from the discourse of the Turkish Justice and Development Party, who could rise to power until moved completely out of Islamism. Back then, the reformist wing under Erdogan and Abdullah Gül defected from the traditional Muslim Brotherhood leadership of ‘The Virtue Party’ known as ‘The Bearded Men’. The reformist wing founded the Justice and Development Party and entered the 2002 elections. In these elections, Gül did not feel deterred from saying, “Do not call us Islamists, we are a modern European conservative party. We can be called Muslim democrats like our Christian Democratic counterparts in other European countries. Combining religion and politics would have negative effects on both of them. The religious principle is by nature immune to change, while politics changes with the change of reality.”

Under these conditions, can the outcome of the tenth convention of Ennahda movement be considered an abandonment of Islamism, provided that the bearded men and religious preachers are still leading the Islamic movement? Or is it, as political opponents say, merely an opportunist political maneuver that does not have any real effect?


In Libya, situated between Tunisia and Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood and their Islamist allies dominated the General National Convention elected in July 2012. And unlike their Tunisian and Egyptian counterparts, they have armed militias all over the country, active since the fall of the Gaddafi regime.

Due to their political malpractices in the name of religion and due to the practices of their fascist militias who violated people’s security and vandalized public property, the Islamist political forces lost the 2014 parliamentary elections with big margins. In these elections, civil political forces gained the majority of the parliament, while Islamists were reduced to a minority of 25 representatives in a 200-member parliamentary body.

As a response to this loss, a coalition of Islamist militias took over Tripoli to disrupt the elections. As a result the country was torn into three conflicting parts: a national convention and a government in the west (Tripoli Territory), a parliament and a government in the east (Burka Territory), and the southern area (Fazan territory) was caught in the middle.

The parliamentary majority in Libya does not consist of ideologically liberal or secular members. Rather, they are mostly civil society representatives who refuse the Islamist rule, which reflects a popular rejection of the Muslim Brotherhood and its allies in Libya. However, it must be mentioned that the Libyan society is not a liberal or secular society; on the contrary, it is a very conservative society—  Libya is known as the land of the million reciters (A person who has memorized the entire Quran). Most women in Libya, young and old, wear the headscarf, and most of the men are bearded. They all voluntarily follow the Islamic law in their everyday lives and they do not have secular laws, bars, nightclubs or nude beaches.

For these reasons, apparently, Libyans were not lured by the Islamic project of the Muslim Brotherhood and Libyan Islamic armed groups. This project did not provide them with any real Islamic value; especially since deviations began to appear when Islamists seized power in a fascist way. The 2014 elections showed a popular realization that beards do not guarantee piety, and the dark patch on the foreheads do not justify the domination of power.

The Libyan society seems to have understood that Islamist politicians do not have a monopoly over religion, and that like other politicians, they can also be corrupt. However, more importantly, Islamists in Libya are accused of hundreds of assassination cases against army and police personnel, alongside civil society activists, especially in Benghazi city.

When I was in the eastern part of the country, I sensed deep popular hatred towards the Muslim Brotherhood and their affiliate militias, for people generally call them ISIS. However, they do turn a blind eye to the salafist wahabi group, since this group does not believe in disobeying the ruler designated by their elders in Saudi Arabia. Another reason why people in the east do not criticize the wahabi group is that they are fighting in Al-Karama (Dignity) Operation alongside General Haftar since he was authorized by the parliament, or in their terms “the ruler”. In this sense, this group is similar to the Al-Nour salafist Party in Egypt, who – on Saudi direction- stood beside General Abdulfattah Al-Sisi against the Muslim Brotherhood.

After more than two years since Operation Dignity began, Islamism is virtually non-existent in Burka and Fazan territories, and their militias in Benghazi and Derna are on the brink of annihilation. However, their armed forces in the west are still large and they consist mainly of Musrata militias. These militias have taken the capital Tripoli as their Islamic province, even though most of the city’s residents, who constitute one-third of the Libyan population, reject Islamism. However, these residents cannot express their views, for fear of arrest, forced disappearance or assassination, which has become a common phenomenon in the region.

The Presidential Council with its suggested government is held hostage in a navy base by the Brotherhood militias and their allies. In Tripoli, the Libyan Mufti Sadiq Al-Ghariani has turned into a rubberstamp for the Islamist militia, producing one extremist Fatwa after another about military and political issues.

Perhaps one of the most outstanding Fatwas issued by Sadiq Al-Ghariani is one in which he openly called for a civil war when he called on certain cities in western Libya to send their men to fight against General Haftar and Operation Dignity to liberate Benghazi. In this Fatwa, Al-Ghariani said: “The front in Benghazi shall determine the future of Libya,” which was considered in the Burka territory as a declaration of war.

The current situation in Libya does not imply a solution. As long as the Presidential Council remains in Tripoli without being able to drive the militias out of it, the war will continue until one of the conflicting parties admits the defeat of its project.