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date: 16 October 2019

Summary and Keywords

The Muslim Brotherhood (al-Ikhwan al-Muslimun) is one of the most popular and influential socio-religious movements in the Muslim World. Over the past century, the movement dominated the religious sphere in several countries, with its extraordinary ability to blend religion, politics, and activism. With its comprehensive and elastic ideology, disciplined structure, and enormous resources, the Muslim Brotherhood (hereafter, the Brotherhood) was able to galvanize and mobilize Muslims in order to achieve its political, social, and religious objectives. Over the past few years, the Brotherhood has been a subject of debate and disagreement among scholars, particularly regarding its ideology, tactics, and objectives. Also, scholars disagree whether the Brotherhood should be studied as a religious, social, or political movement. In fact, the multifaceted character of the Brotherhood, which is part of its very nature since the beginning, has something to do with this confusion and disagreement. Hasan al-Banna, the founder of the Brotherhood, adopted a comprehensive vision of Islam that encompasses religion, politics, preaching, activism, and charity. He envisioned the Brotherhood as a movement that combines the mundane and spirituality, religion and politics, and charity with activism.

Also, some scholars tend to apply the so-called “inclusion-moderation” hypothesis in order to explain the behavior, ideology, and strategy of Islamist movements. It assumes that the integration of the anti-establishment parties and movements can lead to the moderation of their ideology, behavior, and strategy. However, the “inclusion-moderation” hypothesis suffers two key limitations. The first one relates to the controversial nature of the concept of “moderation” itself and the disagreement among scholars over its definition. And the second lies in the mechanical and linear thrust of the hypothesis. Moderation is an ambiguous and highly controversial term in the scholarship about Islamists. Although some scholars equate it with nonviolence, others stretch it to include liberal and progressive views. Also, the integration of Islamist movements is not inevitably conducive to moderation, nor does it necessarily lead to democratization. Similarly, the exclusion of Islamists does not necessarily result in radicalization or extremism. Surprisingly, in some cases exclusion led to the moderation of Islamists, such as in Tunisia under Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. Therefore, it is more useful to focus on the processes and dynamics of Islamists’ inclusion than focusing on the outcome of these processes and dynamics. The case of the Brotherhood after the Egyptian uprising of 2011 provides an important example for examining the limits and shortcomings of the inclusion-moderation hypothesis and to what extent it can be applied to Islamist movements. It also helps us to understand the relationship between the internal and external factors and how they shape the ideology and behavior of Islamist movements.

Keywords: Al-Banna, Egypt, inclusion, moderation, Muslim Brotherhood, politics and religion

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