Special Occasional Report from Jihadology: "Socio-political Background and Intellectual Undergirding of the Ikhwani Breakaway Factions: 1954-1981"

By Aaron Y. Zelin


Over the past few days, we have seen a major crackdown against the Muslim Brothers second-tier leadership and grassroots supporters. While many are focused on if the ‘Algerian scenario’ is starting to play out in Egypt, I think it’s important to look back at what happened the last time there was a large-scale suppression of the Brothers. This occurred following the rise of Gamal ‘Abd al-Nasir in 1954. In response, over the next decade and a half some elements within the Ikhwan broke away from the movement since they believed accommodation with the regime was illegitimate and the only solution was to overthrow the military rule.
Will we see a similar scenario play out in the coming decade or so? It is difficult to know and somewhat pointless to try and predict. That being said, it is important to understand this past history so one might be cognizant of history repeating itself. The contexts are obviously different in terms of the place Islamism – let alone jihadism – has within Egypt and the broader Middle East.
Below you will find two separate things I have previously written.[1] One is a chapter from my master’s thesis written in the fall of 2009 on Sayyid Qutb, his upbringing, and intellectual thought and the second is a paper I presented at the 2011 Middle East Studies Association annual conference on the 30 year anniversary of the assassination of former Egyptian president Anwar al-Sadat. The paper explores the post-Qutb sprouting of underground jihadi movements within Egypt in the 1970s. It also looks at the natural conclusion of the radicalization of these individuals and ideas through the thought of Muhammad ‘Abd al-Salam Farag, the leader of the group responsible for Sadat’s assassination.
Hopefully these two works will shed some historical light on relevant aspects of the recent crackdown and the potential future trajectory of elements currently in the Ikhwan.
Click here to read the entire report (80 pages).

[1] Since these are two different documents the formatting is slightly different in terms of how I transliterate the Arabic words. A bibliography for both documents is combined at the end.