Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Courtesy of the Muslim Brotherhood

I accidentally locked Andrew out of the house last night. I left the key in the door on the inside, which meant that unlocking the door from the outside was next to impossible. So instead of just opening the door, Andrew rang the doorbell. When I opened it for him, he presented me with a cute bouquet, wrapped up nicely in cellophane and tied with a ribbon.

"For you," he declared, sweeping a chivalrous bow, "Courtesy of the Muslim Brotherhood."

It took me a minute to register what he was saying. Andrew so rarely brings me flowers--he knows that I prefer live plants to cut ones--so it was a bit of a shock. Why had he brought me flowers? Had he joined the Muslim Brotherhood? Had he purchased the flowers from a member of the Muslim Brotherhood? What exactly was the Muslim Brotherhood? It used to be illegal in Jordan, was it illegal in Egypt? Why had he even been in contact with the Muslim Brotherhood? And what did they have to do with flowers? Did I forget some important anniversary of ours?

I had so many questions floating around in my head that eloquence failed me.

"What?" I asked stupidly.

And then I corrected myself, "I mean, 'Thanks for the flowers....What?'"

That morning Andrew's Arabic class had a guest speaker, a parliamentary member of the Muslim Brotherhood. Andrew said it was very interesting to hear from him and he brought everyone in the class a small bouquet.

So that's how I came to have a bouquet of roses from the Muslim Brotherhood sitting on my dining room table, just in case you wanted to know.


  1. So nice to "meet" you Nancy. What beautiful Muslim flowers. :)

    You commented on an old post of mine--google must have brought you back in time in your search. And no, it doesn't make you a stalker! I have to look around here and see if I can figure out who your sister-in-law is. Does that make ME a stalker?

  2. Abra is actually my sister. It was late when I was reading your blog. Obviously a little too late! Nice to "meet" you, as well.

  3. I guess I'm done, but who or what is the Muslim Brotherhood?

  4. I'm not exactly sure what they are, either. I know they're a political party--once illegal in Jordan and Egypt but now legal. In Palestine Hamas is a "wing" of the Muslim Brotherhood.

    See the wikipedia article. It explains it better than I could. Or maybe Andrew will explain (hint, hint).

  5. @Heidi - They're like the granddaddy of modern Islamist movements in the Middle East. They are involved politically throughout the Middle East and push for an Islamist agenda in social reform. They also provide elements of societal infrastructure--building hospitals, handing out food, etc.--and help build up civil society and participation in government.

    Each branch of the MB is independent of the main Egyptian branch. In other countries the groups have mutated and evolved and are treated differently by their respective governments. In Jordan the Islamic Action Front is one of the only political parties allowed to participate in the government; it's also the largest party.

    In Syria the MB is persecuted heavily by the ruling Alawites and in 1982 the military undertook a massive massacre of the MB in a city named Hama.

    In Palestine the MB branch is named Hamas. They're a little famous...

    In Egypt the MB was banned in 1954 when Gamal Abdel Nasser became president. Anwar Sadat allowed them some minor power in the 70s and they've been growing like crazy ever since. They're totally non violent and seek reform through legitimate means like working in parliament (where they have a substantial bloc).

    That doesn't mean the Egyptian government likes them, though, especially in the realm of the internet. The government periodically arrests MB bloggers critical of President Mubarak and their website,, gets blocked occasionally by the main Egyptian ISPs.

    The guy that came yesterday, Ali Fatah al Bab, is a member of the MB bloc in the Egyptian parliament and represents southern Cairo (from right below Maadi down to Helwan). He was really optimistic about the future of the MB, especially in light of Obama's victory in the US.

    And he brought us all flowers. Cool.

  6. Yay! I now I know where I can always find you :) Your blog is interesting! I love it ~

  7. Wow! OK. Now I know who they are. No wonder I've never heard of them by that name. No one really seems to want to focus on non-violent Islamic groups these days... thanks for filling me in.

  8. I would say it is something of a stretch to say that they are "totally non-violent". They have definitely used violence when they thought it suited their goals. However, the Egyptian MB has indeed tried to suppress the use of violence in recent history in order to gain legitimacy and legal standing. Jason