Nathan Brown is a political science professor at George Washington University and director of the school’s Institute for Middle East Studies. He gives an overview of the Muslim Brotherhood’s evolution from their found through to today, explains how their renunciation of violent means came to pass decades ago, why al-Qaeda sees them as sell outs, and argues in the quote below that their goals for Islam’s role in governing are more modest and less extremist than we might fear:
they certainly take their Islam seriously. But in many ways this is a very conservative movement. The current general guide is a professor of veterinary medicine. He’s a shy guy. These are not fire-breathing radicals at the top of the organization. And whenever somebody talks a little bit too violently and impatiently, they are told either to calm down or to leave the movement.Their agenda is to make Egypt better. And their conception of what’s good and bad has a religious basis. So that means increasing religious observance, religious knowledge. It also means probably drawing more heavily on the Islamic legal heritage for Egypt’s laws. They don’t want to necessarily completely convert Egypt into a traditional Islamic legal system. But if the parliaments going to pass a law, they want it to be consistent with Islamic law.
A lot of their program is just standard reform stuff — independence of the judiciary, the end of corruption, protecting the environment. Especially when they got more political over the last 10 years or so, what they really began to push was a very general reform language that takes Islamic coloration in some areas. But an awful lot of it is consistent with other reform programs coming from reformists all over the political spectrum.