As an Egyptian Muslim woman who lived under the Muslim Brotherhood, I have seen the damage done by the organization first-hand. Saudi Arabia’s Council of Senior Scholars recently issued a statement announcing that the Muslim Brotherhood is a terrorist organization, an announcement that Egyptians welcomed.
Saudi Arabia’s declaration confirmed that the Brotherhood does not represent Islam and that its actions are not motivated by Islam. It is this leadership that will help our region become free from religious extremism and terrorism.
While Saudi Arabia officially designated the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization in 2014, as did the United Arab Emirates, the Kingdom’s Council of Senior Scholars has now also branded the group as terrorists, saying they run “contrary to the guidance of our graceful religion, while taking religion as a mask to disguise its purposes in order to practice the opposite such as sedition, wreaking havoc, committing violence and terrorism.”
This statement comes at a time when European countries are still floundering, trying to find a proper strategy to uproot homegrown extremism.
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Some voices will grow louder calling for the Brotherhood’s right to exist, for their members’ right to retain their ideology. Those voices, who believe that they are upholding the values of equality and human dignity, are wrong.
The Muslim Brotherhood’s ascent to power in Egypt shows the organization’s danger. The Brotherhood came to power in June 2012, but was removed by July 2013, following widespread protests against its rule.
During their reign, the Brotherhood tried to suppress Egyptian women. We shouldn’t be distracted by the botched economic strategies that they employed, their failure to provide reliable utilities or the embarrassment they caused Egypt in mishandling our foreign relations, or even the general victimhood narrative and underground mentality that they couldn’t transcend, even though they held the highest office in the country.
Beyond all these aspects of the Brotherhood’s time in power, their women’s rights record is abysmal.
When the Brotherhood ruled Egypt, women’s rights regressed in two main areas: legislative and sociocultural. The Brotherhood sought to decriminalize Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), a practice that is outlawed in Egypt and various Muslim countries. They argued that the matter should be decided within the family unit. In one case, in Al Minya, an Egyptian village, the Brotherhood circulated flyers offering subsidized female circumcision procedures as part of their 2012 election campaign. The Brotherhood, however, denied they did this.
The Brotherhood proposed legislation to lower the age of legal marriage from 18 to 13, but some clerics in the movement proposed that girls should be able to be married at 9.
Under the Brotherhood, women and girls are viewed as the private property of the family, rather than their own agents, and the state shouldn’t interfere because her father knows best.
On the social front, the Muslim Brotherhood emphasized that women in the public sphere was inappropriate, saying they “naturally belong in the home.”
Accordingly, under the auspices of the Brotherhood a systematic and systemic campaign of sexual harassment, and sometimes rape, was launched against female activists who dared to show up in Cairo’s Tahrir square and defy their rule.
Female activists weren’t the only targets of systemic sexual violence. In 2013, sexual violence was prevalent throughout Egypt. A 2013 poll by Reuters showed that Egypt was the worst country for women in the Middle East due to the spike in sexual harassment, increase of FGM and overall decay of women’s rights.
The Muslim Brotherhood has abused Islam for too long with their slogan “Islam is the solution!” The statement made by the Council of Senior Scholars further dissociates and distances Islam from their “solutions.” This statement is a triumph for enlightenment, progress, equality and most importantly a triumph for Islam.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, Saudi Arabia was recognized as the top reformer regarding women’s rights by the World Bank in 2019, and they have made steady progress over the last decade regarding women’s rights. Denouncing the Brotherhood as a terrorist organization entails a rejection of their entire world view, including their perception of women, and this statement from Saudi Arabia is perhaps a step toward emancipating women from the patriarchal views that are enshrined in religious dictums.