New Book Sheds Light on Events in Egypt

The Muslim Brotherhood: Evolution of an Islamist Movement
by Carrie Rosefsky Wickham

"[F]ascinating and marvelously detailed... The Muslim Brotherhood offers one of the best and most detailed presentations of a robust school of thought among students of Islamism... [I]t is likely to become a standard text and will be received as a major summary statement of decades of research and analysis."--Marc Lynch, Democracy: A Journal of Ideas

In 2004, Emory University professor Carrie Rosefsky Wickham received a major research grant from Carnegie Corporation to study the Muslim Brotherhood.  Over the next seven years she traveled to Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait and Morroco, conducting interviews with Islamist and secular activists, journalists, and academics. Drawing on this material as well as primary source documents few Western researchers have seen, her work aimed to be “a deeper and more systematic investigation of emerging patterns of internal debate and contestation over movement goals strategies, and practices,” she writes in the book’s preface. “From the outset, I sensed that characterizing Islamist movement change strictly as a process of strategic adaptation failed to capture important shifts in the ideological commitments of certain leaders and factions.” Such shifts, she believed, were under-theorized and underexplored.

 While the Muslim Brotherhood has achieved a level of influence unimaginable before the so-called Arab Spring, including victory in Egypt’s 2011–2012 parliamentary and presidential elections, very recent events have shown the Brotherhood to be on shaky ground. Such developments don’t surprise Wickham.  Her book, the first to examine the organization’s history from its founding in 1928 until today, exposes serious internal divisions of the Brotherhood and similar groups, demonstrating that they are not following a linear path but rather a course marked with tensions and contradictions.  She also sees intense friction between newly embraced themes of freedom and democracy and the illiberal concepts of the past.

 “The picture of Egypt’s Brotherhood, divided from the beginning by opposing gradualist and extremist tendencies, benefits from Wickham’s astute analysis of related movements in Jordan, Kuwait, and Morocco,” says Publisher’s Weekly. The book’s discussion of “the Brotherhood’s role in the 2011 uprising and its subsequent transformation offers detailed insights that will interest general readers and academics alike, “ the reviewer adds. “This admirable study (based on hundreds of interviews) is a judicious, well-grounded plea for complexity in the depiction and analysis of Islamist movements.”