The secular democratic and human rights groups in Egypt and in the rest of the Arab world show little sign of understanding these facts of political life. The Muslim Brotherhood, on the other hand, gets at least three out of four. True, they have never been in office. But they have a political program and a vision not only until the next elections, but in their view until the hereafter. And they are very good at reminding Egyptians of why the other party’s policies will be ungodly and therefore catastrophic for Egypt. Above all, they have succeeded in embedding themselves in Egyptian society in ways that could prove crucial.
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.