Sorting out truth from myths on Egypt's powerful Islamist party.
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Since Egypt's Supreme Presidential Election Commission declared Mohamed Morsi the winner of the presidential election, there has been a lot of commentary about the Muslim Brotherhood. Morsi, an engineer by training, was a long time member of the Brotherhood and was a member of its political department. Morsi has resigned from both the Brotherhood and its party, Freedom and Justice, but that is more symbolic than substantive. The Muslim Brotherhood is now in control of the Egyptian presidency, previously the fulcrum of power in the political system and observers are asking, "Who Lost Egypt?" The answer is no one; 51.7 percent of Egyptians voted for Morsi. The race was close and, no doubt, there are Egyptians fearful about their future, but there has been so much mythmaking about the Muslim Brotherhood, it is worth debunking a few.
1. A History of Violence?
It is true that beginning in 1941, the Muslim Brotherhood established a para-military group called the jihaz al sirri or "the secret apparatus" and stockpiled weapons. It is also true that during the late 1940s, the Brothers were among a number of political factions that destabilized the Egyptian political system. In December 1948, a Brother named Abdel Magid Hassan murdered Prime Minister Mahmoud Fahmi Nuqrashi. Yet since that time -- indeed, since the Brotherhood's founder, Hassan al Banna, was assassinated while getting into a taxi in downtown Cairo in February 1949 -- the organization has not been involved in violence. There is, of course, the allegation that the Brothers were behind the attempted hit on Gamal Abdel Nasser in October 1954, but there continue to be questions whether the would-be assassin, Mahmoud Abdel Latif--who was a member of the Brotherhood--was working on behalf of the Islamists or another group intended to discredit the Brotherhood. No one has been able to prove the story one way or the other, but it is curious that not only did Nasser survive Abdel Latif's eight shots fired from close range, but he was unscathed and went on to finish his speech, which was a turning point in his political career. The Brothers were subsequently dismantled and ceased to be a significant force in Egyptian politics until the 1970s, when they officially renounced violence.