The Rise And Fall Of The Muslim Brotherhood In The Egyptian Revolution: The Interplay of Narrative And Other Factors
University of Kansas
Global and International Studies, Center for
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This study examines the interplay of narrative and other factors in the rise and fall of the Muslim Brotherhood during the Egyptian Revolution. I hypothesize that narrative played a major role in the Muslim Brotherhoods rise to power, and that failure to adapt their narrative in the aftermath contributed to their downfall. Chairman Mao said, "the guerrilla must move amongst the people as a fish swims in the sea." A successful narrative is an indispensable element in a successful revolution. Revolutionaries rely on popular support. A powerful justice narrative is the kindling which ignites revolutionary hearts. Forged in the furnace of rebellion, revolutionary leaders tend to be charismatic figures, often with authoritarian tendencies. In the afterglow of successful revolution, revolutionary leaders are often loathe to change old habits, relying instead on old narratives and loyalists from revolutionary days. However, in the aftermath of revolution a fundamental change has occurred which cannot be masked with revolutionary slogans: outsider has become insider; rebel has become ruler. The pre-revolutionary narrative of struggle must evolve in order to be legitimate. A new narrative is required which embraces the entire nation, not merely loyal supporters. The new narrative must be inclusive, and offer the hope of peace and prosperity. Regimes whose narratives fail, who are unable to effect their will by persuasion of narrative, often resort to coercive authoritarianism. The most successful scenario in the aftermath of revolution is that leaders adapt their narrative (including policies) to the changed context (revolutionaries as rulers) and reform existing institutions. Historically, the failure to successfully adapt narrative results in instability. After existing on the political fringes for over 80 years, The Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood gained power during the Egyptian Revolution that began on 25 January 2011, which was part of the Arab Spring and culminated with victories in parliamentary elections followed by the election of Muslim Brotherhood President Mohammed Morsi on 30 June 2012. Only a year later, on 3 July 2013 President Morsi and the Brotherhood were deposed by the Egyptian military, after massive public demonstrations opposing the Muslim Brotherhood. The Muslim Brotherhood were able to ascend to power in large part because of a credible narrative based on a long history of being one of the few national institutions to provide social services to orphans, widows, the sick and the poor as well as a courageous opponent of dictatorship for many decades. However, the heavy baggage of ideology, expedient alliances, and occasional cooperation with dictatorships proved to be difficult to reconcile after they achieved power. After rising to power, the Muslim Brotherhood leaders engaged in behavior and adopted policies that conflicted with their official narrative of tolerance and inclusiveness, which put into question not only the credibility of the narrative but the legitimacy of the organization itself. In the year after rising to political power, the Muslim Brotherhood failed to unify the country or effectively manage the economy. In fairness to the Muslim Brotherhood, one year is a short period of time, and any other regime would have faced similar challenges. Negative environmental factors such as a failing economy, deteriorating social conditions, questions of credibility, opposition to their increasingly overt religious ideology, and their partisan triumphalism undermined their support. Other important elements contributed to the Muslim Brotherhood's success during the Egyptian Revolution. The most important factor was the existence of a long established and well-developed national organization throughout Egypt. Narrative was the second most important element. The third major factor was the weakness of the opposition.
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