When I was 15 years old and considered myself a member of the Muslim Brotherhood movement, there were secular political groups in the diasporas of Pakistanis, Yemenis, and Somalis in Nairobi who lived in exile like my family. These loosely organized groups had vague plans for restoring their respective countries and building them into peaceful, prosperous nations. These were dreams they never realized.
The Muslim Brotherhood did more than dream. With the help of money from Saudi Arabia and other oil-rich countries, they established cells in my school and functioning institutions in my neighborhood. There were extracurricular activities for students. There were prayer and chant hours, as well as communal Quran readings. We were encouraged to become volunteers, to help the indigent, to spread Allah’s message. There were classes and activities for all age groups. They established charities to which we could give zakat (tithe for charity), which was then used to provide health and educational centers.
The Brotherhood also provided the only functioning banking networks, based on trust. They rescued teenagers from lives of drug addiction and excited them about a purposeful future for justice. Each of us was expected to recruit more people for the Muslim Brotherhood, creating a perpetual campaign. The mosques and Muslim centers were the main areas of association, but they visited us at home, too. Most important, their message transcended ethnicity, social class, and even educational levels.